How to wage culture war and win

Peter Leithart has a great little piece over at First Things about the rapid shift in public opinion on gay marriage. He concludes with a sage word about how Christians should “wage war” in the midst of a majority culture that stands decidedly against what God has revealed about human sexuality. Leithart writes:

I will be accused of demonizing opponents, but my argument leads to the opposite conclusion. If “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers and rulers in heavenly places,” then flesh-and-blood persons are not our principal adversaries. They are victims—willing victims, perhaps—of demonic deceit. But we should focus on fighting the real enemies, while offering the good news of liberation and clear sight to political enemies. I am demonizing opponents only to the extent that I’m suggesting demons are our opponents.

If I’m right, then Christian tactics and strategies should be adjusted accordingly. You can’t combat demons with what Paul calls weapons “of the flesh.” In a spiritual war, our main weapons are the usual Christian armaments—righteousness, truth, mercy, love, the Gospel of peace, faith, and the sword of the Spirit that is the Word of God. Some demons, Jesus said, come out only by “prayer and fasting.” For the present, our mission is that of Isaiah: to show reality to the blind, to speak truth into deaf ears.

Amen. Read the rest here.

19 Responses to How to wage culture war and win

  1. Curt Day October 25, 2014 at 1:41 pm #

    Waging a culture war carries with it the plan to conquer and control. And if we would only listen we would realize that the “culture war” we are now engaged in is a rebellion to past control. And thus we get so tied up with visions of conquest and recapturing lost ground that we are not only oblivious to our past sins of domination, we, regardless of what Leithard says, forget preaching the Gospel.

    If we wanted to be fair, we would allow those with whom we disagree with the most to have an equal place in our society. That is if we wanted to be fair.

  2. Roy Fuller October 25, 2014 at 4:22 pm #

    So, whereas the traditionalist argument has been been, “love the sinner, hate the sin” – with the premise that the two are easily separated and that sinners should not feel hated as their sin is denounced, now we have something new. How about a new catch phrase, “love the sinner, hate the demon that is within the sinner and wage war against the majority culture”? I am not sure this is a good plan, but if Leithart is calling for conservative cultural warriors to quit pressing their warfare though political means, he may be onto something. Or, in light of the seemingly losing arguments made on some issues by some evangelicals, Leithart may be shifted the battlefield to a more friendly, and less easily measured, spiritual arena.

  3. Christiane Smith October 25, 2014 at 4:36 pm #

    from the great hosts of Christian witnesses, we come to learn that their weapons against evil WERE forged within the fire of the Holy Spirit: “righteousness, truth, mercy, love, the Gospel of peace, faith, and the sword of the Spirit that is the Word of God”

    We who have put our trust in the earthly ways have failed Our Lord.
    His ways are so far above our ways.
    May we ask His strength to abandon our human sin of pride and return to real humility before the Lord.

  4. James Stanton October 25, 2014 at 5:42 pm #

    Peter doesn’t really define the culture war very well here. Some believe in a culture war as a means to defend against harmful trends that defy social norms or to promote those same trends. Others use the culture war to deliver political victory to politicians and political parties. This has been common in the USA. We saw it in 2004 with marriage amendments being placed on the ballot in a number of states as a way to encourage social conservatives to come out and vote for Republicans. What Peter thinks we should do now is what social conservatives should have been doing all along and not because the old ways are no longer delivering victories.

  5. Alex Humphrey October 25, 2014 at 6:32 pm #

    As you said, a great little piece!

  6. Roy Fuller October 25, 2014 at 8:08 pm #

    So, whereas the traditionalist argument has been been, “love the sinner, hate the sin” – with the premise that the two are easily separated and that sinners should not feel hated as their sin is denounced, now we have something new. How about a new catch phrase, “love the sinner, hate the demon that is within the sinner and wage war against the majority culture”? I am not sure this is a good plan, but if Leithart is calling for conservative cultural warriors to quit pressing their warfare though political means, he may be onto something. Or, in light of the seemingly losing arguments made on some issues by some evangelicals, Leithart may be shifted the battlefield to a more friendly, and less easily measured, spiritual arena.

  7. Christiane Smith October 25, 2014 at 10:15 pm #

    I think we choose to sin freely, if we sin.

    But ‘evil’ IS real in the world, and there are documented cases of demonic possession that have been evaluated formally and treated by the Church.
    I do so strongly advise people not to confront real satanic evil directly without help from clergy present at the time. This is important.

  8. Chris Ryan October 26, 2014 at 12:04 am #

    Maybe if we’d stop fighting and start fasting, or stop politicizing and start praying, or start witnessing and stop warring, everything would be ok… As scripture says, “But the greatest of these is Love” no warfare necessary. Does anyone believe that the culture war has saved even 1 soul? And in light of Matt 7:19, it it hasn’t saved a soul, why are we fighting it?

