Kevin’s Conversations: Navigating the Culture Wars

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56 Responses

  1. Michael says:

    I think historians will look back on this era as a time when we redefined Christianity around various social and cultural concerns.

    I believe it will also show that it was redefined into irrelevance .

  2. Babylon's Dread says:

    As a pastor these issues are in our face not as culture wars but as pastoral and parental concerns. This stuff is huge and cannot be ignored.

  3. em... again says:

    as a parent today these issues are thrown in the faces of our children… huge and cannot be ignored indeed… perhaps we in the Church need to show each other more support and respect – affirming the Faith, because…
    the children see the backbiting and in-house wars and compromises and they have reason to wonder about what we say we believe
    i suspect that so many Jews converted to the Faith when Jesus was here because they knew something was out of kilter in the Temple; they’d watched first hand the hypocrisy and arrogance in the leadership … today our children won’t have the blessing, the luxury of Christ in their midst if we don’t show Him to them in our lives

  4. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    I think these are very much church issues and some within the church try to minimize them by calling them something else — culture wars. Isn’t that a cute dismissive term to make those who hold to biblical christianity go away.

    I was reading today an article about Vogue Teen magazine promoting anal sex to their teenage audience. To me this is not a “culture wars” issue – this is a holiness issue.

  5. Duane Arnold says:

    Kevin,

    First of all, I agree with Michael’s comment at #1.

    Secondly, it seems to me that we have moved into a time in which more and more often we will have to “agree to disagree” with a range of people and policies. Eugene Petterson reaffirmed an historical, biblical stance. What if he had not? My reaction might have been disappointment or regret, but if speaking to him, I think we would have to “agree to disagree”. This would be without demonizing him or trashing his life’s work.

    In the rising generation, they already have LGBT friends. They already, in many cases, know same-sex couples. It seems to me that part of what needs to be taught is to “agree to disagree”. It is not a compromise, it is not “finding a way out” of taking a stand. Just as with Mormon friends, if it turns to matters of faith, we “agree to disagree”. I believe enough in the integrity of the Gospel that it has its own power if shared in love.

    Even with other Christians with priorities that I cannot own, we can “agree to disagree” without breaking the bonds of fellowship. In an increasing polarized Christian community, perhaps our ability to show love, despite very real disagreements, may be our greatest witness.

  6. em... again says:

    #4 – maybe there should be some consideration given to that word, “holy”…
    you often declare (rightly) that we’re all sinners… i think we get that, but are we bogged down in it?
    how do we hold the standard high? it seems to me that we may be overdoing it in the other direction… the don’t want to appear self-righteous, the “holier than thou” thing…

    have to get off this computer, but am pondering MLD’s point

  7. Kevin H says:

    So whether or not we call these issues culture wars, they do have some bearing on and within the church. How do we handle them in the church? How do we handle them outside the church?

  8. Kevin H says:

    Duane,

    I think the “agree to disagree” approach is a good idea in many situations, especially within the church. However, the difficulty comes when the other party is not satisfied with agreeing to disagree. When they want you to submit to their desires or else they’re going to make life difficult for you (and your loved ones). Then I think we have even bigger challenges.

  9. Duane Arnold says:

    #8 Kevin

    Yes, but isn’t that the heart of Christianity – “not being conformed to the world”. The “promise” of following Christ is taking up a Cross. I think the “issues” are different and more pervasive, but our response must be qualitatively the same as the early Church:
    Make an offering of incense to the genius of the emperor – no…
    Participate in gladiatorial spectacles – no…
    Attend a brothel with friends – no…

    I could go down the list, but we’re not the first ones to face this.

  10. Kevin H says:

    Duane,

    We’re certainly not the first ones to face this. And many before us have encountered far worse situations. But we can only operate within the time and place God has placed us.

    When the schools want to encourage homosexual behavior to our children, or the state wants to remove parental consent for our daughters to get abortions or the government wants to remove the safety nets that some of our loved ones desperately need by no fault of their own, how do we handle these situations?

    If these types of wrongful pressures happen within the church, we can always separate from the group that we believe to be wrong and leave them to be and they no longer have any rule or control over us (although this can often be much simpler said than done). However, separating from our culture or state is a much less viable option in many ways. We can say no to homosexuality or to abortion or to neglecting the poor and needy. But how do we react when the culture and/or the state is potentially causing harm in these manners to our loved ones and those we are responsible for?

    I’m not espousing definitive answers. I’m more asking the questions for discussion.

  11. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    “How do we handle them in the church? ”

    We are to preach / teach against them. and preach and teach the holy alternatives.

