October 21, 2017

How Christmas Helped Me Leave the Culture Wars

soldierIn 1988 I made a brief sojourn as a soldier in the trenches of  the Culture Wars.    At the end of January of that year, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in the case of  R. vs. Mogentaler, and struck down the 1969 law that restricted abortion.  The court did however leave room for the government to introduce a new law that was not as restrictive.   In the spring of that year, the Conservative government introduced a new bill to restrict abortion.  Pro-life forces did not like the new bill as it allowed easy access to abortion in the first trimester.  Pro-choice foes did not the bill either as it placed restrictions on abortions.  The bill went down to an overwhelming defeat in July.

The churches rallied into action.   Multiple  committees were formed to organize a “National Rally for Life”.  It would take place on Parliament Hill, and would show Canada that Christians were serious about protecting the unborn.  My Pastor recruited me to assist with the music committee.  We quickly recruited Terry Talbot (brother of John Michael) and Melody Green (wife of the late Keith Green and a musician in her own right) to participate.  Others soon followed included speakers from a number of political parties, and those from a wide range of churches.  The Christian Bikers association volunteered to be the security detail.  A invitation was extended to Mother Teresa through through the local Catholic Bishop.  We were very surprised when she accepted!  The day of the event arrived, September 19th,  1988.  The buses started rolling in from across Ontario, Quebec, and beyond.  It was clear that Mother Teresa was a huge draw.  Soon somewhere between 15,000 and 25,000 people filled the lawn in front of the Legislature. Mother Teresa was passionate in her address, even crying as she spoke:

Christ says, ‘If you receive a little child in my name, you receive me.’  That is why abortion is such a terrible evil, because in refusing the little child we are refusing Christ Himself… If you do not want the child, I want it.  Give it to me… Protect the little, unborn child for the glory of God and the good of the country.

We were encouraged, emboldened, and determined to continue making a difference.  An election was coming in November and we decided that this would become our battle ground.  We were determined to elect politicians who would protect these unborn babies.  Meetings were held in living rooms and church basements across the country.  In my riding (think electoral district), the Conservatives quickly announced that Maureen McTeer would be running for office.  Ms. McTeer was the wife of former Prime Minister Joe Clark, and was a high profile member of the party.  It was a “safe” riding that the Conservatives had easily won in each of the last five elections.  Ms. McTeer however was also well known for her pro-choice views.  Thus, she became the target.  In order to represent the Conservatives she had to win the nomination meeting.  A pro-life doctor was quickly recruited to run against her.  We sold over 600 party memberships in just a few days,   The party establishment started to get worried, and they started selling memberships as well.  Instead of the typical nomination meeting with 30-40 people in attendance, we had a raucous meeting held in a large convention arena with well over 1000 people in attendance.   I was the floor manager for the pro-life movement, responsible for firing up our supporters and gathering together young people to lead the crowd in cheering.  It was a wild and crazy night. In the end, it went to three ballots (if I recall correctly) and we narrowly lost.

We weren’t done though.  The Liberal candidate for the election in our riding, Eugene Bellemare, was known to support the pro-life position, and to be in favor of legislation to prevent abortions.  The evangelical communities in our riding was encouraged to hold their noses and vote Liberal.   Election night came.   Nationally the Conservative party won nearly two thirds of the seats, just the result that the pro-life movement wanted.  In our riding that had supported the Conservatives so strongly in the past?  Liberal Eugene Bellemare had a huge victory!  We had won!  Not only in our riding, but across the country.  We knew that we had succeeded in electing a majority of members of Parliament who would support restricting abortions in Canada…

… and I couldn’t help feeling that somehow I was doing the wrong thing.

I couldn’t shake this feeling for the next several weeks.  Why was this feeling so wrong?  Why did I feel that I should be doing something else?    I could not get these thoughts out of my head.

Christmas came, and I found myself in church, reflecting on the season, and the coming of the Christ Child.  All the while though I was still thinking of my involvement in the pro-life movement.  Suddenly a thought hit me.

Abortion is not the problem.  Abortion is only a manifestation of the problem.  The root problem is a world without Jesus Christ.  To put it in medical terms, I had been spending my time fighting the symptoms of the disease without fighting the underlying cause of the illness.  What people need is the good news of Jesus Christ that will transform their lives, not legislation that will force them to act in ways acceptable to Christians.  This is where I needed to give my energy and attention.  I felt instantly at peace.

I left the culture wars behind that day.  I haven’t looked back.  That was 25 years ago.  Recently, when talking to a gay friend of mine, he told me that I was the only Christian outside of his mother who cared about him and “had his back.”  That greatly saddened me, for I still see a Christianity that is all about culture wars, and not about introducing others to Jesus.

Post Script:  In 1989 the Conservative government reintroduced legislation to restrict abortion in Canada.  It passed in the House of Commons by 9 votes, but was defeated in the Senate by a tie vote.  This remains the only time in Canadian history that the Senate has defeated a piece of government legislation.  No government since then has tried to introduce legislation, and there are still no legal restrictions on abortion in Canada.

