Culture Warrior Gone AWOL

Strangely, blogging seems to be a good thing for me. Whenever I post about something that is bothering me or puzzling me--be it mental, physical, or spiritual--it seems that the issue in question gradually improves after I've shared it on my blog. This may be partly due to the cathartic effect of writing itself, or the psychological release of public confession, or the prayers of the people who read my blog, or the synergy of interacting in the comment section and inbox, or the wise suggestions I recieve from readers. Whatever it is, I'm going to keep on blogging.

So, after promising myself this morning not to write anything profound, here' s a snippet of a serious thought from me. All my agonizing about being a conservative or being a liberal or whatever label you choose has mostly subsided in the past few weeks. Why? I reaffirmed what I've believed for a long time: The rubric through which I view life is missiological not political. Though I'm not now an "official" missionary, as I had once thought I would be, my heart is the heart of a missionary. I want to see people come to Christ. Anything else is, as someone wrote a long time ago, rubbish! "I count all thing as loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord--and the surpassing joy of seeing others come to know him."

That means my goal is to share the gospel and build up the church--not reform society, save Western culture from decay, campaign against homosexual marriages, campaign against abortion, campaign to put prayer back in school, or whatever the next issue is. My goal isn't even to devote my time and energy to trade reform, environmental activism, stopping sexual trafficking, or ending unjust wars. Don't anyone misunderstand. I'm not saying that I'll never do any of the above activies. A few of them are very dear to my heart. But they are not my goal or my hope or my salvation.

Spelling this out helps to relieve the pressure I put on myself to clearly define myself and my views. Maybe it is my personality or maybe it is my status as a seminary student that causes me to feel the need to label myself clearly. Among people I have known, it's not uncommmon for me to be asked my opinion on each of the 5-points of Calvinism or my view of Scripture or my view of American politics. Nothing wrong with that. Serious conversation is more palatable to me than small talk. But I begin to feel queasy when I can not answer such questions with the same certainty I once had. Even worse is when a person falsely assumes that I hold a certain view and proceeds to speak and act on that assumption. That I have to choose whether to play the coward and feign agreement or risk speaking up and causing a misunderstanding.

As for the title of this post "Culture Warrior Gone AWOL," well, I sure hope that will be the story of my life. To be a culture warrior is not my desire. Even so, I've been so steeped in the philosophy of political and social activism combined with religious indignation that it is hard to uproot it from my mind. But I'm going to try. I want to be Christ-center and missions-driven. I want to invest in prayer, not politics. I want all people to see the glory of Christ, especially liberals, gays, Muslims and anyone else whom the conservative establishment sees as a threat to "our" culture.

Ours? What is ours? "This world is not our home," so goes the song, "I'm just a passing through." So what is ours, really? Certainly, Christ is ours. And what else? "All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future--all are yours, and you are of Christ and Christ is of God." (1 Corinthians 3:21-23) Though Paul wrote that in the context of chastizing the Corinthian church for their division into competing factions based on misplaced loyalty to different Christian teachers, I think it can apply to the current spate of seeking salvation in accurate labeling. Being conservative, being liberal, being American, being democratic, being part of the grand sweep of Western civilization--all of that is petty and silly stuff and not worth grasping. Because we have Christ. And in Christ we have all things.

"So no more boasting about men. . ."

4 comments:

  1. I just wanted to say hi. Some of what you wrote in this post sounded very familiar to me. I'm going to enjoy your blog! These days I don't have much time to be philosophical or to study language, but I would like to.

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  2. Maybe culture and traditions are not petty, so much as secondary. These areas are how we experience the world, which is a reflection of God.
    I think democracy and living in the U.S. are a blessing in many ways-- but we need to be conscious that the good elements of our situation are gifts. They've been received, and not lose sight of the Giver.
    We shouldn't use them to see ourselves as inherently superior to other people in some way.
    And we shouldn't spend all our time and energy trying to get more, or trying to make other people share our cultural/ political values.
    Just off the top of my head.
    I agree with your point, but coming from a base of gratitude.

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  3. I think this is correct. Secular labels must come second to our identity in Christ. That is our family, our culture, and our home.

    We can make temporary alliances with secular groups to carry out His work - but defining ourselves with their definitions is dangerous

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  4. I think you make some very good points here Hannah that I also relate to. I find blogging is a kind of spiritual discipline for me-- it challenges me to keep myself honest because I want to live up to the ideals I espouse, and it helps me sharpen my thinking, in the process of writing, or in analyzing counter-arguments to mine.

    I think true reform of the culture can only come from a gospel-first way of living, starting with me.

    Some may categorize me as a "culture-warrior" however, because I recently spent much time writing about the End of the Spear movie and its surrounding controversy.

    But to me, the issues involved there were pertinent to the primary calling of the gospel. The company making the film asked Christian evangelicals to get involved with its promotion.

    In light of their asking Christians to view and promote the movie as a gospel tool, I think it was right that many Christians evaluated the film's message (and their hiring of a gay actor to star in it) closely. I wouldn't have the same expectations, of course, of a non-believer's work.

    Anyway, my point is that this is an example of the kind of individual cultural battle one may feel compelled to address, in light of a primary goal of being gospel-centered. But as I think you're saying, jumping from one cultural fire to the next, trying to make culture conform without making discipleship and making disciples primary, is a diversion from our chief calling. Not that I have never been guilty of this, and not that I don't need to do much better in fulfilling the primary task.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

    Blessings,

    Alex

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