March 31, 2020

Culture Wars Update: Why I Am Not a Culture Warrior

Note from CM: I wrote this post in 2009. I thought I would re-run it today in its original form and ask for input on how you see that things may or may not have changed.

One sentence from the original post that I know is most certainly obsolete is found right in the beginning: “This involvement [of evangelicalism with politics] had its high water mark in the presidency of George W. Bush and the Republican domination of Congress.” From where I sit, it looks like the water is still rising.

Along with this piece, you might want to read Scot McKnight’s post that is linked on the IM Bulletin Board: Christianity Tomorrow. Scot maintains that the Christian church in many of its expressions (not just evangelicalism) has fallen into “Locke’s trap” and has increasingly adopted the “secular eschatology and soteriology” of “statism” — though few would admit to this. Statism “is a belief that solutions to our biggest problems are found in the state and the Christian’s responsibility from the Left or the Right is to get involved and acquire political power.”

A WORD: This is not a post about President Trump and I do not want the discussion to devolve into rants about him or the current administration, its policies, the current impeachment trial, etc. Stay on topic — comments will be strictly moderated and I will not feel the need to defend myself in doing so.

• • •

Why I Am Not a Culture Warrior

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: When it comes to the culture wars, I am a conscientious objector.

Since the 1970’s evangelicalism in America has taken to getting involved in public cultural activism and the political sphere with unprecedented vigor. Evangelicals have followed the voices of religious leaders like Francis Schaeffer, Jerry Falwell, D. James Kennedy, and James Dobson to raise their voices in the public debate about such issues as abortion, the erosion of personal morality (as they see it) especially as portrayed in the entertainment media, and the gay rights movement. In the process, evangelical Christianity became so connected to the conservative wing of the Republican party that at times the two seemed indistinguishable. This involvement had its high water mark in the presidency of George W. Bush and the Republican domination of Congress.

As a result of this evangelical embrace of a culture war approach to their mission in the world, churches, pastors, and individual Christians have been swept up into having to choose sides on many complex issues and to adopt a “Christ against culture” mentality. This has coincided with the development of an entire Christian subculture, which in my view has isolated believers from their neighbors and genuine redemptive interaction with the world.

Thus, evangelicals find themselves in the equivalent of spiritual trench warfare. We are dug in to our positions, separated from our “enemies,” seeing things only from one perspective, and having no real contact with those on the other side except to bombard them relentlessly. Doesn’t sound like a Great Commission lifestyle to me!

As Michael Spencer observes on his Internet Monk blog:

Every day I listen to and read Christians whose consideration of other persons is on the basis of politics and cultural conflict. Not the Gospel. Their anger and frustration dominates, not the Gospel.

Frankly, I don’t want any part of that approach. And so I’ve decided to conscientiously object to that path of life and “ministry.”

Here are some of the reasons I’ve gone AWOL…

(1) The culture war approach assumes the position that America is somehow different than other nations in our manifest destiny, a “Christian” land that must be “saved” and “brought back” to its Christian “roots.”

In the minds of those who assume this, there is an idea of some kind of vague Eden that once existed in our nation when people all went to church, lived moral lives, and the government supported the teachings of Christ. ‘Twas never so.

(2) The culture war approach holds that the media is the arena in which we should fight our battles, that it accurately represents the reality of the situation on the ground, and that therefore we must make our voice be heard through the media in order to win peoples’ hearts and minds.

The simple fact is that most people listen to media that confirm their beliefs, not challenge them. You won’t find the conservatives lining up to see the latest Michael Moore or Bill Maher film. Nor will you pass many liberals listening to Rush in their cars or catch them watching Fox News at night. Culture warriors generally preach to the choir.

But that’s not the only problem. By moving to a media-driven strategy, Christians have become conditioned to seek the spectacular and forsake the down-to-earth path our Savior teaches us to take–the small, seemingly insignificant, seed-planting approaches of loving our neighbors in the context of real daily life. That is the mystery of how the Kingdom comes and how the world is changed.

(3) The culture war approach relies on political machinery as a primary weapon to restore “righteousness” to the land.

This means we have allowed the world to choose the arena, the weapons, the rules, the referees, and the definitions of what it means to “win” or “lose” in the conflict. In addition, it makes Christians vulnerable to the temptations of power, which are among the least understood among us.

(4) The culture war approach teaches us to fear, dislike, oppose, and look down on our neighbors rather than lay down our lives for them in sacrificial love.

It pits us “against” them, when the Incarnation teaches us to be “with” them.

(5) The culture war approach leads to Christians unwisely choosing our battles and showing a misleading face to the world.

Must a person have “correct” political or cultural opinions before he can come to faith in Christ? The simple Good News of Jesus and his gracious salvation can become so mixed with righteous “positions” that the Gospel itself gets distorted.

IMHO, the culture war approach has a lot more in common with the way the Pharisees lived out the religious life and ministry than it does with our Lord Jesus Christ and his Apostles.

Comments

  1. “A WORD: This is not a post about President Trump and I do not want the discussion to devolve into rants about him or the current administration, its policies, the current impeachment trial, etc. Stay on topic — comments will be strictly moderated and I will not feel the need to defend myself in doing so.”

    in case someone missed it

    • I would be happy never to hear that name again.

      • In case you missed it
        As Michael Spencer observes on his Internet Monk blog:
        Every day I listen to and read Christians whose consideration of other persons is on the basis of politics and cultural conflict. Not the Gospel. Their anger and frustration dominates, not the Gospel.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      But Donald Trump HAS become the Focus of the Christian Culture War, a literal Messiah Figure approaching Object of Worship. He Who Will Get Things Done — Supreme Court that will overturn Roe v Wade, Return Prayer In Schools, and in general Achieve the Culture War Agenda of Restoring America to a Truly CHRISTIAN Nation.