Comments

  1. Then you’ve abandoned one culture war (abortion) for the sake of a bigger culture war (aggressive Christianity). How can you complain about “a world without Jesus Christ,” when Christianity is the largest religion in Canada, and the world? But non-Christians are not a “disease” to be “cured,” any more than gays are.,

    • Christianity often is Christianity without Jesus. I think that’s why many of us have found our way here.

      • +1. And Christianity without Jesus is just religion, and not a very appealing one at that.

      • In that case, you’re using “Jesus” as some kind of metaphysical shorthand for those values or emphases you deem laudatory.

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      Gotta agree with Wesley, Wexel. It does not necessarily follow that, because Christianity is the largest religion in Canada, that we live in a world in which Jesus is allowed to have an impact. I would wager that the fault for that lies with a lot of Christian institutions. If anyone needs “curing,” it’s those of us who profess to be Christians.

      By the way, Christianity is not the largest religion in the world (don’t tell the folks at Fox News that; they will burn you as a heretic).

      • It is by most estimates. Though methodology is always an issue, I don’t see any statistical magic that would place it below its nearest competitors, Islam and Hinduism (without doing something really dubious that would treat them differently–like divide one into sects but not the other, or consider only “true Christians” but not “true Muslims” etc.). What do you think the biggest religion is, and why?

      • Marcus Johnson says:

        Well, I would still argue that Christianity is not the largest religion, but there could probably be just as much data to support the dominance of Islam or Hinduism as there would be for Christianity, and that would lead to us throwing our respective studies, which are probably equally valid, into a pit so that they can fight it out for ultimate dominance.

        Which would miss the point.

        Your previous statement is a basic syllogism that assumes, as one of its premises, that a) Christianity is the largest religion in the world and b) Christianity–in all of its different denominations, doctrinal differences, etc.–has brought and maintained Jesus Christ in the world. Even if we were to agree on that first premise, the mere fact that Christian institutions have a global, hegemonic influence doesn’t mean that those institutions reflect Jesus Christ, or submit to His lordship (regardless of how much they say they are).

    • I’ll give you this: it is ironic that culture warriors try to keep abortion out of the government when they can’t even keep it out of their own churches. To a certain extent, I believe moral reform is and always has been a lost cause, whatever your position on ethics. People do what they want to do, end of story. Puritanical pontification is purely presumptuous posturing. I don’t believe altruism is dead: I deny it ever existed outside the heart of Christ.

      • ‘Puritanical pontification is purely presumptuous posturing.’

        That’s a glorious sentence.

        • I think he left out the word “purulent”. Not sure if that was intentional or not. 😀

        • I think the sentence is another example of heavy-handed and unsubtle use of alliteration, which, as any other literary device, should be employed carefully and soberly.

          For an example of repeated yet balanced use of alliteration in a single, short phrase, we need look no further than this lyric written by Warren Zevon in his song, Werewolves of London,

          “Little old lady got mutilated late last night,
          werewolves of London again…,”

          which also happens to be a fairly good description of what it’s like when alliteration is used as a literary sledgehammer, as in the sentence posted above.

          • Oh, come on, Robert F. You don’t think Shakespeare’s Pyramus and Thisbe rendition is the pinnacle of rhetorical brilliance? “Whereat, with blade, with bloody blameful blade, He bravely broached his boiling bloody breast.”

          • Not familiar with this from Shakespeare. I’d guess that he was either laying it on thick for purposes of characterization, or the Bard was not at the top of his game here, as sometimes happens even with a genius…

          • It’s from Midsummer’s Night’s Dream. The rustics are putting on a play that is meant to be awful. Shakespeare lampoons the excesses of his fellow author.

  2. I’m not going to argue about abortion. But I will question the moral calculus you endorse.

    What if the anti-slave trade English Evangelicals of the early 19th century in Great Britain had given up the very political, and successful, fight to ban the slave trade, invoking instead the idea that the slave trade was not the problem, but merely a manifestation of a culture without Christ?

    Well, the slave trade would have continued, and the culture would have continued to operate in a Christless way with regard to the business of slavery.

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      It’s an interesting question. Looking at 18th and 19th century Evangelical moral crusades, they run about 50/50. On abolitionism they were clearly right. On prohibition they were wrong: they had a point about there being a problem, but the solution they proposed proved disastrous. We are still paying the price, in the slightly modified form as the War on Drugs. Some of the old moral crusades seem plain inexplicable today. In my capacity as a historian of early baseball I see some doozies. First it took some decades to arrive at a consensus that the mere activity of playing baseball wasn’t the road to hell. Once that was agreed on, there remained the issue of Sunday baseball. The last of the Sunday blue laws weren’t repealed until well into the 20th century. There is a joke that Yankee Stadium wasn’t the House that Ruth built, but really the House that Sunday Baseball built. Yet nowadays Sunday NFL games are practically a sacrament.

