“The problem with the culture war is not that it is wrong to fight for one’s beliefs. Rather, the culture war is a problem because in an all-out war, opponents become enemies to be defeated at all costs. In a war there is little incentive to search for middle ground or to make alliances on other issues” (“Prayer and Conversation,” The Christian Century, January 22, 2009: 7).

 

“‘[I]t is important for Americans to come together even though we may have disagreements on certain social issues’” (Barack Obama, quoted in “Obama, Warren defy culture war, The Christian Century, January 22, 2009: 12).

 

“‘We don’t have to see eye to eye to walk hand in hand, and you can disagree without being disagreeable’” (Rick Warren, ibid.: 13).

 

The culture wars continue to rage, with the cauldron of conflict continually stirred by pundits, preachers, politicians, and power-mongers who feed on hatred and fear like some ravenous sci-fi beast that thrives on negative emotions. For all the attention they get, the hot-button issues the culture wars are being fought over must be important to a great many people all over the nation in every generation.

 

But such a conclusion would be inaccurate or at least increasingly so. The church consultant and writer Tom Ehrich reports how a congregation working on a “Church Wellness Project” (www.churchwellness.com) recently asked members what questions they would ask of God. The two largest categories (each with 21%) were curiosity about the nature of God and the purpose of life. The next two largest were suffering at 16% and the nature of faith at 14%. “All other questions — including the topics that denominations and congregations fight most heatedly over, such as doctrine and leadership issues — accounted for tiny fractions” (emphasis mine).

 

Ehrich notes: “This congregation’s results are in line with every other Listening Church exercise I have led or seen. Left to their own desires, it seems people don’t pursue church conflicts or the topics that tend to underlie church conflicts, but rather have some fundamental questions about God and life” (Church Wellness Report, April 1, 2009).

 

Also significant is Neela Banerjee’s description of young evangelicals like those who attend Rob Bell’s Mars Hill Church. They are “tired of politics being at the center of faith and … want to ‘broaden the traditional evangelical anti-abortion agenda to include care for the poor, the environment, immigrants and people with HIV’” (quoted in Debra Bendis, “Bell’s Appeal,” The Christian Century, March 24, 2009: 23). Banerjee says that young adults are “tired of the culture wars”  (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/01/us/01evangelical.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1).

 

This Good Friday, I long for all churches and communities to stop their fighting over questions people aren’t actually asking and start addressing the problems, the fears, the needs that occupy their every waking moment. I still lament the culture wars and know that more than ever, we need the forgiveness Jesus asked God for from the cross, the deliverance of people who have no idea what they’re doing.

 

I share again with you my song lyrics that unfortunately continue to be relevant. They’re written as if a parent is speaking to his or her child, urging the young one not to get caught up in the wrangling and the hurt, but to seek the truth which continues to elude us. The good news is that today’s young adults, like those interviewed and profiled by Ms. Banerjee, are indeed refusing to enlist as culture warriors and instead, with right hearts, are serving as Jesus did.

 

“Good Friday (Lament for the Culture Wars”)

© 1994 Tom Cheatham

 

Slow, heavy rock (verses); acoustic (bridge)

 

There’s people out on the street; they’re startin’ to push and shove.

They use their words like swords and not a one is love.

The battle lines are drawn; the war’s about to start.

O my child, my child, you better watch your heart!

 

You tell me that you’re right, and that means I am wrong.

And so the hatred grows, and we can’t get along.

Your way, my way, no way out, unless we come to blows.

If you ask me what is true, I’ll just say “Who knows?”

 

            We won’t come to a meeting of the minds

            Until our hearts are right.

            And we won’t see the peace that there could be

            Until we live in the light!

 

Once there was a day when all of time stood still

And people watched a man as he died upon a hill.

“O Father, please forgive, they don’t know what they do.”

I wonder if his words were meant for me and you.

 

            We won’t come to a meeting….

 

Once there was a day when all of time stood still.

 

 Blog post © 2009 Tom Cheatham

 

 

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