I have been feeling some misgivings lately about my sometimes aggressive discussion of cultural hot-button issues. This was actually pointed out to me by one of my most faithful readers. Am I grateful? Yes. But rather than ceasing to discuss these things, I want to find the most gentle, godly way to go about it.
I see the need to defend Biblical morality for the right reasons (eternal ones), but I often find that I am getting just as political as my counterparts on the other side of the debate. I take responsibility for my end, but I bristle when I hear people say that the brawling is the fault of conservative Christians, when it is actually a product of the dissipation of the American Church in general, not just Evangelicalism. The Church in America has grown carnal and political and is mostly pursuing temporal, rather than eternal, ends.
Liberalism is fighting the culture war just as fiercely as Conservatism, but it has often managed to make its actions look like those of people defending themselves from cultural tyrants. It is progressives, however, who hyper-politicized Christianity by seeking to change law, jurisprudence, art, education, and the structure of the family to match up with its fluid views. By framing these debates in terms of the struggle for freedom, equality and peace, progressives have, in essence, said that they have the moral high ground and thus have the right to alter the social structure, but conservatives do not. More troubling are progressive Christians who follow liberal trends and claim the backing of Scripture. Hence, the battle isn’t just about our country and culture, but about truth. Evangelicals have certainly gotten carried away with the politics, but it is almost forgivable. After all, progressives have chosen to redefine biblical sexuality, the family and civilized society. In the liberal system, the individual trumps the community (though not completely, lest anarchy prevail). “Progressive” Christians tend to ignore the call to personal holiness as though it were some relic of misguided dogmatism. Are these new values biblical? Often, they are not, but they are being taught with the raised bludgeon of political correctness. In fact, the entire moral argument has been shanghaied by America’s two major political parties for reasons that have nothing to do with morality.
However, there is still a valid struggle that forms along familiar lines (most often abortion and homosexuality) and must be carried through. I recently read the words of a blogger who wrote, “I leave my public Christianity at God loves me, Jesus saved me, how can I love my neighbor. My private Christianity is being taught by the Holy Spirit, and what he teaches me isn’t law for you.” Bravo! However, I have to question how much better the Church would be “if we all just loved and shut up about what we think the Bible means” (as the writer continued). The gospel has elements that cannot be left out; otherwise, we are presenting a different gospel to the world “which is no gospel at all” (Galatians 1:7). The lost need the whole gospel, including the prickly parts. Of course there are going to be disagreements about exactly what that looks like, but the ugliness of the culture wars shouldn’t distract us from the fact that the American Church is engaged in a crucial struggle. We really do need to answer questions about morality, sexuality, holiness and God’s expectations of his people — both for those inside and outside the Church. If we ignore these questions, we’re just taking spiritual Prozac.
Because progressives have taken this fight into the secular world (where it doesn’t really belong), Evangelicals have almost been forced to respond in kind. After all, what is at stake is the truth of Scripture as it is presented to the world. It is a matter of wisdom to know when to speak and when to remain silent, but the way we ought to speak to those outside the Church doesn’t have to be discerned — it is clear. Many conservative Christians get so caught up in the fight that they begin to dehumanize their opponents, who are the very people they are presumably trying to reach. We must never lose our grip on humility, love and compassion. If we do, we aren’t giving the lost anything to reach for.
1If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing…13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13: 1-3, 13)