      How much of this is wishful thinking on the part of the Christian Culture Warriors? Who knows; either way, the end result is a marriage of convenience between Christian Nation Culture War and Trump Tower ($50 prayer coins, books of Special Prophetic Revelation, and all).

      Regarding such a marriage, if you interpret Revelation as patterns of sociology and history, with The Beast as a corrupt political system and The False Prophet as a corrupt religious system/religious leaders, Which of the Two is always The Boss and Which is always the Fawning Flunky who THINKS he’s really in charge?

      • –> “But Donald Trump HAS become the Focus of the Christian Culture War, a literal Messiah Figure approaching Object of Worship.”

        Ironically – and maybe to the point of the article – the Trump haters (of which I am one) are ALSO making about something other than Jesus, case in point our continual pointing out how bad Trump is.

        Lord Jesus, please have mercy on us all.

      • Burro (Mule) says

        Politicians make maybe a fraction of what an Imperial CEO might make, but at the Davos Conferences, it’s always the politicians who get schmoozed, and the Imperial CEOs who do the schmoozing.

        PS – I had no idea the level of Trumpolatry that exists in some sectors of the Christosphere. This is just plain nuts.

  2. “Something’s up. And deep down, where the body meets the soul, we are fearful. We fear, down so deep it hasn’t even risen to the point of articulation, that with all our comforts and amusements, with all our toys and bells and whistles… we wonder if what we really have is… a first-class stateroom on the Titanic. Everything’s wonderful, but a world is ending and we sense it.” -Peggy Noonan

  3. But THEY are BAD! THEY are so BAD that OUR shortcomings are so much less in comparison. OUR shortcomings are, in fact, VIRTUES!

    I really hope that someday, hopefully soon, political discourse on social media will be more that clever pictures with text making false equivocations that take about 10 seconds to find fault with…

    I would also add that living in a state that is not a swing state (even if I am an extreme political minority in it) is advantageous because there is no urgency to hold my nose and vote for a lesser of two evils – the result will be the same no matter how I vote. So I often don’t.

  4. David Greene says

    There was the Manhattan Declaration and there was the Chicago Declaration, and probably others, that were pushed around the churches with “wretched urgency” to sign folks up for the culture wars. It seemed to me they came with a lot of baggage and unspoken assumptions – maybe they were just being used as tribal identity statements. At any rate I felt signing one would be to go beyond the words of Jesus to “let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” I have not heard much about them lately, maybe they are loosing steam.

    • They never had much steam. The culture war was not shaped by them, they were merely some of its byproducts. The culture war is political in nature all the way through.

      • Those declarations came well after the Culture War was an established fact on the ground.

        • David Greene says

          Yes, they did come after. But my feeling is that the culture wars had been loosing steam, participating in them is quite burdensome, and the powers that be felt a shot in the arm was needed to keep folks engaged. Regardless, I see them as non-Biblical for reasons I previously stated.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      I look at both of those as Manifestos, and Manifestos of One True Ways are a dime a dozen these days.

  5. Christiane says

    “This means we have allowed the world to choose the arena, the weapons, the rules, the referees, and the definitions of what it means to “win” or “lose” in the conflict. In addition, it makes Christians vulnerable to the temptations of power, which are among the least understood among us.”

    lest we forget ‘the honor of God’
    https://youtu.be/gNB3KCSiSQo

  6. Rod Dreher does not consider himself a Christian culture warrior, since he does not see himself as a statist as defined in the post above, and claims not to look to statist solutions with regard to the place of Christianity in our culture. Yet over at this blog archive at The American Conservative talk by him and his commenters of a coming persecution of conservative Christianity by woke-culture secularism, using the power of coercive government, is pervasive, and the fear of it is palpable. As long as such pervasive fear and paranoia continue to circulate and grow among conservative Christians, even among those as intelligent and perceptive as Dreher who claim not to look to political solutions to their fears, we can expect the culture wars to continue and intensify.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Yet over at this blog archive at The American Conservative talk by him and his commenters of a coming persecution of conservative Christianity by woke-culture secularism, using the power of coercive government, is pervasive, and the fear of it is palpable.

      Not only palpable, but VERY Plausible if you’ve ever lived under the Birkenstocks of the More-Woke-Than-Thou in positions of power (like here in Left Coast culture). It’s a form of religious fanaticism without the Godspeak; the dynamics are near-identical. No difference between Holier Than Thou and More Woke Than Thou.

  7. senecagriggs says

    Number of pro-life Democrats in the House and Senate. ZERO

    ____________-

    It’s worth fighting against infanticide –

    But that’s me.

    • Infanticide and early term abortion are not the same thing. To equate them is to devalue the lives of actual, born children.

      • And to ignore much of historical church teaching (*including* pre1989s evangelicalism) on the subject.

      • senecagriggs says

        Tell me where you draw the line Robert F. In your mind, when is it NOT okay the destroy the life of the preborn.

        2 months? 3 months? 6 months?

        Where do you personally draw the line?

        • According to Jesus, when it is OKAY to destroy your enemies? According to Jesus, when is it okay to neglect the poor? Being pro-life is about more than abortion.

          Years ago, I saw an interview on Bill Moyer’s program about abortion (in the early 1990s). The guest (a woman) made a couple of interesting observations. She said the weakness in the pro-choice movement is that it is really driven by money. She said the weakness in the pro-life movement is that they believe life begins as conception, but ends at birth.

