This is one of those topics that always seems to have some questioning my traditional theological grounding, but here we go anyway. If the Global Methodist Church is going to have any sort of influence on the culture, and by that I mean Western Culture such that it is as that is where I live, it doesn’t have to admit that it lost the culture wars, it has to admit that it should have never been fighting them.
Now, to be fair, the term culture wars is a pretty nebulous thing, but we all kind of know what it means. Basically, a varied bunch f ideological groups vie for control over the common political and social narrative. The weapons of war are marches, protests, strong polemics on social media and in opinion pieces, and the goal is to elect the chosen political heroes to office to enforce the policies that are best. I think that it is fair to say that one of the largest groups fighting the culture wars are modern evangelical Christians. For decades now they have devised different strategies and tactics in their attempts. I have no desire to rehash those strategies here and frankly I am unconcerned with them. I am however very concerned that so many Christians have unquestioningly joined up to fight like every other group, using the same weapons and tactics, to achieve the same ends, namely seizing control of civic institutions and narratives.
I can accept that the motives of the culture war fighting Christians are noble, but it is my fervent belief that we need to make sound judgements based upon results and not intentions. Let’s look at some of the examples of the results. We, as a Christian society, have largely fallen into the pit of despair that is the cycle of outrage. We rail on and on about outrage culture, cancel culture, victim culture and whatever culture is next by falling into the same patterns ourselves. The apostle John warned us of this. “ Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God.” (3 John 11) If we believe these things to be evil, we should not be imitating them. When we fight the culture wars, we do. To be an effective culture warrior, we must express our displeasure, often forcefully and publicly, but forget the council of James “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” (James 1:19-20) and Paul “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” (1Corinthians 13:4-5) We fight and quarrel with our “enemies” forgetting the warnings from James “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” (James 4:1) and the instructions from Paul to Timothy, and us all “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.” (2 Timothy 2:24)
The biggest weapon in the culture wars, by far, has become the mocking and sarcastic rhetoric of mocking, humiliating, and accusing. This takes the form of misapplied accusations of hideous behavior (racism, sexism, etc) as well as simple mocking (trumpkin, libtard, snowflake, etc).Fighting like a good Christian though, we disguise this all to often as defending our faith when we should be following the council of Peter “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,” (1Peter 3:5). We are fighting and arguing with each other, that we have forgotten the enemy that Paul instructed us to fight “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12) For that matter, we have apparently forgotten the words that Jesus spoke. “Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” (John 18:36)
Now, do not misunderstand my intentions here. I do not advocate for a Benedictine Option, in fact it is quite the opposite. I advocate for us, as Christians, to be even more fully involved in the culture of the day. Instead of picketing abortion centers to try and intimidate and shame women into making a different choice that we provide more and greater help and support for mothers who feel they have no other choice. The root of the problem isn’t that abortion is legal, it is that women feel trapped by what is a beautiful gift from God. Let’s fix that with resources and compassion. On top of that, when a woman does choose to get an abortion, let’s comfort them and show some empathy and compassion. We can do that, in fact we should do that, even when the choice is one we do not agree with and find objectional. Let’s quit arguing over same sex civil marriage and instead start deconstructing the myth that somehow sex is a necessity in life. For far to long, intentional or not, the church has pushed a narrative that somehow singleness is an incomplete state. Further more, while we have all at some point lamented what the sexual revolution has brought about, we have not offered any viable alternative to it. We say it is wrong, we say don’t do this or that, and we never say why. We have fancy rings, pledges, promises, and we are excellent at telling everyone what we are against, but when it comes to sex, we offer only some version of “God said so” absent any elaboration on the matter. By all means, let’s celebrate traditional marriage. Let’s celebrate singleness and celibacy as well. Frankly, I find that to be the higher calling anyway, yet we often treat those who are single as if they are contagious lepers. Stop lamenting the strip club down the road and instead offer support, including monetary and vocational support, to the young women and men who do this because they have no other way to survive. Let’s show a better option.
I could continue on as above for pages worth of examples, but the point would get lost I fear. When the church fights the culture wars, we attempt to use political force to shape this kingdom into what we want when the whole point of the church is that it is an entirely different kingdom. We would do far better to stop trying to use force to limit the choices of people and instead be the church and provide better choices for them to live into. The world offers us all superficial appeasement at every turn and the culture wars are a part of that, but we, as Christians have seen a better way and are commanded to show it to others, yet we act like the mob. The truth is simply that the moment we started fighting the culture wars, we had already lost. For the Global Methodist Church the choice is actually very simple: will it offer more of the culture war bread and circuses of this kingdom, or will it finally start offering the bread and wine of the only Kingdom that eternally matters.