Reflecting on the Idea of Culture Wars Part 2

I finished the previous post by offering a brief overview to my introduction to the idea of the “culture war”. This post I want to engage in how many of us as Christians have been fighting the culture war. As you saw in the last post, there was a connection between Christianity and political conservatism. While not all Christians have made that same connection, I did. It was a reflection of our Christian faith – to vote conservative. While I will not argue that the right evangelical expression is to vote more liberal/left (or moderate, or not vote at all, etc.), it is my aim that our faith must transcend our political ideologies. Said another way, our faith can be reflected in our political views but not defined. For me, “fighting” in the culture war did not allow me to see that and I suspect that many young evangelicals can relate.

It should be said that some do not actually see a culture war but instead see many expressions of beliefs and practices that some respond with varying degrees of tolerance/intolerance. For our purposes, I will simply use the idea of “culture war” to reference the fight that results between our conflicting ideologies, namely conservative versus liberal, Christian versus non-Christian. However, as the posts unfold, I am more interested in the Christian’s perspective and posture towards the idea of the culture war.

From where I sit, I see four typical responses to the way the culture war has been fought by Christians.

One is way of the “Conquistador”. They can be the trailblazing missionaries that jump off of boats, planes, and blogs ready to claim soul and land “in the name of Jesus!”  You could argue the missions movement of the 19th century was another example of this. You could also make the case the birth of America was rooted in this too but good luck explaining how the treatment of the Native Americans was moral, Christian, or in an sense, acceptable.  But those may be subjects for another day.

Easier examples might be the more modern versions of the “Conquistador”.  Sometimes the Conquistador is an innovator/builder/mogul like a Billy Graham.  At its laziest and lamest, the Conquistador is the “copycat” who sees You Tube and creates God Tube or sees MySpace and creates HisSpace or something like that. The purpose is to claim “space” in the name of God.

The second response I see is the “Guardian” mentality. The Guardian is the one who is scaring the life out of people on radio, television, internet, and from behind the pulpit. “The ACLU is coming to get you! And if they don’t succeed, the other secularists will! And so, if you send $50 to our organization, “Keep God Where He Belongs”, you will do your part in making sure the omni-presence of God stays where it belongs, right here in America!” Yes, that is a caricature.

Probably a better connection point is the common sentiment that the 1950’s were a very Christian and moral time in America and we need to get back to it. It’s the hope of Pleasantville and the personalities are the televangelists like Falwell, Robertson, Dobson, etc. You could say that the Guardian mentality is the generation (not 40 years of time but of mentality) after the Conquistador. They quote Paul and the Founding Fathers in the same breath. That’s a problem for the Christ-follower who claims to be seeking the Kingdom of Jesus.

Succeeding the Guardian is the Debater/Protester/Activisit. This person is a combination of the Conquistador and Guardian. They are (re)claiming something and guarding something else. In the political world, it could be Ann Coulter. In the subversive Christian world, it could be a Shane Claiborne. (By the way, this is the only time in the entire internet that those two names will be found in back to back sentences). This person is typically passionate and prophetic. To its extreme, this person is the assassin.

The final Christian response to the culture war is the “Private Apathetic”. This is the person who has more or less seen the gravity of the situation, has fired upon others in the culture war, has been fired upon and has been wounded. This person has regretted hurting others and being hurt and has consequently abandoned the fight.

Some have retreated deep within the Christian sub-culture and filled their days praying for the rapture while waving their finger of judgement at the decadent world. While others have abandoned any form of institution whatsoever and in some cases, forsaken Christian community as well, wishing only to worship God “privately”.

What’s interesting to me is that most of us have dabbled in all four mentalities at some point, some at the same time.

Now, I am not saying that there is no virtue in any of these. I am trying to draw broad strokes on a blog post here. Certainly there is a place for Innovators. Indeed, there is a time when we do need to guard important matters. There is a place for debate, protest (hello Protestant Reformation), and activism. There is also a time to retreat from the affairs of the world and find rest and renewal. I would contend that the work and the cross of Christ can be seen in these mentalities and more. I would also argue that the work and cross of Christ go much further and thus, so should we.

I’ll pick up here in the next post.

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