I’ve never read or heard anything explicit on this issue, just bits and pieces here and there. So I do need to think about this issue more and interact with more opinions. So hopefully I can say this as irenic as I can, without much ignorance.
Over the last year moving from politically and socially liberal Columbus, OH to conservative Cincinnati, I’ve been inundated hardcore with the “Culture War” raging in the U.S. The primary place that I’ve seen the Culture War pan out and proclaimed is in the Churches I have attended and talking with many attendees. And the recent Creation Museum in Cincinnati has only heighten the tension.
Now the more I think about the concept and reality of Culture War, the more I question how it is being engaged by the Church and the rearranging of priorities that necessarily results.
Ken Ham (president of Answers in Genesis) states in a little booklet on how evolution—or “evilolution”—is the most salient reason for the Culture Wars:
Yes—there is culture war in America! The Chasm is widening. … “Worldly’ and “godly” America are engaged in a battle for the culture minds of people.
He increases the rhetoric:
Secularism, with its moral relativism, is in conflict with Christianity and its absolute morality. It’s a battle between those who believe God’s Word and those who follow man’s opinions.
Those fighting for Christian morality … will only continue to see the erosion of this once-Christian culture until they understand that biblical authority, beginning with God’s Word in Genesis, has to be upheld without compromise.
There is much I agree with Mr. Ham on—even in the aforementioned quotations. However, he is reflective of an ideology that is demanding the United States return to its once-Christian values and beliefs (which is quite controversial, to say the least). Basically, the culture in the U.S. is seen as still apart of the Church in someway. Therefore, judgment and condemnation of the culture to repent and turn back to Christian values is viewed as completely justified and necessary.
Nonetheless, in the process judging and condemning the culture, we forgot that it is not a subset of the Church and therefore it is unbiblical to castigate to the degree that so many Christians do. As Paul makes clear in 1 Corinthians: 5:9-13
9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the Church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”
Even more pernicious is the reality that I’ve seen so much more judging of the culture and never judging of those inside the Church who claim Christ as Lord and Savior. Except for the pastor that have had to step down because of marital infidelity, I’ve never personally meet anyone that has undergone formal Church discipline in any capacity. The concept is a near contradiction in terms for most American Evangelicals.
I further believe that the Evangelical Church’s obsession with the “culture war” in the U.S. is fundamentally an egregious act of self-righteous. We talk about it so much because it reinforces how “godly” we supposed are in comparison. It is no different than the Pharisee in Luke 18:11 standing alone and praying: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.” Just today our list includes—if you’re more conservative: “secular humanist, evolutionist, homosexual, abortionist, pagan, or Democratic.”
All too often, White Evangelicals move to the suburbs and go to their nice mega-Churches with annual budgets comparable to many third world nations. We just sit on our rears as we cry about how much the culture is going to hell and then do nothing but launch rhetorical assaults from the pulpit and try to elect some candidate to office (who really is only manipulating the Evangelical voting bloc to get in office). Instead, we need to move to the cities where culture is shaped and influenced most saliently; create a city within a city, and “seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” (Jer. 29:7).
Finally, as the focus of so many Churches is frequently primarily on the “Culture War,” the Gospel becomes distorted beyond recognition. Jesus becomes a badge of exclusivity, co-opted for one’s now replaced true savior: political power. Sadly, I’ve sat through dozens more sermons focused on homosexuality and abortion than the most center reality of Christ and Him Crucified.
Should Christians be involved in politics and the “culture war”? By all means, yes! But four things must be kept in mind:
- The culture is not the church and therefore judgment and condemnation must be used in line with Biblical warrant, as we are to judge more the members of one’s church than the culture.
- Engaging in culture wars must never be a means of self-righteousness to propel ourselves above lonely “sinners”, attempting to literally justified oneself in front of God.
- As Christians are called to live and dwell among people groups, understand their culture, receiving the good, rejecting the evil, and redeeming all in Christ’s name for His glory. Thus, attempt to do more changing and cultivating of the culture, as opposed to just condemning.
- The Gospel must always be central in the church, implicating directs how and why the culture is engaged.
After Paul lists types of folks who will not inherit the Kingdom of God in 1 Cor. 6:9-10, which many might also include “secular humanists, evolutionists, abortionists, or even Democratics,” he states:
And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.