          She went on to talk about how those who protest abortion are often the same people who don’t want their tax dollars going to programs like WIC, Head Start, and supporting ‘welfare queens’. They are pro-life in principle but not in practice.

          One-issue voting will justify a lot of sins (and recent elections have demonstrated).

          • David Cornwell says

            “pro-life in principle but not in practice”

            One could enumerate the many ways this is true. And becoming even worse.

            • Christiane says

              yes, once that innocent baby is born,
              it is thrown out into the ‘survival of the fittest’ which ‘conservative christians’ uphold in praxis, while denying it as a religious concept

              pulling the plug on funding for the largest pediatric hospital in the state with the most advanced NICU units . . .it was a republican governor who did that as soon as he was elected in the state of VA

              he eventually was thrown out for corruption

              • Once they make sure the births take place, they are convinced their work is more-or-less done. Then they can was their hands of the whole matter, and let the free-market and survival of the fittest.sort things out.

        • Klasie Kraalogies says

          As an aside, the Jewish approach to abortion makes a lot more sense and is a lot more nuanced.

        • Pellicano Solitudinis says

          There is no good place to draw a line. That’s part of the problem. If you assign some kind of cut-off point, or try to define a set of circumstances under which abortion should be permissible, there will always be someone who can make a good argument why the line is wrong, or why they don’t fit the criteria.

          Abortion is always an evil, but sometimes it’s the lesser of two evils, and the state is probably not the best judge of when that might be.

        • @senecagriggs — It’s a matter that the whole society has to work out together in a responsible way, which I think society hasn’t yet done. I categorically don’t believe that the blastocyst is a human person from the moment of conception; although the cells produced are human cells, they are no more a human person than a detached human arm is. My thoughts are that most abortions should happen in the first part of the first trimester, later than that should be much rarer, second trimester should be extremely rare for compelling medical reasons, and late term should only occur to protect the life and health of the mother. But absolutism on either end, and the desire of the absolutists to leave no middle ground, is the most unwise, divisive, and immoral course, as far as I’m concerned. Unfortunately, the few absolutists have far more influence on outcomes in this matter, and many others, than all those who hold middle positions.

    • Whether a politician labels themself as “pro-choice” or “pro-life” matters much less than whether the policies they implement have the effect of increasing or decreasing abortion. The US abortion rate is currently lower than at any time since Roe v. Wade. What caused that shift? It isn’t because the pro-life movement has convinced more people to oppose abortion – if anything, there are more pro-choice people today than there were 50 years ago. Maybe some of the change is due to increased restrictions on abortions. But the majority is probably due to improved access to contraception, social services for women and children, comprehensive sex ed, etc. – all of which are actually *liberal* policy priorities.

      On the other hand, some “conservative” policies – such as the “Mexico City policy” banning government aid to international organizations that provide abortions – have actually led to increases in abortion because those organizations were also providing services that decreased the abortion rate:

      https://www.thelancet.com/journals/langlo/article/PIIS2214-109X(19)30267-0/fulltext

      So, it’s not enough to just look at who talks a good talk about abortion. It’s also important to ask who’s actually succeeding in doing something about it.

      • Michael Bell says

        “But the majority is probably due to ” access to the morning after pill, and historically low rates of black unemployment?

    • I am surprised that an issue like that doesn’t have more people (on EITHER SIDE) leaning toward the middle. That, to me, is of great concern. Take, for instance, the current impeachment proceedings. Are you (general YOU, not you, Seneca) going to tell me there isn’t a single Republican swayed by the arguments for impeachment, nor a single Democrat swayed by the arguments NOT to impeach?

      So the concern is… everyone is just a mindless robot, following party lines. I can’t stand it!

  8. Wow. Eight comments already. Should be quite a day…

  9. Their anger and frustration dominates, not the Gospel.

    There is also much fear, which is also not “the Gospel.”

  10. senecagriggs says

    Wilberforce fought the cultural tide against slavery. Was he wrong to do so?

    • senecagriggs says

      On the other hand there was the Kerfluffle over Hallmark Christmas movies showing two women kissing.

      My take:
      Hallmark is a secular institution – not holding to Biblical values. They specifically reflect the culture and strive to make money.

      Did I care? Not much; certainly not a hill worth dying on.

      • –> “…certainly not a hill worth dying on.”

        Jesus dies on the only hill worth dying on.

  11. Great post.

    I am often reminded (and often quote) Paul’s words in 1 Cor 5:12-13:

    ‘For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”‘

    Paul seems to have exactly ZERO interest in what the ‘world’ does or how they live. He spends all his time (ALL his time in his letters) dealing with how Christians treat each other. I have come to realize that Jesus spends all his time teaching about the ‘kingdom’ and it’s values – which, too, have to do with how Christians treat each other, as well as how they interact with non-Christians, which is quite different from how most Christians I know interact with (and view) non-Christians.

    Jesus’ teaching and Paul’s ‘implementation’ of that vision, did not involve trying to change society as a whole (at least initially, though Jesus predicted the kingdom would eventually have great influence in the world), and certainly not through political power (they had none, yet did pretty well). In his churches, Paul stresses an ethic that crosses lines – status, race, sex, class. He didn’t attack Greco-Roman society arguing we need to ‘make Rome Christian’. Instead the church modeled an alternate value system, where honor and shame were not the dominant values, and status, ethnicity, or sex did not define one’s worth. That’s how yeast leavens the dough.

    CM wrote:

    “IMHO, the culture war approach has a lot more in common with the way the Pharisees lived out the religious life and ministry than it does with our Lord Jesus Christ and his Apostles.”