    “How do we handle them outside the church?” – is there a place know as “outside of the church”? Is this some safe zone where a Christian does not discuss the holy? Is this some place where the church member must check his brains and or opinions at the door?

    Is there a difference “in the church” and “outside the church?”

  12. Michael says:

    Kevin,

    You’re asking great questions.
    Let’s make it slightly more complex.

    You asked;

    “When the schools want to encourage homosexual behavior to our children, or the state wants to remove parental consent for our daughters to get abortions or the government wants to remove the safety nets that some of our loved ones desperately need by no fault of their own, how do we handle these situations?”

    What do we do when the same people who might stand against the moral issues are the same ones who would take away the safety net?

    Here’s the question I think we’re actually asking.

    How can we stand for what we believe without paying any consequences culturally or losing our own comfort?
    The history of the church is that we can’t, but we stand anyway…

  13. Kevin H says:

    MLD,

    “Inside the church” is where there is a gathering of believers, at least those who claim to believe.

    “Outside the church” is any other place that will still include some believers, but will also include a bunch of non-believers and is not a place/organization/gathering/structure whose purposes are meant to be primarily Christian.

  14. Duane Arnold says:

    Kevin

    As in every age, we hope to instill Christian values in our children, even though those values may have to be increasingly counter-cultural. The early Church faced many of the same issues and societal pressures.

    As citizens, we can seek justice and mercy in the laws enacted by the State, without resort to an unholy alliance of Church and State – something that has seldom turned out well. Christianity from the beginning as been counter-cultural. It is in our DNA. We are supposed to be “in the world, but not of the world”. It is always a balancing act.

    Are we indeed different from those Christians who had to live out their lives in Roman society or the world of late antiquity? They had to deal with the sexual mores of their time. They had to deal with the issues of abortion and even infanticide. When the poor were not provided for, by the State, the Christians did it themselves; to such an extent that even their pagan neighbors noticed. While we are in a more technically complex society, many of the issues are the same.

  15. Kevin H says:

    Michael,

    Yes, the church should stand for what is right, even if it means paying cultural consequences and losing comforts. But how does that standing taking place? Is it anything more beyond saying that those of us in the church won’t participate in actions we believe to be wrong and immoral?

  16. Kevin H says:

    “What do we do when the same people who might stand against the moral issues are the same ones who would take away the safety net?”

    I don’t think there are necessarily easy answers to your question, but I will say that I would also include the safety net as a moral issue, not something separate.

  17. Kevin H says:

    Duane,

    “As citizens, we can seek justice and mercy in the laws enacted by the State, without resort to an unholy alliance of Church and State ‚Äď something that has seldom turned out well.”

    I very much agree.

    The hard part is in determining how best to go about this in our complex society.

  18. Michael says:

    “but I will say that I would also include the safety net as a moral issue, not something separate.”

    Which puts you outside mainstream Christian politics…

  19. Duane Arnold says:

    Kevin,

    I think what I’m really trying to say is that it is a losing game to try and infuse the culture or the State with Christian virtues and/or values. If we take that as a given, it comes down to what we do as Christians in our individual lives and what we try to do as an expression of our faith communities.

    It’s clear from the pages of the NT and the Church Fathers that the Church was made up of people that ranged from slaves up to and including a very few prominent members (“not many wise”). I seldom see such a cross section when I visit churches. I seldom see a wide cross section of income levels, race or occupation these days. We are mainly middle class, or middle class aspirants! If however, we worshipped with someone without food to put on their table for their children, the situation might seem less complex. We’d know what to do.

    I think we want big overarching answers to our questions. I’m beginning to think we might do better looking at the immediate situations on our doorstep.

  20. Kevin H says:

    Michael,

    “Which puts you outside mainstream Christian politics‚Ķ”

    Yes it does. I think safety nets are a more complicated issue than other examples I have given such as abortion or gay marriage. It’s not as black and white as I do not think the government should be responsible to provide a “safety net” for every possible situation of any possible need by any possible person who wants one. There needs to be some discretion and everybody is going to have a different place where they draw that discretionary line. But, yes, the big picture issue of the government providing safety nets to those in need is just as much a moral issue as the government sanctioning same-sex marriage or allowing for and even funding abortion.

  21. Michael says:

    “I think what I‚Äôm really trying to say is that it is a losing game to try and infuse the culture or the State with Christian virtues and/or values. If we take that as a given, it comes down to what we do as Christians in our individual lives and what we try to do as an expression of our faith communities.”

