In February 21 Rod D. Martin, an attorney and director of the Eagle Forum in Arkansas, wrote, “The bad news is that the battle lines are now clearly drawn. The good news is that the battle lines are now clearly drawn.” The title of his article: “The Culture War Begins in Earnest.”
Is this culture war real? Is there truly a “battle for the soul of this country” raging within the borders of America? I believe the answer is, “Yes — and no.”
There is ongoing a battle between Conservative Republicans and the rest of the country, including Moderate Republicans. At the center of that “war” is the issue of political power – which way does the Party need to go to get its members elected? If the “religious right” is allowed to dominate, will the rest of America be alienated because of its hard-line stand on abortion and other moral issues? If the Moderates are allowed to dominate, will it simply become DID – Democrats in Disguise?
At the moment, most of the manifested power in the country – the Republican Dominated Congress notwithstanding – seems to be lodged with liberals of one sort or another. The people who most strongly influence public opinion – the President, Hollyweird, the Press, the electronic media, book publishers and the arts, all seem to be dominated by liberals. This liberal Establishment shows great hubris toward the exoteric multitudes. Consequently, the liberal agenda is generally being advanced while the conservative one goes begging. Social engineering continues apace. Rousseau smiles beneath his tombstone.
Meanwhile, the Republican dominated Gang of 535 seems to be conducting some sort of Beltway version of the old Chinese Fire Drill (I know it’s not PC to use that term, but who cares about PC?). Because the Republicans can’t get their internal act together, they are unable to present a united front to their opposition. Consequently, they are milling around in confusion and occasionally banging into each other.
In the larger culture, the liberals are coming down hard on the “religious Right” – a euphemism for anyone who advocates Biblically-based sexual morality. Billionaire Ted Turner, the current “Mr. Hanoi Jane,” who, along with Geraldo Rivera, appears to function largely as the Clinton Administration’s “Ministry of Propaganda,” is quoted as saying that the Ten Commandments are “a little out of date. If you’re only going to have 10 rules, I don’t know if [prohibiting] adultery should be one of them.”
Now why didn’t I think of that before? When people can’t, or won’t, keep the rules, change them — what a profound idea! Apparently Turner thinks we have the right to make up the rules for ourselves as we go along. This is mere humanism or moral relativism. It results in moral anarchy.
In this sense it could be said that culture wars of a sort are taking place in this country. At the center of them, however, is the issue of political power. Power is the only real goal. The means to that end is vigorous sloganeering. It includes shifting the voting public’s eye from realities to manufactured perceptions that serve the interests of those who seek power, or those who have it and wish to retain it. Any and all weapons needed are brought to bear on the exercise: smoke & mirrors, spin doctoring, wagging the dog and raw propagandizing.
Gospel Not At War
The Gospel, on the other hand, is not at war with the culture. The Gospel is above the culture. It is the product of another Kingdom – a heavenly one. It is the spiritual illumination of the world, and those who carry it are the called “the salt of the earth.” The Gospel provides a Standard against which all human activities can be measured.
Weighed against this Standard, no political party comes out the winner. God, it turns out, is not a Republican, a Democrat, or a Libertarian. He’s certainly not a Communist, a Socialist or a Nazi. God transcends human politics, and so should the Gospel.
While Ted Turner is dissing the Decalogue, the Word of God continues to say, “Shall the throne of iniquity, which devises evil by law, have fellowship with You?” (Psalm 94:20). Immediately after that it says, “They gather together against the life of the righteous, and condemn innocent blood” (v. 21).
Can any Administration that legalizes sin be viewed as godly? No way. Can those who condemn the righteous, and plot against people who maintain Biblical standards, be seen as exemplary? Clearly not. Can moral wrongs ever legitimately provide a basis for civil rights? No they cannot. The Lord said through His prophet Isaiah, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter”(Isaiah 5:2). Yet, this is precisely what we are witnessing today. Yesterday’s sin or perversion is today’s optional “lifestyle.” If adults consent, anything goes.
As Christians, we are not called to subvert or take over human government. Nor is political activism at the core of our calling (Romans 13). The faith of Jesus is not political in nature. We are called first to preach the Gospel into the spiritual darkness of this world, and then to make disciples of those whom God calls out of it. We can change the world, but not primarily through political activism. We can change it by changing ourselves, one person at a time. We can create pockets of light in the vast darkness of this world. Ultimately, the thing that will make the difference is not whether someone is a Republican, Democrat or Libertarian, but whether or not one is converted to Jesus Christ.
Speaking of Jesus, the apostle John wrote, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it” (John 1:4-5). The word “comprehend” here is from the Greek katalambano, which means to grasp, or make one’s own. The Berkeley version translates: “…did not appropriate it…” which represents the correct sense of the word.
It is this same Light that ought to shine through every Christian in whom Christ dwells. Though we are the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:14), the world in general is unlikely to appropriate, or make our message its own. Still we must preach it. God will call and convert those whom He has chosen to participate in the world’s illumination.
While it is quite legitimate for Christians to comment on the state of the world as it compares to the Scriptural standard, our calling is not primarily to reform the world through political activism. It is to flood it with the light of what Paul called “the gospel of the glory of Christ” (II Corinthians 4:4b). Jesus Christ alone is the hope of this world. He alone is the One anointed of God to establish His Kingdom and to bring about peace and justice for all.
While we wait for the universal manifestation of the Lord’s Kingdom, we are in this “present evil world,” its advance guard. We are ambassadors for the King. We present to the world a message of hope. We announce in advance the arrival of, not some socialistic new world order run by a power-mad elite, but a Divine Order. In the midst of moral decay, we bring the world hope of a brighter and better day. In the heart of this world’s spiritual darkness, we shed the light of the Gospel – the Good News of the glorious Kingdom of the living God. Ours is a magnificent, and transcendent, commission! It is to the achievement of this task that the focus of our main energies should be brought to bear.
Though we have every right, as citizens, to participate in the political process, and to “vote our conscience,” that is not where our hope lies. The politically motivated culture wars belong to another order, not to the divine one. Our ultimate hope, and that of the world, lies in God and God alone. Only God, through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, can transform the heart and mind of man (Romans 12:1-2). The Church of God must become the demonstration to the world of the transforming power of God. We must live better because we know better, and because we are empowered to do so.
Politically motivated culture wars will come and go, but the Gospel is forever.