    • This is a very compelling argument, Robert. Was Wilberforce wrong to oppose the slave trade and introduce, fight for, and eventually succeed in passing legislation to abolish it? Was Bonhoeffer wrong to oppose the German Lutheran Church’s capitulation to the Nazis and, since he had no legal means to change the laws that led to the Holocaust, participate in plots to assassinate Hitler? Do we not look back on these men as heroes of the faith and heroes of the culture wars of their day? How is opposing abortion in the public area any different?

      I understand and agree with the arguments that we cannot change a single heart by means of legislation and that Christ alone can convert a sinner to a saint. Still, we are commanded to fight injustice and to promote welfare for all, but without specifics of how to do so. And that leaves the means open-ended, bounded by doctrines and principles, but open-ended all the same.

      With what shall I come before the Lord,
      and bow myself before God on high?
      Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
      with calves a year old?
      Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
      with ten thousands of rivers of oil?
      Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
      the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
      He has told you, O man, what is good;
      and what does the Lord require of you
      but to do justice, and to love kindness,
      and to walk humbly with your God?
      (Micah 6.6-8)

    • We act like slavery doesn’t exist anymore because it’s not ‘legal’ and in the open. I would be one to argue that there are many in this country who are de-facto economic slaves — especially the illegal immigrants who come here and do so much labor for a pittance and we – both liberal and conservative – turn a blind eye because our economy is on their backs. And all of that stuff manufactured overseas? Probably even worse.

      I guess my point is this: we can crusade all we want to outlaw evil things, yet they always seem to persist somehow. Putting the stamp of law and social taboo on something doesn’t make it go away necessarily. If we do not go on to try and engage with the humanity involved with and victimized by evil and expect legislation to fix everything, we ultimately fail.

      • I understand and agree to a large extent. I came to the US from Cuba about the same time and under the same program, “Operation Pedro Pan,” as Father Ernesto (1961). The saying “not a red cent” was not just an idiom to us but an economic reality. But through the kindness of the Catholic Church, other churches, neighbors, and the Cuban community in exile, we never went hungry, were never homeless, and were never without decent clothing. For the grace which was extended to us I am most grateful and now have a heart-felt obligation to give back.

        My father, a man who had a sixth-grade education and spoke no English, was often exploited by greedy employers. His first jobs were not exactly “slavery,” but close enough as he was often taken advantage of by employers who, aware of his desperate situation, paid him little and demanded long working hours from him, often under difficult and unsafe conditions. But he was thankful for whatever job he could get, and so he persevered and in time was able to garner decent wages and better job conditions. As for me, I was able to be educated in parochial schools through high school and then in public universities through graduate school. By far most of the 14,048 “Pedro Pan” kids have similar stories, albeit with greater hardships than we experienced. And as I understand it, most of us “Pedro Pan” kids are grateful for the opportunities we were afforded by the church, society, and the U.S. government.

        So here’s my point… Compared to what we experienced in Cuba, both under the previous Batista regime and then even worse under the Castro regime, this country, in spite of it’s many contradictions, has a much greater sense of social justice than where I came from. And no, I am not so pollyannaish so as to think that this is a perfect country where no social injustices abound; quite the contrary. But here I am free to practice my faith as i wish and to take a public stand for the rights of the unborn (and numerous other causes of importance to me), all without fear of recrimination. Try doing that in Havana and see where it lands you. Therefore, from my perspective this place is as good as it gets–this side of eternity.

      • We’re not just talking about figurative slavery. Anti-slavery organizations today focus on sexual slavery (forced prostitution), bonded labor (debt slavery), and related issues like human trafficking. Prison labor might also be named. We’re talking about tens of millions of people.

      • Umi,
        I find your argument very abstract and academic.

        The work that Wilberforce and other Christian activists undertook was extremely and directly meaningful to all those African tribal people who, as a result, were not kidnapped from their homes, taken to foreign lands, sold as property to the highest bidder, and condemned to a life of forced labor. They benefited directly and concretely from the anti-slave trade legislation in England. Are you saying this was not a good thing?

        • I guess I don’t see the modern culture war equivalent with the abolitionist movement.

          My point was, even something like slavery which had such a famous and acrimonious end in this country doesn’t go away if those who claim to be moral and godly don’t follow up. It’s not like blacks suddenly were treated well because they were no longer slaves, and I would imagine at the time there were plenty of Northern abolitionist who clapped their hands together once the war was over and said, “Welp, our job’s done!” This is oftentimes the attitude with abortion, where we want to legislate it away without any consideration to what would happen to all those unwanted children, which is something we don’t do well now either.

          Thanks also for accusing me of essentially being pro-slavery. Always classy.

          • As I said above, I was not talking about abortion, or the current “culture war.” I’m talking about the fact that it’s not wrong for Christians to advocate for legislation that supports whatever values they think are good, though they (we, you and me included) may of course be wrong in ascribing goodness to the values we hold.

