Will a secular movement move us? Yes and no.
When slavery was abolished in the United States in 1865, America began to rid itself of a great evil. Americans thought we were moving forward. They thought we were moving toward a better world. Now, in 2020, has that fruit proven true? I would say ethnic relations are far better in the USA, but is the country better as a whole? Consider what Jesus said,
43 “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. 45 Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation.” Matthew 12:43-45
I would make the case that America is not better. Not because we shouldn’t have gotten rid of slavery, but because we didn’t replace it with the gospel. Christians were involved in the movement, as they should have been. Christians should have never condoned racism and oppression. Churches should never have been segregated. However, the movement at large was a secular movement rather than a gospel one.
Thus, we did not rid ourselves of evil and replace it with good. We rid ourselves of evil and replaced it with different evil. We didn’t move forward. We moved sideways or, more likely, backwards. Praise God we improved ethnic relations and stopped slavery, but now we have given a full-body hug to abortion, pornography, divorce, homosexual relationships, transgenderism, a plethora of false gospels, and mountains of unbiblically dangerous theology in churches.
Spiritually speaking, we got rid of the slavery demon, thinking things would improve. But it came back with seven more, found the house empty and in better order, and proceeded to trash it. That’s what all secular movements do. They don’t work because they don’t fill the emptiness with Christ.
When COVID-19 started, many of us saw a potential good coming in the blow it could deal to the health, wealth, and prosperity gospel. People could start seeing the snake-oil salesmen for what they were as they preached health and prosperity while shutting down their churches and healing ministries amidst a global pandemic and economic disaster. Maybe that has happened, but it’s like the prosperity gospel demons took a blow, and the social gospel demons tagged in.
The social gospel is appealing because it promotes many of the things Christians are commanded to do (care for the poor, orphaned, widows, and marginalized, not be racist, etc.) An inherent flaw is that it promotes change from the outside in. Often, the thinking is that if we band with the world to help an evil go away, people’s eyes will open to Christ. I get that. It’s not crazy logic. However, when a movement is not based upon the truths of humanity and redemption presented in the gospel of Christ, it ultimately fails to move humans closer to God. In a nutshell, the social gospel builds on the wrong foundation.
One the one hand, if the foundation of a movement to end racism is built on the idea of making the world a better place, it might end racism but will trade it for some other sin or many others. On the other hand, if a movement to end racism is built on the idea that humans are created in the image of a perfect God, have rejected God in their sins and been separated from him, have no way of coming back together with him through their own power and must instead repent of their sins and follow Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord, the movement will succeed. It will succeed because the evil of racism will be repented of and replaced with the righteousness of Christ.
The world only becomes a better place when more people repent of their sins and follow Jesus. Ending racism doesn’t bring the world closer to God. Ending racism by repenting of sin and following Jesus brings the world closer to God.
We all want to move forward. The question is, “Which direction are we pointed?” A secular movement will move us forward but in the wrong direction. A gospel movement will move us forward in the right direction.
Christians need to hear the voices of godly leaders who rightly handle the word of God and point people to Christ. Martin Luther King, Jr. has been very influential for many Christians. Yet, he handled Scripture poorly and either denied or displayed extreme skepticism of beliefs foundational to the gospel (i.e. the Trinity, substitutionary atonement, the virgin birth, the resurrection, etc.)
The social gospel philosophy and those who preach it have the appearance of godliness but deny its power.
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. 2 Timothy 3:1-5 (emphasis added)
Moving forward is pointless if your body is facing the wrong way. The world has its back to God. Before moving, it needs to turn.
For anyone reading this, I hope you see the heart of it. If anything turned you off at first, I urge you to pray and then reread it. Dig into Scripture. It should be clear that I want racism to end. I just don’t want the world to kick its addiction to meth and replace it with cocaine. I want true rehabilitation, which only comes through Christ. I am not against anyone.
I’ll leave you with the wonderful words of an old hymn.
O soul, are you weary and troubled? No light in the darkness you see? There’s light for a look at the Savior, And life more abundant and free!
Refrain: Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of His glory and grace.
Through death into life everlasting He passed, and we follow Him there; O’er us sin no more hath dominion— For more than conqu’rors we are!
His Word shall not fail you—He promised; Believe Him, and all will be well: Then go to a world that is dying, His perfect salvation to tell!