A Christian who is also a conservative and a citizen tries to love God by loving his brothers and sisters. He does not confuse those loves, but serves the family and the state as best he can.
This post on the culture war is confused, I think.
It declares war on a man of straw or at best it boldly rebukes those holding foolish opinions.
Wilson gives ten reasons for opposing a culture war, but let’s look at each one briefly to discover the problem with the post. I don’t like the phrase “culture war,” but I will use it to avoid confusion.
First, he claims the “culture war” is motivated by the foolish notion that changing laws will make people Christian or make this a Christian nation. I am not sure how he knows this, not being privy to the psychology of millions, but let us assume many have this motive.
If people are so motivated, they are wrong, but one could (and I think should) support the political goals of conservative Christians without making this mistake.
I am a first a citizen of the Kingdom of God, but I am also a citizen of this republic. As a citizen of the earthly republic, I am asked to vote for my rulers. Some rulers wish polices compatible with what I think is true, some wish policies I think are based on false or wicked ideas.
Killing infants is wrong and while it will not make anyone a Christian to keep them from being a murderer, it will improve things for the babies who are not dead. It will also reduce the burden on the soul that does not carry the death of a child on its conscience.
Second, he says it seeks: “a Christian coercion of others toward better behavior, not an incarnational sharing with others of the better Way.”
I think he has confused goals here. The state often tries to coerce better behavior, whether the state is run by Christians or not. This will not get anyone to heaven, but it does improve the neighborhood in the meantime.
There is no reason that a Christian cannot support laws that will protect unborn children while also living a godly example that lifts up Christ. One can, after all, have short term and long term goals. Why make such things mutually exclusive?
I would like babies to live and to see the gospel in action. Laws that protect their life will help make sure the first happens and (by God’s grace) my lifestyle will do the second.
Third, he says we should not “expect people who don’t know Jesus to act like they do.”
The goal of a right to life movement is not that people who don’t know Jesus will act as if they do, but the not so far fetched goal that those who are citizens of this nation not act inhumanely.
One can be unregenerate without becoming killer.
Fourth, he argues that culture warriors are frequently hypocrites.
Apparently Wilson would wait to be governed by angels before allowing us opinions at all. He confuses the failures common to mankind with hypocritical behavior. The fact that we fail to live up to a standard does not mean we should destroy standards or stop asserting our societal goals.
We frequently fall short of giving “justice for all,” but Christian citizens should not stop holding that up as the societal ambition.
Fifth, he asserts it is not Biblical to “battle flesh and blood.” This is, however, confused and an over reading of a text. The apostles knew their ultimate foe, but still made arguments (theological) against human beings who held bad ideas. They even forcefully attacked them using strong rhetoric.
As a Christian my ultimate foe is never a human being, but as an American citizen I can argue against positions asserted by human beings. This should be done in a manner that is respectful to the common image of God in each human being.
Sixth, he argues that culture is temporary. This is true, but it makes the logical error of thinking that a lesser good is no good at all. Culture is not as valuable as the kingdom of God, but it is not without value. Art, work, literature will all pass away, but they can encourage the soul toward God in the short term. I don’t think writing a novel or a work of philosophy is as important as preaching the Gospel, but I am a human so I do it.
Men are political animals so we do politics for the same reason. It is not the most important thing, but it is of some value.
Wicked cultures may be temporary, but they can do great harm on their way to ruin. A culture that murders children cuts off their chances to flourish.
Seventh, he continues his psychological assertions about the movement by asserting it is “driven by fear.” If this true, then it need not be. One can feel motivated by love of my neighbor to try to assert what is good, true, and beautiful. For example, I am against abortion, because I am for life.
Eighth, he asserts it finds “no root in Jesus’ ministry,” perhaps missing the point that none of us are Jesus and that we are called to do many things that Jesus was not called to do given His very unique role. (To give a non-trivial and non-political example, Jesus ministry did not include being a parent of children, but mine does.)
While we are to be like Jesus in some ways, we cannot be like Him in others. The whole dying for the sins of the whole world thing is a bit beyond us . . .
Jesus was not a citizen of a modern republic, but I am. I must work out how one of His follower would deal with that different calling and situation with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit and the advice of others.
Ninth, he argues that it mangles the mission of the Church. This seems true, but it also misses the point that we have different roles and are not just Churchmen. The Church as Church must take prophetic stands for justice and peace. It has done so and will continue to do so. It does not and should not “do” politics. It has been bad when it has.
I am, however, not “the Church.” As a citizen I may have a different mission (for my life as a citizen) than my mission as a Churchman. The Church is not the family nor is it the state . . . so I can act as a family man and citizen without confusing that with my deepest commitment to Christ.
Finally, he asserts: “Nobody was ever legally or argumentatively or even culturally convinced to believe in Jesus.” I am not sure this is true as I believe I can point to several counter-examples, but let us assume that it is true.
I am not a Christian because it aids political conservatism. This would be wicked.
I am a political conservative, because as a citizen, using all the data I have, it seems the best position to take. As a political conservative I don’t trust princes (it is the very nature of the movement!) and I don’t think we will have Utopia before King Jesus returns.
Just as the family can become an idol, so can the state, but I need not get rid of my love for the family or my love for my country in order to avoid idolatry. I need only properly order my loves.
By all means, let us always remember that Jesus is Lord and His Kingdom is not of this world, but let us serve Him this side of that City by seeking justice for all God’s children as He gives us the light to see what His justice is.