            That the anti-slave trade work of Wilberforce and others did not achieve every desirable goal in regard to race relations is no argument against its essential goodness. If some Christians haven’t followed up the original good work, some have tried very hard to do so, including Martin Luther King and all those Christians, and non-Christians, who marched with him for Civil Rights in the US. Thank God they were able to advocate successfully for legislation that helped African Americans, and others.

            Where exactly did I imply that you were pro-slavery? I don’t believe I did. I think the deficiency of your argument is in its abstracted distance from the the historical reality of the facts on the ground, and in its equivocating tendency to find moral equivalence where there is none. Perhaps I should have been clearer about that.

          • Umi,
            My apologies for getting over-heated in this disagreement. I have one point and one point only: it is one thing to disagree with the values that are being advocated for by the current Christian culture warriors on the right, and their tactics; it’s another thing to say that it’s somehow wrong or counter-productive for all Christians to advocate for legislation that represents values they consider desirable and good. Period.

    • Perhaps the difference is in fighting the war on abortion as a spiritual cause for the advancement of the kingdom of Christ and fighting it as a secular human rights and justice issue. You certainly don’t have to be Christian to be pro-life, and certainly not all Christians are.

    • When it came to slavery there were Christians on both sides of that culture war, both arguing from scripture.

      • The issue isn’t whether there were Christians on both sides; heck, there are Christians on both sides of the abortion issue today, some of them very vocal in their support for abortion rights. The issue is whether Christians are somehow being disloyal to the gospel when they advocate politically for legislation that represents either their own interests or the welfare of the nation, or world, as they understand it, whatever side of the abortion issue or any other issue they are on. Because your post does imply that political activism and a true practice of Christianity are antithetical.

        I submit that, though Christians may be wrong about the goodness of the values they advocate for politically, they are doing nothing disloyal to Christ by engaging in political advocacy. Indeed, being good citizens in nations like the US or Canada requires participation in the democratic institutions that comprise their governments, and Christians are called on by the NT to be good citizens.

        Personally, I believe that someone like Martin Luther King was being obedient to the call of Christ when he did his best to morally and politically advocate for the end of Jim Crow and the advent of civil rights.

        Do you disagree?

        • I agree with you. I also believe that some here would have a very different perspective if they had to endure government-sanctioned/enforced discrimination. I often wish the unborn could speak, write blogs, be interviewed on talk shows, march in demonstrations for equal protection under the law, … But since they can’t, the church must take up their cause.

  3. “What people need is the good news of Jesus Christ that will transform their lives, not legislation that will force them to act in ways acceptable to Christians.” Brilliant, Michael. Thanks for this thought-provoking meditation.

  4. Wow, Wexel. That’s an Olympic-worthy leap to conclusions. Someone lays down arms and you say they’ve taken up bigger arms in a bigger war? He goes from legislating moral behavior and using the force of law to compel others to adopt his moral standards to the alternative of sharing a message that people are free to accept or reject and you say it’s bigger war?

    Wow. Just wow.

  5. Thanks Michael for tell us about your experience.

    Stanley Hauerwas changed my thinking about the abortion culture war. When we live into the vision of Family (Hauerwas uses the terms “fictive family” to describe the church) as envisioned by Jesus then we become a welcoming family that earnestly takes in and nurtures those who are the out-cast and those who have terrible situations to deal with.

    The culture wars is a lot of wasted energy attempting to force people to stop doing things that make us uncomfortable. Symptoms are much easier to ameliorate than discovering and addressing the cause of the symptoms.

    • David Cornwell says:

      Tom, thank you. Stanley Hauerwas has helped me clarify and modify my thinking on a number of issues. He has a clear headed understanding of the Church, moral theology, and violence.

      Abortion, at heart, is an act of violence. But it is not quite as simple as saying the words. So many Christians claim to hate this form of violence, then heartily endorse other forms.

      We need to examine our own hearts first. And every single day. Advent is a time of year for that.

      • Patrick Kyle says:

        David, not all acts of violence are equal. Anyone who claims this is wrong… There are people in the world (even in our own towns and cities) that will not stop stealing, assaulting, and killing unless they are forced to. I once had the privilege of meeting several of these people in a ‘social’ situation. They were newly out of jail and told me they knew that they would be going back or be dead soon. They were packing up some guns to continue their string of armed robberies of convenience stores, to pay for their drug habit. They later forced a friend to drive a getaway car as they violently robbed several drug dealers. They did not care about anyone and would hurt friends and relatives of those whom they felt wronged or betrayed them. These people are probably in jail now, but it is more than likely they were shot by the police. I heartily endorse the police using whatever force/violence is necessary to get people like this off the streets. I also heartily endorse the force used against known terrorists, who have the will, the means, and the proven track record of killing innocent civilians. (These brush fire, money making wars of late I do not support.) The Apostle Paul says that this is the function of the State, and they “do not bear the sword in vain.”
        It’s nice to have philosophical discussions about ‘violence’ and debate the merits and demerits of such things, but at the end of the day not all violence is the same and the moral equivalence argument is false.

