In 1992, Pat Buchanan put the phrase “culture war” on the map with his speech at the 1992 Republican National Convention. Since that time, there’s been a lot of water under the bridge, but — we should be careful to note — it is all the same river.
One of the things you may have noticed lately is that various Christians of various stripes have been trying to put distance between themselves and this culture war. They are “tired” of it. It just seems to go on and on, and what’s the point? Instead of all this, the Church should be focusing its energies on things like furrowed brow concern over climate change — something that will garner applause instead of sneers.
When it comes to the culture wars, I would like to begin by making a distinction between those who are tired from being on the right side, and those who are tired of being on the right side.The former have been faithfully doing their part in these culture wars, which means worshiping God, bringing up kids, providing them with a Christian education, volunteering at the crisis pregnancy center, voting faithfully, composing music, painting beautifully, and so on. If you want a naval war, you have to build ships, and if you want a culture war, you have to build a culture. And whether it is Rome or any other city, it is not done in a day.
But they are doing all this in a fallen world, and some of their fellow “culture warriors” are fools and others are hypocrites, and some of the generals are lunkheads. Some think that everything will be settled if they write shrill and counterproductive blog posts, and it turns out that’s not true. And suppose the staff member responsible for abstinence lectures at the crisis pregnancy center is getting it on with her boyfriend. Okay, that’s a problem. My father-in-law served with honor and distinction in the Pacific theater, and was wounded at Guadalcanal, and yet simply being on the right side did not make it all a matter of Simple Valor. He told me that one time he was up at the headquarters on that embattled island, and one of our generals was trying to function up there while flat out plastered. Couldn’t hit the ground with his hat.
Paul tells us that in a great house there are many different kinds of vessels (2 Tim. 2:20), and the same thing is true of a great army. There are many faithful Christians who have served in just the ways God calls us to serve in times like these. They are tired from serving in the culture wars, tired from betrayals, tired from mismanagement, tired from apparent lack of success, and the only thing they need is a word of encouragement.
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 15:58).
“For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister” (Heb. 6:10).
But there is the other category, the people who are tired of being on the right side. They are tired of the scorn they receive from the other team, and they have a deep hunger to somehow get in with the cool kids. And because there is absolutely no way to get in with the cool kids so long as you remain in any way in clear opposition to the sexual revolution, they have begun the process of dialing everything way back. What they are doing is looking for the first clear opportunity to go over to the other side. So the word that is necessary to deploy here is not encouragement, but rather repentance. The problem here is not that they object to our opposition to everything going to metaphorical hell in a metaphorical handbasket, but rather that they are acting in such a way that shows they want to go to the actual Hell.
People in this category chide and rebuke the conservative church for having misplaced priorities. Why so combative? Why the polemics? Why the constant us/them construal of everything?
Well, the last I checked, we are still dismembering little children by the million, and doing so in the name of James Madison. And last I checked, quisling black “leaders” were going along with a genocidal targeting of the black future, and all to white hipster golf applause. And God set forth Sodom and Gomorrah as an example to every generation of the vengeance of eternal fire (Jude 7), so that we all might have something to consider before giving way to our lusts. And yet we still live in a time when the secular state, in one of its many paroxysms of tolerance, is demanding that we all give our formal approval of detestable acts. And we also live in a time when the social justice gimmie gimmie graspers have a poorer understanding of property rights than a dog with a chew toy does. I could go on for a long time, for there are many examples.
So to those who are “tired of” all the culture war rhetoric, I have one last point to make.
If North America were one vast pagan empire, and the apostle Paul just arrived here, what would he do first? I quite grant that he would not start by circulating petitions against the gladiatorial games. He would start with the foundations, which would be planting churches, establishing worship around the empire, and teaching Christians to live like Christians in their families and congregations. We are going to judge angels, so let’s start by learning self-government. If the meek will inherit the earth, you don’t start with the inheriting part — you start by learning meekness, which can only be learned through the gospel. So that’s where he would start.
But if one day we got to the point where there were tens of thousands of churches, and millions of Christians, and the gladiatorial games were still going on merrily, and new stadiums were being built every year, then the only possible conclusion would be that the churches in question were diseased.
“Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men” (Matt. 5:13).
Couldn’t agree more. I touched on this a little in my sermon on Sunday, but it was a tangent and not the main thrust of the text, so I couldn’t develop it like I would have wanted to. Well-reasoned, well-written.
By this, I presume that you mean personal holiness, in the fullest sense of the word. The culture is merely an outworking of the hearts of the church members. I am very much reformed, but our fear of being called legalists has sometime led us to allow far too much compromise. When the culture drifts, we must be more astute, but we also necessarily become more different.