    There it is…

  22. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Duane – but in America today, unlike the time periods you speak of, Christians have both a vote and a voice – and we are to use them to influence others.

  23. Duane Arnold says:

    #22 MLD

    Yes, and we can use that vote and voice to seek justice and mercy in the laws of the State, but by so doing we cannot invest the State or the culture at large with the attributes or aspirations of the Church.

  24. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    “we cannot invest the State or the culture at large with the attributes or aspirations of the Church.”

    Well, since those attributes and aspirations revolve only around the forgiveness of sin (the thesis I hold is the purpose of the church) you are correct.
    However, christian people can work like yeast in the society at large, expanding the christian ideal.

  25. Kevin H says:

    Duane,

    “I think we want big overarching answers to our questions. I‚Äôm beginning to think we might do better looking at the immediate situations on our doorstep.”

    Again, I agree. I think our greatest focus should be on those people and situations in our immediate circle and environment. But what I can’t get out of my head is when we see those in our immediate environment being negatively affected, or potentially negatively affected by the culture and/or state, what should we do about it, if anything? And, of course, the bigger picture is that those same negative effects are affecting everyone within the culture/state and so there is still some level of concern for our fellow man in general, even if it’s not our primary focus.

  26. Duane Arnold says:

    #24 MLD

    Indeed, as we have done for millennia… When we speak of the State and the culture, we are speaking of secular society. Definitions matter –

    sec·u·lar

    adjective

    1. denoting attitudes, activities, or other things that have no religious or spiritual basis.

  27. Michael says:

    “However, christian people can work like yeast in the society at large, expanding the christian ideal.”

    We (the various sects of the church) do not agree on what the Christian ideal is.

    I just saw an article about the deportation of a man who’s been here 16 years with no record and no government assistance.
    His children were saying goodbye at the airport.
    The Christians commenting could not contain their enthusiasm over this family destruction.

    If that’s a Christian value, I prefer hell, thank you.

  28. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    1. denoting attitudes, activities, or other things that have no religious or spiritual basis.

    Yes, this would be the case if I went to speak at the city council meeting about the sewer issues in the city.

    For ideas in the public square – not so much.

  29. Duane Arnold says:

    #25 Kevin

    Yes, as Oscar Romero said, “When I fed the poor they called me a saint. When I asked why they are poor, they called me a communist.”

    So, we use voice and vote for laws reflecting justice and mercy… in the meantime, however, we address the needs, spiritual and temporal, of the person on our doorstep.

  30. Jean says:

    When Jesus sent Moses to Egypt to free His people and lead them to the promised land, Jesus did not say (1) tell the Egyptians to reform their laws to give my people better rights and living conditions, or (2) get my people better living conditions, but leave them under Egyptian rule. What He did say and do was to free His people from slavery and lead them out of Egypt to a new promised land (flowing with milk and honey).

    When Jesus came as the true Israelite, as Israel, God’s Suffering Servant, the Messiah, He didn’t go to Galilee to reform Herodian rule, or to Judea to reform Roman rule, or to the Temple to reform the priestly service or worship. What Jesus did come to do was to ransom sinners to a new kingdom, which He brought to earth as in heaven. He came to free slaves; to put sinners to death and raise new creatures, not, this time, through the Red Sea, but through the waters of baptism.

    The vocation of the Church is to continue deliver the gifts of the cross to sinners, to free captives, to transfer them from the domain of darkness and place them in the kingdom of the Son, in whom there is redemption, the forgiveness of sins. This is done by the preaching of Law and Gospel always with the purpose of setting a captive free. The Church is to serve, not be served.

    Remember, we are ambassadors of Christ. We are “friends” of the King. The culture, under the dominion of the Satan, hates Christ His Gospel and Kingdom and, by extension, His representatives. Is that news to anyone? But, just as Christ was merciful to His enemies (i.e., us), He wants us to be merciful to our enemies.

  31. Michael says:

    I’ve been watching over the last few days as James White has been accused of everything unholy because he had an “interfaith dialog” with a Muslim.

    Now, White is a very conservative, very orthodox, Christian.

    Not conservative enough for people like Janet Mefford who are almost rabidly attacking him for basically acting like Paul on Mars Hill.

    They have so politicized the issue that any sort of variance in the name of God is utterly forbidden.

    In light of this climate, what do we do?

    I know what I’ve chosen to do.

    I haven’t written anything on the issues that are important to me lately because it’s become pointless.

    I have abandoned both the “church” at large and the culture as I see them both as agents of destruction.

    I have purposed to act according to conscious in my local area of influence.

