I’ve often heard that the major rift between Christianity and US culture is this: Christians affirm absolute truth, but culture affirms that truth is relative and not absolute. That is, Christians affirm that we’re correct about God and that contrary thoughts are incorrect. Culture at large affirms that there is really no truth, and that people can choose their own truth, follow their own religion, and that it’s most important for us to all get along.
However, I don’t think this is the fundamental discordance between US Christians and US culture. The idea of relative truth is certainly in our culture, but the silly thing about this idea is that it’s self-refuting. To claim that “there is no absolute truth” is to claim that the statement itself isn’t necessarily true. Because there is no absolute truth, the statement that “there is no absolute truth” can’t be absolutely true. Disbelief in absolute truth is an obviously inconsistent and illogical thing to believe.
I don’t think that most people in the U.S. are actually this dense. Common, everyday people are intelligent enough to see that disbelieving in absolute truth is nonsense. I’m sure you can find a number of philosophy professors who would take issue with this, but I doubt you can find very many everyday people to agree with them. People are smart enough to believe in absolute truth, and I don’t think this is the major rift between Christianity and U.S. culture.
Rather, I think the major discordance is between our values. The general culture in the U.S. believes that the most important virtue is to avoid causing harm to other people–whether that harm be physical, psychological, social, or otherwise. Some particularly virtuous people might say that the most important virtue is to do good to other people and that nothing can be more admirable and moral than to seek the good of others.
The difference between these values and the values of Jesus seems slight if you’ve never thought about it before. About 2,000 years ago, Jesus told us what our chief virtue as His disciples should be:
“And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'” -Matthew 22:35-39
As Christians, our most important virtue is to love God. Secondly, we’re to love people. The central truth of being a follower of the Messiah is that God can satisfy us more than anything else on earth. If we have faith in Jesus’s sacrifice, we can be made spiritually alive, and in this redeemed state we can love the God who saved us.
But our second imperative is to love other people–and this means telling them about God, about Jesus who came to die for us, and about how they too can be made spiritually alive. For each and every person who lives, loving and knowing God is the most satisfying thing they can do. Because of this, there’s nothing more kind than to tell another person about Jesus, and about how He can save them as He has saved us.
And this is where Christians clash with most non-Christians in the US. If you tell someone to seek God, they may not like hearing that. They may want to go on believing that there is no God, or at least that God doesn’t matter. If you tell someone to seek God, you may cause them to be uncomfortable–and this is counter to the number one imperative of our culture: do no harm to other people.
As followers of the one true God, there is no way we can get around this disagreement. It’s the core of our faith to believe that by knowing God, any and every human will be infinitely better off than if they did not know God. If we ourselves know God, then we’ll tell our friends, family, and acquaintances that they should know Him too. It is secondarily important that we all get along and be kind to each other, but it’s far, far more important that as many people as possible come to know Jesus as their Savior.