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The Culture War is Over and We Lost? So… guerrilla warfare…

My ministry will be hosting an online apologetics conference this May with the theme of ‘literary apologetics.’  The general idea is to impact the culture in intentional ways to pave the way for better reception of the Gospel of Christ.  So culture is on my mind.

Something I’ve been pondering for awhile is this:  Is the culture war over?  And did we lose it?

I part company with those who seek to Christianize the culture as though this in itself is a noble goal.  It seems to me that this would in effect merely make our culture a ‘white washed tomb.’  More important than the culture are the people within it and their state of mind and eternal fates.  Nonetheless, people are strongly influenced by the culture at large whether they know it or not or admit it or not.  An unfriendly culture will make it harder for people to receive the Gospel.

I believe that.   To an extent.  I note, however, that the Christian Church itself exploded into existence within a culture that was not yet, by virtue of the fact that there wasn’t a pervasive Christianity to Christianize, Christian.

I honestly don’t think we’ve lost the culture war (yet) or else I wouldn’t be promoting things like the apologetics conference.   That said, barring any dramatic shifts (which can happen), I think the writing is on the wall.  Perhaps it is time to mount an orderly retreat?

We wouldn’t want to end up like the boys stranded at Dunkirk, scrambling to save as many as possible with the sea at our backs and the enemy advancing.

What could we gain by no longer committing resources to defending a fortification we know we cannot hold?  There are distinct advantages to fighting a ‘guerrilla war’ and history shows that they can be very effective.   (One word:  Vietnam.)

If the Church was not fighting to preserve its buildings, institutions, and legal hold on the United States, by fighting instead for the ‘hearts and minds’ of American citizens could it regain those very same buildings, institutions, and legal influence?  I think so.  I call it the ‘aim high’ principle.  You’ll recognize it from Matthew:  “Seek first the kingdom of God and all these will be given to you.”  If you aim for the highest, the lowest gets thrown in.  If you aim for the lowest, you’re lucky to get that.

So what might this look like?  How about selling all of our church buildings?  Use the money to help the poor in the local community.  Pay the counseling bills for couples struggling with divorce.  If you must have a facility, make it something that is useful for more than 1 hour 1 day a week, and use it.  These types of things you can do now, but you won’t be able to do if the secularists get their way and it becomes illegal to do anything in public that is religiously motivated.

I know that this is far out there, but I for one do not assume that just because its been good for the Church in America this long that it will continue to be so.

At any rate, I asked what could be gained by a smart retreat and one idea that came to my mind is that it would present itself as a hard break, both for believers and unbelievers.  If we said together, “Very well, America.  You want us out of your hair?  Enjoy!” then America would be able to see vividly exactly what they would get.

We live in a society that is like a dog returning to its vomit.  All of the evil and pernicious arguments from the late 1800s thru the 1930s about eugenics, socialism, communism, etc, etc, are all coming back to us today, albeit under different names.   A great many people believe that they can have another crack at these ideas without it ending in the horror witnessed the first times.  This is madness.  But people are easily fooled by easy transitions.  If it appears that the Christian Church is tacitly going along with whatever is implemented in secular society, people won’t be able to connect the dots between ideas and their consequences.  Leave the secularists to run the show and there is no one else to blame.  Sadly, it is a fact of human nature that we do not learn well the mistakes of history.  Successive generations need to endure the ramifications before they’ll accept that the warnings were valid to begin with.

A withdrawal of the Christian Church from ‘popular culture’ will allow for a stark contrast allowing simple analysis:  We did X and we didn’t like it.  It happened after Y left.  There was probably a connection.  Maybe Y needs a second thought.

I said that the Church could use this ‘hard break’ as well.  Yesterday I read a post that was pretty good but reflected some sentiments I don’t agree with that were implied about the Church being ‘different.’  I don’t want to pick on the guy, and since I’m not an Evangelical my experiences are a little different, but there seems to be a prevailing notion within the Church that the style of our worship ought to be of a certain sort:  some people think we should try to make it attractive to people- seekers, etc- and others think we shouldn’t care what people think.

Well, I think the Church needs to wake up to the fact that we haven’t a right to publicly worship at all in any style.  We have no right to fine facilities, whether they be decked out in traditional decor making use of ancient liturgies or are massive stadiums vibrating with peppy pop songs.  No right.  And no promise by God that we should keep them, or that we should ever have had them in the first place.

The Church burst onto the scene without sanctuary, narthex, or gym.  There weren’t seminaries.  There wasn’t protection under the law.  It was a pagan culture that was off and on hostile to Christianity.  Given the staggering growth and health of the early church, some have suggested that the worst thing to have ever happened for the Church was to have ‘won the culture war’ and become the state religion under Constantine.

If the Church decided that the culture war was lost and turned to guerrilla warfare what would that look like?  Would our evangelism perhaps be more effective to the ‘pagans’ around us and that would sprout up all over than with the jaded former Christians who fill the ranks of atheists and secular humanists today?  Would the Christian message be more compelling when it came in the context of Christians bending over backwards to serve one another personally, since no one could delegate to the Institutional Church anymore?

