As we continue to think about the things that must be done in the pursuit of cultural reformation, we must make yet another distinction between strategic level thinking, and tactical thinking. There will be times when the strategic application and the tactical application line up perfectly — as when, during an assault by the entire army, one platoon is also participating in the assault. The whole army is attacking, and so part of it also is.
But there are also instances when the larger strategy requires one thing, and on a tactical level, the opposite is required. Take for example one principle of war, what we have called taking the offensive. When the Israelite army attacked the city of Ai the second time, the larger strategic plan was an offensive attack. But a smaller part of this was the tactical retreat on the part of the forces that had come up to the front of the city. They feigned a retreat so that the soldiers of Ai would think they were doing the same thing they had done the first time, which was to run away. They were the retreating bait so that the offensive trap could be sprung.
So sometimes tactical applications are exactly the same as the larger strategic applications, adjusted for scale, and sometimes they are not. Saul Alinsky gave his followers 13 tactical principles, which is discussed elsewhere. These are suggested tactics of Christian resistance — some of them are tactical versions of larger principles, some are Christian restatements of Alinsky’s tactics, and some are just free information from somewhere else. There are 21 of them, way better than Alinsky’s paltry 13.
Think of these as exhortations to sergeants in the culture war — local Christian leaders, pastors, bands, writers, activists. You will never be invited to a summit meeting that has the word geopolitical anywhere on the agenda, but you still want to be faithful in the station where God has assigned you. What can you do tactically?
1. Think cosmically, act locally. This is a rip-off of the progressive bumper sticker which urges us to think globally, act locally. What they mean by that is think in gauzy abstractions, act irrationally in the moment. What we mean by it is that Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father, and that all authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to Him, and that therefore we must spend our time discipling all the nations of men, teaching them how to honor and follow Him.
2. Cultivate personal loyalty. Your only absolute loyalty is to God and His Word, but because of this, He has required that you love your wife, love your neighbor, and love your enemy. Everybody you meet will be at least one of those. Not only so, but God has defined for us in His Word what love and loyalty look like in each one of those instances. Your love for God, your loyalty to Him, must be constant. Because it is the one constant, your love and loyalty to your family and companions, and adversaries, can look very different at different times. But it must be the same constant thing, looking different, not different things, falling apart.
3. Relate everything to the lordship of Jesus Christ. This will help you break down the walls of arbitrary dualisms in your head. Think in such a way that you learn to relate your opposition to gun control, your support of free markets, your love of mercy ministry, your embrace of new media, and so on, to the lordship of Jesus Christ. Doing this makes you a biblical Christian, and not a Republican or a right-winger. People will call you that — except for the secular Republicans, who will consider you a dangerous hazard to all their hopes and dreams.
4. Courage is the testing point of every virtue, and because the point of every conflict is always local, courage is exhibited on the individual and family level. Be sure to love and encourage your wife so that she is with you in it. Be sure to love and teach your children so that they grow up in such a way as to stand with you in the city gates. Do not neglect your family for the sake of “the cause.” Your family is part of the cause . . . an essential part. One of John Knox’s daughters was named Elizabeth, and she married a great preacher, a man named John Welch. He was exiled to France for many years, until his doctors told him that he would have to return to England for his health. So Elizabeth (Knox) Welch came to the court of King James to seek for permission for him to return. She was told by the king that he could return to England if he would submit to the bishops. She lifted up her apron and said, “Please your majesty, I’d rather kep (receive) his head there.” She was on board.
5. Don’t be a jerk. Don’t let the martial spirit overtake you in such a way as to justify all your personal failings. Of course, if no one ever complains about you, you aren’t doing your job. But it does not follow from this that if people are complaining about you, that you are doing it.
6. Worship God every Lord’s Day. Confess your sins. Sing psalms. Listen to sermons that are preached out of the Bible. Confess your faith. Take the Lord’s Supper. Between worship services, read your Bible daily. Pray without ceasing. Read books. Prepare for next Sunday.
