It seems that so many people nowadays, even Christian fundamentalists, confuse the cultural phenomenon of Christianity and the spiritual phenomenon of Christianity. To be a “real” Christian (for them) is to be both cultural and spiritual.
Yet, this is not really the case. For a historical lesson, let’s travel to Denmark around 1850. During this time, everyone born a Dane was automatically a Christian. To become a citizen, one must convert to Christianity. Now, that may sound good at first, but let’s now fast forward a hundred years. Denmark, still with its official state religion as Christianity, has amazingly little church attendance. Why? Because everyone is a Christian. This is because they confused cultural Christianity with spiritual Christianity. They thought that because they walk around claiming “Christian” as their religion that they needn’t actually practise it. That is the problem of confusing cultural with spiritual.
Now then, let’s return to the mid-19th century Denmark. Here we have a philosopher running around named Soren Aabye Kierkegaard. He’s writing more books than can be imagined and many of them under psuedonyms such as Johannes Climacus. One of his main contentions against his culture was that cultural Christianity. He attacked it every chance he got. In fact, he made a distinction which i believe is important between the cultural Christianity (or as he called it, “Christendom“) and the spiritual Christianity (“Christianity”). One of his last books was even titled Attack upon Christendom. That’s how adamant he was against the confusion between the two.
Where does that leave us? Well, in short, we must recognize that one needn’t be a cultural Christian (i.e. in Christendom) to be a spiritual Christian (i.e. in Christianity). Once we realise that being a Christian does not involve hanging out with a bunch of people claiming to be Christian, but rather following Christ, things will change for the (universal) Church. Until then, we must suffer unwarranted persecution because of cultural Christians (i’d suggest Pat Robertson as one) acting publicly without an attitude of Christ.