From time to time, I surprise some of my American Christian friends about my attitudes toward the culture war. By culture war, I refer to the battle between the left and right, the liberals and conservatives.
I’m told that if I identify as an evangelical Christian (which I do), I’m obligated to join the fight of conservatives against liberals. This goes beyond which political party the Bible tells me to vote for [insert sarcasm here] but includes the shaping of the values I should hold.
I will confess that I did buy into this twenty-five years ago. I had just discovered evangelical Christianity and the only Christian radio that was available was from an American station (I live in Canada). I soaked up the teaching, as I was eager to learn as much about the Bible as I could.
One of the things that I learned was that evangelical faith has extreme overlap with Republican politics. While it may be possible to be a Republican and not an evangelical, it was not possible to be an evangelical and not a Republican. Even those Republicans who didn’t identify as Christian, were probably evangelicals without realizing it.
Gradually I was able to discover forms of evangelicalism that were different, including those represented in Canada and the United Kingdom. These were not as eager to identify with specific political positions.
But the real turning point for me was through a number of conversations online about the culture war. I was informed that the culture war was the primary filter for determining what was right or wrong, even for Christians.
Let me give you some examples.
I was discussing the importance of caring for the poor. I pointed out the many times that Jesus talks about caring for the poor being an essential part of the Christian life. I was told that was not the case for evangelicals because caring for the poor was a part of the liberal agenda. Even though Jesus might have thought caring for the poor was good, doing so in our current culture war would be siding with the liberals and thus unacceptable.
This blew my mind.
Another discussion really got me angry. An important part of my ministry is advocating for individuals and families with disabilities (you can find my disability post here). This is important to me as a father of two children with autism.
I was talking about how important it is to minister to and with people with disabilities. An individual contacted me and told me that no evangelical had any business focusing on people with disabilities. He told me that caring for the disabled was part of the liberal agenda and giving in on that issue would hurt the conservative (and thus, according to him, the evangelical) cause. I can’t even begin to describe the confusion and anger I felt at these comments.
Am I a liberal?
One might conclude that I reject all conservative positions and hold to liberal views. This is not true. For example, I’m strongly pro-life. But I’m pro-life not because it is the conservative position but rather because I believe it is the correct position.
If you looked at all my beliefs about all of the topics that I have an opinion on, you would find positions found all along the liberal and conservative spectrum. I have often got in trouble because I’m too liberal for conservatives and too conservative for liberals. It ain’t easy being a radical moderate!
Why I reject the Culture War.
The reason I reject the culture war is not because I dismiss the importance of politics or speaking out on issues. Rather I reject the culture war because it expects me to develop my positions based on how it will the support side that I identify with. I refuse to do that.
My identity is not found in conservatism or liberalism but as a follower of Jesus. I look to the life and teachings of Jesus as passed on by his followers and try to determine what is right. Those positions will always trump how that hurts or helps a particular side of the culture war.
I have been told by some of my American friends that as a Canadian, I just don’t understand how important the culture war really is. That may be true. But I feel confident that my values need to be shaped by Jesus and not by a political agenda.
One of the authors that I have found very helpful is Ron Sider. I encourage you to check out his books.