    A friend recently posted a link (on Facebook) to an article by a leading evangelical political action group. It talked about ‘two kinds of Christians’ (and the need to respect each other). They defined ‘liberal’ Christians as those concerned about social justice, poverty, etc. Conservative Christians (evangelicals in particular) were defined as those concerned about ‘truth and the rule of law’. As I read that I thought that in Jesus’ day, there was a group of religious conservatives who stood up for ‘truth and the rule of law’, and Jesus didn’t seem to be very popular with that group. I wonder how popular he would be with the ‘truth and rule of law’ group today? Reading the gospels makes me thing that he probably wouldn’t be.

    • Also, that argument that conservatives stand for “truth and the rule of law” sounds awfully dated in the age of Trump…

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Truth becomes whatever those in POWER define it as, and NOW WE’RE IN POWER!

        “Truth and the rule of law” go right out the window once WE WIN!

  12. Why is it that the term cultural warrior is almost only applied to conservatives? By and large the conservative side of the culture war is defensive. If there weren’t others fighting to change the culture there wouldn’t be conservatives fighting to stop the change. Quite frankly, looking at your list about a culture war mentality, I think the vast majority of people who are anyway involved in public life would qualify as culture warriors today, including most who like to say they aren’t

    • Read McKnight’s article. Both left and right come under scrutiny. I tend to focus on the conservatives because that has been my world.

    • I would say that anyone who gives their *primary* allegiance to liberal or conservative culture, or whose *primary* identity is their political one, counts as a culture warrior. It’s not just about how liberal or conservative your culture of origin is, it’s whether your identification with that culture trumps everything else.

    • “Why is it that the term cultural warrior is almost only applied to conservatives?”

      The liberals have different causes, often referred to as “social justice” rather than “culture war.” But it’s the same thing. Part of the evangelical/fundamentalist culture war is to denounce “social justice” as an idol that distracts us from the gospel. As if the culture war does not.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Just one side (Culture War) virtue-signals with Godspeak and the other (Social Justice) virtue-signals without it.

        Like the half-black and half-white aliens in the Star Trek TOS episode “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield”, total opposites on the surface, identical beneath their coats of paint, and always at each others’ throats to the death.

      • Good point, Ted.

  13. senecagriggs says
  14. senecagriggs says

    Culture Warriors on the left.

    https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2020/01/23/exclusive-you-fcking-cnt-stephanie-grisham-inundated-with-sexist-hatred-threats-as-establishment-media-pile-on/

    _________

    Is Breitbart a right wing site? Yes

    Does this mean Stephanie Grisham has not been inundated with hateful mail and messages? NO

  15. The culture wars are about all that I have known for the 57 years of my life (from the conservative point of view). I want very much to find the path that leads to the Kingdom, but even in the church so much is presented in terms of conservative/liberal, blue/red, democrat/republican that the gospel of God’s Kingdom is rarely brought to light. Decades of teaching have a way of hanging on in the mind and heart I must confess. I don’t want to fight the culture wars, to take sides, to be “better” than “them”, but the default setting always seems to be there.

    In a world where left and right can’t stand each other, I look desperately for a group that is truly content with what they have and are willing to be content in suffering and loss. I have not found that group, and if I did I fear that I would ruin it if I joined up with them. I find comfort in the fact that Simon the Zealot (the ultimate conservative) became a follower and an apostle of Christ. I am hopeful that Christ will open my eyes, and many others to the glory of His Kingdom. In the light of that kind of beauty, I am confident that the glory of the United States, ruled by republicans or democrats, will quickly fade. Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, and on us.

    • Amen!

    • Burro (Mule) says

      And he broke bread with St. Matthew the collaborator.

      Saints Simon Zealotes and Matthew pray for us.
      Through their intercessions, there may be a reconciliation between ChrisS, Eeyore, MichaelZ, etc, and myself.

      There are a lot of things that are evil, but they are also None Of My Business. I need to learn that.

  16. Christianity clearly has some overlap with conservatism. For example, I think every Christian ought to care about reducing abortion, although we disagree on the best means to do so (some people think abortion would go away if we made it illegal; others think the only way to eliminate it is to provide the sort of social services that would make it unnecessary). Personal sexual ethics is also something we’d consider “conservative” in the traditional sense (although obviously not in the Trump sense).

    Christianity also clearly overlaps with liberal culture, in particular the Bible’s focus on how we treat “the least of these.” I also think that Christians ought to oppose adultery, sexual assault, pornography, etc. – all the ways that our society treats women like objects to be used and exploited by men – and that’s undeniably a “liberal” position.

    Similarly, there are aspects of both conservatism and liberalism that are incompatible with Christian faith. Racism, for example, should be anathema to anyone who believes that all people have equal value in God’s eyes. On the liberal side, even though more than half of Democrats are Christian, there’s also a trend of liberalism pushing people to abandon faith and idolize intellectualism.

    So, anyone who embraces *either* liberalism or conservatism too fully will end up both failing to embrace parts of Christian morality, and embracing things that are contrary to Christian faith. That’s the real danger of the culture war – if you give your allegiance to *either* side in that war, you are on a trajectory away from God and away from Christian character.

    • Burro (Mule) says

      Racism, for example, should be anathema to anyone who believes that all people have equal value in God’s eyes.