Great words, Doug.
I see this attitude from Christians all the time. The religious right failed on many fronts which is seen as confirmation that they were misguided and mean spirited. There is so much psychological pressure to get on the winning team or at least out of the class of pariah. If religious right didn’t work why not try a religious left. Maybe if we become the willing enforcers of multiculturalism and second wave feminism then the powers that be will give us a pass on homosexuality. Don’t count on it. That path inevitably leads to universalism. I do think that the… Read more »
BJ, I would take it further: “…but our fear of being called…” ANYTHING. Now I acknowledge that I am generalizing, but I think that a significant reason that a broad cross-section of the Church resents and resists the Scriptural moral imperative is due to rank cowardice. They reflexively understand that if they grant the validity of the argument(s), then they will have a duty to fulfill; they will actually have to stand for something and put skin in the game even if only by identification with the right side. In the last two days I have heard a reference to… Read more »
I appreciate your point that our first priority should be the spreading of the Gospel and allowing it to change culture through individual changed hearts. This has a lot to do with why I’m a libertarian. I believe that trying to use the state to force cultural change upon those who want only to continue rebelling against God is, to say the least, unproductive. Do you really think, for example, that putting a marijuana smoker in a cage with rapists is going to lead to a more virtuous society?
Where am I going wrong on this?
I always enjoy your columns even when they tear my guts out. I suppose I should say Bravo . . . or Hari Kari.
Paul the meek wrote:
An Internet search for the meaning of “meek” returns quite a bit of conflicting information.
Lesson 1 looks difficult from here.
I might be wrong, but I think that Pastor Wilson was quoting that element as past tense, with our current situation being: “But if one day we got to the point where there were tens of thousands of churches, and millions of Christians, and the gladiatorial games were still going on merrily, and new stadiums were being built every year, then the only possible conclusion would be that the churches in question were diseased.”
“Where am I going wrong on this?”
Maybe your (seeming) shibboleth level focus upon marijuana?
But if one day we got to the point where there were tens of thousands of churches, and millions of Christians, and the gladiatorial games were still going on merrily, and new stadiums were being built every year, then the only possible conclusion would be that the churches in question were diseased. This point is at odds with the common conception of what you might call “reverse Whiggism” so prevalent among the right wing. That is to say, 50 years ago there were tens of thousands of churches and black people were still merrily treated like dirt. 150 years ago… Read more »
Even if “tens of thousands of churches and “any” people were still merrily treated like dirt. 150 years ago there were tens of thousands of churches, and “any” people were treated like farm animals.”, that is not the equivalent, or even in the same universe as millions of any people being murdered.
These murders are real, are almost entirely for personal convenience, and these are the stadiums of the instant case.
People were murdered quite frequently back then RFB.
The “stadiums of the instant case” is always matter of debate, but nevertheless what is your proposal and how do you know if it’s working?
“…how do you know if it’s working?”
One small metric would be when people stop trying to use a false equivalence between American slavery in the past, (which IS past), and murder by the millions (including a huge proportion of the same demographic) in the present.
It is always “matter of debate” for those who are eager to build the prophet’s tombs.
Matt, on what are you basing your assumption that Doug’s criticism of the effects of “diseased” churches don’t apply to the earlier situations you decry? Your argument only works as an argument if you presuppose that Doug means that things (in general) now are worse than (things in general) then, but that doesn’t actually appear in the post. The point is that the rot of the culture is the failure of the church, not that the good old days are lost and gone.
Your argument only works as an argument if you presuppose that Doug means that things (in general) now are worse than (things in general) then, but that doesn’t actually appear in the post. Yes, but he does mean that and has said so several times. But even if he didn’t, it’s the prevailing assumption among nearly the entire conservative movement, so it has to be dealt with. The narrative of restoration–pre-sexual-revolution, pre-new-deal, pre-king-lincoln, pick your poison–is a trap that has snared the right wing for decades now. If you want to start a culture war, then you need to convince… Read more »
“Maybe your (seeming) shibboleth level focus upon marijuana?”
I don’t know what you mean by this.
I believe you.
No RFB, I mean I don’t know what the word “shibboleth” means. (I know the Bible story it refers to, but I don’t know what the word means when used in English.)
“The narrative of restoration–pre-sexual-revolution, pre-new-deal, pre-king-lincoln, pick your poison–is a trap that has snared the right wing for decades now.”
On the contrary, it has not captured the imagination of the right nearly enough. Far better than constantly adopting the leftism of 20 years ago.
