What is a “Culture War”?

Should Christians fight? Can a Christian be a fighter? How to avoid conflict in church.

I heard someone say we are in a culture war. What is a culture war?

Sandra

That’s a good question, Sandra. A “culture war” is when one group’s ideas about what society should be like conflicts with another group’s ideas about what society should be like. One historical example of a culture war is modern slavery, as it was practiced in Europe and America from the 1600’s to 1800’s. Some believed that slavery was wrong, and others believed that slavery was just fine. They fought over these ideas for a long time, and (thankfully) the non-slavery side eventually won the legal battle. Slavery still exists, of course…so the two sides keep fighting. The difference is that while slavery was once legal in the West, it’s now illegal.

Most religions are at odds with the culture around them. Christianity, for example, teaches that we should love our enemies. Western society, on the other hand, accepts concepts like revenge as generally acceptable. These ideas conflict, so there’s a “battle” between those with different viewpoints over how society will end up. Clearly, there’s very little actual “battle” going on about love and revenge. More commonly, conflicts occur between Christians and Western culture over moral and ethical activities related to politics and abortion and sex and freedom.

It’s worth noting that the early church (as we see in the New Testament) wasn’t engaged in a culture war. They lived in the Roman Empire and were subjects of a foreign power that threatened their existence…but “changing the culture” wasn’t a priority for them. They worked to spread the gospel. While I’m all for individual Christians taking part in the political process, the marriage between Christians and positions of power have historically caused problems. Were the church to stick with simply preaching (and living) the gospel, it’s my opinion that we would see a very different, and much better, world in a very short period of time. Christians are called to support one another, preach the gospel, and love everyone in practical ways. We are not called to change the cultures we live in, to create “heaven on earth” by dominating the political landscape, or to force anyone to live as believers should live.