This coming Sunday, October 10th, I am finishing a series of talks at Centerpoint Church called Counter-Culture. The final talk, part 4, will deal with what I call “Culture War Christianity”. To tune in to watch or listen, you can go to www.centerpointFL.org. I also decided to give a little preview and write about it in this week’s email.
I deal with a lot of people on a weekly basis who are skeptical and even hostile toward religion and Christianity. For whatever reason, I am drawn in their direction. I love having conversations about culture and religion. It is why a large part of my friend group is made up of people who don’t believe what I believe. And I’ll be honest, I relate with many of their objections.
One of the many objections surrounds what you could call “Culture War Christianity”. Culture War Christianity is about good and bad, liberal, and conservative, us and them. Culture War Christianity is about winning at all costs. The primary concern in Culture War Christianity is protecting our rights, preserving our freedoms, exporting our morality, returning to our greatness, and building our kingdom. It is also a perversion of our faith to quote Andy Stanley. But it is not historically unfamiliar. It was the tone of first century Christians who despised Samaritans, hated the immorality of the Romans, and waited for a return to the greatness that was Israel. And in stepped Jesus. Their culture war hero who would take their side. The one that would crush the politics of Rome and return morality to their decaying culture. Except Jesus didn’t take their side. Just when they thought they could win Jesus started talking about losing. Losing their way, their rights, and him losing his life. He started talking about a subversive Kingdom that tore down dividing walls and created change from the bottom up, not the top down. This Kingdom was marked by loving not protecting, serving not preserving, humility as a means to greatness. Then Jesus punctuated the point of this new kingdom by dying for those despised Samaritans, liberal Romans, and arrogant Christians. And when he walked out of the grave alive, it put an end to first century Culture War Christianity. The very men who once were all about protecting their rights ended up giving up their lives!
Listen, I get the origins of Culture War Christianity. It always stems from the belief that we have “The Truth”. As my skeptical friends point out, it is why religion can be dangerous in the hands of fallible human beings. Because the belief that we have the truth can inadvertently lead to a perceived certainty about how that truth should be applied in culture. It leads to “our way is right”, “our side is just”, “our perceptions are accurate”. And the casualty of that kind of perceived certainty? Humility. And you know this, but arrogance always blinds people. Lack of humility leads people to lack clarity. It’s the dark side of Culture War Christianity that perverts Jesus words that he is “the way, the truth, and the life” to mean that “their side” is the “the way, the truth, and the life” that must be preserved and protected at all costs. Heads up: Jesus is the source of truth, you are not.
For many who have bought into Culture War Christianity it is simply about a side, a political movement, a fight that must be won, and an agenda that must be defeated.
We have so much certainty, so little humility, and maybe even less clarity.
We can’t see beyond our platforms.
We can’t feel the pain of brothers and sisters.
We can’t fathom that there is something we might be missing.
We can’t hear the cries of those who sit in pews right next to us.
We are bent on preserving. We are bent on winning. We are bent on protecting our greatness. And in our efforts to “fight the good fight”, we are no longer able to “weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn”.
It’s a war, we must win, there is an enemy to defeat. And into that steps Jesus who says, “That enemy has already been defeated and now I’m calling you to reconcile the world to me”. No more sides, no more of us and them, and no more win at all costs. But do you know what that requires? Humility that may lead to clarity. To be able to see, to hear, to consider, to re-think, to let go. To see people rather than sides.
That is the way of Jesus. That is what ended The Culture War of first century followers of the way. That is what united despised Samaritans, immoral Romans, and pious Galileans.
One more thing to Christians leaders: Speak up. You’ll lose followers. Speak up anyway. You’ll lose money. Speak up anyway. You’ll be mis-judged a million different ways. Speak up anyway. We were not called to simply put butts in seats or multiply dollars in a general fund. We’ve been called to follow Jesus.
Let’s leave behind Culture War Christianity, let’s set down our Bibles as a bat, let’s give up winning at all costs, and let’s lay down our lives. Let’s follow Jesus.