Here is something I wrote during seminary and am becoming more convinced that it might be correct.
It has become common for young Christian leaders to have apathy towards a right-wing Christianity that is constantly at odds with the culture around them. Younger Christians are standing up and saying they want to move past the tired culture war debates that have persisted over the last 30 years. But I have begun to wonder if this is really possible or just a naive idea.
Don’t get me wrong I think that some Christians, past and present, have too tightly tied together biblical principles and political values. And the result has been that for many of the unchurched in our nation Christianity is a group of hypocritical bigots who are just trying to establish a puritanical theocracy.
But is it possible for biblical faithful Christians to move past the culture wars? As much as I would like to say yes the sad truth is no, in fact I think the culture wars will only escalate in the coming decades. And while they may go dormant with one side winning more than the other they will only boil more intensely as time goes on.
My point of this post is not to rally the troops or to prepare you to pick sides but more of to explain why I think this is the case.
Up until the Enlightenment humanity had a shared theistic/deism/Christian worldview. This worldview grounded morality and explained how people ought to act and behave. It was the grounding, to use the proper philosophical term, of why people acted with virtue. We had a shared civil morality that grounded how we governed and interacted with each other. With the Enlightenment this all changed.
Nietzsche proclaimed that God was dead and with the rise of Darwinian evolution we were freed from the need to believe that God created the cosmos, therefore if God was not needed for creation he was not needed to ground our morality either. Such statements that we find in our Declaration of Independence that ground the worth and value of humans not in what they can do or achieve but rather in their orgins/ontology no longer made any sense. It became impossible to tell anyone why they should not steal, or harm others, other than to make secular arguments from utilitarianism about working for the greatest good for the greatest number. But even with utilitarianism there is no grounding for the “ought” why ought one comply with what is good for the greatest number and for that matter what is good and who gets to define it?
With this moral confusion fascism, communism and uber-nationalism took root. The history of the twentieth century bore the fruit of these new human ambitions with events such as WWI, WWII, and the atrocities of Pol-Pot in China. Secular intellectuals who put such hope in these ideologies did not return to faith for the grounding of human morality and meaning rather they reached into despair that any truth about the world was possible, thus the rise of postmodernism.
Truth became subjective (true for you but not for me), minimalistic (as long as I don’t hurt anyone) and ever changing depending on one’s culture. Morality was turned into a hodgepodge of sentimental consensus and preference. Which effectively stripped it of a sturdy basis to speak out against moral evils.
Without a grounding for morality no moral consensus can be reached, which is why we are in an ongoing culture war. Human rights, and morality once grounded in Creator God are now subjective instead of objective.
Without God and grounding our morality in him we are left with no real resource to say what is good or evil, right or wrong, or how humans ought to live. And these are really the root issues and matters that undergird all of the culture wars, and why they will only intensify over time. For the Christian, human rights, morality, and truth are knowable and rooted in God. For many secular liberals nothing could be more absurd and disdainful. As time wears on this cultural divide will only make itself more apparent in our elections, educational systems, entertainment, and laws.
Of course I am not advocating a “us vs. them” posture. I am simply attempting to explain the culture wars and why they will continue. It will be the responsibility of every mature follower of Jesus to deftly navigate these perilous culture waters and love both the truth God has objectively given to us and our neighbor.