Let’s just be up-front from the beginning. The very existence of the culture war is unpleasant for everyone. There is nothing sunny about it for anyone except those who just love to get in other people’s faces.
Culture war battles are places where two different realities (worldviews) bump up against each other. Honestly, it is quite difficult for most people to even imagine that someone could conceive of reality differently than they do. What is real is real, after all, and what is not is fantasy. How could anyone possibly believe that something is real that we consider fantasy? And people who believe a different reality look at us and think the same thing. We see this all the time.
In American culture, this has manifested itself in some very ugly fights. One of the most basic fights has to do with belief in God. Those who believe in the God of the Bible literally believe he is a person who can be known in an actual personal relationship. They view those who don’t believe in God as deniers who are simply pushing God away in order to be morally autonomous. On the other side, those who believe in a Naturalistic worldview believe there is no such thing as God, or any other supernatural reality. They see those who believe in God as believing in fairy tales.
We could go on and deal with differences in other areas such as the nature of a human being or the ultimate purpose of human life. But the main point we need to make here is that different beliefs about reality lead to different ways of expressing life out in the world which profoundly bump up against each other. That is just the nature of the beast. That is the culture war.
Distaste for the Fight
The very thought of fighting the culture war creates a real inner struggle for some Christians. Many think of it as arguing. A person has their point of view that conflicts with someone else’s viewpoint and they just bicker because they can’t agree. This is rarely pleasant.
When dealing with culture war issues, however, we are not just grappling with differing opinions. As was already mentioned, it actually reflects different ways of viewing reality. These differing views are so profoundly in conflict, they simply cannot be reconciled. Either individuals must agree to disagree, or one side must give in.
Another problem is that at its foundation, the conflict touches such deep and abiding personal ideals that individuals cannot make a concession without actually compromising core values. The culture war battles cannot be avoided and one still maintain personal integrity. The fact that most people don’t like conflict yet are unable to avoid it, makes the culture war very uncomfortable, indeed.
Interestingly, this struggle is expressed differently by different people. There are numerous reasons why people find it unpleasant to fight the culture war, and why they want to avoid it. Here are some the main ones.
1) As unfortunate as it is, the internal struggle exists for some Christians because they are actually sympathetic toward certain beliefs that biblical Christians fight against. For instance, there are people who claim to be Christians yet live with someone out of wedlock. We see the same thing at play with homosexual relationships, adultery, fornication, greed, gluttony, and the list could go on. So, in order to justify their own lifestyles, they come up with arguments for why it is okay to participate in what the Bible clearly labels as sin. They truly believe that they are Christians, but their attachment to their particular sin is stronger than their belief in the revelation God has given us in Scripture.
2) Some don’t want to fight the culture war based on wrong theology. They have the notion that the Bible teaches us not to judge, and that to speak against sin is to judge people. As such, they believe Christians should just sit back and not be critical in any respect.
But this kind of thinking mixes up categories. There is a massive difference between judging people’s souls and evaluating their actions based on the teachings of the Bible. When we speak against abortion or homosexual marriage, we are not making an evaluation as to whether or not the individual has a personal relationship with God. Rather, we are looking at what God has revealed to be sin, and comparing that with the actions of the person. If these things don’t match up, that is not a judgment of their salvation (which only God can make), but merely pointing out that God has already designated the action as sin. It is not “judging” a person’s eternal soul to assert that their adultery or homosexual practice, or whatever, is sin. It is only affirming what God has revealed about it in the Bible.
3) Some see all fighting (including the culture war struggle itself) to be an evil thing. As such, there are Christians who think we need to completely stay out of it on principle. They believe we need to allow even bad to happen because the evil is simply a sign of the end times and we shouldn’t interfere with what is exclusively God’s domain. They believe Christians should just be active in church and preach the gospel, but not advocate for Christian beliefs in the culture.
The issue deals with the inevitability of sinful behavior taking over the entire culture. The Christian faith certainly teaches that Jesus will return. However, we do not know that it will be in this generation, or even in our lifetime. In fact, based on the persecution that happened in the first century, some of the New Testament writers thought the end would be in their generation. And there have been Christians throughout history who have voiced the same sentiment.
For the first time in American history, Christians are experiencing a type of persecution which is directed toward actual Christian beliefs themselves. Since this seems to be a dramatic shift, there are those who see this as a sign of the end, in the same way some in past generations thought their time was the end. This, however, is not necessarily the case. It may be, but we don’t know that. Beyond that, there have been numerous times in history where God has used active and involved believers to, literally, turn the moral tide in the culture. It has happened in many countries throughout history, including America.