      ‘Equal’ is kind of a shibboleth to me. Please hear me out. Attempts to establish God’s supposed ‘equality’ in the cislunar realm have routinely not ended well. I prefer to think that each person is unique and of infinite value, and that Providence is operating on all of them for their benefit. This point of view is hard to maintain when someone is stripping off your wedding ring at knifepoint, though, or when a six year old girl is dying of leukemia, or when a brutal old woman who has been pimping out naive young girls from the provinces all her life dies with a smile on her face and leaves her fortune to her equally brutal daughter.

      And recently (like in my 40s) I learned that there different kinds of infinities, different flavors, as it were. Klasie could probably explain this better than I.

      Some verses that struck me from yesterday morning’s Psalter readings:

      2 The LORD shall send the rod of thy power out of Sion: * be thou ruler, even in the midst among thine enemies.

      2 The works of the LORD are great, * sought out of all them that have pleasure therein.
      3 His work is worthy to be praised and had in honour, * and his righteousness endureth for ever.
      4 The merciful and gracious LORD hath so done his marvellous works, * that they ought to be had in remembrance.
      5 He hath given meat unto them that fear him; * he shall ever be mindful of his covenant.

      5 A good man is merciful, and lendeth; * and will guide his words with discretion.
      6 For he shall never be moved: * and the righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance.
      7 He will not be afraid of any evil tidings; * for his heart standeth fast, and believeth in the LORD.
      8 His heart is stablished, and will not shrink, * until he see his desire upon his enemies.

    • “On the liberal side, even though more than half of Democrats are Christian, there’s also a trend of liberalism pushing people to abandon faith and idolize intellectualism.”

      There has also been no lack of atheists on the conservative side of the equation either (looking at YOU, Ayn Rand). The real question is, what is the greater threat to Christian thought and witness *at this present moment*. And I’m hard-pressed to find enough examples to say that it’s equal between liberalism and conservatism right now.

      • Oh, I don’t think it’s equal, by a long shot. But what I’m saying is that as Christians we should reject the narrative that we have to give ourselves wholeheartedly to one side or the other. We should also reject the idea that any criticism of conservatism means you’re “siding with” the liberals, or vice versa (like the criticism Galli ran into). And we should especially reject the idea that anything that makes the other side mad must be good (e.g. conservatives excusing and defending sex predators just because they know it makes liberals upset).

        Instead, we should demonstrate to the world that the way of Jesus is a higher and better calling than either extreme of our country’s secular political spectrum. Because there are also plenty of things Jesus calls us to (e.g. nonviolence, simple living, etc.) that *neither* major political party is ever going to support.

        • “We should also reject the idea that any criticism of conservatism means you’re “siding with” the liberals, or vice versa (like the criticism Galli ran into).”

          Fair, up to a point. But when one side is (mostly) on board with ideas and programs that are compatible with yours, and the other side is (mostly) hostile, you can’t let the “perfect” be the enemy of the “good enough”. And when one side is (mostly) on the side of rule of law and constitutional procedures, and the other side is turning into a populist personality cult… well, no bloody contest.

          • But when one side is (mostly) on board with ideas and programs that are compatible with yours, and the other side is (mostly) hostile, you can’t let the “perfect” be the enemy of the “good enough”.

            I’ve heard pragmatic Christian Trump supporters say the same thing.

            • Hence my clarification about rule of law vs cult of personality. Anyone who can’t see that the former is infinitely preferable to the latter is probably a lost cause.

              • The pragmatists would say that they are not involved in a cult of personality, and are under no delusions about Trump’s moral character. Rod Dreher is one such, who is applauding Trump’s appearance at the Pro-Life March today, and responded to a commenter on his blog who points out that Trump is only doing it to get votes that he doesn’t care about motivation, only results in the matter of abortion. I’m loathe to think Dreher is a lost cause, because it makes it hard for me to imagine what a hopeful cause would look like.

                • I actually had Falwell and Graham Jrs in mind more than Dreher. But push comes to shove, I respect those guys more than Dreher. They appear to have lost their capacity to make the judgments necessary to distance themselves from Trump – Dreher has knowingly sold his inheritance for a bowl of scraps.

                  • In a blog post today Dreher says that if Trump wins 2020, he and “the Republicans in Congress are going to have to …. take concrete actions to protect ordinary people and their organizations from activists and liberal Democrats.” He doesn’t specify what those actions should be, but his tone is downright menacing; it sounds to me like he has thoroughly joined the culture war on the side of the Trumpians, his protestations to the contrary notwithstanding. So much for The Benedict Option.

  17. Our nation and western civilization is built upon fundamentally Greek, Roman and Christian ideas. A culture/society of any nation will be controlled or influenced by a belief system that has grassroots support and reflected in the culture/society or it will a controlling top to bottom autocratic system. The balance of power now has shifted in the USA to unelected and basically unaccountable (except by some economic restraint) secular forces away from historical religious, academic and generational transmittal of social,/culture and political values. Due to tech advances and an affluence that is overwhelming their is no reins of resistance to any programs/ideas or actions being promoted by the elite academics, social media and the entertainment media. Someone will be controlling the stream of history and in the USA it will be a Christian influence or even a traditional western civilization influence. I look at Netflix and the various streaming services and the underlying social, political and cultural overt and subliminal messaging is to me fairly obvious. Just to pick a quick example the idea of free speech that once was a rallying cry of those on the far left (Berkley 60’s !st Amendment 18th century) is under severe attack and the control of language is crucial ask George Orwell when you see him. The old saying “when in Rome do as the Romans ” had a profound and understood meaning to those who got to go to Rome. Alexander the Great conquered the world by culture war more than military war, ie Hellenism. If you have any concerns about the corruptive influence of historic Christian and western civilization moral values on society do not worry , the culture war will be won by those in charge of the secular means of communication. Netflix has more sway with their messaging that the pulpits on any day. Personally, do not think it will turn out well.

