Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Losing the Culture War, Winning the Spiritual War, Part I

If you remember my post on why allowing politics overtake your faith (or overly influence it), this post is related, but in a different way. This post is about losing, how to do it gracefully, and how to move forward. In the next post I will talk about the opportunity we have because of it.

Before we begin, by way of credit, some ideas and thoughts for this topic come from here and here, among other places.

Let's face the facts on the ground. By and large, Christianity has lost the culture wars. Not in every setting and not in every segment of the population, but for the most part the culture wars have been lost. The majority of supply depots (textbook & regulation centers), communications towers (TV, radio, movies, etc), and barracks (schools & universities) have been captured by those on the other side. Not all, of course, but a majority have been. In the political world, despite having elected (at several different times) politicians who claim to be on our side, very little has come of it. They did not have the fortitude for the fight or they lied about who they were. Either way, the result is the same.

Remember what I said in the post about not allowing politics to overtake faith? This is one reason why.

For a long time now, in everything I have read, it seems as thought we have looked to politics to solve the issues surrounding us. That if we could only get this law passed, or that regulation in place, of this person as president, all would be OK.

Unfortunately, it would not be OK.

Because while the "religious right" (to use the term loosely), was chasing after these things trying to change the country, they lost focus on what was more important. When politics became the mode of change instead of Christ, everything got turned around backwards. This is not an indicting or accusatory statement. I believe that (for most of those involved), they had noble goals. But goals by themselves do not justify the means. What they lost sight of was this:

That if you reach the culture for Christ, if you reach out and create more true Christians who follow and love Jesus with all their heart, all the rest will fall into place. If you raise your children to follow Christ instead of an ideology, they will be better able to stand firm. The point is: real change for a culture and people can only come when that change comes through Christ.

This kind of change is not something that can be done with politics. It requires adaptation, evangelism, getting out of our comfort zones, and showing love (even to those we vehemently disagree with). It requires not bomb-throwing (from either side), but discussion and friendship. Really, it requires us to be like Christ, go into hostile territory, and speak the truth in love, real love, and to stand firm regardless of the outcome.

When I was in college I was friends with 3 lesbians and 2 bisexual girls. I don't mean acquaintances, I mean actual friends. I knew them through mutual friendships with others and we all happened to get along.

Through this whole time (we have since lost touch), everyone was very open about where they stood on everything. Two of the girls were staunch, militant atheists, two didn't care about religion, and one decided that she would go to a church where they didn't consider homosexuality a sin. They also knew exactly where I stood: a conservative Christian who did not agree with the lifestyle they had chosen. There were no punches pulled in this. I never once tried to hide what I believed or back down during the different talks we had about life.

And you know what? We stayed friends for a long time.

We never freaked out, never yelled at each other, and never treated each other poorly. I was always available when they needed help, and I did try to be a loving Christian who was honest about what their lifestyles would lead to. They accepted that. The conversations sometimes got tangled up pretty well, but that was something we were willing to deal with.

I was able to be in this situation and react this way because my parents had helped me to win the spiritual war instead of the cultural war. They taught me the importance of standing up for who I was and what I believed in, and they taught me by example what that looked like. I hope I can do the same for my children in the future.

Kind of what I wished spiritual warfare on earth really looked like. :-)

But how? How can we prepare them? What can be done to raise children into adults who not only resist the corruption of culture, but work to change it from the inside out?

Paul M. Weyrich suggested in an open letter to do three things: Turn Off, Tune Out, and Drop Out. I find that to be very good, biblical advice, and I would suggest we honestly consider them. I would also suggest that we teach our children how to do the same.

Turn Off: the garbage on TV, video games, and the computers. Not all things are bad, but it is generally apparent which ones are or are not. If there is a question, ere on the side of caution. I recently had this experience with a game I was playing. It was fun, easy to get into, and enjoyable. Unfortunately, it was also exceedingly gory. After a couple of hours I realized that this indeed was not something I should be doing if I wanted to live a Christ-like life, and deleted it. Is there anything in your life you need to delete?

Tune Out: create times for stillness. No TV, no music, no distraction. Create time for your mind, body, and soul to stretch out and move. It doesn't have to be a huge amount of time, but there should be some time during each day (not as you're falling asleep), where things are still. Read a book, read your Bible, pray, go on a walk, play with your kids. When done with the right spirit (ie: not chomping at the bit to go back to the entertainment), you will find that these are very helpful times for yourself and that you enjoy it more and more.

Drop Out: of the culture. We need to find places where we can live godly lives. Where we are not caught up in the rat race, the tech race, the selfie scene, or any of the other things that want to distract us and pull us away from God. We may be in this world, but we are not of it, and we need to act like it. Look for ways to purposefully drop out of the decadence of the culture around you. Look for ways to purposefully give that segment of your life to the deeper, spiritual, godly things in life.

Finally, there is one more thing that we need to do (and teach our children to do), and that is reach the lost.

This comic shows the reason for this very plainly. If we do not do this, we show our lack of love to those around us. If we as Christians really, truly believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He is the Only Way to the Father, how can we not tell our neighbors? Our friends? Our families?

How can we not teach our children and teach them to go and tell others as well?

I am as guilty as the next person. But it needs to change. For all of us.

For you, for me, for everyone calling themselves "Christian".

When we do this, when we reach out to the world around us and teach our children to do the same, we will change the culture around us. It may not turn the entire nation around, but it will change those reached. And every single soul reached for Christ is worth every amount of effort it takes.

You see, I'm convinced that the culture wars have acted as a distraction to what is truly important. That is not to say it was a purposeful waste of time. Simply that the time spent on them has been less effective than if we had spent it on changing the hearts of those around us to belong to Christ first, then follow what He has called them to.

What is truly important, is the spiritual war for people's souls. If that battle is lost, it doesn't matter what happened in the culture wars. When we win the spiritual battle for a soul, we save them from the desecration that culture would have otherwise hit them with.

Culture reflects the spiritual life of a people, not the other way around.

Let us remember what is truly important.

Let us fight for the soul.

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