What Do We Mean by Culture Wars?
As Christians, how should we interact with the world as it relates to the culture wars? Should we fight for what we believe is right based on the teachings in the Bible? Or, should we not concern ourselves with the things of this world and focus our attention on worshiping God at church? Should we confront non-believers with what the Bible teaches about various social issues, or should we just quietly live godly lives in front of them and depend on God to prick their consciences?
The answer to these questions is yes and yes and yes and yes! There is a part that we have to play in the execution of the culture wars and there is a part that God must play. Problems come about when we don’t know how to distinguish between our part and his part. God has given believers a role to play in building his kingdom on earth and he primarily works off of that to accomplish his purposes. It is not that he cannot work without us, but he has chosen primarily to work through us.
With that concept firmly in place, we must also acknowledge that there is a part that only God can do. When we understand the difference in the two arenas and focus on accomplishing our part, God will effectively work through us. When we get the roles confused, we end up trying to do the right things for the wrong reasons and God is not able to effectively use us.
But before we are able to carry out solutions, we must first make sure that we know what we are dealing with when talking about the concept of culture wars. Just what does this mean, anyway?
Culture wars occur in the places where opposing worldviews collide in society. In modern America this is an increasing phenomenon. There are many expressions of the culture wars. Most of these, though by no means all, are battles between the Naturalistic and Christian worldviews.
Some of the more prevalent expressions of the culture war include:
Abortion – Those who believe that life is a gift of God and that it begins at conception understand abortion to be wrong. Those who believe that there is no God and that living beings are nothing more than natural animals do not value life as highly. They tend to believe that a fetus is nothing more than a blob of tissue and see nothing wrong with aborting one if having a baby would be inconvenient for the mother.
Homosexual Marriage – Those who believe that the union of a man and woman constitute God’s right and natural order for the basis of human society, understand homosexual behavior to be wrong. Those who don’t believe in God tend to value human desires above all and do not see anything wrong with turning marriage into something else.
Human Cloning and Embryonic Stem Cell Research – Those who believe that life begins at conception and is a creation of God assert that human beings do not have the right to manipulate or kill human life in order to further medical research – no matter how noble the intentions. Those who believe that life is a completely natural phenomenon claim that there is nothing particularly sacred about human life and any kind of medical research is acceptable.
Euthanasia and Doctor Assisted Suicide – Those who believe that the giving and taking of life is only the prerogative of God will be against these ideas. Those who do not believe in God and consider this life to be all there is have no problem with human beings deciding for themselves what is acceptable regarding end of life issues.
There are, of course, many other issues which are currently being dealt with in the culture wars of modern society. The ones above, however, serve to illustrate the point.
Why Fight the Culture Wars?
Before we go any further with this, we need to answer one other question. Why is it important for us to fight the culture wars? Many will argue that it is nobody’s concern what “I” do. Others assert that, “If it doesn’t affect anyone but me, what harm is there?”
The problem is that there is a massive fallacy in these kinds of arguments. There is the presumption that what one individual does has no effect on others. This is simply not true. The behavior people engage in does have an effect on other people. An abortion may make life more convenient for the prospective mother, but it kills the baby. Embryonic Stem Cell Research may hold out hope for some people, but it kills a baby.
But this whole matter goes beyond effects on individuals. Each issue has a profound effect on society, as well. The prevailing point of view in a society regarding any of these culture war issues affects what people do in the society. When abortions are legal, more babies are killed. When homosexuality is normalized, more children grow up without a mom and dad and more people get into that lifestyle. When euthanasia and doctor assisted suicide are legitimized, more people will die, even many who do not need to. It can certainly be said that sanctions do not completely eliminate bad behavior and activities, but they do cut down on it and dissuade more people from participating. The more acceptable something is to a culture, the more there is of it. And all of these bad values create a drag on society which affect even those who do not participate.
The Role of Christians in the Culture Wars
There is a way that God established the world to operate. This right way includes a high value on life, a specific purpose for marriage, a specific understanding of sexual morality and a way that individuals and society ought to act in relationship to God. And Christians do have a part to play in the culture wars. Society is going to reflect some set of values – either the values of God or the values of humanity apart from God. The dominant set of values will take the society down a particular road. When the values of God are the prevailing structure, people are provided an atmosphere where they can flourish. When the structure is contrary to God’s ways, more people go in directions which degrade society.
As Christians, we ought to be interested in promoting the purposes of God. And when the interests of God are being trampled, we must stand up on God’s side. To do this, we don’t simply make up what we want to be for or against. Our focus must be based on a Biblical mandate and revolves around such issues as the value of human life, marriage, human rights, fairness, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, rule of law, justice, and the like. This does not mean that we are looking to create a Theocracy where some church or religious leaders head up the government. Rather, we are looking to promote values in society which reflect the character of God rather than some other character.
As a result, Christians ought to be actively involved in promoting the values we agree with in the culture. To do this we need to be active in sharing our faith to bring others into a relationship with God. We also need to be vocal in the political process by voting, talking to our legislators, writing letters to the editor of the newspaper, supporting the right people for political office and perhaps even running for office. As was said before, some value system will prevail in society. We need to be active in promoting the values which correspond with the character of God.
The Role of God in the Culture Wars
While we need to be actively involved in promoting God’s ways, there is one thing that we are incapable of doing – changing people’s hearts and minds. As much as we want to see our society serving God and adhering to the values of the Bible, we human being are incapable of changing other people’s hearts. We can be an influencer, but actual change occurs within the heart and mind of the individual.
The reason that this is important is because generating laws which run contrary to the values of the majority of a population only invites backlash. This principle was seen very concretely back during prohibition. A groundswell of support for anti-alcohol laws was able to sweep in a national prohibition law which outlawed the sale of beverage alcohol. But in spite of the ability of anti-alcohol forces to enact the laws, they didn’t do it in a way which convinced the general population that the laws were a good idea. A very few years later, the law was repealed and the availability of alcohol became more widespread than ever before.
We certainly do need to advocate for laws which reflect God’s values, but we must do it in ways which also bring people into a mindset which agrees with the laws. This requires that people have their lives changed by a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Instruments in God’s Hands
While only God can change a person’s heart, we can be instruments of God’s working. There certainly are cases where God somehow directly confronts individuals in ways which influence them to turn to him. But the more usual method of God’s working is through believers. Typically, God uses believers to get people’s attention as they share their faith. Once God has an individual’s attention and he or she opens their lives to him, their lives, and thus their values, change.
As Christians, God uses us to bring attention to the need for society to be based on values he has revealed in the Bible. He then uses us to promote those values in society. At the same time, he uses us to share our faith with non-believers so that they can come to know him. When enough people in a society respond to God in their lives, the majority opinion reflects the values of God.
Christians are responsible for being instruments in promoting God’s values in the world. But that responsibility is not absolute. Rather, it is a partnership with God to not only change society at large, but also to change the hearts of individuals. At that point, the values of God become prominent and the Kingdom of God comes on earth as it is in heaven.
© 2009 Freddy Davis