        • Kyle,
          The deep and upsetting irony is that being Christian seems to have no effect on whether or not a woman gets an abortion, since abortion among self-identified Christians occurs statistically with the same frequency that it does in the rest of the population.

          So, while abortion is descried from the moral platforms of many evangelical ministries, the women in the pews (or the audience) are just as likely to obtain an abortion as their secular or non-evangelical counterparts.

          What can this be called except hypocrisy?

  6. Of course abortion and gay marriage are only symptoms of the problem. They’re also the only two hills left here on the battlefield. Denmark has now determined that churches can be forced to perform gay weddings. We need to fight the culture war with a lot more intelligence — I doubt America’s Christian leaders have it — or we’ll all be hiding in basements and requiring passwords to get into our secret worship services. Oh sure, there will be legal churches and something called Christianity, and it will be led by people like Katharine Jefferts Schori. People like yourself and Pope Francis may walk away from the culture wars, but the culture wars don’t walk away from you. They’ll still round you up and put you in a camp — first chance they get — and it won’t matter whose “back you’ve got.”
    It’s not about forcing our beliefs on others — it’s about survival.

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      “Denmark has now determined that churches can be forced to perform gay weddings.”

      Actually, Denmark has determined that the *established* church must perform gay weddings. This has nothing to do with non-established churches. An established church is by definition a branch of government, so it is unremarkable that the government sets church policy. Nearly a century ago, British Parliament voted on what version of the Book of Common Prayer would be used in the Church of England. I am always bemused by American Christians who are eager for their church to get government funding, or who argue against the Establishment Clause of the Constitution, or It is the best thing that ever happened to American Christianity.

      • Then you won’t be amused by me one bit.

      • Denmark is an interesting example as 79.1 percent of the population are members of the Lutheran church (though only 5% attend.)

        • You mean 79.1% are Christians baptized as infants in the Lutheran church. Purely an accident of history, wherein a nation with a very secularized, non-Christian population continues to have an “established” church with lots of baptized members who don’t give a thought to Jesus Christ or attend a church service, except maybe at Christmas and Easter to see the liturgical show. So much for the effectiveness of paedobaptism without personal commitment of the baptized.

    • If your religion’s survival is based on opposition to abortion and gay marriage, why should your religion survive? If that’s all it is, then all it is is a political position and those come and go constantly.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      People like yourself and Pope Francis may walk away from the culture wars, but the culture wars don’t walk away from you. They’ll still round you up and put you in a camp — first chance they get — and it won’t matter whose “back you’ve got.”
      It’s not about forcing our beliefs on others — it’s about survival.

      i.e. IT’S THEM OR US, and if we’re not the ones running the camps and the ovens, we’ll be the ones going up the chimneys.

      “There is no right, there is no wrong, there is only POWER.” — Lord Voldemort

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Because when you reduce something to Power Struggle, there are only two possible end state outcomes:

        1) My boot stamping on your face.
        2) Your boot stamping on my face.

        In the Zero-Sum Game of Power, you either force your beliefs on others or they force their beliefs on you. You either Hold the Whip or you Feel the Whip. Nothing in-between. Nothing else.

        And look at those who HAVE defined reality as Power Struggle: Hitler. Stalin. Saddam. The Kims of North Korea. Gadhafi. Assad. Every King and Emperor and banana-republic strongman. Look at the type of man who comes out on top holding the Whip. You really want to be like that?

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      I think your statement demonstrates why you’re destined to lose the culture wars. You’re asking us to fight the tide, but the church is not supposed to be an army of soldiers (because who can fight the sea?). We’re called to be lifeguards. Somewhere along the way, we forgot that.

    • You’ve really combined a number of scary qualities in that one paragraph. You’ve got inaccurate, forward-based rumor-mongering (see actual truth on Danish church noted below); insults towards other Christians (Schorri and the Pope, although I’m sure you won’t grant them the legitimacy of the term); and over-the-top, “Red Dawn” level paranoia. Honestly, if that’s what your particular brand of Christianity breeds in you, you’re better off finding some other brand.

      • I do wish my Presiding Bishop Schori would be less reluctant to use the “J” word even in her Christmas and Easter sermons.

    • Then hurrah for Denmark, for determining that state money (and we are talking about state-supported churches, right?) cannot be used to discriminate against gays. And if you disapprove of Schori or gay rights, well boo hoo., Just go to some other, more retrograde church that will celebrate whatever bigotry you desire.

  7. Excellent piece, Michael.

    Not unsurprisingly, one of the effects of declaring war on other people and their points-of-view is that they become defensive, stop listening to you and (often) launch aggressive counter-offenses. You might crush your opponents or obliterate them, but wars rarely convince your enemies that they were wrong and you were right.

