For some, it’s been called The Culture Wars. For others, it’s simply life in the 21st Century. Whichever your particular point of view, unless you’re under 20 years of age, the world is quite different from the one into which you were born. At its most basic level, the phrase defines two competing ideologies or sets of values, each seeking preeminence in the public square.
Some observers pose the rivalry as Red States versus Blue States or Democrats versus Republicans or Progressives versus Conservatives. While each description has its merits, I prefer to think about The Culture Wars in terms less political. I think such categories hamper a clear view of the landscape and foster polarization.
In a general sense, culture is the prevailing mindset by which individuals (and societies) view their world. I think we’ve had a culture war going on since the beginning of time. People with particular points of view (POV) are always agitating for wider acceptance of their POV. That’s nothing new.
I won’t bore you with a recitation of culture wars through the ages. (There are people far more qualified than I to speak to that topic.) But over the last twenty-five or thirty years, polarization produced by the culture wars has become more rancorous and divisive … hence the categorizations of Red vs. Blue, D vs. R, etc.
Today, I read an excerpt from a 1993 book titled When the Wicked Seize a City. Written by a pastor Chuck McIlhenny, the book relates events from 1978 when McIlhenny and his church were sued for dismissing the homosexual musician who was their church organist. Reading the excerpt, I recalled reading and hearing news reports about this suit when it was litigated.
But I was AWOL from that tussle of the nascent culture war. I had small children and a household to run. It was easy to dismiss this San Francisco struggle as if it were happening on Mars. Though the suit was decided in favor of McIlhenny’s church, battle lines were drawn – and I’m sad to acknowledge, many Christians (including me) didn’t even realize it.
Christians finally got engaged … through politics. The Christian Right, the Moral Majority, the Christian Coalition and a host of other efforts seeking to recapture the culture, to resolve the culture wars by championing their POV in the public square. But we lost and we’ve been losing ever since.
If you read the excerpt of McIlhenny’s book, you’ll understand the loving way in which this pastor attempted to address a delicate situation. His goal was not to W-I-N, to have his particular POV triumph in the public square. No! His first concern was the well-being of a young musician involved in a destructive lifestyle. (The man eventually died from AIDS.) McIlhenny explains this culture war is a religious one, the struggle between the religion of secular humanism (man as the ultimate authority for his life and actions) and orthodox Christianity (with God, the grace-giver, as ultimate authority).
Speaking from the Christian POV, I mean no disrespect to secular humanists. However, I believe there is genuine compassion in urging every person alive to be reconciled to the Creator of the Universe! When a Christian experiences the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ in his or her life, it’s a natural outpouring of love to tell others.
Although Christians needed to be engaged in politics, I think we deluded ourselves into thinking politics would be the answer … and that’s why the winds shifted dramatically in this culture war. Christians were looking to political solutions and a political standard-bearer when we should have had our eyes fixed on Christ. It is the love of Christ that changes lives!
With 62.1% of the voters approving the referendum this week, Ireland has become the first country in the world to legalize gay marriage. Other countries will follow.
Let me hasten to say, Christians have no need to be depressed or to fear the future. The days ahead will be our opportunity to share the love of Christ, no matter what the culture wars portend. Romans 8:37 tells me: “… in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.” Let’s not be down, but rather watch to see Jesus Christ glorified in all.