    • Klasie Kraalogies says

      Dan, younreally need to learn some history. Sure Roman and Christian ideas built the “west”. So did Germanic tribalism. Norse paganism. etc.

      The present is no different than the past. For instance, for all the family-value handwringing out there, by the late nineteenth century more than half the children born in the Austro-Hungarian empire were born out of wedlock. The excesses of La Belle Epoque and the later roaring twenties are well known, and would scandalise most today. Not to speak of the racism and oppression associated with those Roman-Greek-Christian civilisations.

      My point is NOT that we should despise them. You will find similar things across all peoples and cultures. My point is that to pick an identity and make the Standard of Goodness is utter, utter foolishness.

      I find this American-centred culture wars quite amusing, as I was exposed to exactly the same thing, the same rhetoric growing up in South Africa in the seventies and eighties. The end was always political, nationalist and ethnic power and superiority.

      In contrast, I welcome the secular age, not only because I am an atheist, but because excuses for bad behaviour are falling away. Yes, you heard me right. No longer can one hide behind culture and religion etc for discriminatory practices etc. We have to ask ourselves, for instance, why do we oppose gay marriage? And then we discover that no, there is no real valid reason based on fact and behaviour (that would not also apply to “straight” marriage. We ask ourselves- we done separate ethnicities – and the we discover there is no good reason based in reality, just pile-on prejudice. Obviously you will disagree with me here.

      In my mind, culture wars are the rear-guard action of a world that wants to remain divided. A world that wants to control everything you do. I am pragmatic by nature. I want to see people flourish irrespective of who and what they are.If they don’t hurt others, or the world in general, the help must I interfere? If 2 gay furries want to marry, why is that something to do with me? If some woman only wants to wear ling dresses and stay at home to be a “perfect homemaker “, that is her freaking choice and nothing to do with me.

      Culture wars, and this comes from my SA experience, are always and everywhere stoked for political expediency. Left wing and rightwing culture wars, mind you.

      The time has come to give the whole soddin’ lot the finger and walk away. Be kind and decent and truthful, love your neighbour, leave the world a better, cleaner, healthier place. And if you do that by technological invention, fostering stray kittens, or, God forbid, give a thirsty refugee child a cold glass of water, then it is good.

      • https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2018/04/25/the-changing-profile-of-unmarried-parents/

        Klasie, thanks for the history lesson, I am not as well versed in Austro-Hungarian history and family structure as I could be for sure but I think the link above if more relevant to our discussion to the culture of a long gone empire but that is my ignorant take on the situation. We are talking about who is going to have the deciding voice in a culture/society/nation . Who controlled the South Africa culture historically? Who controls it now. Those who control the climate and direction of the culture control the direction on the culture/nation. We are not talking individual actions, motives or beliefs we are talking on a national level. How much influence do the Amish, Quakers and JW have on the national cultural of USA.
        Of course we have to short hand ideas at time and to id the history of the USA has being based on western civilization and Christianity is valid unless you want to cover the entire history of civilization. No other nation in the world has been more progressive , just, well meaning and done more for the world than the USA because it was founded on Christian and western value values and beliefs. That is how I analyze the impact of the USA upon the world. Does that mean that historically the USA has not be unjust, unfair and been totally wrong in treatment of people and other cultures, of course not viewed from a 21st century perspective. The USA and our “culture” is held up to a standard of idealistic perfection rather than a pragmatic , realistic view of history and events. What nation in the world has a better history trying to live up to its foundational beliefs than the USA. The evolution of justice, political and social freedom and human rights was based on people who did engage in culture wars and moved the ball forward , based on religious and western civilization culture beliefs. Now stealth indoctrination , mob mentality and a shallow selfish self absorbed population is winning the culture and social wars. Look at the top ten intagarm and twitter leaders with the most follower (influence) as well as who controls the mass media. The threat from the old conservative boogey man of past is gone and a new power is in control. The King is dead , long live the King, Ronaldo and Ariana Grande.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        If 2 gay furries want to marry, why is that something to do with me?

        I noticed you specifically used the word “furries” in your example…

  18. Please insert a Not in the USA it will Not be a Christian influence or it makes no sense, if it ever did. Thanks.

  19. Culture wars are not the product of the 1970s. They are far older than that. They seemed new because Evangelicals had taken a break of a few decades from the wars.

    A partial list of previous culture wars: Sabbatarianism, Prohibitionism, and Abolitionism. We could add to the list endless (e.g. dancing), were we so inclined. Just taking that list, the first two were clear losses.

    Sabbatarianism was such a complete defeat that people today find it difficult to believe that it ever really was a thing. A century and a half ago, sports on Sunday was routinely denounced as desecration. Nowadays churches make sure to finish in time for people to get home to watch the game.

    Abolition is also perhaps a surprise item. People forget that Abolition, and its subsequent form of Reconstruction-era civil rights, was an Evangelical culture war. It’s revival a century later, in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, is similarly not usually classified as a culture war, or at least not an Evangelical one. The explanation is that the branch of Evangelicalism that pursued Abolition is the same branch that pursued Civil Rights in the 1960s, but had in the meantime been reclassified as “mainline.”

    Prohibition of course was also a loss, but not so complete that people forget it ever was a thing. On the other hand, there is a “Christian” craft brewery–whatever that means–near me.

