So you might be wondering, what exactly did evangelicals do wrong in this culture war? Well, there are a multitude of reasons that cannot be adequately explored in one blog post or even one book, so I’ll hit some of the highlights.
You can’t both argue against abortion and be against wider use of birth control. When there is wider use of birth control, there are less unwanted pregnancies which translates to less abortions. Let me be clear, I don’t think evangelicals were wrong to be pro life. However, I do fault them for following leaders who were more interested in punishing women for having sex than actually preventing/reducing the number of abortions. Abortion is a complex issue in which laws rarely do any good and thus requires a broader approach. For example, how do we deal with poverty in inner cities? How do we increase access to birth control to reduce abortions? How do we help often single mothers after they decide to keep the child? Evangelicals in many ways chose the more simplistic approach of clamoring for laws and pointing fingers. Abortion is a big issue and thus deserves a more in depth approach rather than using it as a war cry.
Homosexuals were one of the most common targets during the culture war. Many people made claims about homosexuals. Some claimed they were all swingers who spread diseases. Others associated them with pedophiles. More commonly, people claimed society would collapse if gay marriage was allowed. Do you see a pattern among these claims? None of them can be backed up by evidence.
I have said before that I believe you cannot remove faith from public life, and I believe that. But that does not mean one religion should ever dominate government. A quick look at Iraq right now with the actions of ISIS should show one the danger of that path. Also, when one looks at laws, one needs to consider if those laws are to prevent other people from being treated unjustly or if they are simply there to support a prejudice. There is no proof that gay marriage, or giving gays civil rights hurts others in the slightest(and that doesn’t include feelings). All it takes is for someone to know a gay person personally to know what evangelicals say about them is false. There are plenty of good gay people who contribute to society and simply want, like everyone else, to be accepted in society. Now there are exceptions, there are obnoxious gay people who are looking for control, the same could be said of any group. But to engage in this pointless war on homosexuals has cost the evangelicals dearly. There’s a reason people call the church homophobic and it’s not all part of a smear campaign. People, especially in more conservative churches give more than enough evidence of homophobia on a weekly basis.
Jesus did not feel the need to rant in public about what different people did in their bedrooms, but he did rant about how the religious people behaved in their own little culture war.
I mentioned this briefly in my last part so I’ll expand upon it here. The goal of the Moral Majority and other groups was to take political power and reshape the United States. In some cases this was subtle in others it was more direct. For example, at some home school conferences you will hear people talk about training youth to become leaders and take back the nation. Power and religion are an immensely dangerous combination and is a recipe for religious hypocrisy. Think of Ted Haggard, who was very much involved in the culture wars, so much so he was featured in the movie Jesus Camp. Then a few weeks later, he was caught with a gay prostitute.
Yet, power can be damaging in other ways. Think of Uganda, which is leading a kill the gays campaign as we speak. Much of their rhetoric came directly from several “Christian” evangelists who were eager to reshape how Uganda dealt with homosexuality.
The Bible warns us constantly about the dangers of power. Even Samuel warned Israel against getting a king as that king would surely oppress them. One cannot serve two masters.
Alliance to Republicans
Jesus is not a Republican or a Democrat, but it would be hard to know that fact if you were in the thick of the culture war. In many cases, pastors would indirectly or directly push their congregations to vote Republican. Christians began to adopt not just the socially conservative positions but also the economically conservative positions as well. Thus, you began to hear Christians make disparaging remarks towards the poor. You would hear them downright supporting statements that would be more at home in an Ayn Rand novel than in the Bible.
There is an incredible danger in allying to a political party because you allow that party to start to dictate how you interact with people outside the party and what your beliefs are. For example, think of how little pastors preach on what the Bible has to say on greed and on the rich. I have heard maybe one such sermon and it ultimately turned into a Dave Ramsey centric sermon. Also think of the prosperity Gospel which argues God wants to make you rich. When you get right down to it, there is an underlying belief in some evangelical circles that the rich people are just more blessed and better than the poor. This runs dangerously close to Social Darwinism, which is odd considering that the culture warriors were certainly opposed to evolutionism.
I don’t mean to give Democrats a free pass. God challenges both political parties and so should Christianity. A blind alliance between religion and politics is always dangerous.
This post could last for an eternity so I will end on a note about how the culture warriors related to America. There seemed to be a strange sort of patriotism that viewed America in almost a Holy Land light. It was God’s own land, the best country on earth that needed to be defended from the heathen who wanted to stop it from being a Christian nation.
The New Testament calls us to be good citizens certainly, but it does not approve of this blind nationalism, this binding of state and church. Ultimately Christians are called to serve the Kingdom of God, not the Kingdom of Men. The USA, while certainly having its good points is in the end just another nation capable of evil and good. Christians are called to worship God not the US of A.
The path of the culture war has caused immense damage. It has harmed both the church and those outside of it. It is time to lay aside that banner of war and actually take up the cross. Christians are called to be lights for the world, not the rulers of the world.
Stay tuned for my next post on something a bit lighter, the adorable Toradora.