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Liberty University students and faculty members alike packed into DeMoss Hall 1090 to hear author and speaker Leslie Leyland Fields talk about a new way for evangelical Christians to interact with the surrounding culture.
Fields was introduced by professor Karen Swallow Prior, who had developed a relationship with the writer after hearing one of her lectures.
“My specialty is 18th-century authors,” Prior said. “I’m used to studying dead people. To find one I like who’s alive and kicking — it’s very exciting.”
Fields opened her lecture with a summary of the current evangelical trend regarding secular society. According to Fields, there has been enormous change in how Christians view their place in the culture.
“We live in exciting times,” Fields said. “Christians are standing up, and sometimes being heard. Christians are engaging culture. Part of that started right here, back in the ‘70s. As Jerry Falwell (Sr.) said, we are part of the ‘moral majority.’ … Now, Christian colleges and universities are blooming.”
However, Fields believes that altering the culture has proven nearly impossible to accomplish through human means.
“Good things have happened and are happening because of this shift — but not-so-good things have happened as well,” Fields said.
According to Fields, 79 percent of white evangelicals voted for Romney, but he still did not win the presidential election. Only 2 percent of people go to church, and hardly any of them read the Bible. A number of actors are professed Christians, she said, but there has been no significant change in the culture at Hollywood.
“This string of bad news, we hear it almost every day. We are losing. We’re losing the culture wars,” Fields said. “Maybe changing the world isn’t our job. Maybe we haven’t been called to greatness. Maybe we’ve been called to something else.”
Fields also related the problems of the modern evangelical to the plight of the prophet Ezekiel. According to her, the Israelites had sinned to such an extent that Ezekiel’s efforts had no effect on the hardened hearts of the people.
“Nobody repented. The city was completely destroyed,” Fields said. “(Ezekiel) failed to be heard by his culture — he failed even though God equipped him specially for the task.”
According to Fields, the prophet fulfilled God’s command knowing that he would probably not have any impact on his society.
“He was responsible to obey God. He wasn’t responsible to change the world. That’s God’s responsibility — that’s His burden. God doesn’t need our help.”
Fields also mentioned the story in Matthew 18, when the disciples asked Jesus who would be the greatest among them. According to Fields, Jesus called a child to him and told his disciples that in order to be first in heaven, they would have to take on the lowly position of a child.
“Maybe we should change our approach and our goal,” Fields said. “Not to be great, but to be small. Not to be served, but to serve. Give up the culture wars, but don’t give up on the culture — or on culture making.”
According to Sigma Tau Delta Secretary Carley Meyers, the food was almost entirely gone by the end of the event. The room was packed during the lecture, and members of Sigma Tau Delta as well as various graduate students in the Department of English and Modern Languages brought in chairs from the surrounding classrooms to provide extra seating.
“I was very pleased with the turnout,” Prior said. “It was good to see people across sections from the university — various majors and faculty members from different disciplines.”
According to Prior, Fields’ lecture removed an undue weight from the shoulders of evangelical Christians, but it also managed to apply to Liberty’s aim to train champions for Christ.
“The message that it’s our responsibility to save the world is not only not quite biblical, but it puts an unnecessary burden on us,” Prior said. “It is God’s responsibility to redeem creation, and we just get to be used in that process in whatever way He sees fit. It’s a refreshing and important message that applies equally to all disciplines and professions.”