Daily devotion

Losing the Culture wars

I once addressed the topic “Culture Wars” before a large gathering that was titled toward the liberal Democratic persuasion and included a strong minority Jews. I had been selected as the token evangelical Christian on a panel that included the presidents of the Disney Channel and Warner Brothers, as well as the president of Wellesley College.

To prepare for my talk, I went through the Gospels for guidance, only to be reminded how unpolitical Jesus was. Today, each time an election rolls around Christians debate whether this or that candidate is “God’s man”(or woman) for the White House. I had difficulty imagining Jesus pondering whether Tiberius, Octavius, or Julius Caesar was “God’s man” for the empire.

I was also struck by what happens when Christians lose the culture wars. In waves of persecution during the 1960s and 1970s, for instance, Chinese believers were fined, imprisoned, and tortured. Yet despite this government oppression, a spiritual revival broke out that could well be the largest in the history of the church. As many as fifty million believers gave their allegiance for an invisible kingdom even as the visible kingdom made them suffer for it.

When my turn came to speak, I said the main I follow, a Palestinian Jew from the first century, had also been involved in a culture war. He went up against a rigid religious establishment and a pagan empire. The two powers, often at odds, conspired together to eliminate him. His response? Not to fight, but to give his life for these his enemies, and to point to that gift as proof of his love. Among the last words he said before death were, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

After the panel, a television celebrity came up to me whose name every reader would recognize. “I’ve got to tell you, what you said stabbed me right in the heart,” he said, “I was prepared to dislike you because I dislike all right-wing Christians and I assumed you were one. I don’t follow Jesus—I’m a Jew. But when you told about Jesus forgiving his enemies, I realized how far from that spirit I am. I have much to learn from the spirit of Jesus.”

“Unwrapping Jesus,” Christianity Today, June 17,1996(30-31)

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