Isn’t this what is referred to as ‘concern trolling’?
We do not have to answer to the mores of today on the terms of those who worship them.
Only if you assume I don’t agree with you on the subject, timothy.
“The narrative of restoration–pre-sexual-revolution, pre-new-deal, pre-king-lincoln, pick your poison–is a trap that has snared the right wing for decades now.”
In the words of G.K. Chesterton:
The business of progressives is to go on making new mistakes, the business of consetvatives is to see that the mistakes don’t get fixed.
The main problem I have with this post: I don’t think those “tired of being on the right side” are doing this primarily because they want approval from the larger society. I won’t deny that that is part of it, but the main problems is that they genuinely can’t see what is wrong with gay sex.
BTW people who think there is nothing wrong with gay sex are wrong. Just thought I’d clarify.
Someone at church gave me two old Sunday School magazines yesterday; from 1911.
One article decried the difficulty of evangelizing. The reason? Society was too materialistic. A hundred years prior it wasn’t so difficult.
Another article complained about bias in the press. Why, they just make things up!
I do assume this; am I wrong to? What does victory look like in your book?
FWIW, the definition of “meek” I’ve been working with for a while is this one (can’t tell you where I got it, and I admit that I’ve not dug all that deeply into it, but I like it):
Meekness is “power under control” or “bridled strength”, with the image of a thoroughbred allowing itself to be led by the hand of its master as the guide.
I saw a similar definition and it appealed to me too. I chose not to comment on it because I do not want my desires to prejudice the facts.
If it turns out that yours is the correct interpretation, then awesome. I find it a very appealing attribute and a ‘meek’ church is just the thing in my book.
One horse? I say neigh :)
The TOE of a legion was about 5,000 infantry plus a 3oo horse cavalry.
“Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?”
That’s about 64,000 just as a QRF.
It seems to me that the Culture War is way broader than abortion, marijuana and gay sex. In the 1950’s and early ’60’s most folks outside the big city didn’t bother to lock their doors at night, let alone during the day. One could leave the windows down on the car while at the store without concern. Cars didn’t roll through the neighborhood blaring offensive lyrics nor was one worried about the Super Bowl half-time show (not to mention TV ads) and covering the children’s eyes and ears. Most children came from a two-biological parent home and being on public… Read more »
Touche. I just think I would rather be mistaken as a legalist than come to be mistaken as a liberal. Both of course are wrong, but if I were to be mistaken as one I would prefer to fall to the side of holiness.
Or we could putting people, even ourselves, in boxes. We could be nonpartisan.
What @melody writes is true. I am blessed that I am temporarily living in a place like that now and it is wonderful. I don’t know if I have keys to the house and if I did, I would not recognize them because I do not use them. In the last three years, I have heard a boom-box car less than 5 times; the town I am near is very family oriented–the closeness of families, especially the poor ones–is a richness that “rich” cities I have lived in do not know. I do not own a T.V. in part because… Read more »
As a child of the 50’s (12 Presidents so far) I would reckon that Melody’s observation is fair, but based upon a specific. Those years were the fruit of the years before them. We reap what we sow, but sometimes it can be like an Agave americana. What the seed drills accomplished flourished into a plant with blossoms known as God is Dead (and with Him, respect for authority), Earth Day, The Sexual Revolution, and Communism (in the slow lane) as national policy. Mixing the metaphor, at contemporary funeral viewings, the body is sewn shut, orifices closed/sealed, and there are… Read more »
Sorry, one too many “not’s”, and too clever by half.
Should be: “Cultures are no different, and none of the lights and makeup can make up.”
And, regarding whether “The “stadiums of the instant case” is always matter of debate”, welcome to another stadium: “New spa-like abortion clinic is part of a trend to destigmatize the procedure…With its natural wood floors and plush upholstery, Carafem aims to feel more like a spa than a medical clinic. But the slick ads set to go up in Metro stations across the Washington region leave nothing to doubt: “Abortion. Yeah, we do that….The clinic will have wood floors and a natural wood tone on the walls that recalls high-end salons such as Aveda. Appointments, offered evenings and weekends, can… Read more »
There’s a difference between fighting culture and fighting for people, albeit only a subtle one. A culture war attempts to change culture’s ideas in large brush strokes, a culture who has no foundation in Scripture. Fighting for people attempts to change a micro-culture through one person. This is why, from the same passage you quoted from, Jesus says, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works…” (Matt 5:16). It isn’t arguing against culture as much as it is in living amongst people. Our arguments and logic may be correct, but our actions are what… Read more »
Be different with a view to blessing the culture, not only condemning it. N. T. Wright overstates this–Jesus and the NT church told people to “repent” not just of hating Rome–but Wright does have a point: the Pharisees wanted to be different so they could send the Romans to Hell (so to speak), not just so the seed of Abraham could bless all nations of the earth by living a better way and inviting/commanding adherence to the God who laid out this way. Bro Ben: if they say you have a pot shibboleth, they mean you seem to be evaluating… Read more »
I think that making a biblical case against ANY pot is difficult. It relies on a standard for “drunkenness” that the bible doesn’t support. Don’t you think that the wedding guests at Cana already had a good buzz going when Jesus created more wine? That being said, I hate being in San Francisco and having a bunch of obnoxious hippies blowing their “medicinal” pot smoke on me. I hope it stays at least nominally illegal.