    I’m trying to teach more on prayer and living the Christian life in love and sacrifice in our own church.

    We try to teach T those principles as well.

    We have, as Xenia writes…gone local.

  32. em... again says:

    i have a feeling that the world out there wants us to stand…
    right now is an opportune time to practice our Faith outside the doors of the building we worship in…
    we ought to be as identifiable (and offensive to some) as the woman in her burka (but not as artificial and pretentious)… trouble is we concentrate on the crude, rude bullies and waste our time trying to figure out how to handle them “in a Christian way.”

    i remember my grandfather turning and quietly walking away from a Pentecostal (somewhat celebrity in the movement) pastor who loved to tell dirty jokes… as a child, observing this quiet act, i got the message.
    i remember my grandmother frantically looking for someone to drive her to the home of a Japanese family she knew who were headed for internment. she wanted to help them, if possible.
    my question is, why can’t we simply walk our talk in the world?
    why do we feel that our Faith is defined in church sponsored projects or looking for some poor soul to bestow kindness on from our lofty perch? i think as a whole we are more artificial and contrived than we know…
    we’re human and we’ll sin but the goal of being holy isn’t wrong is it? holiness should wrap around us like the invisible wind that describes the Holy Spirit, Himself.
    probably my thots are too random to sort out here – i apologize…
    just thinking about about holiness, how my grandparents lived, but that was another time, wasn’t it? dunno

  33. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Jean,
    So using the Moses example, are you saying God’s instruction is that we should put up with whatever comes our way or leave the country? This is what happens when you apply theocratic rules to today’s society.

    If I remember correctly, you voted in the last election. Wasn’t that your attempt to overthrow Herodian rule – or maintain Herodian rule?

  34. Michael says:

    Em,

    I think you make a lot of sense…

  35. em... again says:

    a post script to my #32…
    Michael and Xenia seem to be working on this out in the world… at the skate park and taking meals to the elderly…
    taking meals to the elderly… something my grandmother did on occasion from her own kitchen as she prepared supper for the family… it was a different time then, i guess

  36. Jean says:

    MLD,

    “This is what happens when you apply theocratic rules to today‚Äôs society.”

    Then don’t do that. You are confusing individual vocations.

  37. Xenia says:

    Hello, friends,

    I am out of town for a while with a terrible Internet connection. I haven’t disappeared and I have been reading the discussions as best as I can.

    All the best to everyone,
    Xenia

  38. Michael says:

    Xenia,

    Thank you for letting us know…I was a tad concerned…

  39. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Come on Jean,
    You could give Penn & Teller a run for their money with your slight of hand.
    Politics is nothing more that a person working individual vocation joining together with many others with a similar individual vocation.

    The church is to forgive sin through word and sacrament. No one would suggest legislating people read their bibles, of be baptized etc. However, a christian in their vocation to be salt and light would and could do so by serving in elected or appointed office.

  40. Jean says:

    MLD,

    Unless you actually read and respond to something I’ve written, this will be my last attempt to dialogue with you. I don’t know what you’re talking about in 39. If you disagree with my #30, identify specifically where you find disagreement. Because I never said a Christian could not serve in elected or appointed office.

    You are almost beyond the pale. And what you say next could put you beyond or bring you back into the realm of constructive conversation. It’s you’re call, friend.

  41. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    LOL, well I’m not going to play the game where you get to judge each of my comments and then you tell me what kind of comment may redeem me.
    Good try. ūüėČ

  42. dusty says:

    Still praying for you big brother! You have so much going on i don’t know how much more you can handle…praying for strength and mercy

  43. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Michael,
    To your post about James White – I think you take this incidences too seriously. James White is a cartoon figure who does nothing without looking for a fight or notoriety. The fact that he caused a dust up is nothing new. The fact that someone has pushed back may be a new twist. In the end he is still a bully.

    Janet Mefford needs controversy to draw a crowd to her radio show. But it depends who’s ox is being gored. You used to sing her praises when she went after Mark Driscoll.

    James White, Janet Mefford and their audiences are very much like the WWE.

  44. Michael says:

    I think White has grown up…and I think he’s done a lot of good work on this issue.

    Mefford has become radicalized to the point that I don’t recognize her.

    I totally disagree with your estimation of both their audiences…

  45. Michael says:

    Thank you, Dusty!

  46. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    “I totally disagree with your estimation of both their audiences‚Ķ”

    What are you thinking, MMA instead of WWE? Which ever they are, neither audience is very sophisticated – more on the level of Rush Limbaugh’s audience..

