It is a sad but true fact that some of the meanest people I have ever known have memorized a lot of Bible verses. It’s as if they believe that biblical literacy gives them license to be intolerant of others. They’re not righteous; they’re self-righteous. Jesus was sinless, and yet he was the most approachable person who ever lived. Completely righteous in every thought, word and deed, but so likeable that hookers, IRS agents and lawyers all felt comfortable approaching him and telling him anything. Sinners liked to hang around Jesus. They don’t always like to hang around his followers. Why is that?
We use the language of a holy war a lot, acting like our primary goal is to destroy those who don’t think like we do. Our primary goal should be redeeming culture and bringing healing and salvation to hurting and confused people. Perhaps we are too quick to point the finger at our unbelieving neighbors for the troublesome times in which we live. If we are going to win the culture wars, we’re going to have to stop shooting our own wounded and stop shooting ourselves in the foot. In fact, Jesus might say we’re going to have to stop shooting period.
This war will not be won with violence – whether in word or deed, thought or action. This war will be won with love. Not hysteria. Not money. Not political power. Not rhetoric. Not volume. Love. Pure and simple.
Cal Thomas and Ed Dobson helped create the Religious Right. After several years, however, they began to be disillusioned by the abuses of power they saw. For example, they noticed a particular pattern in the approach used to raise funds. First, an enemy would be named – Democrats, liberals, abortionists, homosexuals, Hollywood or some combination of all of them. Then, the enemy would be accused of being “out to get us” by imposing their values on the rest of us. Next, the fundraising letter would assure the reader that something would be done to ensure that this enemy would not be allowed to take over the country. Finally, if you really want to make sure we’re successful, you can help by giving money.
Not only is this approach completely unbiblical (Jesus never taught his followers that the biggest problem in the world was a corrupt national government), it brings out the worst in me. It fosters the idea that “sin” is somewhere out there instead of in here – inside the church – inside my own heart. Establishing an “us-against-them” mentality encourages us to draw lines and view people on the wrong side of the line as our enemy to be excluded instead of as a victim of the enemy to be loved and pursued. It’s easy in arguments to demonize the other side, but, if you haven’t figured it out yet, following Jesus isn’t always very easy.
Whatever gave us the idea that it was supposed to be?
In fact, now that I think about it, maybe we shouldn’t be trying to win a war – not if you have to resort to violence in order to get your opponent to surrender. I just can’t see Jesus advocating that. If you really study those red-letter books, you’ll have to admit that, in a way, Jesus lost the culture wars of his day. He was in a battle with a rigid religious establishment and a corrupt, pagan empire. But he never fought against them; he just loved them. He loved them enough to tell them the truth, but he also loved them enough to give up his own comfort, his own desires, his own life.
It’s important to remember that among his last words were these: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.”
I don’t hear that prayer very often on Christian radio.
I’m not saying we should chuck our Christian principles when it comes time to elect our leaders. I just haven’t read the part of the gospels where Jesus wonders aloud who should be God’s man in the Roman Forum.
Jesus was trying to set up a kingdom, but it was such a radically different kind of kingdom that it could work in a nation like ours with a Christian heritage, or it could work in places like Kenya or China or Venezuela. Take China, for instance. The church there was under such intense persecution that it had to go “underground” for decades. During that period of time the number of Christians grew from one or two million to somewhere between 30 and 50 million. They didn’t need “God’s man” as their Chairman in order to grow and thrive.
Neither do we.