The Culture War Is Not a Christian War
Today, I saw a woman on social media scream “Wonder Woman is NOT an icon for the gays!” While her form of communication was a little more antagonistic, I am reminded of how I’ve heard similar statements coming from Christians on many things: Disney’s affirmation through works like Lightyear or the live-action Beauty & The Beast. Even my own personal favorite bit of culture, J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth, now has become used by the LGBTQ+ community as an affirmation of queerness, especially Frodo and his relationship with Sam. I’m sure the new Amazon series will also promote things contrary to the Christian worldview.
Due to this, it’s very common now for Christians, even from the pulpit, to talk about how we are engaged in a “Culture War.” My brethren, if we are, we are fighting a war we cannot win because it’s a war Christ is not in with us. Christ made it quite clear in John 18:36 – “My Kingdom is not of this world.” Paul reemphasizes this also in Ephesians 6:12 (emphasis my own) – “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil, spiritual forces in the heavens.”
We are not struggling against the rulers and authorities, government or cultural, that belong to this world. Rather, we are called to let this go. Don’t get me wrong. I know and feel how hard this is. When I see someone trying to make Frodo either gay or queer, it makes my blood boil because I know how devout of a Christian Tolkien was, and I see the Christian worldview that completely saturates every bit of his stories. As someone who used to watch children, I fully empathize and understand the frustration of your children having their entertainment, and even their schooling, bombard them with messaging contrary to the Truth instead of helping them understand it. I get it. This is a war I used to fight too, back when I thought those ensnared by the darkness were merely armies of the darkness instead of thralls enslaved to it.
Satan is more than happy to have us attack his thralls. After all, what better way to stop the work of the Church than by confusing us into thinking we are slicing at monsters with our Sword instead of at the prisoners we are called to rescue trapped in his (devils’) chains? And what better way to keep his thralls loving their chains than by having us slice people open instead of slicing them free? The Church will never fall. It will never lose the war. But it will lose battles in this already decided war if keep fighting ones we are called to not fight.
The key? Philippians 3. As long as we have Christ, let everything else fade. Watch out for the dogs, watch out for the evil workers, watch out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, the ones who worship by the Spirit of God, boast in Christ Jesus, and do not put confidence in the flesh— although I have reasons for confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he has grounds for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised the eighth day; of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; regarding the law, a Pharisee; regarding zeal, persecuting the church; regarding the righteousness that is in the law, blameless. But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them as dung, so that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ—the righteousness from God based on faith. My goal is to know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead.
Is America turning from God? Let America for us fade, we have Christ. Is the government turning from God? Let it fade, we have Christ. Are things once good – culture, stories, companies, whatever – being overrun with lies? Let them fade, we have Christ. We always proclaim the Truth of Christ, of sin and Salvation, but only for God’s glory and for the salvation of any willing to hear, never for our culture or our place in it.
I also understand how scary, even terrifying, this can be. Because it’s not just for us. It’s for our friends. Our family. Our children. How can we have hope for them if the culture surrounding them in is full of lies? Because of Christ. As it is written in Romans 8:
What, then, are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He did not even spare his own Son but gave him up for us all. How will he not also with him grant us everything? Who can bring an accusation against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies. Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is the one who died, but even more, has been raised; he also is at the right hand of God and intercedes for us. Who can separate us from the love of Christ? Can affliction or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
Because of you
we are being put to death all day long;
we are counted as sheep to be slaughtered.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Will some turn from God? Of course. Paul also writes he could wish himself accursed to save his people – his culture. But he can’t. And while we have great reason for confidence that our children will eventually return even if they stray if we raise them in God, as it is written in Proverbs 22:6, there will always be a chance they won’t (like Samuel’s children, or Eli’s, or some of David’s). And that is where it gets hard. For just like Christ, we must love while letting people choose and we must still cling to Christ. This is why Jesus in Luke 14 said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, and even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”
Obviously, we are not called to actively hate (the fact that we are called to hate our own life should make this obvious) – Jesus is using hyperbole to make the point. Jesus talked about the most important commands being to love God above all and others as ourselves as the second. Paul’s writing mentioned earlier makes it a little more clear: anything that would tempt us to abandon Christ we must be as eager to share space with as our excrement – including parts of ourselves. That’s why we ask God to change us. But we still put our faith in God’s love for us and for those we love. As John 3:16-17 teaches, Jesus came not to condemn, but, because we are already condemned, to save any who would come. And we have the promise that God will draw near to us if we draw near to him (James 4:8) and we see actively throughout the Old Testament, even when we draw near horribly imperfectly, as Judah did in 2 Chronicles 30.
Does this mean that we are doomed without hope for this lifetime? Absolutely not! As God showed in Egypt during the plagues, over the land of Goshen, God could stop the plague (Exodus 9). But does this mean we have a guarantee we won’t suffer? Again, absolutely not! For if God has chosen to let you or me suffer, and we truly belong to him, it is so our trust in Him might be displayed, revealing the contentment and joy and peace beyond understanding he gives to his children, so that more will draw near to him and those who refuse are left without excuse. That is why Jesus said in Matthew 5: Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs. “You are blessed when they insult you and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of me. Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Also why in James it is written: Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. (See also 1 Peter 3:14 and 4:14.)
But also be warned about what Jesus said right after those verses in chapter 5, if you begin to focus on fighting for your culture instead of for the lost Christ loves: You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It’s no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
But if you are truly loving Christ and loving others as we are called, you do not need to fear, for as Christ says in the next verse: You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
So stop fighting the “Culture War.” It is being done without God’s help as it is being fought right now, and it will be lost soon if nothing changes. But do you know what the most ironic thing is? If you stopped and instead focused on our calling to love God and bring others to Him, the “war” would be won unfought. 2 Chronicles 7:13-14: If I shut the sky so there is no rain, or if I command the grasshopper to consume the land, or if I send pestilence on my people, and my people, who bear my name, humble themselves, pray and seek my face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.
Until then, let us remember that our whole lives on this earth are those of the exile, and as such, let us take up the prayer God commanded Israel to pray in Babylon in place of our “Culture War” This is what the Lord of Armies, the God of Israel, says to all the exiles I deported from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and live in them. Plant gardens and eat their produce. Find wives for yourselves, and have sons and daughters. Find wives for your sons and give your daughters to men in marriage so that they may bear sons and daughters. Multiply there; do not decrease. Pursue the well-being of the city I have deported you to. Pray to the Lord on its behalf, for when it thrives, you will thrive.”
Please help us, Jesus. We, your people, have gone so far astray.