  47. alex says:

    those two state-robot-things are way out of scale. if it’s blue and red you’d have a blue midget fighting a red giant based on geographical area

    look at a map of blue vs. red sometime, overwhelmingly red by county, it’s a few hyper-populated urban areas that ruin the politics for the whole country

    http://www-personal.umich.edu/~mejn/election/2016/countymaprb1024.png

  48. Duane Arnold says:

    Whoa…

    Where did we go from Kevin’s very thoughtful piece? I’m here because I want to discuss theology and Church history, not engage in name-calling. It was respectful and constructive. It should remain so..

    If you want to call people names, do it on Facebook. I respect other people way too much to engage in that sort of childish behavior here…

  49. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Duane,
    What is interesting about church history is that what happens today is a part of that continuous line of church history.
    Yesterday and today have become history – what will be remembered is a different story.

  50. Duane Arnold says:

    What will be accurate… is yet another story.

  51. Nathan Priddis says:

    Homosexuality is not really an issue in the Scriptures. It seldom is mentioned at all. Of the few mentions existing, some would appear to be in error in the KJV, and others misrepresented.

    *Four instances of “Sodomite” appear in the Scriptures, when the actual word seems to mean “devoted / sacred ones” or something along those lines. Their devotion possibly did involve homosexual acts, as well as heterosexual. But the point is it is not to us to second guess what God says.
    *Jude refers to Sodom and Gomorrah as “hetero” in their pursuit of “strange flesh”. The point being, it’s not “homo” sexual acts that appear to bring on the judgement of God in any way.
    *The sins of Sodom are listed, one through six. Homosexuality is never listed at all. The only possible sexual reference, is “committed abomination” appearing dead last. Over eating (sin two) and too much leisure time (sin three) appear to be more damming. This also must factor in the reality that “abomination” is a frequent word meaning to disgust, or cause revulsion. It usually appears in regard to religious practices of antiquity.

    What is never preached to Evangelicals regarding the Law, which does in fact condemn homosexuality, is the purpose of the Law in the first place. The Law is called the Law of Sin and Death, and it’s only purpose is to be impossible to fulfill, and therefore result in death for all humanity. Alongside numerous sexual prohibitions, is death resulting from wearing mixed fabrics, (Yes, cotton/poly blend is fatal) and tithing to your local church. ( The Temple Mount is the required destination, and it can’t be ten percent of your paycheck)

    Evangelicals are instructed constantly to follow the Law. But, God’s word says keeping the Law, results in a person being cursed.

  52. The New Victor says:

    NP: Mark 9:42.

  53. em... again says:

    #51-” it‚Äôs only purpose is to be impossible to fulfill, and therefore result in death for all humanity”
    we should be clear that there’s a little more to it … it is to show us an abridged glimpse of God’s standard (which you are correct in stating that we cannot meet) – it is not, however, a set of arbitrary gotchas

  54. nathan priddis says:

    @ New Victor
    I’m curious. Very much so. Explain?

  55. Truth Lover says:

    We can change our culture, but it starts by saving one lost soul at a time. We are to be salt and light to a dark and corrupt world. And yes, I do believe we should do what we can legislatively to have moral laws and uphold them. We need to infiltrate our culture: Meaning, we need Christians to be lawyers, school teachers, actors, college professors, politicians etc. and make a difference in our sphere of influence instead of abandoning certain occupations because they may be perceived as ungodly or questionable. If each one of us Christians lived in such a way as to represent Christ, we might win more converts. But today we let the “professionals” within the Church worry about evangelism. This was never the way God intended to win our culture to Christ. Each one of us is to care about souls in our daily lives and be that salt and light to them.

    Now in regards to our interactions with those lost, we need truth with gentleness and humility. Right now we are seeing fruit from our outreach to the homeless. We have a couple who will be coming to our church this very Sunday. We are excited! Yes, they are addicts. Are we going to jump all over them about it? No. We are going to let the Holy Spirit work in them just like He worked in us when we were first converted. That requires patience and trust in the work of God. We are just going to love on them. They know themselves their drug addiction is not good. The Holy Spirit will sort it out as they sit under the teaching of God’s word. Will we be there for them if they need rehab help? Yes, we will and can provide that help. We also have a homosexual couple who we’ve encouraged to attend our church (they are relatives) We want the LOST to come into our church!! When we unleash God’s Word and love and disciple them, God will sort out their sins like He does ours. We are NO DIFFERENT.We are not afraid to tell them the truth but we need to use wisdom. The more we as a Church break outside our little sterile walls and get our hands dirty, the more we are fulfilling our commission. And it’s wonderful!

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