Christians and The Culture War
What attitude should Christians have to a culture in which there is little organized social support for their values? Evangelical theologian Richard Mouw has a helpful essay on this subject over at Beliefnet. Earlier this year I wrote a positive review (it appeared in the print version of NR) of David Limbaugh’s detailed and comprehensive book Persecution: How Liberals Are Waging War Against Christianity , which I recommend as an introduction to the numerous ways Christians are currently treated unfairly in public life. Beliefnet presents Reverend Mouw’s essay as a sort of counterpoint to Limbaugh’s view (they have posted an interview with Limbaugh), but Mouw actually concedes much of what Limbaugh has to say. His difference with Limbaugh is not chiefly on policy, but on our overall theological understanding of the confrontation with secularism: We should, Mouw says, “recognize that in our increasingly pluralistic culture we are called to make our way in—to borrow [a] wonderful phrase from the Mennonites—’the time of God’s patience.’ God is not calling us to win the cultural wars. What is required is that we remain faithful to our deepest convictions while also showing, as the Apostle puts it, ‘gentleness and respect’ toward those who challenge us to make a case for what we believe (I Peter 3: 15). Obviously, when it comes to matters of public policy we must also ask others to respect our convictions as well—especially our right to raise our children in the fear of the Lord without having the deck stacked against us by educators and the shapers of popular culture.” This is deep wisdom, echoing T. S. Eliot in the “Four Quartets”: “For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.” As I understand Mouw’s point, he is saying that the Christian facing secularism is not called to be an Atlas bearing the sins of the world, but to be a simple, faithful witness. God doesn’t demand that we “win”; in fact, in the idea of the triumph of the Cross He has broken the limits of our very concept of what “winning” means. All He asks is our trust; and if we have this our hearts will be cheerful indeed—-in the face of opposition, and even of persecution.