Culture Wars and The Way of Jesus

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This is a post about culture wars and the Way of Jesus

I was born in 1981 to a family firmly entrenched in the world of the Religious Right. I don't think my parents set out to be entrenched in that world, but living and working among the outer edges of the Jesus People movement, and the music that they made, will do that to you.

I was brought up to believe that "they" are against "us".

I don't ever explicitly remember my parents saying this to me, but that was the message I received at church, at my Christian school, and in the Christian circles we ran in.

They are against us.
They are secular.
They are not of God.
They are sinful.
They are evil.
They want to destroy our way of life.
They are a threat to us.
They must be eliminated.

I think the cultural moment the Church in North America is having right now is really the last dregs of this movement that began in the 1970s, came to prominence in the 1980s, wielding some measure of power in the 1990s and 2000s, and now, on it's death bed, is wreaking havoc for so many people in our culture.

Whatever you want to call this movement, what I've come to see that at it's core this movement is all about power.

Power to remain in control.
Power to fight off that which threatens us.
Power to determine how people use their bodies.
Power to legislate folks to look, act, and behave like us.
Power to force our values upon other people.

This movement, which I believe began with a pure intention, has morphed over the decades into a blatantly political force.

This movement not so subtly says, "Exercising power over and against our enemies is the way to be Christian in our world today."

The problem is that this has nothing to do with Christianity.

Sure, it uses religious language, and postures itself upon religious values and ideas, but this movement is devoid of the Christian faith because the premise of this movement is devoid of Christ.

The premise of this movement says that the way to defend our values and our position in society is defend what God stands for in the public square, and by any means necessary, force those who want nothing to do with our values to adhere to our values as often as possible.

We've played at faith with a huge measure of anxiety, and therefore we've turned the Way of Jesus into a voting block.

Shame on us.

So, what do we do?

When the world around us is crazy and out of control and nothing seems sacred anymore, what do we do?

That is, what do Christian people do?

The most anxious thing we CAN do is turn our uncertainty and anxiety into political power, and wield that power to control our situation.

That is pure anxiety, and it is the opposite of the Way of Jesus.  
This goes for folks on the Right AND the Left.

The Way of Jesus brings a non-anxious presence.
The Way of Jesus choose love over fear.
The Way of Jesus seeks to listen before seeking to be heard.
The Way of Jesus empathizes with those we don't like, so that we can see them as human, made in God's image, just like us.
The Way of Jesus calls us out of our fear, our anxiety, and into a life that is marked by compassion, patience, and the long game.
The Way of Jesus helps us see that we're fighting against Powers and Principalities, not simply people we don't like and don't trust.

Ultimately, I'm with Snyder, who says "Truly Christian transformation of culture comes through Christlike (and hence sacrificial) love, community and being."

This Way is SOOO impractical. But it is the best way.

In order to change our culture, we must die to our own attempts to constantly force our culture to change.

In order to change our culture, we must begin with our own spiritual transformation.

In order to change our culture, we must let Christ change us.

Dear Christian, are you letting Christ do this in your life?

Are you bringing your anxiety to Jesus? Your fear? Your discouragement?  Are you mourning the loss the the nation that you once knew, where the systems worked for you? Are you bringing your grief to God?

Or, are you taking that anxiety out on the most available target? Namely, those you don't know, who are far from you, that scare you. Are you using your fear and anxiety to express your politics in such a way that “we” win, and “they” lose?

There is another Way.

The Way of Jesus calls us out of our self-centered posture in the world. The one that demands that everyone value what we value, and do what we want them to do.

The Way of Jesus invites us to die to our preferences, and to our agendas, and to our efforts to control the world.

The Way of Jesus is not passive - it is VERY active. But it leads with love.

Love is the most active posture one can take in the world.
Love is the most courageous posture one can take in the world.
Love is the most godly posture one can take in the world.
Love will change you, and it will change the world.

So, Christian friend: if your posture in the world is anxious, fearful, and defensive, it is not the Way of Jesus.

I'm not sure what it is, but please don't confuse it with the Way of Jesus. 

It is likely the Way of Death & Destruction.

The Way of Jesus looks like Jesus: loving, compassionate, empathetic, valuing time alone with the Father, and above all, self-sacrifical to the very end.

That, my friends, is Good News that will change our culture.

And it must begin with you, right where you are, in the middle of your life, even today.

So may you choose the Way of Jesus today, and every day after.

May you relinquish you addiction to control.

May you see your anxiety plainly for what it is.

May you name your fear before God.

May you stop judging people who you've never met.

May you turn off the tv news, and the disconnect from the internet, regularly.

May you find a quiet spot to bring your fear and anxiety before God.

May you grieve the loss that has come with cultural change.

May you be curious about what God is up to, even if you don't understand it.

And may you ask God to deeply transform you, for the sake of the world.

In the name of the Father who loves us.
In the name of Jesus who saves us.
In the name of the Spirit who guides us.