The work of God in the material world is not limited to getting people to pray the sinners prayer. In addition to that, he wants changed lives which are expressed in human culture. Until Jesus actually does come again, we should never give up the fight to bring forth the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven (just as Jesus prayed). Being active in expressing Christ in the culture is a spiritual work that God has called believers to do.
4) Another reason some struggle is because they merely hate conflict. In many cases, people in this category are self-identified pacifists. However, more often than not, this group is composed of ordinary people who, because of their personality or temperament, just don’t like conflict.
It is really too bad that conflict has to exist in the first place. Unfortunately, that is just the nature of our existence. We live in a fallen world. Avoiding conflict only allows sin to rule because those who advocate for sinful behavior are not averse to speaking out for their point of view. If Christians, on the other hand, are determined to avoid conflict at all costs, that means they are willing to let sin take over. While it is virtually impossible to simply avoid conflict and still maintain our integrity, it is possible to engage the conflict without compromising our convictions.
5) The struggle exists for some because the fight seems so overwhelming. There is no question that the prevailing pressure in the pop-culture is to accept such sins as fornication, homosexual relations, abortion and the like. The pressure is exerted in the news media, in our educational institutions, in politics and in the entertainment industry – virtually all of the major institutions of the culture. In that kind of environment it is easy to feel alone and helpless.
The truth is though, there are literally millions of people, and thousands of organizations, actively engaged in fighting for the truth. The fact that pop-culture has a certain amount of success in drowning out our voices does not mean that the fight is not on. It also doesn’t mean that there is no success. A lot of progress is being made in many areas. It mainly seems overwhelming to those not connected with others who are engaging the battle. The solution is merely to make those connections.
6) Finally, some wish to avoid the culture war because they feel intimidated. These are the people who might wish they could engage, but simply don’t feel equipped to do it. Unfortunately, too few churches, and other Christian organizations, properly equip their people to stand strong for their faith in the midst of a culture that is pushing against Christ.
This problem, though, is easily handled. It is simply a matter of education. There are MANY organizations, including MarketFaith Ministries, which are producing materials and providing training for those who wish to stand firm for the truth in the midst of the evil trends in the culture.
Why the Fight Is Important
There are those who argue that the fight against evil in the culture is God’s fight, not ours. In one respect that is true, since God is the only one who is able to transform the human heart. On the other hand, God has, literally, called believers to partner with him. He has called us to be his hands and feet in the world. He doesn’t have to do that, but it is what he has chosen to do. As such, we are not to simply sit back and allow evil to conquer the culture.
Here is the ugly truth. When the cultural environment is dominated by non-Christian beliefs, those beliefs become what our children grow up in and grow up believing. No matter how hard we, as Christians, try to insulate them from evil or teach them the truth, they will be overwhelmed when they are not under an umbrella of protection. The only way to really protect them is to teach them the truth, teach them how to discern the difference between what is true and false, and work to clean up the culture which wants to soil them. This requires that we not only teach them Christian doctrine and worldview principles, but also promote the gospel in the world by word and deed.
How Christians Must Engage the Fight
It is certainly possible to get in the culture war fight and get sidetracked. To engage it rightly we must not only be able to know and promote the issues, we must do it in a way that is consistent with what God has revealed to us.
The first thing we must have is the right purpose. Our purpose is never to merely win a cause. Our first priority must always be to bring people to Christ. When we lose the purpose, the issue we are working toward loses its ultimate meaning. No matter how righteous the cause, it cannot be truly good apart from God’s purpose.
The second thing we must have is the right attitude. Because fighting is so intense, it is easy to get off track and begin seeing the battle itself as the goal. It is not. We can win a battle and lose the war. In the Christian faith, it is not only important “what” we do, but how we do it. Working with a wrong attitude is always sin and is never of God, no matter how righteous the cause.
The last thing we must have is the right knowledge. There are three pieces of knowledge we must master. First is knowledge of the gospel. Our purpose is to bring Christ to the world and we cannot do that without knowing how to share a witness. The second thing we must know is worldview beliefs. Because the culture war is a clash of worldviews, we must be able to make the kinds of distinctions which allow us to understand and communicate effectively with those who hold other beliefs. Finally, we must know the technical information about the issue we are fighting for in the culture. Whether it be the issue of life, family, education, marriage, or whatever, we must know the arguments which support our case.
While all Christians are fighting the same war, we are not all involved in the same battles. But if we properly engage the war with the right purpose, attitude and knowledge, we will, together with other believers, bring truth to the world and, in the process, accomplish the purpose of God in the culture.
© 2013 Freddy Davis