Andrew Lohr – Of course the problem is that too many professing Christians don’t want to be different for any reason. As Melody has observed the issue is broader than just abortion, and the gladiatorial games not only merrily go on with thousands of churches surrounding, but professing Christians are merrily in stands wearing the tee shirts. So really we still need to come back around to “teaching Christians to live like Christians in their families and congregations” as the priority.
Overall agreement from where I sit (should any care).
But I can’t let this go unchallenged:
“then the only possible conclusion would be that the churches in question were diseased.”
Another possible conclusion would be that the church/wheat and world/tares would grow together just as they always have and we would continue locking horns with unbelief, as we always have.
Your lone conclusion does not sound like the opinion of one who would believe that the number of true believers was decided, and set in stone, before Adam was made.
Melody, Good observations. I would take exception however with the Christian rate of divorce statement. I’m not sure where that oft repeated idea comes from, but where ever I go in this country I find the incidence of divorce to be a fraction in the Christian community of that in the secular.
It has already been well-established statistically that there is no difference in divorce rates between Christians and non Christians.
Better to look at statistics than personal experience to see large trends like that. I have been in churches with little divorce as well as in churches with rampant divorce. I think the lower divorce rate in many churches when compared to the general populace disappears when controlling for socioeconomic status. Pastor Wilson, have you looked at data such as that explored in Charles Murray’s Coming Apart or Robert Putnam’s Our Kids? These show that not only are the working poor suffering disproportionately from all manner of social pathologies. They are also not attending church or if they are, they… Read more »
Andrew, thank you for clarifying that for me. I agree with you regarding letting the private sector set the standards. Regarding the non-aggression principle, if it’s not a foundational principle for Christian living, in other words, if there are other principles that trump it, then what are those principles? When is it OK to initiate violence against a nonviolent person? If you can’t give specific answers, then you must, in principle, adopt libertarianism. I don’t mean to sound confrontational, I’m just saying that that is an inevitable consequence of accepting the immorality of initiating violence. Barnabas, there is a difference… Read more »
Ben, I assume that you are aware that there is abundant empirical evidence that driving with a “certain amount of alcohol in your system” produces impairment in both mental and physical response. If you were about to get on a plane for a flight, or your wife/child/parent were going into life-endangering surgery, would you want the pilot or surgeon to have a “certain amount of alcohol” in their system? How about any other judgment impairing drugs? As someone who has witnessed (and I mean with my sleeves rolled up and elbow deep in the matter) what impaired driving does…I have… Read more »
@RFB: The “certain amount” I was referring to was the arbitrary blood-alcohol level limit used when giving breathalyzers. Some people can drink far more than that arbitrary amount without being impaired, and others will get impaired at below that amount. The idea of locking someone up in a cage wherein they will be raped over and over for having a certain arbitrary amount of a legal substance in their body is Orwellian, is it not? If someone is driving recklessly, however, they should be punished, regardless of what was or was not in their body. If a person recklessly endangers… Read more »
As pointed out elsewhere, even 1 drink has been shown to cause impairment. By the way, just because RFB did not mention alcohol in a comment about marijuana does not mean he was excepting marijuana.
Doug — may I have permission to reblog this on my site?
It is my understanding that, when one simply judges self-proclaimed Christians against self-proclaimed not-Christians, the divorce rates are equivalent. When one controls for church involvement–i.e., following the commands of Christ–the divorce rate drops as church attendance increases.
I think what you’re looking for is Catholicism.
I would like to see runaway exploitative capitalism also addressed in the culture war, instead of the usual justification of it as “merely supply and demand,” “the reward of hard work,” or the complaint of “social justice gimmie gimmie grasper(s).” Fair dealing and a Golden Rule business approach is certainly a Christian approach.