    • Barbara Jackson October 26, 2014 at 9:56 pm #

      Hi Chris. Matthew 7:19 is a warning to God’s covenant people. Please consider also Luke 13:6-9. Just because someone doesn’t bear good fruit today doesn’t mean he never will. I don’t see a call to write them off as long as they are living. I do think we fight to a point as we are called and commanded over and over again to stand up for the weak among us, and we have to stand for life, and we have to make use of the means The Lord has graciously given us via our current rights as citizens as long as He graciously allows them to continue. I.e. voting and helping and for those who are so called and gifted, leading, and certainly by example. If we don’t stand up for what is true and right and good, and back it up with action, who will? But the weapons of the flesh..this ugly tendency to mock and name-call and backbite… certainly is counter-productive and I think based on how we are commanded and warned about the use of our tongues! I don’t believe it is pleasing to The Lord. I agree that we are called to go forward in love first for our Lord, and then for those He has made in His image, marred though that may be, and part of biblical love is biblical action.

      It strikes me that the one enemy we have who hates our God certainly hates His image, so of course he hates God’s image in those He made to bear it. So if he can deceive them (us) into contributing to the destruction of that image in ourselves, then the demons may dance with glee. And we do that as we take the life of an innocent through abortion rather than give life and bear one another’s burdens. We do that as we try to re-create ourselves into a gender other than the one He gave us, and we do that as we cast off the roles and blessed ways He has called us to live. Much damage has been done by those who have fought the “culture war” apart from the Gospel AND its fruit, and there is definitely a need for repentance; but we also know that the Gospel and its fruit will be the stench of death to some regardless of what we do (2 Cor 2:15-16), but God calls us to seek first His kingdom and we know in His Word that one day that kingdom WILL encompass the whole earth and all nations will be blessed by Him through the children of promise, by the means He has ordained, spiritually and physically, by the faithful use of our hands, feet, mouths, knees, by living, and by dying.

      Maybe that’s more than you wanted to hear…but I thank you for the opportunity to flesh it out myself in thinking about your comment.

  9. Ryan Davidson October 27, 2014 at 12:14 am #

    Thanks for the link to this piece. Leithart’s analysis may describe the views of a certain class of academic liberals, but these folks have little hold on the broader culture (although they may be in certain academic departments at universities). As Yuval Levin noted in another First Things piece, there is no hegemonic group any more, and there probably won’t be one anytime soon. So, we’re not witnessing the passing of the civil-Christian hegemony and the rise of a new secular humanist hegemony. No. We’re just seeing the former, i.e., the passing of the civil-Christian hegemony in favor of a plurality of non-hegemonic tribes.

    I have observed a strong shift on this issue among the cognitive elite, i.e., upper-middle-class white-collar professionals who work in the fields of law, finance, marketing, PR, etc. Leithart suggests that the cognitive elite have no direct interest in same-sex marriage. After all, we tend to adhere to rather conservative practices. Same-sex marriages are rare among us, even for those who may identify as gay or queer. Yet more than 90% of us favor civil same-sex marriage.

    This has puzzled me for a long time. Why do people who doubt the merits of same-sex marriage overwhelmingly support it? Levin’s article offers some clues. The cognitive elite overwhelmingly reject the notion of a common culture, and tend to have a fairly strong sense of their collective identity. These are the nerdy kids who broke the curve on every exam, participated in nerdy sports like cross-country and swimming, and were generally not too popular in high school. They have a deep-seated distrust of cultural hegemony, including the prevailing gender scripts. So, even though they strongly prefer opposite-sex coupling, they hold views of marriage that are pragmatic and that rely little on prevailing views of gender roles.

    So, I don’t that Leithart is correct. Cognitive elites probably do have something at stake in the rise of civil same-sex marriage. They want the freedom to build their own socially thick private subculture, and therefore prefer a socially thin public (common) culture. And that’s the exact opposite of what social conservatives have generally advocated. Everyone realizes that same-sex marriage is the final nail in the coffin of the old civil-Christian hegemony. And the cognitive elite, despite their socially conservative practices, are more than happy to hammer that nail down.

    • Curt Day October 28, 2014 at 11:50 am #

      Ryan,
      There is a hegemonic group; it is the business class.

      • Ryan Davidson October 29, 2014 at 9:26 pm #

        They may be economically hegemonic, but I don’t think they’re culturally hegemonic.

        That being said, the business elite (i.e., the employers of the cognitive elite) probably do favor a more tribal culture. The emergence of the cognitive elite provides them with a reliable work force that identifies itself more by professional achievement than by things like family, home, etc. And that’s good for business.

