Faithful Politics

Being faithful with our politics, not political with our faith.

The Christian and the Culture War

Whether you’re familiar with the phrase or not, you do not need to watch any major cable news show for more than about fifteen minutes before being confronted with the fact that there is most definitely a “culture war” raging in the United States today.

Wikipedia defines the phrase as a “struggle between two sets of conflicting cultural values,”  going on to explain that “in American usage, the term is used to claim that there is a conflict between those values considered traditionalist or conservative and those considered progressive or liberal.”

As Christians who want to engage in the political and social issues of our
day, we must understand the nature of these culture wars, and more
importantly, learn how to both initiate and respond in a Christ-like way. To
do this, I think we need to recognize that fundamental differences exist
between our own worldview and the worldviews held by many others in our
society, and we need to learn to respect those differences and engage in
civil conversation with those with whom we disagree.

As far as our own worldview, it seems to me that many Christian
conservatives would basically like to see the United States unequivocally
embrace biblical standards and values. Now, as a Christian myself, I do not
argue that the biblical way is certainly the best way to go. However, I do
believe we must face the fact that America is simply not a
“biblically-based” nation. We are an extremely pluralistic society at this
point. Many people do not even believe in the existence of the God of the
Bible, let alone embrace biblical standards in the ways that they live. For
us to mandate that these people follow specific biblical standards would
ultimately be a form of forcing a religious belief on them that they do not
share. It is clear the the gospel is spread best in countries that allow
freedom of religion, so as Christians we certainly would not want the United
States to become a theocracy that requires all citizens to become
Christians.

Let me provide some specific examples. Many Christian conservatives believe
marriage should be between a man and a woman, and their reasoning is that
God instituted marriage in this way, and it is not within the government’s
rights to change that. But many people do not believe in God, so is it right
for us to expect them to accept this view?

Another hot-button issue is abortion. Often it is discussed as an evil that
is not up for debate, as the Scriptures clearly say God knits us together in
our mother’s womb and we are truly a human life from the moment of
conception. But non-Christian pro-choice individuals do not refer to the
Scriptures for their beliefs on abortion. Although there is scientific
evidence we can bring forth that shows abortion is taking a life, there are
pro-choice arguments from science as well (e.g., if the fetus can’t survive
outside the mother, it is part of her body and she should have the right do
with it as she pleases.)

All this being said, I do not purport to have all the answers to all this. I
do not know exactly how we should address the fundamental differences
between the worldviews in our society today. But as a Christian, I do
believe that it is part of my responsibility to represent Christ here on the
earth. To do this, I need to both speak truth and show love in all my
interactions with others. This means that I should take opportunities to
have conversations with those who hold different views than I do, rather
than only associating with people who agree with me and allowing myself to
fall into a “fortress mindset” in which I never have to engage with any
other views. It also means that I should keep a humble and loving attitude
when I engage in conversation with those I disagree with- no matter how much
I disagree with them!

We must move past the “culture wars” and towards an open, respectful
dialogue where we allow all views an equal seat at the table. Not only is
this the way that we are going to be able to move forward in a positive
direction in our society today, it is also the way that is God-honoring and
Christ-like.

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1 Comment

  1. Nice post, Lisa. A lot of food for thought.

    I just have one question. Do the Scriptures communicate truths or mere beliefs? If the Scriptures merely communicate beliefs that it admits are only as valid as the beliefs of any other religion (or anti-religion), then I think you have a point about abortion (i.e., why should we force our beliefs on others?). On the other hand, (1) if the Scriptures communicate actual truths about the nature of reality, and (2) if the Scriptures assert that the true God considers abortion murder and human life sacred, and (3) if (and this is a big if) Scripture also asserts that Christians have the responsibility to protect human life as far as is within their capabilities, then it follows that Christians must stand against abortion. If all three premises are true (and Christians may debate the second and third ones, though I don’t think the first is questionable), then abortion actually IS murder, regardless of the arguments non-Christians can make. If the three premises are true, then the only opinion that matters is God’s; any counter-arguments based on relativism would be, by definition, false.

    My point is just that if a Christian truly BELIEVES that what the Scriptures declare is true, and if the things it declares require certain courses of action (i.e., that Christians must prevent murder if possible), then it follows that the Christian must follows those courses of action. You cannot one minute say that X is true and the next say that X is one belief among many. The person who thus vacillates does not actually believe that X is true. As I said, my second and third premises may be false–only exegesis can determine their truth or falsehood–but the first one is pretty much universally accepted by conservative Christians. Thus, if Scriptures says X is true, I must believe X and act accordingly.

    The rabbis had an understanding of personal responsibility that Jesus was in full agreement with. They argued that certain commands overrule others, especially the command to preserve life. Thus, if I find my someone lying wounded outside my house on the Sabbath, they would argue that it is my responsibility to break the Sabbath if necessary to get him medical aid, because the preservation of life supersedes the Sabbath requirement. This is the exact same point Jesus makes when he heals the man with the withered hand (Matt. 12:10-13). Perhaps the divine command to preserve life (if that really is the Christian responsibility; as I said, exegesis must determine whether or not that is required) overrules the secular command to “let others behave in accordance with their own beliefs?”

    You don’t necessarily have to state your own views on abortion; I am not calling you out here. I am simply raising an important issue, and that is whether or not Christians can legitimately affirm that Scripture communicates truths while refusing the courses of action that such truths may require.

    Say hi to Munchie for me!

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