    And the greatest irony for ‘Christian’ culture warriors is that they have launched new offensives in a war in which their King and Captain declared Himself victorious about 2,000 years ago.

  8. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    Does the timing of this post have anything to do with this year’s War on Xmas handing off to Duck Dynasty’s “RALLY ROUND THE BEARD, BOYS!” in the Neverending Christianese Culture Wars?

    • Those ARE impressive beards, that would put many Athonites to shame. Now that their leader has been fired from the show, do any of the other Ducks have different views about the gay issue? I don’t suppose one of the brothers is Buddhist or something…?

      • Patrick Kyle says:

        So Wexel, how is it bigotry if we consider abortion to be murder and homosexual behavior to be wrong? What, we are no longer able to disagree with something or think certain things are wrong, without being bigots and using hate speech? How is what you say about Christians NOT the same thing you accuse us of?

        • I suppose you’re right. Further discussion is pointless. There is no right or wrong, only power. Hopefully your side will die a war of attrition, but you can always hope to rally and establish your Kingdom of Gilead.

          In ancient Rome, Christians were considered atheists (vis-a-vis the prevailing deities) and corrupters of the young. Didn’t they have a right to their opinion?

          • Patrick Kyle says:

            Wexel, bigotry implies a certain hatred or animosity towards a particular group. The leap between thinking some behavior is wrong or sinful and equating that to hatred on the part of those who hold this thinking towards the group that practices said behavior, is one that our culture is way to quick to make.. It is guilt by association: I don’t think X is right, therefore I must hate all who practice or believe X. This is a false assumption, but is a useful rhetorical device on the part of those who hold to X to grab the moral high ground, and paint those who think X is wrong as hateful dumb asses.

            I often wonder if we as a culture are prone to this because we make our identities entirely about X (whatever it may be, feel free to fill in the blank) and feel any questioning of X is a personal attack. We become tone deaf, so an attack on this idea is now a personal affront. Admittedly there are those who think that X is wrong and really do hate any who practice or believe X. One of the objects of open dialogue is to separate the two out.

    • I had been thinking about this topic for a few days, though Chaplain Mike’s post on Polygamy, and my Facebook friend feed filling up on Duck Dynasty perspectives certainly played a bit of a role in what I wrote. It seems though that hardly a week goes by without some salvo in the culture wars.

      Incidentally, the Supreme Court of Canada today struck down most of the laws concerning prostitution. The government has one year to come up with a response before the ruling takes effect.

  9. Can’t it be both Mike? Yes the root is a world without Christ. Yes we are called to share the Love of Jesus with the world. Aren’t we also called to pursue justice in this world? Don’t we have a duty to care for and protect the innocent?

    ” For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      >Can’t it be both Mike? Yes the root is a world without Christ.
      > Yes we are called to share the Love of Jesus with the world. Aren’t we
      > also called to pursue justice in this world? Don’t we have a duty to care
      > for and protect the innocent?

      Of course it is – but the culture wars are not both. The culture wars are a lot of noise about a very few cherry picked issues.

      Where is the outcry for health care for the young and/or single mother? For her child? Where is the demand for equitable transportation funding so she can get to work, home, and school? Where is the demand for development strategies that would create financially sustainable quality schools? Oh, yea, those things aren’t about adorable babies, so nobody cares. Is it that or that those issues aren’t simple, or that their answers much demand some action or sacrifice [whereas rah-rah-babies! is nicely insular].

      • Adam we should be concerned about and helping to remedy all of the injustices you mention. The question in each case is what means is best to deal with each individual issue. Much like abolishing slavery, I believe legislative action would make a big difference in protecting the unborn. This is no way takes away from the ultimate need of sharing and showing the Love of Jesus to those in the difficult position of making such a choice.

        • I don’t agree with your legislation thoughts Josh. I think legislation action would do very little to protect the unborn. The abortions that legislation tends to ban are those abortions that make up a very small percentage of abortions (late turn, partial birth, etc.)

          Conversely I have done a couple of statistical studies on the correlation between abortion and poverty. There is a very strong correlation. For example one analysis I did showed that if the unemployment rate was zeio, the number of abortions would be cut in half.

          • I happen to be someone who, while uncertain about the full humanity of the fetus at a very early stage, does think that a fetus in the sixth month is a full human being deserving of legislative protection. I don’t think it’s a small thing when a late-term fetus is protected by legislation from having his or her life terminated.

            I also support the idea that a generous safety net would reduce the total number of abortions at every stage more effectively than laws prohibiting first or mid-second trimester abortion ever could. As a result, it grieves me to see support for those in need diminishing in the recent economic climate.

          • I agree with both your statements Robert. I guess my question then is: “What percentage of abortions happen after six months?”

  10. I applaud your epiphany, Mike.

    I’ll re-quote part of your quote of Mother Teresa . ” If you do not want the child, I want it.”

