December 16, 2017

Does the Gospel Change The Way You Look At The People The Culture War Tells You To Fear and Dislike?

eye2 Cor. 5:14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. 16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.* The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling* the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

The Bible says the love of Christ controls us, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh.

When I was an older child- 11 or 12- I was caught up and fascinated with the character of Daniel Boone. The television series starring Fess Parker had become a hit, and for Kentucky kids like me, this was the greatest thing since the invention of baseball.

My friend Jeff and I entered into one of the great projects of my childhood: making Daniel Boone into a lifestyle.

We adopted roles which soon overtook our regular personalities. I was never allowed to be Daniel, being exiled to the supporting parts of the sidekick Yadkin or a friendly Indian. We bought clothes, guns, powder horns, coonskin caps, moccasins, boots and more paraphernalia. (I still have this stuff.) We memorized the Daniel Boone show scripts, but also studied Boone in real life.

One of the highlights of those years was a Daniel Boone pilgrimage we made to Frankfort, Kentucky and the site of Boonesboro, the fort Boone built in the bluegrass area of Kentucky. (The fort was actually gone and no replica existed, which was a major disappointment. That has since been remedied.)

Every day, after school, my friend and I lived out the fantasy of being Daniel Boone, often running around the neighborhood with our toy flintlocks and coonskin caps, in full dress costumes. We must have been quite a sight.

One thing was missing, however: bad guys. There weren’t enough of us be the bad guys in rotation (and my friend wouldn’t surrender the Daniel Boone role anyway,) and it wasn’t much fun to pretend without some warm bodies. We really needed bad guys; bad guys would make us good guys. Our adventures simply weren’t complete without enemies.

Fortunately, there were other kids in the neighborhood who had no interest in the Daniel Boone fantasy world. Some we knew well; others were practically strangers to us. So we made a decision. A family of neighborhood kids would be the bad guys. Two brothers and a sister, often seen around the neighborhood. They were the “Hagans,” the enemy of all things Daniel Boone.

The Hagan kids, by the way, were poorer and tougher than both my friend and I, and much larger. Even the girl towered over us. If they had ever decided they were tired of having toy rifles and plastic tomahawks pointed at them, we would have been in trouble.

The Hagans put up with our sudden interest in them without major incident. For our part, we stayed busy making up various tales of how the Hagans were up to no good, in league with our enemies, out to steal our women and goods, and so on.

My friend Jeff and I had many good times with the Hagans in our sights. Pretending you are the good guys is much easier when you can easily point at the bad guys. Fortunately, the Hagans probably never had any real idea what we imagined them doing, how often we’d killed them or thrown them all into prison.

The Hagan’s were, of course, imaginary bad guys. For Christians trying to find their way out of a culture war obsessed evangelicalism to something more Jesus shaped, the enemies aren’t the kids across the alley and their imaginary crimes.

It’s militant angry gays and lesbians.

It’s radical atheists.

It’s Democrats, liberals and supporters of the president.

It’s progressives and their social agenda.

It’s Muslims.

It’s the main stream media and their hatred of Christianity.

It’s the hostile minions of Christian harassment and persecution.

It’s the guy you are arguing with in a blog.

It’s a Christian (so-called) who doesn’t agree with your politics or theology.

Paul says a lot of very simple things in the scripture above.

One of them is this: If the love of Christ controls us, we don’t look at people as we did before. We look at them in the light of the Gospel. As persons who are invited to be reconciled to God by what God has done for them.

That is the way we view people in the world: in the light of the Gospel. Not in light of their politics, their sexual partners, their vote, their religion or their attitude toward Christianity.

What are the variables at work here?

Is Christ Lord? Is he King?

Do we understand the love he has for human beings?

Do we believe Christ died for all?

Does this love control us?

Does this love change the way we view those we formerly viewed in a “worldly” sense? (Those who are defined by who they are in the world.)

Does this lead us to relate to, speak to and plead with these persons as ambassadors of Christ?

Do we present to them the reconciled relationship with God that Jesus Christ has made possible?

Or do we continue playing our games, making these people of the world the enemies of OUR culture and OUR beliefs rather than having our view of who they are transformed by the Gospel?

We prefer for the Gospel to change the other fellow, but Paul makes it clear that the Gospel changes us. We do not see people as we did before.

