What is a “Culture War”?

HomeChristianity and the BibleWhat is a “Culture War”?

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


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.

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2 responses to “What is a “Culture War”?”

  1. Kal says:

    I personally believe that morality and theism shouldn’t have a part in lawmaking, and that Lawmaking should work to serve the people of said system first and foremost to maintain order without intrusion upon individuality or human rights. I DO however believe that laws should not be made to directly impact a theistic order or group should they not violate human right.

    An example which is controversial at the time, is Gay Marriage. While I have homosexual friends myself, even they tend to agree that Gay Marriage was an intrusion upon christian beliefs since sodomy is considered a crime against nature, and therefore sinful. Religiously speaking, marriage is a sacred bonding between Man and Woman, and the allowance of gay marriage is TECHNICALLY profane. But, God loves all, and especially loves lawmakers as it stands. My chief complaint was that there was legal documentation that homosexual couples could attain to validate their relationship, which is almost identical to a marriage contract, but that’s paperwork I’m not too familiar with myself.

    I do however believe that should a a theistic group should not intrude upon an individual’s right to life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, etc. If Bob wants to buy a six-pack of Bud Light on Sunday, then by all means, he can go do so, but at his own risk in the eyes of God.(Granted, I think god might be a little bit lenient on that note, but eh, who knows? I can’t claim to understand the means nor motives) If a man in Saudi Arabia wants to eat a pork sandwich, although disrespectful to those around him, decapitating the poor fool or stoning him to death is a bit over the top, especially if he wasn’t Muslim to begin with.

    Unkempt liberal (favorable to or in accord with concepts of maximum individual freedom possible, especially as guaranteed by law and secured by governmental protection of civil liberties.) Points of view are known to over-step the boundaries of traditional systems, which offends many, and in some cases, completely debases or insults a tradition, but I also feel that forcing tradition on to others is what leads to revolutions and crisis, when free-thinkers and individualists feel oppressed and have the means to stand up against an oppressive system.

    Striking a balance between the two is nigh-impossible with today’s current situation, but developing a mutual respect for both ideals, and developing legislation to protect each other and our ideals is what I feel would lead to a better society of groups coming together without competing against or offending one-another. After all, if you disagree, you simply need’st talk, and if no cencsus be met, agree to disagree, and turn paths. After all, nobody wants the violence that follows disagreeing views.

    Violence is a last resort, and an ultimate statement of love, yet the ultimate statement of sorrow and regret as well. To take the life of another, one must ultimately love thy enemy, and also come to terms with love for thyself and have that factor be greater than your opponent’s love for himself.

    • Tony says:


      You’ve written some interesting things here. My responses are simply that: responses. They’re the thoughts I have when I read your words.

      >> morality and theism shouldn’t have a part in lawmaking

      It’s been aptly said that ‘all legislation is morality’. What is a law, except a prohibition against (or a command for) a certain behavior, based on some notion of good and bad?

      >> morality and theism shouldn’t have a part in lawmaking

      Do you mean that theists shouldn’t be allowed to lobby for laws that match their views? If so, why would you remove this freedom from ONLY those people, and not others? Do you mean that one group of people (in this case theists) shouldn’t be able to create laws that enforce ONLY their viewpoints? How would that be different from every other suggested law? I don’t intend to suggest that a theocracy is a good idea, of course…it’s not. I mean to say that a free society allows its citizens to decide which behaviors are acceptable and unacceptable to them. Certainly a free society would not exclude one group from that process solely on the basis that their views are narrower than some other group’s views.

      That, of course, is exactly what’s happening in America at the moment. We see examples of ‘groupthink’ all over the place, where one narrow viewpoint is accepted and another is condemned. The only difference is which viewpoint is being shouted most loudly. Take your example of same-sex marriage: those who believe that everybody should be free to marry whomever they wish shout more loudly than those who believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. Both groups hold narrow views…they condemn any other position as unacceptable, and proclaim that their view is the only proper one. Both proclaim that their version of morality should be law. In a free society, both groups would have EQUAL say.

      >> a theistic group should not intrude upon an individual’s right to life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, etc.

      What does their theism have to do with this? Every law intrudes on someone’s rights. Laws against murder restrict the rights of murderers. Laws against spanking children restrict the rights of parents. Laws against driving while drunk restrict the rights of drinking drivers. Again, I don’t believe theocracy is a good idea, but you seem intent on the idea that those with strong views about morality should be precluded from making laws. Should we allow only the immoral and atheistic to make laws, or should everybody have a say in how their society works?

      Thanks for commenting, by the way!

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