    I think it may be just that simple. Pay for the care and delivery of a child and raise it, put a slave on the underground railroad, hide a Jewish family in the wall. Each of us can stand in the gap, laws will come and go, empires will crumble. That takes time and incremental action of ordinary people doing courageous and costly things for others. A big rally rarely does.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > That takes time and incremental action of ordinary people doing courageous and
      > costly things for others. A big rally rarely does.

      A rally does not even match the contribution of many small things.
      – Clean up the litter in a park
      – Tutor at a local school
      – Shovel the snow at the bus stop [especially important for the elderly and disabled]
      – Buy a guy a 30-day bus pass
      – Check in on your elderly neighbor [given the demographics – if you live in the USA – you certainly have one]
      – Help a local NPO fund-raise
      – …

      Most of us do not have life-and-limb fights. But we can still stand in the gap, or straddle the myriad of tiny gaps which form the web that keeps the down-and-out down.

  11. Robert F – “What if the anti-slave trade English Evangelicals of the early 19th century in Great Britain had given up the very political, and successful, fight to ban the slave trade, invoking instead the idea that the slave trade was not the problem, but merely a manifestation of a culture without Christ?”

    JoelG – “Aren’t we also called to pursue justice in this world? Don’t we have a duty to care for and protect the innocent?”

    To answer Joel – yes, we are called to pursue justice in this world. But how do we best achieve that, as individuals and as the Church? Here I think, Frances has something to teach us – that we best argue for our beliefs by *practicing them ourselves* (at whatever cost to ourselves) before we attempt to legislate them onto the rest of society.

    To answer Robert – it must be remembered that chattel slavery in the West arose over centuries, and it took centuries of labor – arguments, debates, and sadly bloodshed – to repress it. And the Wilberforce faction took decades – *decades* – to achieve its goals. American Evangelicals seem to want to reverse decades and centuries of cultural trends by a few years’ political lobbying. Apart from a national revival – in the strictest, least “charismatic” understanding of that term – it’s simply not going to happen. And by attempting to force Christian morality (as read through American Middle Class cultural lenses) on the rest of the culture, which doesn’t have the relationship or desire for God that must undergird such obedience, we distort the meaning of the Gospel and make the work of those that will come after us that much harder.

    • Thanks Eeyore. Frances has a good point. At the same time, CalvinCuban makes a solid argument above for legislative action in his reply to Robert F.

    • Eeyore,
      Would you say that Martin Luther King should have gotten all the Christian churches to practice civil rights among themselves before attempting “to legislate them onto the rest of society”?

      And if you wouldn’t say it, then how do we make sense of your above comment?

  12. “To put it in medical terms, I had been spending my time fighting the symptoms of the disease without fighting the underlying cause of the illness.”

    This is how we function in Western culture, in medicine, in education, in everything. Because fighting a symptom is easier than the deep introspection and admission that there are things we don’t have great answers for when we try to root out the cause. Treating a symptom involves taking a pill and going on with our life without any changes; treating a cause involves uncomfortable, life-changing revolutions that no one really wants.

    I could engage in the Culture War, feel like I’m doing my part in fighting off them gays and thems liberals, then go about my day in such a way that I am indistinguishable from any other American. Or I could work every day to become more like the God I say that I love, and let the results of that be the change that I effect in the world. But that second option is really hard.

  13. Hard to believe such blindness among people who claim to have discernment. If you don’t care about salvaging what can be saved, don’t come crying to me when they pack your family off to a concentration … er … a diversity training center.

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      Okay, Clark, I’m thinking it might be a good idea to take a chill pill and pack away the tin foil hat. People disagree with you in an open forum, and in a democratic nation. If you hate that, this is clearly not the forum for you to troll through.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      As I said above, either Hold the Whip or Feel the Whip.
      Either run the camps and the ovens or get sent up the chimneys.

      Because the best way to keep THEM from doing it to YOU is to do it to them first.

      THAT is what happens when you define anything in terms of Power Struggle.
      The Zero-Sum Game to the Death.

      • Patrick Kyle says:

        HUG, really? c’mon. Restricting abortion and not allowing gay marriage is hardly ‘firing up the ovens’ for our perceived opponents. Clark may be ardent in his views and hold some extreme positions, but there is some wisdom in trying to ‘salvage what can be saved.’

        • Zero-sum pretty well describes the wars of abortion and gay marriage. Neither side will budge, and it’s often as if they’re not even speaking the same language. It’s an all-or-nothing war to a lot of people, no compromise allowed.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Just like a Semitic Tribal Blood Feud, and those only end when ALL on one side or the other (or both) are dead. Down to the last infant.

          • Patrick Kyle says:

            Ted, So we walk away and leave the other side to carry the day free to ram through whatever they wish? Doesn’t sound like much of a plan to me, sounds like surrender to evil men with wicked intent You see no value in at least holding the line?

            I don’t know, maybe you’re right and it’s nothing more than a bar fight on the Titanic.