    Now contrast this with the list Mike gives of current culture war issues: “abortion, the erosion of personal morality (as they see it) especially as portrayed in the entertainment media, and the gay rights movement.” This list is strikingly different. The earlier battles–some misguided, some not–were over how to create a just society. The current list is about sex. This is a sadly reduced vision of Christianity. Furthermore, it is about the pleasure of condemning other people’s sins. Note the absence of divorce from the list. This is striking, as divorce is virtually the only sex topic Jesus actually discusses. He’s against it. But a typical Evangelical (or most any other) church has any number of divorced people in the seats: better not to talk about that.

    • Burro (Mule) says

      A very courageous evangelical minister, in the zeal of his youth, took Jesus’ words concerning divorce and adultery to heart after two high-profile divorces had sent tremors through his congregation and also through the rather devout little town we both grew up in.

      I didn’t see him after that, but I never heard why he was all of a sudden missing in action. I think he touched the Third Rail.

      Another pastor told me when I went off, as is my wont, about Women’s Ordination and homosexuality “that stuff is the caboose, not the engine. The engine is divorce.”

      • And the tracks are misogyny and patriarchy.

        • Burro (Mule) says

          As someone who consciously supports patriarchy as the best option among others, thank you for that ad hominem.

          Tracks go backwards and forward, you know.

          • Given its horrible after-effects, WHY do you support it? Simply because it’s Tradition?

            • Burro (Mule) says

              I have not experienced it, in its aggregate, as horrible. Reading through the anthropological studies on matriarchies and ‘egalitarian’ societies, they do not impress me.

              Once again, more depends on the quality of the person in charge than the algorithm which puts him (or her) in charge.

              • Of course not. You’re a guy.

                On a more serious note, however, I will once again call attention to the fact that, in the recorded biographies of Jesus, He was emphatically NOT a supporter of established hierarchies and social norms. Not by a long shot. And if He IS God, we ought to consider that His example should be the weightiest evidence in the case.

                • Burro (Mule) says

                  …and yet, He did not establish a townhall democracy where everybody got their say, or a hippie commune where everyone ‘did their own thing ‘ and somehow the trash got taken out and the toilets cleaned. He founded, if not a hierarchy, then something remarkably like one. Almost a ‘lowerarchy’, if you will. Indeed, He upended Gentile power politics by requiring “that if any one of you wishes to be the Greatest, he must be the servant of all”.

                  I know you can sneer and say that Jesus’ dictum was more honored in the breach than in the actual history of the Church. Doesn’t matter. The Church was meant to be a polity in which those responsible passed the benefits downward and people strove to give privilege and honor rather than receive it. To do this, you have to have very Christlike people in charge, and yes, they need to be In Charge in order to be able to do this.

                  And yeah, once again, Enforcement is the issue. People need to be convinced by the beauty and nobility of Jesus’ message. Bending their arm isn’t going to accomplish His goals for us.

                  (Although there are times when I sincerely wished He called on the twelve legions of angels to silence all you tiresome nitwits whose moral universe never evolved past the Plucky-Rebel-Alliance-vs-Tyrannical-Death-Star paradigm.)

                  • “He upended Gentile power politics by requiring “that if any one of you wishes to be the Greatest, he must be the servant of all”.”

                    That He did. Too bad the Church almost immediately went back to the Gentile model.

      • Purely addressing the sociology for a minute and ignoring the fact that we’re on different sides of this issue: I don’t think divorce is the engine driving the last century’s social changes. The engine seems to be economic prosperity: whenever a country reaches a certain level of safety, stability, and prosperity, it leads to a whole host of changes. Women start having fewer children. People wait longer to get married. Birth control becomes widely available. Women have more economic options available to them, and no longer need to depend on male figures in their lives for support. Marriage starts to be more about love than about fulfilling social obligations. Women feel empowered to flee abusive relationships. Gay people can no longer convince someone of the opposite sex to enter a “shield marriage” with them. Divorce is just one of the results of those changes, not the root cause.

        • Burro (Mule) says

          Lots of things about the last 140 years are very asymptotic. It makes me wish we had the legendary lifespans of the antediluvian kings to tell whether the current conditions will continue to obtain or not.

          People like to say we are in uncharted territory since Trump’s election, but in reality the past stopped serving as a reliable guide to the future about the end of the Romantic Era.

          Nobody in his right mind would be against “safety, stability, and prosperity”. Especially given that their antonyms have been our lot for the lion’s share of our history, you’d think we’d be as grateful as Epicurus.

          • “Blessed are the poor….Blessed are you when they persecute you….the Son of Man has no where to lay his head…give to all those who ask of you….” One can hardly think of marching orders more likely to prevent one from being safe, stable, and prosperous.

            Not in his “right mind”….

          • Clay Crouch says

            John 16:33 from The Message:

            Jesus answered them, “Do you finally believe? In fact, you’re about to make a run for it—saving your own skins and abandoning me. But I’m not abandoned. The Father is with me. I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.”

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Now contrast this with the list Mike gives of current culture war issues: “abortion, the erosion of personal morality (as they see it) especially as portrayed in the entertainment media, and the gay rights movement.” This list is strikingly different.

      For one thing, it’s obviously All Pelvic Issues, All the Time.
      The total concentration on Pelvic Issues you’d expect from a nymphomaniac.

      I have long maintained that Christians are just as screwed-up sexually as everyone else, just in a different direction.

  20. senecagriggs says

    Interpreting I-monk. commenters;

    Conservative Evangelicals need to stop being culture warriors.
    Anybody else? no problemo.

    A whole lot of people, possibly the majority, believe that conservative Evangelicals simply need to “shut up.”

