We Can Now Go Post-Christian
“This is for real.”
In the movie Three Amigos, actors Lucky Day, Ned Nederlander, and Dusty Bottoms discover that they are being hired to shoot a movie in Mexico. As they understand it, they will be co-starring with the infamous El Guapo, who plays a villain whom they will defeat by the end of the movie.
Little do they know that it is all for real. Someone from a Mexican village had seen Lucky, Ned, and Dusty on the big screen taking out bad guys, and the person thought they were real gunfighters. So the village hires the Three Amigos to come down and defeat a real villain named El Guapo who is terrorizing their village. The Three Amigos don’t know El Guapo and his gang are murderers until real bullets start coming their way. A bullet knocks Lucky Day off his horse, and he realizes the truth. He tells his other two amigos, “This is for real.”
One of the most memorable songs in the Three Amigos is sung by a bush (it’s not too strange that the bush is singing; the bush is actually called the “Singing Bush” after all). The song is called “Blow the Man Down.” The song is so random I just assumed that it was made for the movie. Then one day, I was walking through the living room where a couple of my kids were watching a kids’ movie—and I heard the cartoon bears in the movie singing “Blow the Man Down.” This song is for real, I thought.
Then I read Os Guinness’s The Dust of Death, a 1973 assessment of the 60’s counterculture.
I read about the secular West’s onetime “belief in the self-sufficiency of man,” but how “Twentieth-century upheavals have cruelly blown this apart.” If it was once a compliment to be known as “the man,” the 60’s counterculture made “The Man” into a self-absorbed, greedy person in power to oppose and resist. I read how the counterculture worked to bring down the “System”—meaning the political, economic, and social powers of the day. Antiwar protests, Marxist radicalism, and psychedelic escapism were all ways meant to “blow the man down.” This was definitely for real.
Then I met some evangelicals-turned-intersectional feminists. An intersectional feminist is someone who seeks to fight injustice at the “intersections” of society. A core assumption of intersectional feminism is that there are groups which are oppressed (e.g., gender minorities, racial minorities, sexual minorities, religious minorities) and privileged groups (e.g., male, white, heterosexual, Christian) who in stay in power through maintaining structures of oppression. Put starkly, there are the oppressors and the oppressed.
Furthermore, the people who live at intersecting identities of oppression (e.g., a black LGBTQ or a Muslim woman) are seen as victims of various forms of injustice. So an intersectional feminist will work to deconstruct any structures which give privileged groups a societal edge. If you live at various intersections of oppression, then you deserve affirmation and justice. Let’s say, however, that you are a heterosexual Christian—and that you’re not actively trying to dismantle societal structures which could give your beliefs an edge in society. For example, let’s say you’re not trying to deconstruct traditional marriage, but that you believe that man-woman marriage is biblically prescribed and morally superior to other marital arrangements.
If that’s you, then intersectional feminism would say that you deserve censorship and cancellation.
Whether you agree or not with intersectional feminists’ views about society and morality, one thing’s for certain: If “The Man” means people traditionally in power, intersectionalists have The Man in their sights and are itching to blow him down. In 2020, this is definitely for real.
It’s hard to resist the conclusion that these hunters of oppression are cynics. Dismantling society’s structures and blowing The Man down suggests that a major mistrust has built up over the decades. Just consider all that they would topple and smash if given the chance. Wall Street is seen as nothing more than a playground of greed. The American police system is seen as racist at core and ought to be resisted and defunded. Biological gender is seen as a construct used to marginalize nonbinary people. White people are seen as racist by nature.
This cynicism also targets many aspects of Christianity. Christian truth claims are seen as nothing more than instruments of power. Christian missionaries are nothing more than piously disguised colonizers. Pro-life activism is nothing more than a way of asserting control over women’s bodies. Even the nuclear family is nothing more than a way for husbands and fathers to maintain control over vulnerable women and children. Talk about cynicism!
But it’s here we need to recognize that these critical activists are not hardened cynics all the way to the core. They have a soft spot. Society’s grievances may have caused them to shield their exterior with armor like an armadillo’s, but, further in, there’s a beaming hopefulness. There’s an eagerness to trust again. Cynicism has found its last hope.
What is the critical activist’s last hope?
It’s to take power from those who have historically had it, and to reinvest that power into people at the intersections of injustice. If there’s anyone we can trust, they think, it’s those who know what it’s like to be oppressed. So that’s where critical activists such as critical theorists and intersectional feminists lean their trust.
At one level, these critical activists are remarkably cynical. Yet at another level, they naively underestimate the sinfulness of all humans—not just the sinfulness of privileged ones. Now, let’s be clear: everybody is susceptible to gullibility when it comes to politics and power. Christianity warns us against investing wholehearted trust in anyone but God. But it’s an especially dangerous gullibility to assume that an intersectional coalition swollen with envy and armed with power is a path toward national healing.
Yet, imagine that you have witnessed enough betrayal by “the system” that you’ve lost all your trust in people in authority. Or, let’s say you’re a progressive Christian or ex-Christian who—whether by witnessing tragedy, praying with no result, or reading about God’s holy harshness—has lost faith in your faith and in your faith leaders.
Wouldn’t it be good news to find something you could put your trust in once again?
Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to invest your faith in those who have never violated our sense of justice—and who know well what it’s like to be treated unjustly? If you were someone who no longer trusts any authorities, such a transfer might seem like a safe bet and a moral decision.
Those who trust in God and in His words in the Bible have trouble believing that anyone would have a good reason for leaving the faith. Our fundamental conviction was voiced by Peter at a time when hundreds of Jesus’ followers were abandoning Him: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).
Peter’s question was rhetorical, but that hasn’t stopped progressive Christians and ex-Christians from answering: We shall go to the intersections.
After all, Christianity taught us to feed the hungry, welcome the stranger, visit the prisoner, and to “visit orphans and widows in their affliction” (Matthew 25:31-40; James 1:27). Even after people stop trusting in God or the Bible’s authority, they can still take these ethical teachings and make them the cornerstone of a new worldview. In this way, authority can be pulled down from above and replanted deeply in the intersections of society.
Thanks to that transfer of power, people can become morally fulfilled progressive Christians and ex-Christians. They may not get good grades in the areas of faithfulness to God or fidelity to Christian sexual ethics or Scriptural devotion. But they’ve moved to a new school which grades according to a completely different worldview rubric.
This new worldview they believe in is quickly becoming the new world we live in.
Whereas people used to feel like a fish out of water when they left the faith, now it’s Bible-believing Christians who feel out of place in Western society. If culture is “the water we swim in,” then progressivism has found its watery playground.
Today, it’s seen as fashionable—and more importantly, moral—to trade our core identity as God’s reconciled reconcilers for a new core identity as oppression hunters. When this trade is made, the cynicism of critical activism threatens to turn Christians into accusers of God, the church, and the Bible—as part of the oppressive system that needs to be blown down. A God-centered worldview is left behind for a worldview grounded in the intersections of oppression, even though it was God’s care for the poor and marginalized that motivated ours in the first place (e.g., Deuteronomy 10:18; James 1:27).
A new orthodoxy has arisen. Progressive Christians and ex-Christians are feeling culturally applauded and morally justified, even as they blow their old religion down.
With a brave new worldview staked firmly at the intersections, our culture can now go post-Christian without feeling the need to look back.
I wish this were just a movie.
 Os Guinness, Dust of Death: A Critique of the Establishment and the Counter Culture—and a Proposal for a Third Way (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, 1973), 16, 19.
 Ibid., 118.