The culture war is over! (And we lost)

November 12, 2012 — 12 Comments

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This was such an interesting election to say the least.  Now that there has been time for me and you to collect our whits, I am left with a couple of thoughts that I think are important for the church to come to terms with.  And with the church, I mean the suburban white church that I am a part of.

Here is my take away:  After all the exit polls and post mortem of the election, I see the election as a choice between two cultures:  The Judeo-Christian White Man vs. Those who have been wronged by that culture combined with those who feel bad for those who have been wronged.  And for the first time, ever, the Judeo-Christian suburban culture has been rejected by the majority of Americans.

Before you react, think about it for a second.  Think about who you voted for and what values you were choosing.  Think about all the demographic information we have learned since the election.  Think about who you want to cast your lot with?  For the first time ever the majority cast their lot against the Judeo-Christian, suburban, middle class, married, white man.  And if not him specifically, the culture he represents.

Suburban Christians have lost the Culture War: Now what?

For those of us who do ministry in this suburban context, this movement into the minority culture has some very important implications.  There are huge implications politically, and even more so in how we do ministry.   Here are some of my take-a-ways:

1) We can not legislate morality. It is obvious that the electorate rejects Judeo-Christian morality.  With the legalization of marijuana and marriage equality winning in several states, Pandora’s box is now fully open.  There is no putting away this genie.  This is a losing argument politically and we must concede that culturally we have been left in the dust of close minded bigots.  The more we fight this battle, the more we lose any real chance to do ministry in this increasingly post-modern and post-christian context.

2) Let’s free up our legislators from our litmus tests so they can work for the “common good.”  I know this blog is not about politics and that I have absolutely zero influence or impact politically.  But if I did and could speak a little truth to the right wing political establishment, let the moral issues go.  Embrace marriage equality and quit trying to reverse Roe v Wade.  Be about fiscal responsibility and find an ideology that unites us in a common good and doesn’t vilify half the electorate who have different morals that we do.  (Ok, no more politics because . . .)

3) Politics is not our battlefield.  We are the church for crying out loud.  Our hope, our calling, our mission has not one thing to do with the powers that be.  It has everything to do with establishing God’s kingdom here as it is in heaven.  The second we sell out to a political party (like what the religious right did and the religious left is now doing) we cut off our nose to spite our face.  In this increasingly post-christian context we find our selves in, we must not soil the name of Jesus by using power and money to crush the opposition.  His kingdom is a tiny mustard seed, it is a mystery, and no matter what, it has more to do with us decreasing than us increasing our influence.

4) Homosexuality and Marijuana are culturally acceptable.  We can not respond politically.  There is no argument in the public square that is going to help the church.  Gone are the days where we could tell our kids to look to the laws of the land and that is how you define morality.  We are Spirit filled people who major on discernment, grace, and love.  We take the planks out of our own eyes and then graciously help our sisters and brothers in distress.  The Christian life is going to have to be less and less about self-righteous moral legalism, and more about helping others find there true identity in Christ as they travel the long and winding road of sanctification.

5) Our hallmarks of Christian maturity need to change.  Being married and going to church while you judge those still do the things you used to do before you cleaned yourself up has not worked for the church’s reputation.  Judging the sins that are furthest from your struggles or experience has not worked well for the church either.  We must find a new paradigm in which to engage Christians and the world.  We are going to have to have more grace for others and more truth for ourselves.  We are going to have to focus our discipleship around identity formation and true sanctification.  Having good theology and little to no personal reflection can not be our reputation anymore.  We will be known by how we love one another, by being the fragrance of Christ, and by being a blessing to everyone. We must no longer be known for our politics, our fear, our judgementalism, or our hypocrisy.  We must be true christians, exhibiting a spirit proper to a follower of Jesus Christ.

I think it might be time to say no to knee jerk reactions and yes to discernment, humility, and grace.  We do this so we can truly build Christian community, not a Christian nation.

12 responses to The culture war is over! (And we lost)

  1. Great post Ben, glad tone challenging paradigms with you!

  2. Well done, my friend, and I think you the nail on the head? What ideology would you use to unite folks toward the ‘common good?’ How do you even define ‘common good?’ Thanks for a great post!

  3. While I agree that politics is not the church’s battlefield at large, I do think it is the battlefield of some Christians who are gifted and called to this arena. I also think that we need to have more politically astute believers, so quit checking the “republican box” and moving on. in Jeremiah, we’re instructed to work for the prosperity of the nation into which we are exiled, because the prosperity of this nation is our prosperity. We should be involved on the local level of politics, helping our school boards, sitting on water commissions, working for the good of others, to be a beacon of hope in Christ. I don’t want people to think that we should abandon politics completely.
    But the point is well taken that we live and die by it too much. It’s time to set aside the mourning clothes from last week and get to work prospering our cities.

  4. Wow. I’m feeling like a dinosaur here. Although I agree with many of your points, I am not at all sure how to live into the new paradigm……

  5. Ben,

    I have to say since I attend your church and am not “White” nor do I feel at all in touch with the suburban “White” context you mention your church represents; this started a little rough. However because I know you ;-) I kept reading and man this was so well stated and that fragrance of Christ you mention just totally got leaked in this post!! In my opinion this is one of your best in some time (cuz I totally matter LOL) great job miss you man.

  6. OK, how about this thought: if I live into that new paradigm, then I WILL feel like a hypocrite??

    • The new paradigm is simply acknowledging that we live in a truly post-modern and post-Christian context. We don’t give up or give in with our Christian ethic or morality. We just acknowledge that it is a minority position and can’t coerce people through politics to get others to come to our side. (But hear me, I am not saying we give in or up our ethic)

  7. Great thoughts Ben! Once again you challenge us with your thoughts. I agree with what you’re saying. Our world is completely different now, and instead of being 10 years behind the curve, like most churches, its time we start being on top of what’s happening so we can engage our world in a way that brings glory to Christ. I will admit, living in this new world makes me uneasy, because my faith beliefs are truly the minority now. However, I believe where we are weakest is where Christ is strongest, and I believe if we can accept that concept, which counter culture to our American beliefs, we’ll see God move in a special way. Hope your sabbatical is going well!

  8. BOOM goes the dynamite!

    I loved this post; it’s perfectly reflective of my (admittedly cynical) perspective of political agenda pursuits. I particularly resonated with your point that politics is not our battlefield. We spend far too much time fighting a political war, when there are much more important hills to die on. The difficulty, ironically enough, comes in convincing both the Christian right AND the Christian left of this. I see friends and congregants on both sides of the political spectrum touting politics as the most important involvement we can have as believers.

    Now, what’s your strategy for when James Dobson comes after you? ;)

  9. i wonder, did we really “lose”? or…is this is opportunity we’ve been waiting for? is this the moment where we can respond with more frustration and fear or truly look at the “culture war” some have fought in Jesus’ name and say, “That was bunk from the beginning. Let’s do something different. Let’s love with with the reckless abandon with which Jesus loved.”?

What do you think?