    • My critique is of culture wars over other people’s sex lives, as if God sent his only Son to regulate one person’s hoo-ha coming into contact with someone else’s wang-doodle. This is frequently combined with dismissing “social justice warriors” on the grounds that the speaker has never noticed Jesus talking about concern for the poor or any other such commie nonsense.

    • Seneca, you must remember where most of us come from. We are responding to the world we know best. And in this particular cultural moment, the public ascendancy of the conservative culture war approach is making most of the noise. So today I addressed that.

      However, I know and have a lot of concerns about the other end of the spectrum too. Here’s one piece we posted, for example — https://internetmonk.com/archive/79612.

      We’ve never really claimed to have an equal balance here – it’s a blog, for heaven‘s sake.

      • senecagriggs says

        True Dat C.M., and you haven’t consigned me to eternal blog ghenna just yet. Maybe tomorrow. -:}

  21. The culture wars were a big part of why I left evangelicalism. I saw a consistent focus on something that wasn’t the gospel and most definitely wasn’t good news for anyone other than a very select few.

    There are a ton of things I don’t like about the culture wars. But in terms of the church, the main thing is that they distract people from, and detract from, the church’s calling to follow Jesus and be part of another kingdom. That is even more the case now that the culture warriors are winning politically. Historically, the church has never done well when it strives for and aligns itself with worldly power. Wrong kingdom.

  22. Mark Galli has an interesting Op-Ed in today’s Los Angeles Times. He doesn’t call it a culture war by name, but what he discusses is certainly the result of that. It’s a good article calling Christians to a consistent faithfulness. That it’s coming from the former editor in chief of a flagship evangelical publication gives me some small hope.

    On the other hand, the swift and brutal responses from scores of “evangelical leaders” to his CT editorial a while back calling for Trump’s removal on moral and spiritual grounds was disappointing. Not unexpected, but disappointing.

    We need a far better sense of what the church can and should be than is now offered by most of white evangelicalism.

    • senecagriggs says

      Ah, “white evangelicalism;” We’re the problem – dryly

    • Burro (Mule) says

      Most of the evangelicals I talk to these days are black or Latino. It’s an eye-opener. Latino evangelicals are kinda stuck where the White church was in the 90s, just discovering Satanic shock, “family values” and all that. Black evangelicals are reliably Democrat but definitely not positive about extending the Civil Rights narrative to other ‘oppressed’ groups.

      The last white evangelical I talked to tried to boo me up about Trump.

      Maybe if I had stayed in Peachtree City.

    • When a “noted” conservative/evangelical religious leader has a favorable by line in the NYT, WAPO or LA Times my why is this antenna goes up. Would Mike Galli have a headline piece in the LA Times if he urged prayer and deliberate thoughts on the role of a “noted” Christian leader joining the chorus of Never Trump in other words why was he given ink. It goes back to the agenda of the progressive of being a big part of the cultural war but it is disguised as news reporting. When I am watching CNN and they ask the WWJD question or quote the Bible about an issue , I know they speak from a heartfelt conviction and trust in the Bible as a moral compass. Again the culture wars are over in media, education and social media and the evangelicals/conservatives/people of faith have lost the war except for a few Fox News bread crumbs. Wonder when Mike Galli had another opinion piece in LA Times? Black evangelicals like other special interest groups vote in their own self interest and like most blacks believe Dems really represent them but in reality the civil rights that was rightfully craved out for American blacks descended from slaves are being usurped by other spherical interest groups that have co opted the civil rights that was designed for a specific , wronged group, aided by the usual suspects fighting the culture wars.

      • “the culture wars are over in media, education and social media and the evangelicals/conservatives/people of faith have lost the war except for a few Fox News bread crumbs.”

        Yeah, you only have the most-watched TV station, dedicated networks of radio, cable TV, and web channels, oh, and the Senate, the Presidency, and a growing plurality of federal judgeships. You’ll pardon us if we refuse to join your pity party.

        • Eeyore, I did not mention the for certain deciding issue of future “culture ” wars, demographics that have moved California and New York into the blue progressive column forever, they are one party states, When , not if , Fl, Ga or Tx. turn blue than the two party system is over and the culture and basically the political debate if over. Fox News, cable and certainly talk radio are a symbol and represent the free market place. Liberal radio talk shows do not gain audience and on college campus dissenting views are restricted or shouted out. Federal judges interpret not make laws so if the lawmakers are progressive writing the laws the judges are rendered ineffective . Plus the progressive agenda has been to discredit, mock and attack the traditional rules of politics, decorum and an orderly transfer of power. The damage has been done and the bell can not be un rung. Our trusted institutions have been tarnished by political partisanship to over turn a lawful election which is what is happening as well as the usual cultural attack on the foundational values of America.

  23. Crazy Chester says

    Keeping–or restoring–our focus on the gospel isn’t a matter of figuring out whether the left or the right is the worst offender or most dangerous participant in the culture wars. It’s realizing that the culture wars cannot achieve, and cannot bring down, the gospel (or, we might say, the kingdom of God).

    That doesn’t mean it isn’t bad when bad people are in charge, or that it’s unimportant when our neighbors get hurt. I’m just agreeing with those commentors (and I think the original post) who imply that getting drawn into the culture wars or prioritizing them in a certain way seems to undermine the gospel. Our witness has to be deeper (and possibly more selfless) than that.

    May God have mercy on us, and empower our witness.

  24. (4) The culture war approach teaches us to fear, dislike, oppose, and look down on our neighbors rather than lay down our lives for them in sacrificial love.

    It pits us “against” them, when the Incarnation teaches us to be “with” them.

    What Bonhoeffer taught me: Sometimes you have to be “against” your neighbor to be “with” them.