Matthew Anderson writes about the culture wars and the future of evangelical witness. The whole thing is a good read, but there are some nuggets in here worth highlighting. On marriage amendments, he writes,
The overwhelming passage of traditional marriage amendments are not signs of our society’s health, but its disease–and we are all implicated in it.
Anderson goes on to show that calls to get beyond the culture wars really miss the point. I think Anderson nails it in this paragraph.
The real question that everyone wants to know is what comes after the culture wars. And here, beyond the few platitudes that I’ve now heard enough of, no one seems to have much of an idea. I’m on board with Rachel’s suggestion that we ought to share stories. But my experience makes me think that sharing stories is helpful for establishing friendship but not exactly sufficient for unwinding what shape our society should actually take. I can’t imagine any of my gay and lesbian friends resting content with sharing their story with me without them agitating to get me to vote differently. Most of them are looking for social and legal changes based on the perceived (and sometimes real) injustices they have experienced. And so they should. But that simply means our political and legal differences take shape within the context of a friendship that is almost inevitably strained because of those differences. Stories have changed much for me, but I remain a gay marriage skeptic. And while I work to keep the question open for the sake of inquiry (doing better with this at some times than at others), I have confidence in my position and can’t forsee ever changing it.
The inevitable “strain” on relationships is one I’ve known personally, and it is something I grieve. Nevertheless, evangelicals are going to have to deal with culture war flashpoints like gay marriage. The only way to avoid it would be to retreat from culture altogether. But that really isn’t an option for those who take the Great Commission seriously. We must be in the world, not of the world for the sake of the world (John 17). That will inevitably lead to some conflict, and no amount of polite conversation (which I’m all for) will deliver us from the censure of those who despise God and His ways (Phil. 1:29). Didn’t Jesus himself say that His disciples would be “persecuted for the the sake of righteousness” (Matt. 5:20), and did He not pronounce a blessing on the same?
We shouldn’t agitate for confrontation. Christians should never be pugnacious. Having said that, we must never back down from the norms of scripture–even when those norms cause division (Matt. 10:34).
Denny, I agree with this. Matthew is right on the money. Christians have been sloppy and have conflated patriotism and the gospel too often and have idolized a party or leadership too much.
However, getting beyond the culture wars seems a bit naive in the sense that it seems progressive people want to pick and choose what they label culture wars. So, for instance, they can push gay marriage and we’re not supposed to fight it else we’re not like Jesus. But isn’t their push partisan and an engagement of the culture wars.
And of course there are issues that if you and I push, we’re considered passionate, compassionate, courageous. But if you replaced that advocacy for advocacy for the unborn, for instance then we’re partisan and Republican and a tool of Dick Cheney.
I think the first line of defense the enemy uses to get us to retreat from a worthy battle is the mocking of those close to us.
I think it is a mistake to try to embed God’s rules (as we might understand them) directly into the rules of a civil government, simple because the separation of church and state is the best guarantee we have to avoid tyranny in this area by the state and also the corruption of the church due to its acquiring power or seeking to do so. I would leave to the state only those things that I want enforced via its power and for all other things, let it go. Defense of the realm yes; definition of marriage no, I simply do not think the state has any business even thinking it can define marriage because as we see, once one grants them that, they can redefine it.