Jesus said, “I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

One gets the distinct impression today that Christians think that men will know we are his disciples by going to a service once a week, swaying with inspirational music or reciting ancient liturgies.  I wonder what would happen if Christians no longer had recourse to such safe and cozy gatherings in order to create that sentiment.  I wonder what the world would think when we didn’t act as though our witness to the world consisted in throwing up buildings with steeples and church bells or megaplexes.

I do not know the answer to these questions and don’t even know if they are good questions.  It’s just what I’ve been thinking about lately and I thought I would share it with ya’ll.



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    • Gary on March 17, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    Tony, the Church will find out what it’s like to not be winning the “culture war”. At the same time, I believe it’s important to acknowledge that there are even today many antichrists in the world–both inside and outside of the Church! I’ll bet you’d agree we have to engage them on every front. I’ve often wondered what life would be like outside of a civilized society…what I would be like, that is. I’ve once heard the sentiment that people imagine a society under satan’s control would be chaotically evil, but none ever stop to consider a society under satan that is well-ordered, well-mannered, and “loving” in which christians go to church every Sunday and hear anything but Christ crucified. I guess what I’m trying to say (I’m rambling) is that we have to keep in mind Luther’s idea of a “white devil” and a “black devil”, that is, satan can rule just as much with comfort and complacency as he can with evil and chaos. I believe this somewhat goes along with your point…?

    For those who are called to faith, suffering serves only to draw them nearer to Christ–yet we also must not underestimate the suffering or love of an average American Christian simply because it does not manifest itself in big, awesome things which steal our attention, but rather realize that God is at work in all things–even the mundane duties of a father or fast-food worker, etc.–and that wherever God is at work, He is at work with all his power and might. A college student reluctantly calling their parent on the weekend is a mighty act of love, when done in faith, because it is the Holy Spirit’s act of love.

    I don’t know what my point is…

    I guess my point is that I don’t think we should lose sight that we are in the world, not of the world. While we are in this world, we will suffer because of the sinful havoc we wreak upon ourselves–whether we worship underground or worship in big buildings. At the same time, every small act of love, whether performed in the context of a “christian culture” or outside of it (or, perhaps, in the righthand or lefthand kingdom), is a mighty and wondrous act because it has Jesus Christ at it’s core.

    With this in mind, I don’t think we should sell our American congregations, at present, short. We especially should not count Christians themselves out. At the same time, most all of us need a reminder to keep our eyes on the good, and to love one another. I do believe there is much more that I myself should be doing to serve and love others, and, when I think of it, I am angry at the cultural freedoms and prosperity I’ve squandered.

    That being said, I’d like to mention a few sources you or others might like (which you can edit out if you don’t want them here):

    1. Voice of the Martyrs–a way to help, pray for, and be informed about the underground church in many nations

    2. Christ Have Mercy: Putting your Faith into Action by Rev. Matthew Harrison, faithful director of LCMS World Relief and Human Care. In this book, he addresses the idea of the love of the church engaging the culture.

    3. Vocation: God at Work -and- The Spirituality of the Cross by Gene Edward Veith. These two because they helped me frame my mind about a Christian’s role in this world.

    • Anthony on March 18, 2010 at 6:46 am

    Hi Gary,

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

    “I’ve often wondered what life would be like outside of a civilized society…what I would be like, that is.”

    John Warwick Montgomery said once that civilization is skin deep. I agree with him, and wonder about the same thing- for my own self, too.

    “satan can rule just as much with comfort and complacency as he can with evil and chaos. I believe this somewhat goes along with your point…?”

    I can see it going along with my point very well.

    “With this in mind, I don’t think we should sell our American congregations, at present, short.”

    On my first read I thought you were saying, ‘I don’t think we should sell our American congregations, at present.’ Then I spotted the ‘, short.’ 🙂

    I hope that I was clear enough in my post that I was still in the fight, like for example hosting the <http://www.onlineapologeticsconference.com>online apologetics conference. Perhaps my point on that could be summarized by the short, “which can happen” … somethings gotta happen. The status quo, sustained, will see us in head over heels retreat. That’s my opinion.

    “1. Voice of the Martyrs”

    Good stuff. I’m already a subscriber. 🙂

    “2. Christ Have Mercy: Putting your Faith into Action by Rev. Matthew Harrison,”

    Haven’t heard about this one. We’ll leave it up.

    “3. Vocation: God at Work -and- The Spirituality of the Cross by Gene Edward Veith.”

    Haven’t read it, but have it literally on my desk to read it. Does it count that I sat through one of his English classes in college? This was before he was ‘cool.’ 🙂 I’d pay more attention if I took his class a second time around. His “Loving God with all of your Mind” is excellent.

    • Andrew Zook on July 15, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    Anthony, I think you ask some wonderful questions and raise issues that all churchgoing people should be asking…last 3 paragraphs are brilliant…I’m not sure how it would look or work either but I think it might look more like Jesus than it does now…and that might impact the culture more than we could imagine.

    • Anthony on July 28, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    Just saw your comment, Andrew. Thanks!

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