Does Anyone Win A Culture War?
The other day, I got a mailer from a politician who isn't one of my representatives and doesn't even come from my state.
This politician was decrying that America was going to hell in a handbasket, and they were the only person in the way of that becoming a reality.
The mailer then went on to list all of the reasons for America's impending doom, none of which had anything to do with the common good or anything that might make anyone's life better.
Everything on their list was related to what they called a "battle" in the "culture war" that was being waged in our country.
Of course, they wanted me to donate money to keep them fighting for what "really matters" in our society.
After placing the mailer where it belonged (in the garbage), I thought about the whole "culture war" terminology used by the politician.
I've heard that phrase bandied about by politicians and preachers my whole life. Still, I never considered why it is so important for particular folks (those who are forever fundraising) to keep using it.
Then I read Andy Stanley's newest book, Not In It To Win It, where he had this to say about the whole culture war thing:
But the dirty little secret of culture war advocates, both religious and nonreligious, is that they cannot afford to claim victory, or they lose followers and funding. So both sides claim to be losing. That's how they win. There is no winning because the goal isn't winning; the goal is warring.
It makes sense, doesn't it? This is why I have been listening to people talk about a culture war for my entire life. It's not about winning, really. It's about using fear to scare people into giving money to a cause without end.
Jesus had a lot to say to the religious and political elites of his day who acted the same way--preying on ordinary people's fears and religious beliefs for their own gain.
He called them hypocrites and "whitewashed tombs"--people with the appearance of goodness on the outside but who were rotting away on the inside. The Apostle Paul also not-so-gently addressed these kinds of people this way:
Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things.
Neither Jesus nor Paul pulled any punches when it came to calling out those who would exploit the fears of ordinary people, dehumanize those on the margins, and do it all in the pursuit of money and power or both.
We should do the same and more besides. Jesus wasn't at war with his culture. In fact, he demanded that his followers not follow the example of those who claimed they were.
He called his followers to be as "wise as serpents and as harmless as doves." In other words, they are gentle and kind in how they live and move in the world while acting firm and courageous when loving God and others.
If Jesus espouses any cultural skirmish (which he wouldn't), it would be against a culture of meanness, bigotry, hatred, fear, and a decided lack of real love. As difficult as it is for us to follow his example, we must if we are to be called his disciples.
May we have the courage and faith to do so, and may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all, now and forever. Amen.
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