Connections: David Aikman
March 31, 2013
Battle for Christianity
Journalist and author David Aikman spent 23 years as a correspondent for Time magazine. Aikman, a Briton born on D-Day — June 6, 1944 — became an American citizen in 1992. Aikman discussed his recent book, One Nation Without God? The Battle for Christianity in an Age of Unbelief, with Pentecostal Evangel News Editor John W. Kennedy.
evangel: One theme of your book seems to be that our Christian heritage may not be as Christian as many people suppose.
DAVID AIKMAN: I would revise that. Our Christian heritage has been whittled down and hemmed in by a series of developments over the past 150 years. We had a very clear Christian heritage, although we were never formally a Christian nation because the Founders understood the folly of having any kind of established religion. They also understood that a republic cannot last unless you have virtuous citizenry. All the Founders — even if they were not churchgoing men — held the view that Christianity was the best way to get people to become virtuous.
evangel: What is the biggest misconception evangelicals have about the nation’s religious history?
AIKMAN: To put it simply, that living faith is something you’re born with and just put on the back of the stove to simmer. The most striking thing about this country is that it’s only been repeated revivals or awakenings of various kinds that have stirred the pot of faith.
evangel: You point out that antipathy toward religion at public universities is nothing new.
AIKMAN: It’s nothing new, but I think it’s intensified in the last 40 years. College campuses are the most hostile places in this country for the expression of Christian commitment. In some disciplines, if you are a Christian and you are hoping for a college faculty position, you’d better be absolutely secretive about your faith because it will seriously impede your career.
evangel: You note European ideas influenced American religion, education and sexuality well into the 20th century.
AIKMAN: The slide away from a faith conviction at the heart of our culture was initiated in Europe with what I call the German poison that ended up in full-bodied Marxism. The Europeans have had several more decades of a secular and faith-free culture as a whole that we haven’t.
evangel: Many young people don’t have firm Christian roots. What does that bode for the future?
AIKMAN: It’s dismal, because you have a culture whose trending values of young people are completely dislodged from every traditional connection and from any absolutes. We live in an increasingly post-modernist culture where your values are what you choose them to be at that particular moment.
evangel: Yet you see a resurgence of Christian professors at secular universities.
AIKMAN: Yes, I think one of the most interesting footnotes to the overall academic situation is that departments of philosophy have been more open to theistic expressions of life, and Christians have emerged in a discipline that much of the time was never thought of as very appropriate for a Christian.
evangel: What is next on your horizon?
AIKMAN: I am starting the Aikman Opportunity Award for Young Christian Writers (AikmanAward.com). The intention is to motivate Christian writers to write stories of God’s grace and power, often of a supernatural dimension. The Assemblies of God, especially in the missionary area, has incredible stories to tell. We want to see publishing suffused with good Christian stories. I believe there is going to be a revival, and we want the material to be available for young Christians and would-be Christians when that revival gets going.