The Michigan House and Senate recently advanced legislation to repeal the 1931 abortion ban (which was nullified last November) and expand the Civil Rights Act to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity and expression.” Stories come out every day of schools approving pornographic books and LGBT propaganda in their sex ed programs. It’s considered controversial to stand against drag shows for kids. It feels like Christians are losing the culture war. Should we even be fighting it in the first place?
The Good Old Days
In a sense, Christians have been fighting (and losing) the culture war ever since the early days of America. Most of the founding fathers were just deists looking to create a better government in a new land. Some probably had genuine faith, but most didn’t follow Jesus. Don’t get me wrong, Judeo-Christian values were a solid foundation for what is arguably the greatest country in the world. But more cultural support for Christianity doesn’t necessarily translate to “more Christians.”
The most common religion in the western world is moralistic therapeutic deism. That’s a term I stole from one of my favorite Adam4d comics. It’s the belief that a god exists who watches over us and helps us resolve our problems, that we should all be nice to each other, and that life is about being happy. As you can see, the gospel is nowhere to be found. Jesus is nowhere to be found. Neither are repentance, faith, or worship of God. Yet this is the religion most self-proclaimed “Christians” subscribe to in their cushy American lifestyles of traditionally acceptable hedonism.
We Can’t Win
So if most Christians aren’t Christians and Judeo-Christian values can’t save you, what’s the point of fighting the culture war? Is it just for our own comfort? That doesn’t sound like Christianity.
“If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”John 15:19 (ESV)
“All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.”2 Timothy 3:12-13 (ESV)
True Christianity necessarily involves some kind of persecution simply because true Christianity is never popular. The invisible church will always be a minority. That’s normal. Comfort and acceptance is not our goal. No matter how much the government adheres to Judeo-Christian values, it will never adhere to Christ himself. It’s impossible. The world is, and always has been, at odds with God.
“You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”James 4:4 (ESV)
The idea that we can win the culture war is ultimately a lie. Our battle is not for the presidency, the schools, or the public square. It’s a fight against our own disobedience, disunity, and selfish living. It’s a fight to spread the Word of Christ to all corners of the earth.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”Matthew 28:19-20a (ESV)
“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.”Ephesians 6:12 (CSB)
But We Should Still Fight
Does this mean we should forget the culture at large? No. I’m sure you’ve heard the popular phrase, “In the world, but not of the world.” David Mathis wrote a fantastic article on this.1 His advice was to change the phrase to: “not of, but sent into.” His reasoning is based on John 17, where we hear Jesus pray to the Father.
“The world hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I am not praying that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.”John 17 14b-15 (CSB)
We are not of the world, similar to how Jesus is not of the world. But instead of praying for our escape from the world, Jesus prays for our protection from temptation. It’s actually a good thing that we’re stuck here on this sinful planet. God put us here for a reason. We shouldn’t seek to be rid of it or ignore it.
“As you sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.”John 17:18 (CSB)
Christ has specifically sent us into the world to carry out his mission of evangelism and to glorify God with our words and deeds. We dare not shy away from our culture to live in isolated bubbles. That would be disobedience.
How We Fight
So what does this mean for the culture war? Our primary influence on the world should be for evangelism and obedience to God in our own communities, but that doesn’t mean we can’t also guide our culture into a morally sound framework with the tools God has given us.
In America, we can vote. That’s a pretty amazing thing. It only takes a little effort to have an impact on our culture for the better. But we can do more. We can run for school board, precinct delegate, and other local positions. We can speak the truth in love to our neighbors. We can testify for or against bills and local policy changes. We can gather signatures for ballot initiatives.
That said, our goal in this should not be to force people into Christianity. We’ve seen how ugly things can get with state religions and forced conversions. If someone wants to live in sin by committing adultery or acting selfishly, we can’t stop them. That’s not our job. Instead, we should aim to create a society that gives us the freedom to do God’s work and live godly lives.
“I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”1 Timothy 2:1-2 (ESV)
“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God . . . if you do wrong, be afraid, because [the government] does not carry the sword for no reason. For it is God’s servant, an avenger that brings wrath on the one who does wrong.”Romans 13:1, 4b (CSB)
God has told us to obey our governments because they are his servants to keep the peace and punish evildoers. It’s in everyone’s best interest that the government stays true to its purpose. If we fail to pay attention, our leaders are sure to stray from justice and we will see the consequences.
“When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan.”Proverbs 29:2 (ESV)
This World Will Not Last
My brother gave a great sermon recently. One of his points stuck out to me as being relevant to this topic. This is the passage he talked about:
“As he was going out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Teacher, look! What massive stones! What impressive buildings!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another—all will be thrown down.'”Mark 13:1-2 (CSB)
Jesus quickly shoots down his disciple’s excitement over the temple, foretelling its destruction. We should not put too much faith in earthly institutions. Nothing made by men can stand forever. Nothing made by men is pure. Jesus came to God’s chosen people and found that they had rejected God’s ways. He rebuked them in the presence of the temple.
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her… See, your house is left to you desolate.”Jesus, Matthew 23:37a, 38
The glorious buildings mean nothing if the hearts of those within are cold. So whatever you do to fight the culture war, remember what you’re fighting for. All political movements will come to an end. All nonprofits will come to an end. All the works of the enemy will come to an end. This world will not last. Praise God.
Let me know your thoughts on the culture war in the comments below. Enter your email to keep in touch with me. Thanks for reading. Godspeed.
- David Mathis, “Let’s Revise the Popular Phrase ‘In, But Not Of’,” DesiringGod.org, August 29, 2012, https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/lets-revise-the-popular-phrase-in-but-not-of