In the matter of the “culture wars,” evangelical Christians are asking, “what do we do now?” The question is being raised in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision striking down state laws reserving marriage for heterosexual couples.
The “culture wars,” while well-intentioned, were a mistake from the beginning. Evangelical Christians, whose Leader said, “My Kingdom is not of this world,” thought they could organize people of like mind and like faith and create a voting bloc to elect people who would impose something resembling that other kingdom on people who do not see themselves as members of that kingdom. Given the number of politicians who seem to have difficulty imposing a moral code of any sort on themselves, such a strategy was doomed from the start. Why didn’t they learn from previous “moral improvement” movements that if one wants to change culture, one must first change individuals? For evangelical Christians that can only be done by the transformation of the heart, soul and mind, something that is beyond the power of secular — or even religious — politicians.
Conservative Christians wanted to be liked and respected by the world. Republican politicians saw them as a reliable voting bloc and were happy to have them in the party, but party leaders and elected officials did little to advance their agenda. Leaders gave them lip service, saying what Christians wanted to hear and in some cases even quoted a Bible verse, but in reality most party leaders were embarrassed, even offended, by people many regarded as throwbacks, if not to the Dark Ages, then to the rural South.
Fundraisers and TV evangelists were happy to promote this “kingdom of the world” mentality because it brought them the illusion of influence, money and a place at the table. Few minds were changed, and culture became more deformed than reformed. The country grows increasingly secular in part because conservative evangelicals gave the impression that being born again means instant adoption into the Republican Party.
As a longtime fan of Broadway musicals and plays, I believe that the original cast is always better than the touring company. Evangelicals should return to the “original cast,” whose members include Jesus of Nazareth, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Peter, James and Timothy. Consider their lives and tactics as they faced a hostile political and religious environment that brought persecution, even death. These men — and their followers — had little interest in an earthly kingdom. Instead, they focused on that other kingdom, and billions of lives have been transformed in the centuries that followed. Those transformed lives have, in many cases, transformed cultures.
A recent letter to the editor posted on TwinCities.com got it right:
“If the Supreme Court, in its June 26 ruling to redefine the meaning of marriage, has made things less comfortable for believers, we must ask ourselves why we were so comfortable to begin with.
“The Apostle Peter pleaded with the church, ‘Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.’ Those who have resisted the acceptance of sin have done well in living out Peter’s admonition, but acceptance of our standing as outsiders remains a point of struggle.
“Christians, as aliens and strangers in this world, should not be surprised when a world separated from God lives out its faith. It is, however, our duty to act in unity with God by sacrificing our time and risking friendships, academic performance and professional standing — all idols in this world — to display the unrivaled confidence and hope we have in Christ.
“We cannot change a fallen world, but we can be God’s instrument in saving people from it. Eternally speaking, there is nothing to lose and everything to gain.” — Jack Wheeler, Hudson, Wis.”
Lest someone misinterpret what Mr. Wheeler and I are saying, this isn’t about surrender; it is about enlisting in a different “army,” using more powerful nonpolitical weapons. Google “Beatitudes” and see what I mean. Practice them and observe the impact they have on the culture.
Readers may email Cal Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org.