The End Game of the Culture Wars

What’s the end game of Christian activists?

January 22, 2016: Pro Life marchers start towards the U.S. Supreme Court in their annual March For Life.

By Rob Schwarzwalder Published on June 5, 2017

What kind of country do you want?

Conservatives — as a general rule — long for a nation where human life, born and unborn, is respected. We believe family means a married mom and dad with one or more children. We want a country where you can live-out your faith freely, not just one day a week in a building. 

Justice, order, and market-based prosperity should be the norm. Pornography and racism should vanish.

The list could go on, and any common-sense conservative could write it. Of course, the likelihood of all this happening at once is slim to none. My point is this: What if we achieve all of our goals and America became exactly the nation we want?

Political Victories Aren’t Enough

After recovering from the shock, we’d soon see that our gains would begin to erode. Slippage would happen almost as soon as the victories are won.

Why? Because people are sinful, prone to be selfish and greedy, ungrateful and rebellious. Because people are prone to be short-sighted and fearful. Because human effort will never establish the kingdom of God on earth.

Christians affirm this truth. The God Who knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10) is not desperately hoping we will someday get things right.

Often, though, I wonder if we remember that our end-game is not a better political regime. Our practice and rhetoric can imply that triumph is in our grasp — if only we “give today to stop the Liberal Agenda!”, elect the “right” people, and pass the “right” laws.

What if we achieve all of our political goals? Slippage would happen almost as soon as the victories are won.

We worship a false god if we think that political action can “reclaim America” (from what, exactly, is never made clear). Our political opponents believe as strongly in their vision of public life as we do in ours and won’t slink away because they’ve lost an election. If you disagree, just watch MSNBC for a half-hour or so.

Left and Right oppose not just one another’s policies, legislation, and court decisions but hold to entirely different understandings of life and the world. From differences on the very existence of truth to what freedom means, the Left and Right look at one another over a yawning and hostile gap. The idea that with a bit more work in our churches and at the polls we will begin to become a Christian republic is plain silly. 

Additionally, there is a difference between a good America and a Godly America. A decent society that esteems life, liberty, property, and virtue is distinct from one in which Jesus is recognized nationally as Lord.

More and Much Better

So, what’s the end game of Christian activists? To restore America to an Eisenhower-era kind of suburban serenity? To win enough elections that liberals will eventually shrug their shoulders, give up, and move to, say, Canada? To continually nurture their shock and shame over what America is becoming? To look longingly at the past and turn good memories into glorious myths?

Our Constitution is worth defending, as I have written about elsewhere. A limited government, a strong defense, and a just and safe society are important. So is what Washington called “ordered liberty” in all areas of life. These things mirror the Bible’s teaching about the role of government. We should advance and defend them with wisdom and courage.

Yet aiming for comprehensive American renewal is too small a goal for people redeemed for eternity.

Our involvement in public life should be about something more. More and much better.

Let me suggest three things Christians should do as citizens of ours, the greatest of all nations in human history.

3 Things Christian Activists Should Do

First, Christians should engage in political action to stem evil and advance the good. We should fight abortion, racial injustice, the erosion of marriage and family, assaults on religious liberty, and other evils. Not for the sake of some longed-for national millennium but because offenses to God cause harm to those bearing His image. And because public policies that honor human dignity honor not only people but their Creator.

Laws that encourage marriage and discourage “no fault” divorce tell people that marriage is a great value. Good law can encourage a good culture, just as a corrupt culture can produce bad law.

So, yes, let’s work for good laws. By all means. But, again, even if we got all the laws we want, sin would still exist. Resistance to those laws in philosophy and action would be rampant. And our victories at the ballot box, in legislation, and in the courts almost invariably would be partial and not permanent.

Things that are temporary might have value, but there is a kingdom that will never pass away. Its King will not be elected and His rule will never be threatened.

Second, churches, Christian ministries and charities, and individual believers should doing good to all men in Jesus’s Name. This includes the people in one’s apartment or on one’s cul-de-sac, the impoverished in the developing world, prisoners and their families, inner city children with little hope, and so many others in a host of spheres and locations.

And third, we should work to persuade using all the tools in the arsenal of God. We should offer kind counsel and clear reason. Our message should be full of grace and truth. We should appeal to the conscience. We should remember that soft answers turn away wrath. We must love our personal and cultural enemies.

These three things should together compose the heart of Christian political and social engagement among American Christians.

Best for Culture: Proclaim the Good News

There’s one thing I’ve neglected, something that should infuse these and all of our endeavors and our whole lives. That’s the proclamation of the good news that God became man in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. He lived a sin-free life and died an atoning death. He was raised from the dead, and offers eternal life to all who will trust in Him alone for forgiveness and new life.

So let’s not set our sights so low as to forget that this world is passing away. Things that are temporary and fallen might have value, but there is a kingdom that will never pass away. Its King will not be elected and His rule will never be threatened. 

