Friday, July 03, 2015

Lost Cultural Battle

I do not expect to find wisdom in the New York Times, but David Brooks’ editorial on the Supreme Court decision summed up the situation really well.

Here is my take on the situation. A wise general knows:

  • Persisting with a battle that is lost does not help win the war.
  • Letting the enemy choose the battleground unnecessarily gives him a huge advantage.
  • Fight battles at places where you are strong and the enemy is weak is the best way to win the war.
The battle for the culture was lost a long time ago. Continuing to fight that battle, as if we could still win it is pointless. We need to step back, and find a new way to challenge the culture, on a ground where we are strong.

David Brooks was right when he wrote,

Christianity is in decline in the United States. The share of Americans who describe themselves as Christians and attend church is dropping. Evangelical voters make up a smaller share of the electorate. Members of the millennial generation are detaching themselves from religious institutions in droves.

Christianity’s gravest setbacks are in the realm of values. American culture is shifting away from orthodox Christian positions on homosexuality, premarital sex, contraception, out-of-wedlock childbearing, divorce and a range of other social issues. More and more Christians feel estranged from mainstream culture...

These conservatives are enmeshed in a decades-long culture war that has been fought over issues arising from the sexual revolution... a culture war that, at least over the near term, they are destined to lose.
For four or five centuries, culture was shaped by newspapers and pamphlets, but mostly the pulpit. The sermon was the main culture-forming event of the week, so Christian values had a huge influence.

In the modern world, culture is determined by television, movies and social media, not by ideas from a book that most people have never read.

At first it seemed like television was on our side, because it portrayed a pseudo-Christian reality. When I first started watching television in the 1960s, programs like the Donna Reed Show portrayed real two-parent familes. That was the norm. There were single-parent shows like the Andy Griffith show and My Three Sons, but they were interesting because they were clearly abnormal. In hindsight, I presume they were the thin end of the wedge, because they made a single-parent family look practical.

Of course, the two-parent family living in the suburbs and driving everywhere that was portrayed in these programs was a miserable imitation of the Christian family. That is why it was unable to withstand the pressure of cultural change. The cultural battle was already lost, because Christians believed this pathetic distortion was “the Christian family”.

The 1970s brought the Happy Days of the Cunningham family, but even in this program the counter-cultural Fonz gradually moved from lurking in the shadows and into the heart of the family.

Now the counter-culture has becomes the culture. On modern US Television, alternative relationships are the norm, and they have been for a long time. In contrast, Christian families are rare, or odd. Christians might be forty percent of the population, but they are missing from television, except in the irrelevant ghetto of Christian television.

The battle for the culture has been lost for nearly twenty years. Those who understand this were not surprised by the Supreme Court decision. The judges are old, so they are just catching up to where the rest of the culture arrived a decade ago.

Continuing to confront a hostile culture about the sexual revolution just makes us look ugly. Especially the news is full of stories of church leaders joining the sexual revolution.

Last night on our TV news, I saw two men with Bibles standing on a street in the US and yelling at a 9 year old girl waving a rainbow flag. It was probably a set up, but it made Christians look ugly, especially because these men are not shouting at pastors who commit adultery. For many viewers, the incident would have confirmed their view that Christians are angry, hateful and hypocritical. If Jesus is like that, they are not interested in him.

In my next post, I would look at better battle strategy, one that will enable us to win the war, by losing, like Jesus did.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

American Christians lost the culture war long ago when they embraced pop culture in a largely uncritical manner, thinking they could have a "Christian" version of it and use it as a marketing tool. Just look at what passes for worship in most churches today. It doesn't work to say, "We'll take all of it except the sex."