Priests, pastors, child abuse, and sexual abuse … “Me-too” … Black Lives Matter … Blue Lives Matter … Students Lives Matter … Kavanaugh Hearings … Jamal Khashoggi … The Wall … DACA … Political Refugees … Voter Suppression … Nuclear Proliferation … Abortion … Affordable Medical Care and Health … Climate Change … Seventeen years of war in the Middle East … Blue Tribe – Red Tribe … Us – Them
How can and should Christians speak as a prophetic voice within a society that has been torn and abused by culture wars? How can Christians speak as a prophetic voice where many, including many in the church, have taken up weapons of mass cultural destruction?
During the first centuries of the church, almost all Christians were pacifists. They were committed to Jesus’ admonition to love one’s friends and enemies, even if that meant their own martyrdom. About three hundred years later, the influential bishop Augustine of Hippo asked whether a defensive war could be just. To fight such a war, Augustine proposed, one must have a just purpose, such as defending the defenseless. One must use means that are just. Most importantly, the motive and practice of love is to be central. This included loving one’s enemies in the midst of war. This became known as Just War Theory.
During the first centuries of the church, almost all Christians were pacifists. They were committed to Jesus’ admonition to love one’s friends and enemies, even if that meant their own martyrdom.
In the late twentieth century theologian Glen Stassen proposed a new theory, one that is of Just Peacemaking. Stassen’s goal sought to bring together pacifists and Just War advocates. Together, they might work for peace and justice for all. When the church addresses culture wars, is there a way that the church can become advocates of Stassen’s Just Peacemaking – promoting justice and peace – in the midst of culture wars? The following three proposed actions can move us toward actions of justice and peace.
First, we should work for the elimination of cultural arms of mass destruction. This includes our words, our actions, and the influence we wield. Among those actions, we should ask, “Are our actions on social media valuing others?” We need to be kind, loving, and truthful. We should value persons with whom we differ. We must not demonize another person or another group of people. Winning the culture war should not be our objective, but rather caring for the other to bring justice and peace.
We must not demonize another person or another group of people. Winning the culture war should not be our objective, but rather caring for the other to bring justice and peace.
Second, we should listen and value those voices who have been devalued. We are to value the marginalized, proclaiming “good news to the poor … and setting the oppressed free” [Luke 4:18]. We must listen to the victims and casualties of culture wars. We must listen to the victims of sexual abuse, to the victims of misogyny, to the victims of racial profiling, to the victims within systems that face limitations acquiring access to health. We must provide a fortress against the weapons and abuses of culture wars.
Third, we should value Citizenship of Heaven. We should engage in a global vision. We are to value the fullness of humanity and God’s creation. We look beyond ourselves. We look to the betterment of all persons. This should influence how we address issues such as war, immigration, global trade and tariffs, and abuses in political power.
When I was very young, my parents cautioned me not to alienate others because of misconceptions. Further, they refused to prioritize a particular political party as the godly party. They valued those who acted justly and ethically. During a very raucous political campaign in the 1960s, I naïvely asked, “Daddy, are we Democrats or Republicans?” After an extended pause, my father reflected, “Well, I guess we are probably Democrats.” Then my mother immediately spoke up, “But we liked Ike,” referring to Republican President Dwight Eisenhower.
My parents were not political, in the sense of actively participating in party politics. I am not even sure if they ever voted. Yet, at the same time, they were not a-political. Rather, they contended for and worked for the marginalized, valuing those whom most had overlooked. Leaders were to be persons of character and just ethics.
Personally, I have voted for Republicans; I have voted for Democrats. I have campaigned for Democrats; I have campaigned for Republicans. I have voted and campaigned in ways that have attempted to address abuses of power, have attempted to lift up the marginalized, and have acted justly toward others. I attempt to advocate for justice and peacemaking in global and cultural wars, attempting to advocate for a Citizenship of Heaven. Have my actions always lived up to these ideas? No. Yet, paraphrasing Martin Luther King, we can dream for a world in which we will care for the other person and act justly. This also gives us room to hear from and engage with the concerns of different political issues.
We can dream for a world in which we will care for the other person and act justly. This also gives us room to hear from and engage with the concerns of different political issues.
If we will work toward justice and peacemaking during the present Culture Wars and during our present very long hot war in the Middle East, we will value the other person and do the work of God. We should and can work toward the model of Christ, addressing issues of truth and justice in love. As a prophetic voice, it remains our duty to work toward just peacemaking.