The light of the modern-day Daniels

For all the hand-wringing about the western world’s “post-Christian” culture, a new generation of Christian culture-changers is right in front of us.

Austin Green, Managing Editor

During his spring 2019 convocation address last Wednesday, Talbot School of Theology dean Clinton Arnold, echoing a prior speech from President Barry Corey, compared Christians in today’s society to Daniel in exile—outsiders in a world that does not share their beliefs.

The illustration is accurate. It seems that every day those who shape the politics and culture of the world draw a sharper contrast between how they model their lives and how we are biblically commanded to live, regardless of their place on the ideological spectrum.

In the same way that Daniel had friends and fellow Israelites in Babylon, we are not alone. Recently, I have seen more and more examples of God raising up genuine Christians into positions of vast cultural impact. In some cases, that impact has continued and grown even after their deaths.


“What do you know about Bre Payton?”

My mother asked me that question several years ago, soon after I told my parents I wanted to study journalism in college. I soon found out that Bre was part of one of the first graduating classes of the small Christian school I attended, and the older sibling of some of my classmates at the time. By then she was writing at The Federalist, a prominent Washington D.C.-based conservative website.

I thought it was kind of cool that someone who went to the same high school as I did went on to fulfill her journalism dreams, but I rarely thought of Bre after that day. I had never met her, and besides, The Federalist was not—and still is not—anywhere close to my preferred source of news coverage and analysis.

Over the past few weeks, though, I have not been able to stop thinking about Bre Payton.

Ever since she died after a sudden illness on Dec. 28, Bre’s impact on those she worked with has been documented several times over. Federalist publisher Ben Domenech called her a “constant source of encouragement [who] always cared about others first” and someone who touched those around her with the joy she possessed. Many other tributes eschewed politics to instead reflect on how Bre never shied away from her faith, and how others noticed that faith. The one that stuck out to me was from CBS News’ Kathryn Watson, also a Biola alumna and former Chimes editor-in-chief.

“Her faith was strong and abiding, and she wanted to understand it. She wanted it to be truly her own. And it was,” Watson wrote. “In fact I know that is what Bre would most want anyone to know. She would want you to know that true hope, true joy and everlasting life are only found in knowing and loving Jesus.”


Tyler Trent would probably want you to know something similar. In fact, he was able to give that message to many of his heroes, both on the University of Purdue football team he cheered for and in the upper echelon of sports media that he wanted to join one day.

Trent’s courageous battle with terminal cancer that ended on New Year’s Day endeared him to so many in the sports community, and as someone who follows sports pretty heavily, I had known about him for a while. So when I read this part of his obituary from Gregg Doyel, the sports columnist who had helped bring Trent’s story into the spotlight, my heart leapt.

“The cancer came back three years later, and when it did, Tyler prayed to God. He prayed for healing, yes, but he prayed for something bigger, even, than that:

‘I wanted to make a difference,’ Tyler told me a few weeks ago. ‘I didn’t think I’d made a difference the first time. That’s what I prayed for: If I’m going to have cancer, use me to make an impact.’

What is it they say? That the Lord works in mysterious ways? Tyler Trent made an impact.”

When reading the anecdotes in Doyel’s column, along with this beautiful piece from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnaworski, it becomes obvious that Trent did not just model how to face one of life’s worst realities but also how to live in a way to point others towards Jesus.

Scripture says that the world is opposed to Christ and his followers. Yet Christians are called to impact the world for Christ. Though the pursuit of that call may seem lonely, there are others like us who have shown how to do so in today’s culture. My prayer is that Bre and Tyler are remembered not just for who they were, but for the examples they set for people like me.

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