Tower Chimes – February 2024
According to some, we in the United States are at war with ourselves. It’s not a war fought with bullets and bombs but, rather, with words, policies, laws, boycotts, and protests. It’s being fought using social media, courtrooms, legislation, preaching, writing, and media commentating. It’s happening on legislative floors and at school board meetings. Heck, the fight has even been taken to our school and community libraries. What am I talking about? I’m talking about a culture war, and the culture at the center of it all is our American culture.
I closed my January Tower-Chimes article by acknowledging that many Christians believe that changes to our American culture [a type of popular culture, a culture of the populous] pose an existential threat to the church and the Christian faith. To that I simply say this: any form of Christianity that can be demolished by a nation-based sociocultural personae is not the Christianity born of the historical Jesus Christ. Jesus himself said so in Matthew 16:18 – “On this rock I am going to found my Church, and the powers of death will never prevail against it.” To be very clear, as influential as some societal cultures have been over the last 2000+ years, no social-societal culture has ever brought the church to her knees. The fact is the church will prevail because A) Jesus Christ the man prevailed over death and is alive forevermore; and B) the church is the body of the risen and eternal Christ. Period.
So, why does the culture war we’re experiencing these days seem so alarming to many Christians? I have a thought about that, which I’ll share in a moment. But first, let’s acknowledge the fact that battles within the popular culture have been going on forever. Worldatlas.com broadly defines culture as “the beliefs and behaviors of a particular group of people.” Culture encompasses the totality of a people’s way of life from the food they eat to the clothes they wear to the the language they speak and the values they support and try to live by. That being so, then a culture war boils down to a conflict of values and practices within a given group, and as we all know, every new generation tends to challenge certain values and practices of the established cultural ethos.
Culture gives people a sense of identity; it helps us know who we are. This is true for any ‘people,’ whether they’re nation-based, faith-based, age-based, etc. When the norms of a particular culture undergo change, it can almost feel like one’s identity is being threatened. As it regards the supposed war on the American culture, people I’ve talked with who feel the greatest concern have said to me, “Everything I stand for is under attack.” Everything I stand for insinuates their values, beliefs, and acceptable practices and behaviors.
As to why some Christians are feeling particularly threatened by changes within American (popular) culture, one can only guess. My take is that it’s driven by two overlapping factors. First, equating popular American culture with Christian culture (or vise versa). If a person sincerely believes that the values and practices of the American culture should reflect the values of practices of traditional Christianity, then it’s understandable why they might feel threatened by changes to traditional American culture. Which leads directly to the second possible factor, which is the fear that the changes in popular culture will spill over into Christian culture. For example, the thinking is: if within American culture there’s an affirmation of the beliefs and practices of the LGBTQ+ community, then it’ll only be a matter of time before the church affirms those same beliefs and practices.
What complicates this whole matter is that within modern Christendom, we don’t necessarily share the same values and beliefs when it comes to some of these ‘cultural’ issues. Within the church itself, we’re not in lockstep agreement about what’s considered right and wrong. If that’s the case, then how can the American people at large, whose high level of diversity is one of our national hallmarks, be expected to adopt and agree to the values and practices of a certain segment of the church?
Oh, how I wish today’s American society wasn’t so steeped in fear of the other-who’s-different. And that we weren’t so prone to feeling threatened and constantly under attack and convinced that somebody’s trying to take or destroy “everything I stand for.” Friend, the bottom line is that Jesus Christ alone is the one we stand for (or on). If you want to affect the values of the popular culture, then proactively focus your life energies on living a life that reflects Jesus Christ and let that do the talking. And whatever you do, don’t buy into the notion that popular culture is mightier than the church of Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God.