            In all honesty I view the American Experiment, and the Church as we know it in America as being in their twilight years. The culture, the Church, and the government are in a free fall. While I and my many of my friends have not really changed our views in years, the culture has moved on rendering people like me bigots, homophobes, and theological anachronisms. I have no desire to ‘keep up with the times’ in this regard, and in truth am convinced that we are destroying our country, churches, and culture with a bunch of shit that passes for ‘progressive’ theology and politics.

            I know many who feel the overwhelming urge to withdraw to their own communities and congregations to live out their vocations in peace. I feel this too and it is one of the reasons I have quit blogging over at NRP. ‘ Of the writing of blogs, there is no end’ to paraphrase Ecclesiastes. My sporadic participation in these comment threads is the last fading vestige of my active participation online.

            Ultimately God is in control and I pray daily for the confidence and faith to carry me through what is surely coming.

          • Patrick, after 40 years of Roe v. Wade I’ve come to the conclusion that a legislative solution isn’t possible. Even a conservative court would uphold a longstanding decision like this one. And, if Roe were overturned, it would simply throw the battle back to the states. This is a states-rights issue as much as a moral one.

            In my opinion the Supreme Court should never have touched it in the first place. Also in my opinion, slightly off-topic, is that the Republicans really DON’T want to overturn Roe because they would lose that important wedge issue against the Democrats. So they will continue to make noise and do nothing of substance (except de-fund contraception, having the effect of more pregnancies and therefore more abortions). Cynical of them, cynical of me to think such thoughts.

            I think the abortion matter has to be in the hearts and minds, not in the laws. The genie is out of the bottle. Your analogy of a bar fight on the Titanic may be a good one.

            As for gay rights, I think that under the Constitution all have equal rights inherently, and that’s the way states are coming to interpret that. About 1/3 of the states now allow same-sex marriage, including my own state of Maine. Whether I approve or not is irrelevant. As far as the state is concerned, marriage is a legal—not a holy—arrangement, and as long as the state issues licenses for marriage there can be no discrimination. Oddly enough, that can be seen as a Christian viewpoint, that of playing by the rules of Caesar.

            Perhaps it’s time the states got out of the marriage business anyway. Couples already live together, own homes together, have children together (with full parental rights of both, full child support requirements of unmarried dads, full rights to adopt) whether married or not. Banks and insurance companies no longer care whether a couple is married. Landlords either don’t care or are not allowed to discriminate. According to the insurance agent who steered me through the Affordable Care Act a few days ago, the IRS doesn’t even care.

            As far as the church is concerned however, marriage is a holy institution and churches can interpret and regulate marriage as they feel called. And this is where we should draw the line. I am in a conservative American Baptist church and I agree with my pastor that our church should not perform marriages to same-sex couples. That’s the way we interpret God’s plan for marriage, and that too is a Christian viewpoint. But until we turn the USA into a church we have to abide by the First Amendment, to Caesar and to all his inconvenient laws.

    • Perfect love casts out fear. Have fun storming the castle.

    • Last I heard, suffering and persecution was not the enemy of Christianity. It’s not that we should desire these things, but neither is our faith geared around avoiding them at all costs. If that’s gonna happen, you will not be able to stop it. And it probably won’t, but even if it did, it’s just par for the course. We should not be so surprised when the blackness of the human heart is revealed for what it is in the mass atrocities we commit against one another. The Christian hope is not about circumventing these, as good as that would be.

    • Clark,
      You’re sounding way too Ruby Ridge….

  14. Mike, I’m late to the party, but I just want to say I’m glad you found your place in Christianity. I really don’t think everyone’s place is the same, and I don’t think you were saying everyone ought to make the same decision you did. We all have our own talents, and lacks thereof.

    Some people doubtless feel that God has a place for them in fighting the Culture Wars. IMO, that’s OK, as long as they’re not hateful about it; I don’t see God cheering on hatred in any case. But if a person truly feels that homosexual behavior is sinful, as Paul says, then who am I to tell him he’s wrong? And if a person truly feels that homosexual people should be fully accepted (the theology being: love your neighbor as yourself), then that seems to be not something I should judge.

    Abortion is a more grievous issue, because a human life is either nurtured or ended. I wish I had the answer there. I know abortions have always happened, and I remember back when they were all illegal. The police chief’s wife ran the local illegal abortion clinic in my little town when I was a kid. From what I heard, more than one girl bled to death there. What is the Christian answer? Love your neighbor as yourself, I guess. If the pregnant girls had been treated as “neighbors,” instead of faced with shame and revulsion from our “respectable” town, the abortion clinic might have gone out of business. But maybe not — unwed mothers are no longer shamed or reviled, but abortions keep happening — one out of every four pregnancies in the US is terminated. As I say, show me the Christian answer here — not one of these “we must change society” answers but something that applies to people right here, right now, where we live.

  15. H. Lee. Thanks for joining the party. I think you have captured my unexpressed intentions quite nicely.