5 Reasons You Simply CAN’T Avoid The Culture Wars

War PaintIt should come as no surprise to anyone that we live in a highly polarized society. There are separate camps that hold very divergent worldviews and their interaction with each other is mostly antagonistic. Topics like abortion, gay marriage, and the legalization of marijuana are all highly charged and the resulting disagreements are often heated. It gets ugly, no wonder it’s called a war. Weary of all the fighting some people have decided to be Switzerland and declare neutrality. Seeking to avoid the unpleasantness involved they have chosen to ‘op out’ of the debate.

The allure of being a cultural non-combatant is quite obvious—most would rather be known as a lover not a fighter. I know I would! But I think the choice is a false one. Firstly, engaging the culture does not exclude love, and secondly, I don’t think anyone can avoid the culture wars.

Here are five reasons I think neutrality is impossible:

1.  There is no DMZ
Some people seek safety by straddling the fence. Refusing to choose a side they aim to affirm the best of both options. ‘Both/and’ is deemed better than ‘either/or’. Sometimes this is true, but the right answer isn’t always found in the middle. In most of the cultural conflicts we face, there is no middle ground, no demilitarized zone. Either a fetus is a person or it is not. Either homosexuality is a sin or it is not. Either marijuana is harmful or it is not. Affirming both sides may feel nice but it’s not coherent.

2.  You are the prize
In a conventional war, winning happens by seizing land, but in this conflict it is won by seizing hearts and minds. Cultural norms are nothing more than popular agreement on a matter. If these norms are to become dominant then people need to be persuaded. Your endorsement is actively solicited and any attempt at neutrality isn’t likely to be respected. As society has grown more secular, it’s grown less tolerant of dissenting voices. Your ‘yes’ is required.

3.  Your silence is a statement
Keeping the peace through silence used to be an effective measure. No longer. While silence used to mean that the person’s view was unknown, it is now presumed to be a vote of affirmation. The person who is present in a conversation is considered as supportive unless they say otherwise. In other words, your ‘yes’ to the current ways of the world is presumed. This means that Christians can be seen as collaborators with ungodliness by virtue of their silence.

4.  You can’t hide
Remember when we were told “If you don’t like it—don’t watch it”? Today that’s hopelessly naive. With the explosion of social media we are daily swamped with ideas and images, and with the exception of puppy videos they all include some worldview. We are the targets of the largest propaganda effort in history.  I suppose that we could hide from the onslaught by disconnecting our devices but that seems unlikely and unhelpful. Avoiding the conflict is a practical impossibility.

5.  The Bible forbids it.
Christians will find no biblical support for retreating into a holy enclave. We are not of this world but we have been left in it for a purpose. Primarily, this purpose is to grow and sanctify His church through discipleship. Along with this priority is the responsibility to bless those who live amongst us. Being the salt and light includes advocating for that which is good. It is good to save the innocent. It is good to rescue the addict. It is good to encourage marriage. We love our communities by championing righteousness.

In sum: you can’t avoid or ignore what is happening in our society. Whether we wish it or not, we are all in the front lines of the culture war. But being involved in this conflict does not mean that we have to become hostile. It’s quite the opposite actually—we enter the fray armed only with love and truth.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all 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 who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14–16, ESV)

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2 thoughts on “5 Reasons You Simply CAN’T Avoid The Culture Wars

  1. Eugene, thank you for your usual clarity. May I offer a few thoughts on some the excellent points you raise?
    As I understand the Bible and world in which we live, may I humbly suggest we are not so much in a “culture war” (over “family values”) as in the End Times spiritual war of the ages between the kingdom of this world and the Kingdom of God for the souls of all humanity. The proof? Israel is again a nation; we live in a nuclear, Internet, and world-wide market age of profound and growing crisis; and the crisis of our age is essentially a spiritual one. “Whom will you serve this day…?” God or self, morals or mammon?
    The polarization so characteristic of life in America today is a symptom of this crisis, not a cause. For in times of crisis peoples and governments desperately seek to take firm control of the situation, much as a driver grabs the steering wheel in a white-knuckled clinch in an accident. The greater the crisis, the greater the polarization.
    The question remaining is whether the American people will polarize positively as in the American Revolution, or negatively as in the guillotine blood-bath of the French Revolution. Will it be, all for one and one for all, or will it be, look out for number one, every dog for himself? This will depend on whether the self-serving and deceitful values of the kingdom of this world or the selfless and faithful values of the Kingdom of God prevail. And that, in turn, may well depend on what you and I, together with all our other brothers and sisters in the Lord, do. Will we be the salt and light? Will the Bride and Body of Christ, the sleeping giant of Christian America, wake up and stand up and please God? Or will we be trodden under the foot of man? We can not, as you say, sit on the fence. Remember what happened to Humpty Dumpty. As I understand the Bible, “lukewarm” will not make the cut in the End Times. God requires we take our stand on His side, for this day is set before us good and evil, life and death. Let us, I pray, choose life.

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