7. Provide your children with the best Christian education you can find. There is no excuse for Christians giving their children over to the enemy for their education. There is no sense in giving them over for education in “the neutral parts,” for there are no neutral parts. Christian children must have a Christian education.
8. Defend free markets at every opportunity. It is not possible to understand the gospel of free grace intelligently if it does not lead to a love for free markets. Free grace creates free men, and free men trade in free markets. If you have a biblical worldview, you cannot be a libertarian. But if you have a biblical worldview, you will be accused of being one.
9. Do not assume that government regulators have the authority to tell you what the true meaning of Romans 13 is. We are to submit to the governing authorities, but not in everything, and not in the ways stipulated by them. Understand the important role of civil disobedience, and realize that it can occur in areas other than worship or gospel preaching. Gideon was threshing in the wine vat because he was hiding from the tax man. The apostle Paul ran a road block at Damascus. David spent a good deal of time in the wilderness evading a man whom he acknowledged to be the Lord’s anointed.
10. Do not accept any sexual bribes. Chesterton once noted that free love is the first and most obvious bribe to be offered to a slave.
11. Love and encourage your wife and children, constantly. What the world needs first is gospel, and your family is the best place to showcase the gospel to a lost and wandering culture. The gospel must be preached by anointed evangelists, but what we desperately need is a chorus of amens coming from families that live out this gospel.
12. Do whatever you can with whatever you have.
13. Utilize social media, but not in a way that identifies you as a vapid waster-of-time on the one hand, or a certifiable crank on the other. If you are the kind of person who sends Instagrams of your breakfast, lunch, and dinner, along with updates on your periodic potty breaks, you are wasting a precious resource. But on the other hand, if you are in deadly earnest all the time, and will tweet nothing not found in Leviticus, then we all hope that the concerned furrows on your brow don’t stick that way.
14. Cultivate a robust sense of humor. Use irony, satire, and ridicule, as appropriate. Whether or not it is appropriate should not be determined by the target. The target never likes it.
15. My fifteenth rule is Alinsky’s fourth. Make your adversary live up to his own rules. Turn in papers that act on the assumption of absolute relativism taught in the class. Apply for affirmative action scholarships because of your Scottish descent. Your clan was persecuted in the 14th century, and you are still dealing with it. Have your son try out for the girl’s shot put event. Make them say, “No, girls are different.”
16. Don’t fall for abstract calls to repentance, and don’t use abstractions to make you look like you are a courageous denouncer of sin. Call for “Repentance! Broadly considered!” and lots of people will call you The Thunderer. But call for repentance for homosexuality, or porn use, or confiscatory taxation, and people will suddenly say you have become “too political.” You have left off preaching, and got to “meddling.”
17. Wherever you are on the line, keep the pressure on. Do not spend your time worrying about how you are going to put out the fires that the adversary sets. Wake up in the morning thinking about the fires you can set. Let them be the fire department.
18. Enjoy yourself. God is in control. Jesus is on the throne.
19. Keep your weapons sharp. Read. Study. Reflect. Grow.
20. Conflict is always personal, and so don’t be shy about keeping it personal. As Alinsky stated in his 13th, we are to pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. But there is a caveat. This is a valuable principle, but we have to understand it in a Christian context. Because of the cross of Christ, it is possible to distinguish a sinner and his sin. This means that your adversary might wind up repenting, as Saul of Tarsus did, and if you have trouble with that possibility, you are being vindictive instead of being principled.
21. Accept and acknowledge what our ultimate goal is, which is the reestablishment of a mere Christendom. We do not insist on the whole thing now — we are incrementalists, and this is a long war — but we know what the point of our labor is. We must know the objective, and that objective, assigned in the Great Commission, is for every tribe and nation confess the name of Jesus, and bow down to Him. We do not believe we have to conquer Canaan in the next ten minutes, but we also don’t believe that we have the right to settle down and make peace treaties with Amorites.