        • Curt Day October 30, 2014 at 11:27 am #

          Ryan,
          Let’s put it this way, they fund significant parts of culture such as the arts, entertainment, and sports. They allow diversity, perhaps with the goal of dividing people, but they have a singular purpose. That purpose is to maintain control of their sphere.

          So applying what you wrote, I believe that the business elite favor tribalism rather than a particular tribal culture with some exceptions. They do favor American patriotism, which is a tribal culture, because they associate that patriotism with loyalty to the nation and obedience to and support for the gov’t regarding foreign policies.

          BTW, the passing of a Christian hegemonic culture to a secular one is nothing more than a change in the direction of a pendulum swing. I think as Christians, we should have questioned having such control over culture. For such sets the stage for pushback and the success of that pushback determines the direction of the pendulum swing.

          An alternative approach is to oppose hegemonic control over culture by any group. Such is the only way to guarantee personal freedoms and allows for coexistence. It is only in this way where Christian hegemonic control can be lost without causing any detrimental effects on our ability to share the whole Word of God with anyone in society.

          • dr. james willingham October 30, 2014 at 2:54 pm #

            Baloney! The change from a Christian hegemonic culture to a more a secular one is certainly not the result of a pendulum swing; it is the result of a plans made long ago by a conspiracy, and one can find documentation of this fact by doing research. Shucks! The conspirators like to brag just like other humans involved in endeavors. They also have their likes and dislikes, and one source mentioned the theological views which they the conspirators advocate as well as the one they opposed. Check, I think it is, page 1139 in Carroll Quigley’s Tragedy and Hope which can be downloaded. Some of the sites put it on page 1039. And take a look at Bella Dodd’s School of Darkness along with Cleon Skousen’s The Naked Capitalist. Other wise, one is just spitting in the wind.

            • Curt Day October 31, 2014 at 1:11 pm #

              So you are saying that there is no legitimate reason why there should be push back to Christianity’s hegemony over society?

              And, btw, can you give a sample of your documentation since you have obviously already done the research?

              • dr. james willingham October 31, 2014 at 4:51 pm #

                Never said any such thing, Curt. Was explaining how things got into this mess. Of course, we must push back, using every legitimate means available. However, I do believe a prayer meeting for a third great awakening will do more in the long run, especially in conjunction with all else we need to do.

  10. jimwillingham October 28, 2014 at 2:17 pm #

    Perhaps the best proof we have that a conspiracy runs things is the same sex marriage, other than all the wars we had of the 20th century. Some folks were thinking in terms of a short work for the earth and Christ’s return. Truth be told, and God alone knows, the might have a 1000 generations (I Chron.16:15). Certainly, it is promised that the earth shall be full of His knowledge and glory as the waters cover the sea and that the stone cut out of the mountain without human hands shall become a great mountain and fill the whole earth. And the folks who think they run things will find their triumph at an end as the Gospel is blessed by the Holy Spirit with power and fills the whole earth, winning every soul in it and then spreading to quadrillions of planets, give or take a few septillions or septillions time septillions just to fulfill the prophecy and promise of Rev.7:9 concerning a number of redeemed which no one can number.

  11. James Bradshaw October 29, 2014 at 7:58 pm #

    “Perhaps the best proof we have that a conspiracy runs things is the same sex marriage”

    It’s true. We got together every Sunday evening at the local gay bar and planned the demise of “normal marriage” while singing along to the Lonely Goatherd from “The Sound of Music”.

    Actually, we’re part of a cabal formed centuries ago, and it only took us a few thousand years to get society to the point where gays weren’t being tortured or stoned to death or, at the very least, jailed for gathering in public.

    How did you find us out?

    • Christiane Smith October 29, 2014 at 9:12 pm #

      JAMES, it won’t work. The truth is that even among ‘conservative’ Christians, people have neighbors, friends, co-workers, relatives, and loved-ones who have ‘come-out’.
      So, here we are: a mix of theologies, and moral codes, and political opinions, but still ‘people’ who know other ‘people’ in capacities OTHER than their sexual identities and ‘orientations’, but who are known more specifically by their humanity. A lot of the ‘labeling’ which served as modern-day stoning isn’t ‘sticking’, and a lot of the ‘stories’ out there and jokes told in private circles don’t fit the humanity and personhood of those who are known who have ‘come out’ . . .

      times have changed and people are being seen for something MORE than a label, and that has affected ‘the world’s’ response to them.

      Among conservative Christians there are even those who realize that a person’s sexual identity is NOT ‘a choice’ and that there is no sin in what is not ‘chosen’ and acted upon . . . so for these conservative Christians, there is acceptance of Christians with gender issues as long as those Christians remain celibate.

      A lot of this change is ‘generational’ where the young are in the fore-front of seeing things in a different light than their parents’ generation before them.

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