The Culture War’s Division
After relaunching From Law to Grace last week, I want to dive headfirst into the deep end of the pool on the first day of a new month and write about the Culture War. As a pastor, I often share hard truths — hopefully with grace — with my church family through my preaching and teaching ministry. This blog offers me an opportunity to graciously communicate that truth with a wider audience.
Speaking the truth with love and grace in our divided culture can be challenging. Communicating Biblical truth to a culture that embraces darkness and lies can be dangerous. It might get you canceled, fired, or worse. I’m always up for a challenge and a good, spirited debate, particularly when moral truth intersects with culture, law, politics, and religion.
There is no shortage of those intersections. From the Supreme Court’s historic abortion decision last year to the battle over transgender ideology and drag shows to racial justice and policing to climate change to gun control to crime to immigration to education to religious liberty, we are witnessing unprecedented divisions in our culture, our politics, our culture, our communities, and even our churches. The LGBTQ+ agenda has torn asunder yet another Christian denomination, the (un)United Methodist Church. The 2024 Presidential campaign and election offer what might end up being a nuclear winter of division from which our nation may never recover.
The Culture War’s Stand-ins
Will we have a rematch between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump? Will Trump be able to pull off a Grover Cleveland (the only defeated incumbent President to win a non-consecutive term) or, will Joe Biden become the oldest serving President in US history? Will the losing side refuse to concede and question the legitimacy of the winner, regardless of who that may be? What party will control the House and Senate? Will we see further polarization in America?
I am not a prophet nor the son of a prophet (actually the son of a funeral director named Dixie), so I wouldn’t even venture a guess as to election outcomes (at least this far out from Election Day). However, I can confidently predict that America, despite President Biden’s promise, will remain a nation divided:
“Today on this January day, my whole soul is in this — bringing American people together, uniting our nation, and I ask every American to join me in this cause,” Biden said in his inaugural speech.
One could only shudder to think what America would look like today had the President’s “whole soul” not been committed to unity. Of course, Joe Biden’s idea of unity has been rather one-sided since his inauguration. Even if President Biden had good intentions (which only God knows for sure) when he came into office, it is clear that he has done nothing to help heal our nation’s divide, but has actually contributed to it.
The Culture War’s Definition
With increasing division caused by a red-hot Culture War, what weapons should Christians use in this fight? Before answering that question, it might be best to offer a simple definition, particularly as it relates to our American context in 2023:
Culture war is the cultural conflict between social groups and the struggle for dominance of their values, beliefs, and practices. It commonly refers to the hot button topics on which there is general societal disagreement and polarization in societal values is seen. The term is commonly used to describe contemporary politics in the US, with issues such as abortion, homosexuality, pornography, multiculturalism, and other cultural conflicts based on values, morality, and lifestyle being described as the major political cleavage.” (“Culture War,” Populism Studies)
While we might be tempted to think that our modern-day Culture War is somehow unique to our time and place, we shouldn’t forget that, as Billy Joel might say, “We didn’t start the fire It was always burning, since the world’s been turning We didn’t start the fire No, we didn’t light it, but we tried to fight it.”
Perhaps unwittingly, Joel seems to have sung a deeply theological and Biblical truth, namely that the Culture War has been waged since the beginning of time. In fact, the war started earlier when Satan rebelled against God and was thrown out of the heavenly kingdom. He just brought the war down to earth and involved humanity in his spiritual warfare against God Himself. That war continues to this day.
The Culture War’s Spiritual Nature
As believers, we are called to use the weapons that God has supplied to fight a war that, at its root, is spiritual in nature:
“For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.” Ephesians 6:12-18 (NLT)
Although our ultimate enemy is spiritual, we nevertheless face that spiritual enemy in “flesh-and-blood” form. Does that mean that we “become so heavenly-minded so as to be no earthly good?” Of course not. Should we forego using any earthly weapons (i.e., using our First Amendment rights, voting, becoming involved in the political process, running for office, boycotting companies, etc.) in the cultural war? No.
We are blessed to live in this country, the greatest country on the face of the planet today and the greatest force for good that this world has seen. We can live in the culture without loving the culture. We can love our neighbor as ourselves without loving the things that our neighbor does. We can be salt and light in our culture, pointing people to Jesus.
Unless we retreat from culture or capitulate to culture (neither of which is Biblical), then we must engage the culture. That engagement must be Biblically based, Christ-centered, and Gospel-oriented. When, not if, we encounter the Culture War that is being waged all around us, we must fight it using our most effective and powerful weapons first. Those weapons are likewise spiritual in nature:
“We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NLT)
The Culture War’s Strongholds
The Culture War has produced many “strongholds of human reasoning,” along with “false arguments.” More and more people have been blinded by the god of this world so that they believe the father of lies rather than the Creator:
“They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen.” Romans 1:25 (NLT)
How can we fight against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places? How can we destroy the pride that sets itself up against God and that destroys families, communities, and nations? It begins with the Word of God and Prayer. It relies on the power of the Holy Spirit. These are God’s mighty weapons that He wants us to wield to knock down strongholds.
Perhaps it’s a stronghold in your own life. Maybe a stronghold with one of your children or grandchildren. You might be facing a stronghold at work or with one of your neighbors. If you live in New Mexico or another progressive state, you no doubt are facing legal, political, and cultural strongholds that Satan uses to “steal, kill, and destroy.”
With rebellious thoughts and actions on the march across our nation, the Culture War cannot be avoided. Nor should it be. As Christians and the Church, we must continue to fight with the right weapons. When we do, we can’t lose.