In case you hadn’t heard, there is a culture war raging around us these days. Orthodox vs. Secular. Conservative vs. Progressive. Call it what you will, we see two distinct world views battling it out in the court of public opinion. And this culture war has tainted almost every area of our society: our news media, politics and, yes, Christianity.
There are certainly elements of the Christian world who feel it is their God-ordained duty to fight the culture war. They see America abandoning the “Christian values” they believe have guided our nation since its inception, and are committed to fighting to preserve those values. They organize and protest, criticize and argue with those whom they feel are leading the nation astray. I say these words with great care, because for most of my life I have belonged to this group.
On the other side of the table are Christians who equally love God, yet equally fight the culture war in a different way. They too have a list of morals and ideals they see as eroding, and they blame the “religious right” for leading America down a path of destruction. Again, I say this with caution and respect, because I have good friends who fall into this group.
Sure, my descriptions are over-simplified and excessively broad. But they are sufficient for me to make my point. Actually, it’s more of a question (or series of questions.)
When did God ever call us to fight a culture war?
When did He ever ask us to defend Him to the world around us? When did God tell us to argue and protest and defend our position? When did He tell us to marginalize and demonize those with whom we disagree?
Even if we think they are ruining our culture and even if we are convinced the other side is destroying America, where did we ever get the idea that we were to engage in a culture war to defend our beliefs, morals, and traditions? Have we become so engulfed in politics that we cannot separate them from our faith in Christ?
And since when was Christianity ever intended to become a culture in the first place? It seems to me it happened about the same time the Roman Empire adopted Christianity as its official religion. Since that day Christianity has enjoyed a place of cultural and political power that has been relatively unchallenged. And even when questioned, it wielded enough influence to quickly eliminate its detractors. This marriage of politics and religion has been a long time in the making.
So here we are. The gospel of our Lord Jesus has been reduced to a series of rules and regulations. The good news of God’s grace on sinful man has been tarnished by our lack of grace for one another. The One who spent His whole life on earth criticizing religion has become the foundation of yet another religion. We fight and argue, criticize and divide. And we do it all in the name of the One who said, “they will know you are my disciples by your love.”
If there is any culture at all to Christianity, it is love.
If there is any moral ethic which we should strive to uphold, it is love. Mercy, grace, forgiveness…all can be summed up in that one word, love. Yet our culture war is the antithesis of love. It’s hard to love someone when you are telling them they are ruining the world. It’s hard to love someone when you constantly criticize their deeply held values. It’s hard for them to feel loved when they are always wrong and you are always right.
What have we gained? Have we really changed anything? It seems to me all we have accomplished is driving a wedge between God and those we think need Him most. Most people probably wouldn’t have a problem with Jesus if they didn’t feel so beaten down by His followers.
So I quit. I’m going AWOL. I’m resigning my post in the culture war. I will no longer fight against flesh and blood, doing battle with those who are not my enemies. If there is warfare to be waged, I will fight it in prayer. And I will love those with whom I disagree. I will be merciful to those who I think have gone astray. I will leave the culture up to the one who transcends nationality, creed, culture and tradition.