When in the first century AD, the Roman Emperor Nero smeared Christians with pitch and lit them to serve as nighttime torches or covered them in animal hides and set dogs on them, he was among the first to recognize Christianity as an intolerable religion, though many have recognized it as such since. Christianity was the only religion that ancient Rome could not tolerate—and the Romans could tolerate everyone. Numbers of conquered deities, Greek, Egyptian, Middle Eastern, made their way into the Roman pantheon, but the Nazarene carpenter who was God never rested there.
Christianity was the only religion that a tolerant world could not tolerate. It is the same in the modern secular world as the ancient pagan. A tolerant world can accept everything and everyone, any religion, and nearly any deviation, but it cannot accept Christianity. Today the Christian is attacked for his hostility to abortion and infanticide, as indeed he was in ancient Rome. He is attacked as being too anti-woman (when in the past he was attacked for being too pro-woman); he is attacked for being backward, unprogressive, medieval, and out of keeping with the spirit of the modern world. And so he is.
The Christian does not get on well with the spirit of the world because he is in revolt against it. He is in revolt against a world that proclaims the death of God either by the slow route of a secularism that denies Him a place in public (and soon private) life or by the quick route of atheism that denies God a place at all. The Christian is in revolt against a world that proclaims the non-existence or irrelevance of moral values and duties, of good and evil, of right and wrong. He is in revolt against the claim that some things are true for one man but not another, that good and evil are relative or subjective, and that there exist only shades of gray. The Christian is in revolt against the claim of the atheist Richard Dawkins when he professes: there is "no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference."
Thus the world is. Thus it demands that Christians should be. And thus, we will never be.
Now, we come to why Christianity is intolerable in a materialist culture, whether ancient or modern. The world now, as then, told Christians to go along with the spirit of the world, to go with the flow, not to rock to boat. But not only does Christianity want to rock the boat, it wants to capsize it. Against a world that proclaims the death of God, man, and morality only one response is possible.—whole hearted and outright defiance.
The modern materialist or secularist looks on the suffering in the world and professes that what little hope there is for it lies in "slowly evolving social standards," vague notions of progress, the next scientific breakthrough, the next political leader or social program. The Christian, however, looks on the suffering and brokenness in the world and sees hope for it not in vague notions of progress or evolving standards, but in judgment.
The world may hold that right and wrong are subjective and relative, that there is no black and white, but only shades of gray. Against this, though, the Christian proclaims that some things really are right and some wrong, some good and some evil. It proclaims that there are not only shades of gray, but that black is black and white is white and never the twain shall meet save on the field of battle. Nor shall they hesitate or compromise until one lies defeated.
The world will not like this. It crucified God who was also in revolt against the spirit of the world. It beheaded St. Thomas More. More told his daughter that he was "not the stuff of which martyrs were made," but when the command came, "In the name of the king, you shall do thus," Thomas More gave the only reply he could. "In the name of God, I will not." And the same is true today, when the United States government proclaims, through its HHS mandate, "in the name of Caesar, you shall do thus," the Christian can only reply, "in the name of God, we will not." And woe to him who proclaims otherwise.
Rather than have his conscience separated from his head, Thomas More preferred that his head should be separated from his body. His head was something that could be taken from him, but his conscience was something that he alone could surrender. Against that demand he rebelled, and his revolt was not only against the world that was, but for the world that might be. May it be likewise with the Christian today.