Since at least the founding of the Moral Majority in 1979 by the late Jerry Falwell, Evangelical Christianity has been involved in a culture war. Though the Moral Majority disbanded, other leaders have stepped up where it left off. Think of people like the late Dr. James Kennedy, the founding Pastor of the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family. Growing up in a Church of Christ, I can even remember watching Sunday School videos of Rubel Shelly, a popular leader among Churches of Christ, warning about the dangers of bands like KISS and AC/DC.
Over the years as the culture war has intensified, Christians have been strongly encouraged to vote with their conscience. Concerned Christians believed that if the results of the elections could be swayed by their votes, that some semblance of Christian society could remain. One blogger has described this use of political power as “coercion by legislation”. That is to that Christianity is using politics to try and legislate Christian values upon society. But at what cost?
In a blog post I wrote a while back (you can read it here), I described the current cultural climate as a large table conversation taking place in which a variety of beliefs and value systems are having a large conversation. Christianity is only one voice at the table but it also finds itself increasingly unwelcome at the table. People have grown weary of Christians trying to always get their way. And they see through the claims of “doing God’s work” or “defending the cause of Christ” as simply a selfish act.
Now it may be that the other voices at the table are just as selfish but what gives Christians the right to be selfish? In his letter to the Philippians, the Apostle Paul insisted that Christians adopt the same attitude of Jesus who “made himself nothing by taking on the very nature of a servant… …becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross” (Phil 2:5-8). Paul was writing to a church divided over an issue between two Christian women (4:2). Yet as he wrote, he was calling the church back to the way of Jesus. The point is that even if they believe they are in the right, they must let go of their right to be right and become a servant to each other.
That is what I call cross power. Instead of employing force or coercive tactics, Christians are called to become servants even if it means being wronged and mistreated. Yet the Christianity I am part of, American Christianity, has largely forgotten this. While most Christians have not resorted to violent force, we have have been very forceful with our beliefs and values.
Yet as we fight this cultural war, the first cost of winning seems to be sacrificing our soul. That is, at the expense of fighting this cultural war with the coercive tactics of this world, we are giving up the heart of the gospel that we have been called to embody. We can proclaim that Jesus is the way, truth, and life (Jn 14.6) all we want but if we do not embody that way, truth, and life in our own ways, our proclamation is nothing more than hypocrisy.
I speak only for myself but if having a society where the laws reflect Christian beliefs and values means giving up the way of Christ, count me out. I believe in and follow Jesus, not a political movement that has hijacked the name “Christianity” for its cause.