The culture war sells and destroys. It is a war after all. Wars are meant to be won by whatever means are available. Unless they are profitable. Herein lies the dilemma of all wars. How long can you wage one until you destroy yourself? No one really knows the limit until it has been crossed. Politicians and pastors continue waging the latest culture war in the United States with no end in sight. Yet, the appalling sight of the self-destruction shows us this line is crossed. Can we go back again.
The Uncultured Defenders of Culture
Ever since the atomic bomb was used in anger, people have warned that any war fought with such weapons guarantees the next one will be fought with sticks and stones. Everything worth preserving will be lost. The neutron bomb gave governments false hopes of only killing people but leaving architecture in tact. Culture warriors prove themselves to think and act just as savagely.
Waging a war for culture implies the other sighed threatens to destroy it. Oddly enough, those claiming to defend the culture act like barbarians when doing so. They are most likely to bring about its destruction. Indeed, many wish to destroy certain aspects of the culture they are defending.
Romans attached the term “gospel” or good news to bringing a people into Roman civilization thus creating wholeness to the world. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is about bringing wholeness to human beings. Or it is as false as the Roman gospel.
Culture war seeks the opposite of wholeness. It is primarily about separation of holiness and uncleanness. Jesus gave a curious parable about this way of thinking. Matthew 13:24-30 gives the parable of the Weeds Sown Among the Wheat. Jesus explains the parable in verses 36-43. It is a troubling story for people who like things to be clear cut. The Son of Man sows good seed in the field. It is discovered that an enemy has sown something else in the same field. When the servants offer to go and cut out every weed among the wheat, they are told to leave them alone because of the potential damage that will be done to the wheat. The servants, no matter how well intentioned, cannot be trusted to only destroy the bad. The weeds will be done away with later.
The parable demonstrates the purpose of the Gospel is to bring about health or wholeness to humanity. That goal is more important than thinking we should wage war, by rake, hoe, or pesticide, against the weeds. God does the separating just as God does the healing.
Present Culture Warring
Churches and families that are torn apart by culture warriors understand the destruction. They do not understand why it happens. The destruction is due to people who believe they do what they do out of love for the truth. This is a peculiar position to take. No moral system has ever based itself on love of the truth. They are usually based in pursuit of the good or the desire to live wisely. Philosophy literally means love of wisdom. It does not mean love of truth. But, someone argues, we must stand on the truth! I reply, St. Paul argues we should speak the truth in love. In other words, truth is not as important as the greatest theological value. Only love gives truth its liberating effectiveness.
Too many progressive Christians miss this point as well. We are not called “to speak truth to power.” The prophets spoke truth to power when power asked to hear them. They spoke and demonstrated truth to everyone out of sincere love for God and people. They did not act as though they possessed a morally righteous position on the truth. The prophets told the truth about suffering, poverty, and the destructive tendencies they saw around them. Let this point sink in; the prophets did not seek destruction to prove their own righteousness or truth.
It can be said every belief system seeks to restore wholeness to people. Christians claim love, mercy, and forgiveness restores the wholeness that has been lost. What was lost can be found. Jesus gave us the example to follow as well as the words underpinning his actions.
Culture warriors seek something less than the whole for people. When ideas, thoughts, and free expressions are opposed for the sake of preserving the culture, the culture is at risk. The Gospel becomes scary because “we might give too much away.” We cannot give too much love away. It is the way we heal after the culture warriors harm themselves enough to stop.