The Fourth Phase: Persecution?
By Dr. Peter Jones
In a perceptive article on the recent history of Evangelicalism in America (which I recommend), Aaron Renn, a writer for First Things, confirms something I have been thinking for some time: politics has become religious. It is thus difficult to speak out about traditional moral behavior without being “cancelled” or charged with being a Christian nationalist—by people who doubtless plan on making America a pagan nation! In other words, contemporary progressivism and biblical faith now occupy many areas of common ground. How has this come about? Renn describes three recent distinct phases of secular culture as it relates to Evangelicalism and biblical Christianity, moving from general acceptance to general opposition. They are, in Renn’s terminology:
A Positive World (Pre-1994)
In this stage, as Renn puts it, “society at large retains a mostly positive view of Christianity. …Publicly being a Christian is a status-enhancer. Christian moral norms are the basic moral norms of society and violating them can bring negative consequences.”
I cannot resist my oft-repeated phrase: “When I came to America in 1964 I thought I had died and gone to heaven.” As a European, I was surprised that a Christian student movement like Campus Crusade for Christ would try to attract students to the Christian gospel by drawing attention to the much-admired BMOC (Big Man on Campus), who happened to be a Christian. Renn shows that “this period is the last period of generalized Christendom where most in Western culture shared the same moral norms and where Christians could concentrate on sharing the Gospel.”
A Neutral World (1994–2014)
The next stage takes a neutral stance toward Christianity. “Christianity no longer has privileged status but is not disfavored. Christian moral norms retain some residual effect.”
I note that this period immediately follows the appearance in 1990 of a book by Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen, After the Ball: How America Will Conquer Its Fear and Hatred of Gays in the 90’s. This book is presented as a “compelling and compassionate work that never fails to stimulate. After the Ball is required reading for straights interested in understanding a minority that comprises 10% of the population and for gays who are learning that the revolution is far from over.” The authors encouraged gays “to come out of the closet, and they outlined a code of gay ethics calling for mature love relationships and greater moderation in sex.” The book was a massive success, creating general ambiguity in the way people began to think about both homosexuality and Christianity.
A Negative World (2014–Present)
According to Renn, “Society has come to have a negative view of Christianity. …Christian morality is expressly repudiated and seen as a threat to the public good and to the new public moral order.”
Biblical Christianity is now in this third antagonistic phase. Renn sees cultural antagonism in the conflict between progressivism’s re-definition of “the public good and the new public moral order” and that of the biblical moral order. Incisively, Renn dates the transition from the neutral to the negative phase in the year 2014, just before the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision, which, he notes, “institutionalized Christianity’s new low status.” He does not explain why the new status is low. By granting to homosexuality constitutional status and by recognizing same-sex marriage as a “civil right” (which many “conservative” figures applauded at the time), the US Supreme Court paganized the “profound mystery” of the Christian gospel, expressed in male/female marriage, which reveals God’s love for his people (Eph 5:31–32). Two men copulating cannot represent God’s love for his people, since, throughout history, this was the pagan image of the divine and human relationship. Indeed, as Paul says a few verses previously, sexual immorality and impurity…must not even be named among you (Eph 5:3). In our time, the LGBTQ ideology has been accepted as a perfectly valid lifestyle, but it is an ultimate rejection of biblical faith.
Thus, in the “Negative World” we are opposed by a non-Christian, religiously pagan worldview. This is why we see such hesitation to appeal to the Creator as the source of our human rights. IN POD WE TRUST has become the new humorous statement of faith. It is just what Paul argued so long ago in Romans 1. In verse 25 he describes the basic worship exchange (worshiping the creation rather than the Creator). In the next verse, he argues, “For this reason,” people practice homosexuality. The pagan, religious opposition in the “Negative World” is causing our Christian young people to leave the faith of their youth in droves, either because they are afraid to be unpopular or because they are convinced of the validity and value of the new “public good” and “public moral order” of personal rights.