Every day I listen to and read Christians whose consideration of other persons is on the basis of politics and cultural conflict. Not the Gospel. Their anger and frustration dominates, not the Gospel.

The Gospel needs to transform me and millions of other Christians who relate to people through the cross and through Jesus only after we have exhausted all our other responses.

Is it any wonder that our evangelism is almost non-existent, when our view of other persons remains captive to fear, anger and the emotions of the culture war.

Comments

  1. One thing that seems to be missing from this discussion (which is quite good overall) is the fact that the message is the gospel is an inherently ‘cultural’ message. Ever hear of Augustine’s ‘City of God’? It’s clear that in the NT, Paul and others went into existing cultures and proclaimed a message which ,in large part, said that God had established a new culture to rival the existing cultures. ‘Cultural’ conflict was (and is) inevitable. It is inherent in the message of the gospel.

  2. Brian R says:

    Alfred, thanks for your reply. I am really trying to understand where you are coming from and would like to ask a few questions about your reply.

    Alfred
    “For every misguided christian like Gary North there are 10 people on the Left who are more extreme.”

    Me
    Why would you say North is misguided?

    Have you ever heard of the Coalition on Revival? North is a member along with a long list of influential and determined pastors and evangelical leaders. (list- http://65.175.91.69/Reformation_net/Pages/Signed_Manifesto_1986.htm)

    Here is an overview of the the 24 year plan to remake America in the image of a “Christian” nation.
    http://65.175.91.69/Reformation_net/Pages/24yearplanbrochure6page.pdf

    I would be interested to know what elements of the left you feel have the connections, the popular support, the tax exempt status, and media channels to bring about a radical overthrow of our constitutional form of government.

    Don’t get me wrong here. I am against efforts of the left and right to undo our constitution, but I think the right is a more present danger with potential to bring about a fascist regime than the left is to bring about a socialist one.

    Alfred
    “We call “christian” groups like Army of God and American Coalition of Life “extremeists” but groups like it on the left are refered to as human rights activists.”

    Me
    Again, I would ask which groups you feel represent this threat from the left that engage in violent methods to secure their goals.

    Alfred
    What you have done sir is highlight a few extreme examples of christian-right activist groups. But what is amazing is just how uncommon these folks are.

    Me
    I would be happy to examine the groups on the left that you feel are equivalent to my examples. How many common extreme left groups are operating in America that you feel outnumber those on the right?

    Alfred
    “Yes, hate exists within the Christian community and this needs to end. However, I stand by my comment: the source of that hate is not the Culture War – at least not from the Right.”

    Where is hate from the Christian right being generated from if it is not from the culture war?

    From my perspective, a large amount of Christian hate has sprung from an unspoken premise that America is a Christian nation and anyone who denies this is an unpatriotic, American hating liberal who needs to be dealt with harshly.

    For examples refer to several prominent Christian leaders such as the late Jerry Falwell, John Hagee, Dr. Dobson, and Pat Robertson for just a sampling.

    Add to this the right wing political figures like Limbaugh, Hannity, O’Reiley, Coulter, and others who many evangelicals listen to regularly and you have an impressive media hate machine that demonizes anyone who questions the premise that Christain=Conservative=America.

    Alfred
    You make several other comments:

    “I find it telling that Christians need to classify themselves as being on the “right”. The merger of Christians and the GOP and it’s subsequent failure ought to give believers pause and rethink their association with worldly political organizations.”

    I completely agree. However, I will say this, the extreme Left is waging a war against Christianity and I do believe it is wrong for christians not to resist those attacks. Incidently, I don’t vote – ever – so you make assumptions of me based on your own biases.”

    I am sorry you mistook my general comments as describing your political views in particular.

    I don’t deny that there are people who attack Christians, but I can say it has become common for some Christians to scream “persecution” when anyone argues against them.

    Your opinion on the appropriate Christian response to attacks is one of several. Quakers and other “peace churches” might disagree with you. With sayings like “Do not resist evil” in the NT and other sentiments like it, a case can be made for non resistance as an appropriate reaction to attacks.

    Alred
    “I am quite sure I have no idea what a “Christianized” culture even looks likes. However, I do know what a culture looks like which makes it all but impossible for people to receive the Gospel. The culture war, to me, is about preventing the culture from becomimg completely infertile – spritually. When the very concept of right and wrong is expunged from the culture, grace becomes obsolete.

