1) The Culture War
Here in America the concept of the “Culture War” has been going on for the past few decades. Right vs. Left. Lines have been drawn and both sides have, in the world of politics and culture said, “You must stand either here or there.”
In America you must either be liberal or conservative; Democrat or Republican.
And Christians have absorbed themselves into this, becoming a leading set of soldiers in this fight for, in the words of Pat Buchanan, “America’s Soul”.
In the 1960’s Jerry Falwell helped organize what became the Moral Majority, which became a significant religio-political force in America: The Religious Right. Its agenda was simple, to “take back” America from “godless liberals”. It was easy enough for many Christians who already held to many so-called conservative ideals to join the cause and combine their love of God and their love of country into a single religio-political ideology. The Moral Majority and the Religious Right became that religio-political force which many already conservative-minded Christians could side with.
These Christians honestly feel that they are being targeted as objects of persecution by a conglomerated enemy: The Left. They see “liberals” as a force which has growing power, a power which will ultimately triumph over the good, wholesome, traditional values of America–which “conservatives” (specifically “conservative” Christians) perceive as innately and intrinsically Christian. Thus the destruction of the “Christian Republic” and the cessation of “freedom, liberty and justice for all.”
How are these “liberals” doing this? By taking prayer out of schools, refusing to teach Creationism and/or Intelligent Design as an alternative to Darwinian Evolution, by legalizing abortion and keeping it legal, by supporting the “gay agenda” and legalizing homosexual marriages–“conservatives” even see this this “attack” in things such as substituting “Happy Holidays” in place of “Merry Christmas”.
Now, of course, in this decade, we have seen an increased shift of “conservative voice”, under the Bush administration many “liberals” have become concerned with what they perceive as the dangerous and reactionary tone with which The Right has used in its own rhetoric. If the Right were to succeed, say some in the Left, America would become a theocratic state led by Fundamentalist Christians almost or equally as dangerous as Al-Qaeda. Even left-of-center Christians often feel that the Religious Right pose a danger to everyone, including themselves.
In light of this “culture war”, of liberal vs conservative, there is a quote by the late Pope John Paul II which I feel is poignant: “The Gospel of Jesus Christ is neithe ‘liberal’ nor ‘conservative’, it’s simply true.”
In recent discussions with a good friend of mine he has, though perhaps only in partial jest, called me a “liberal” and a “leftist”. Because of my complete dislike for the Religious Right and particularly for my opposition toward not only the present war, but all war. I oppose violence, because it is my conviction as a Christian that one can not love your neighbor if you are doing your neighbor injury. How can I be a peace-maker if I’m acting like a war-mongerer? How can I believe in both the cross and the sword?
And so I’ve been called a liberal.
I’m neither a liberal nor a conservative, those labels only have meaning if you buy into the American dichotomy.
The great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.”
How does the Church regain its “prophetic zeal”? In today’s dichotomy? The Church certainly must not allow itself to become master of the state, which seems to be the ultimate aim of the the Religious Right, nor can the Church simply become a tool, another arm, of the state by which the state enforces its power through ecclesiastical action.
Rather the Church must stand independant of the State, recognizing that the Church has absolutely no intrinsic relationship to the State. The Church is related to Christ, and therefore doesn’t even comprehend the national powers of the State.
The Church must be the Church, living in communion with God through Christ, with each other in the unity of the Spirit. Tearing down walls of separation which keep men from each other within her Communion.
The Church must recognize herself to be a spiritual force which seeks no temporal gain, but has radical implications within the temporal sphere.
Thus the polorization of “Left” and “Right” are ultimately meaningless in and for the Church. The Church can only be a source of conscience for those outside of her if she becomes more concerned with the log in her own eye than the splinter in another.
Can Christians, instead of focusing on the abortion issue focus on training themselves in a holistically pro-life ethic? An ethic that goes beyond anti-abortion rhetoric into a lifestyle and proactivity of life that seeks the improvement of life for everybody and the renunciation of death even when sanctioned by the state? St. Cyprian of Carthage once said, “They call it homicide when a man kills another man unjustly, but it’s considered a ‘virtue’ when the state ordains killing.” Can anyone really call themselves “pro-life” if they support warfare, capital punishment, and if they refuse to listen to the pains of the hurting and the dying–the widow and the orphan and the foreigner–even those in their own backyard?
Maybe there is a culture war going on in America. But as Christians we don’t have to be a part of it, we can lay down our arms and surrender ourselves to Christ and stop being “left” or “right” and just be Christian.
To love our neighbor, to feed the hungry, to speak out against injustice, to support the widow and the orphan, to welcome the foreigner into our house, to give all our wealth to the poor, to stand and identify ourselves with the oppressed in every circumstance, to preach the Gospel with gentleness, respect and grace. With arms wide open to embrace the poor and poor of spirit whom God brings to us so that we might say the Lord’s Prayer with honesty: “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Blessed are the poor.
Blessed are the hungry.
Blessed are those who mourn.
Blessed are the peace-makers.
Blessed are the meek.
Blessed are the oppressed.