The place of sexuality is the dividing point between biblical and progressive morality and between the politics of the Left and the Right. For many progressives the “public moral order” is becoming more “free” and now consists of normalizing all pagan sexual expressions, which can be loosely categorized as “androgyny.” This term joins male and female, whereas God created these as distinct. We see androgyny in various forms of non-binary sexuality—homosexuality, bi-sexuality, trans-sexuality and drag culture, all of which claim civil rights, since they believe that there are no ultimate distinctions; all is homo, the same. It is little wonder that antagonism against Christianity is so often connected with issues of sexuality. Christianity affirms one foundational difference, namely the distinction between God and his creation. The male/female distinction is the capstone of all the other distinctions God put into the universe (such as land and sea, night and day, etc.). Yet that very male/female distinction is the target of most current public lawsuits against Christians who want to maintain their right to turn down work that would go against their belief in those creation distinctions. Christian business owners, such as bakers and photographers, want to maintain their public witness regarding sexuality. When Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) retired from the Senate and was chosen as the University of Florida’s next president, no one was particularly surprised, since Sasse had already been a university president earlier in his career. But the University’s Faculty Senate held an emergency meeting in which a large majority railed against the administration’s decision to make Sasse the sole finalist. Sasse’s conservative position on gender caused faculty members to express “no-confidence” in his appointment. Affirming conservative views on sexuality is the best way to get you cancelled!
Dr. Al Mohler’s November 2 “Briefing” was dedicated to showing how thoroughly the medical profession has adopted LGBTQ ideology as normative. “On LGBTQ issues and on a host of other issues,” Mohler said, “it is clear that the medical establishment is taking sides. And overwhelmingly, the medical establishment is taking sides by siding with those who are enthusiastic for the LGBTQ revolution.” Perhaps the clearest example of the power of LGBTQ ideology on culture is the promotion of life-altering techniques—surgery and puberty-blockers that permanently sterilize an individual—on minor children who question their personal fit with the stereotypical sex of their birth. A huge majority of voters (78.7 %) “believe underage minors should be required to wait until they are adults to legally use puberty blockers and undergo permanent sex-change procedures.” Yet Democrat politicians, aware of the vindictiveness of the transsexual movement and fearing to lose the huge campaign contributions of the LGBT lobby, refuse to support the public’s preferences. Large corporations who were once culturally conservative have gone “woke,” progressive, and politically Leftist. Their vast wealth has allowed them to become monopolies, thus freeing them to cast off market theories of fair competition and to align with the newly erected moral icons of the day: targets for “environmental, social and governance” (ESG), and individual sexual freedom.
The future includes the emergence of a “new [Catholic] Church” under pro-homosexual Pope Francis, who is completely at odds with traditional Catholicism as understood by Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI. Just before becoming Pope in 2005, Ratzinger noted: “Very soon it will no longer be possible to affirm that homosexuality, as the Church teaches, is an objective disorder in the structuring of human existence.” Perhaps as he saw the compromises of the Vatican and realized that he would not be able to change them, Ratzinger had no option but to resign.
On the Protestant Reformed side, the decisions of Calvin University are disturbing. The school’s board recently chose to allow LGBTQ-affirming faculty to remain as recognized professors, even those who offer statements that they are not in agreement with the church’s confessional beliefs on homosexuality. “The big story here is that a college that has claimed evangelical identity for more than a century, completely owned by a denomination that has raised its affirmation of biblical sexuality to confessional status, is surrendering to the sexual and gender revolution.”
So what cultural time is it? In what phase is our culture now? Emily Rizzo, clinical professional counselor in D.C. with the Counseling Center of Maryland, describes the present as a time in which “we’ve already moved away from the cis, straight world, [so] there is more of a possibility to be open.” Rizzo plies her trade, counseling LGBT+ clients and individuals in non-monogamous or polyamorous relationships since “open relationships just tend to come more naturally to queer people.”
Today’s “time” sees teachers exposing young children in state schools to radical gender and sexual notions. Such instruction is surely part of the normalization of the LGBTQ agenda. Two spokesmen for “Drag pedagogy,” justify “drag queen readings for children. …[W]ithin the historical context of the USA and Western Europe, the institutional management of gender has been used as a way of maintaining racist and capitalist modes of (re)production.” To disrupt this dynamic, the authors propose “drag pedagogy,” as a way of stimulating the “queer imagination,” teaching kids “how to live queerly,” and “bringing queer ways of knowing and being into the education of young children.” The goal is to expose “childhood innocence” as an “oppressive heteropatriarchal illusion,”to make “queer thinking” the future “moral order” of society. Their task, they say, is to disrupt the “binary between womanhood and manhood,” seed the room with “gender-transgressive themes,” and break the “reproductive futurity” of the “nuclear family” and the “sexually monogamous marriage”—all of which are considered mechanisms of heterosexual, capitalist oppression. Powerful politicians support this ideology, in one way or another. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the third in line for the presidency, posted a clip of her cameo on the fifth episode of “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 7” on Twitter, endorsing drag queens as “what America is all about.” She stated that “it was an honor” to make an appearance on the reality TV show and that she was “inspired by the contestants because they knew their power. Pelosi’s district is the site of a huge, annual public street fair for a sado-masochistic sex celebration, which she endorses.
