Refugees of the Culture War

If you have been part of an Evangelical circle for a while, chances are you have heard of the culture war. There is a pattern in American Christianity wherein often well-meaning (and sometimes not so well-meaning) Christians become concerned about some new fad, product, or movement in wider American culture and what it could do to the country. This concern often turns into outrage, and these Christians are turned to militance, Whipping fellow Christians into a frenzy over the perceived moral decay. Supposed enemies of Christians in the culture wars have included liberals, Pokémon, the Walt Disney company, the game Dungeons and Dragons, Scientists, and probably just about anything else that you can think of.

To be clear, there are plenty of things in our wider modern culture that Christians ought to separate themselves from in order to remain faithful to the Gospel; however, the culture wars have often led to two very negative consequences. Firstly, they often demonize something that was not actually counter-Gospel, (often they begin solely based on hearsay), and secondly, they turn our hearts against those around us in need of the love of Jesus and taint our depiction of Christ to the world. Their aim becomes less about bringing in the lost, and more about staying making sure Christians have the biggest say (things Jesus seemed to give little concern to).

In youth ministry, I often work with culture war refugees. Kids are living in a world that is difficult to navigate, and they are often seeking something better, but having watched frenzied Christians around them who seem angrier and more scared than loving, they keep their questions to themselves, and look for answers elsewhere. The reality is that taking up arms in the culture war also means giving up our chance to share the Gospel with confused people, and it simply isn't a Biblical approach to interacting with our society.

Instead, let me point you to Acts 17. The Apostle Paul has arrived in Greece, and seeing the multitude of Idols, his spirit is stirred inside of him. It seems like the perfect backdrop for a culture-war battle to be fought, but his response is surprising. Entering the Aeropagus, a place for public forum and discourse, Paul comments on how religious the people of Athens are. He remarks about an altar he had seen that was dedicated to an unknown God and proceeds to invite them to approach this God and begins recounting the acts of Yahweh and the resurrection of Jesus.

Rather than drawing a battle line, Paul discovers what these people are longing for: a connection to the transcendent. He then proceeds to note an area where they seem to still be seeking answers, and from there introduces the Gospel as a solution to their seeking. Rather than letting fear consume his engagement with his contemporaries, Paul channels the spirit of Jesus and acts in love.

We would do well to follow in Paul's example. Much of modern Evangelicalism is marked by outrage and bluster. We look at those who are not Christians, and we make them out to be our enemies, imagining that they are out to get us. The reality is, as Paul noted, that many are confused and seeking answers. If we are willing to listen and know our non-Christian neighbors, we will often find that they are longing for things that the Gospel of Jesus can provide, and with the right mindset, the war can be replaced with life-giving conversations. that glorify God.

I mentioned earlier that teenagers often suffer most from this culture war mentality. If you would like to learn more about their world, and learn how to have meaningful, life-giving conversations with them about the questions that they are asking, we have a tool for you. Our Church has subscribed to a Group called AXIS that creates resources dedicated to helping parents and caregivers mediate Jesus to their teens and children. If you would like to begin this process of abandoning the culture war for something more meaningful, you can start here! There are tons of guides for parents to various things in youth culture, discussion ideas on how to bring Jesus into the conversation, and a variety of other useful resources.

Dan Vandzura