Let’s serve that King faithfully, and look ever to the day when the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdom of our God and of His Christ. 

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  • Timothy Horton

    Religious Conservatives — as a general rule — long for a nation where they can control all aspects of people’s lives and dictate how everyone should act. They want to control women and deny them the right to make decisions about their own bodies. They detest the non-hetero minority and want to deny them the civil rights granted to every hetero couple. They want a country with legislation to let them legally ignore any and all anti-discrimination laws as they see fit.

    Sorry, not on my watch.

    • Gary

      I’m already ignoring all anti-discrimination laws as I see fit. And it pleases me you can’t do anything about it.

    • Charles Burge

      Progressives, as a general rule, long for a nation where they can control all aspects of people’s lives and dictate how everyone should act. The want to control religious people and deny them the right to lead their lives in a way that is consistent with their sincerely held beliefs. They detest the Christian community and want to deny them the rights that are explicitly enumerated in the constitution. They want a country where religious people – especially Christians, are not allowed to bring their views and ideas to the public square. Since they have failed to convince enough of the electorate to enact such restrictions through legislation, they turn to activist courts, and recently, mob violence, to achieve their goals.

      They might win a few battles here and there, but they will not win the war.

      • Timothy Horton

        The want to control religious people and deny them the right to lead their lives in a way that is consistent with their sincerely held beliefs.

        When “being consistent with their religious beliefs” means being allowed to spit on, discriminate against, and deny equal civil rights to a minority portion of the population, darn right they aren’t allowed to do it.

    • Kevin Quillen

      Timmy; you and all liberals are too stupid to see that you are cutting your own throat. Liberal policies will lead to censorship and tyranny. The “living” Constitution will evolve into a useless piece of paper. Your right to be a jerk and a mentally ill liberal come from the document you wish to destroy. Rights come from God, according to our fore fathers. They were correct. If you want rights that come from man, expect those rights to change with the whim of the ever changing leadership. You and the ignorant left will cause your own demise. As for me and those like me who realize that I was created by a Creator have no problem living up to His standards and will always be free. You on the other hand, will always be a slave to ideology.

    • Billy Chickens

      Timmy, you’re a troll. Go under the bridge and keep quiet.

  • Gary

    We have too many disagreements in this country to ever again have the kind of country I want. And, governments on all levels are corrupt. That won’t be fixed until Christ returns. So, what I want is for the government to not try to make me accept evil, or participate in it, or say nothing about it. People do what they want, and I can’t stop them. But I don’t want to help them do wrong. If a woman wants to murder her baby, its legal, I can’t stop it, and I won’t try. God will punish her. If people want to get drunk or high, they will. I just hope to not be run over by one of them. If two males want to “get married”, that’s legal now, thanks to an immoral court. But I refuse to accept it as marriage. I want to be free to choose my own friends and who I do business with. I want to be free to say what I want. If I have that, then others can go the way they want.

  • Kevin Quillen

    This is a good article. I would like to stress that Christians should be careful not to become or be seen as just another political group. If we achieved political victory it would last only until another group, using the polls, reversed all gains. The older I get the more I think that Christians should just concentrate on walking the walk and being an ambassador for Christ. The Kingdom will spread one soul at a time. I myself am done with politics and will live separate from secular society. I obey only laws that do not conflict with God’s word and will never recognize or condone, or participate in things that do not align with the Word. The Truth has set me free and I am free indeed.

  • Gary

    I wish there was a way to know how many people in the US have a Biblical world-view (believe the God of the Bible is the real God, believe God created the universe, accept God as the definer of morality and the Judge of mankind,. etc.) . I don’t think there is a way for us to know the answer to that question right now. One thing we do know now is that there are lots of people who don’t have a Biblical world view. They prove it by what they do. Because people have different beliefs, it makes it difficult for them to agree about things. World views clash. Most people probably want the kind of society that agrees with them. But I don’t think that is possible anymore because Americans disagree on so much. So if Christians want a “Christian society” I think they will be disappointed.

  • Cynthia Cantrell

    “The idea that with a bit more work in our churches and at the polls we will begin to become a Christian republic is plain silly.”

    You have earned a 14 on the 1 to 10 “Profound Euphemism” scale.

    It is not “just plain silly,” it is fundamentally a Christian Dominionist agenda to overthrow separation of church and state and create a theological republic. Our country was NOT founded as a Christian republic for good reasons – the founders were well aware of the centuries of religious persecution that came before them, and the millions of lives that were lost when a different Christian sect became the new dominant power in a European country.

    When “liberals” oppose this Christian Dominionist agenda, it is because we know from a long human history that religious states invariably devolve into the persecution of minorites that don’t agree with the state religion. Just ask the Cathars. Oh, wait a minute, I forgot. Pope “Innocent” III sent his papal army on a 20 year campaign to eliminate them. You’ll have to ask someone else.

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