    Incidently not every Christian culture warrior is looking for a return to prayer in schools or is looking to end the teaching of evolution. I want neither.”

    I would count you among those I am not concerned about trying to undo our form of government then, but I am interested in seeing your examples I asked for above about the left.

    Thanks.

  3. Brian R

    Thank you for the reasonable and intelligent response. You asked several questions…here are my responses:

    Question 1:
    “I would be interested to know what elements of the left you feel have the connections, the popular support, the tax exempt status, and media channels to bring about a radical overthrow of our constitutional form of government.”

    Wow, you really give me a softball with that one, thanks :). Let’s start with the entire public education system, especially our system of higher education (private and public). The Humanities Departments of our universities routinely call for a complete repudication of our constitutional democracy (i.e. Women Studies, African American Studies, Latino Studies, Queer Studies, Peace Studies, etc.). Law schools invest new theories of jurisprudence which are completely counter to Western legal tradition. Schools of journalism promote the idea of activist journallism where the media is used as a vehicle for radical social change.

    The ideas which geminate in our system of higher education have swamped our judicial system , lower education system and most media outlets. They have also all but taken over such philanthropic organizations as the Ford Foundation and the McCarther Foundation (non-profits), just to name two.

    I could go on and on and on. And I could provide ample evidence for each of my claims.

    Question 2:
    “Again, I would ask which groups you feel represent this threat from the left that engage in violent methods to secure their goals.”

    Use of violence from the left: hmmm, lets see, here’s a small list:

    Past performances:
    – Stalin Marxists
    – Mao Marists
    – Castro Marxists
    – Weather Undergound
    – Black Panthers
    – Symbionese Liberation Army
    – Hitler (yes Hitler)

    Current Threats:
    – Abortists of all kinds (if you believe a fetus is a human)
    – Animal Liberation Front
    – Earth Liberation Front
    – A host of extremist groups which riot during G7 meeting, World Trade Conferences, Republican & Demoratic National conventions,
    – Liberals who advocate violence are to many to list (ie. Che t-shirts, Mao t-shirts, etc.)
    – Trade unions

    Violence, ever since the French Revolution, has been a commonly used and a widely accepted tactic of the Left. Violence amoung Christians is a very rare and exceptional thing. And the number of Chistians who advocate violence is extremely small.

    Question 3:
    “Where is hate from the Christian right being generated from if it is not from the culture war?”

    People (whether christians, buddhists, muslims, atheists, hindus, etc.) have known hate since the beginning of time. We figured out reasons to hate other long before the culture wars. And when the cuture wars are over people will go on hating. Christians figured out how to hate during the Crusades and in the the American South they figured out how to hate their slaves.

    I maintain the aggressors in the culture wars are Lest radicals who are intent on changing the world. Many Christians are undoubtedly threatened by this and some react inappropriately.

    I encourage you to read the following excellent essay on the culture wars:

    http://www.hoover.org/publications/policyreview/3484376.html

    This will give you some insight into where I am coming from.

    Thank you again sir for the wonderful dialog.

  4. Brian R says:

    Alfred, thanks for taking the time to answer my questions and you have provided a lot of good stuff to consider.

    To be honest, for someone like me with no education beyond high school, it can be really daunting to try and tackle these issues and get to the core of them.

    I appreciate your response and am glad to have the opportunity to dig deeper into the issue.

  5. Brian R:

    You have given me more than a few things to think about yourself. Your concerns over how many christians engage the culture wars is fully justified.

    “…no education beyond high school…”
    Wow, you could have fooled me!

  6. Donalbain says:

    Those evil gays attacking people in the culture wars. Nobody Christian ever did what they did by boycotting businesses!

    And as for Miss California, she lost a beauty pagaent. She lost NONE of her rights.

  7. Donalbain says:

    As far as I can tell, nobody wants to put people in jail for being Christians or for attending Christian services, or being baptised as Christians. Nobody wants to deny Christians access to the legal rights of marriage. Nobody wants to deny Christians the right to visitation of their families in hospitals. Nobody wants to do ANY of the things that many many many Christians want to do to gay people. And yet, the Christians are the victims of the culture wars?