Another politician, none other than President Biden, recently received in the White House the trans TikTok star Dylan Mulvaney, who publicly presented himself, dressed and speaking as a teenage girl, and discussed transgender issues with the President, who agreed with him that it was “immoral” to deny sex-change surgery to children. John Fetterman, senate candidate for Pennsylvania recently stated that “LGBTQ education should be mandatory in all schools.” Will our future belong to proponents of “queer sex”?
The Human Rights Campaign thinks it will. They show that LGBTQ voters are on track to become one of the fastest-growing voting blocs in the country. They predict that by 2040, one in five Texas voters will be part of the group. “(LGBTQ voters are) emerging as among one of the most influential voting constituencies in the country, whose impact will permanently transform and reshape the American electoral landscape.”
The church is already in Renns’s third culturally “negative period,” and I am taking the liberty to add a fourth stage. As the strength of pagan religious power increases, we will, no doubt, enter a fourth period.
A World of Persecution
The church must be ready to face intense opposition. Already “cancel culture” has arisen from the reasoning of the LGBTQ community, who are convinced that their constitutional status removes any religious rights from Christian believers who might evoke their rights of free speech and free commerce. For the moment, most court cases on these issues take seriously the protections guaranteed by our constitutional religious liberty laws. What will happen when the moral high ground is held by the LGBTQ community? They believe that nature’s norm of heterosexuality has become an unjustified, outmoded definition of normalcy. The natural order has evolved into normative non-binary androgyny of all sorts. One cannot help but think of the Roman culture of Paul’s day.
In view of a possible fourth period, what should be the current stance of the church? To be sure, we must preach clearly the love of God available for all, since all are made in God’s image. But the pulpit must also show God’s created plan for men and women and the connection between worshiping creation and sexual degradation. Both unbelievers and believers, old and young, need encouragement to stand firm. Our younger believers are under immense pressure from the culture and often have no idea how to speak about the sexual issues in relation to the gospel message. They are often tempted to abandon their faith. Recent Barna research shows that “only 50 percent among teens who identify as Christians say Jesus was resurrected; not even half (44%) say Jesus was God in human form. Only 40% open their Bible more than twice a year, and only 9% open it more than once a week. How will they be able to analyze and reject the pagan spirituality that surrounds them? Significantly, Barna did not even bother to ask them their views on sexuality which, as we have demonstrated, is the dominant worldview of our day.
Preaching a blend of gospel declaration and cultural apologetics follows the example of the apostles and of Paul in particular. Though he was not interested in creating a Christian empire, he was committed to training Christians how to represent God before the pagan world. Thus he taught the church, as well as any pagan who might hear him, how to think specifically about honest commerce, the traditional family, marriage and male/female sexuality—doubtless because it got them to think about God the Creator and Redeemer and how to glorify God in their daily living. Our Christian young people especially need wise instruction about the things they are hearing and seeing in their school and social settings. Yet some are deprived of any solid teaching about today’s androgynous, identity-oriented perversions. I beg all Christian pastors and youth leaders to dig deeply in understanding the theological connections with today’s sexual behaviors and then to train your young people to understand the issues and to stand firm, while reaching out to their friends with the gospel.
Of course, believers’ humble practice of God-honoring heterosexual marriage, though it may be costly, will also bear witness to the joy men and women have in biblical marriage. And in spite of stubborn resistance from opponents in contemporary culture, God’s powerful love and mercy is irresistible, as is his creative wisdom–in making us male and female—in his image. This we must seek to share in love with those who adopt androgynous sexual expressions. We must continue to express the love of Jesus, who was crushed on the cross for our redemption and for anyone who will receive it. To announce that love, we must be ready to give our lives, as Luther wrote 500 years ago:
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill:
God’s truth abideth still,
His Kingdom is forever.
 Aaron M. Renn, “The Three Worlds Of Evangelicalism,” FIRST THINGS, Feb 2022,
 See Amazon presenting page.
 Peter Jones, “Androgyny: The Pagan Sexual Ideal”: https://truthxchange.com/resource-library/articles/androgyny-the-pagan-sexual-ideal/
 Al Mohler, The Briefing, 11/2/2022.
 Albert Mohler, The Great Evangelical Deconstruction, World, (November 4, 2022).
 Pennsylvania Democrat John Fetterman Agrees “LGBTQ Education” Should Be “Mandatory In All Schools”.
 Nick Hartman, “A Reflection on Barna’s Open Generation Report,” GenZ, October,26, 2022.