Tuesday 14 July 2015

Leave strategy to God: Attitudes to Christianity having lost the culture wars

I became aware that Christians had lost the culture wars very soon after I became a Christian convert, and wrote a book about it called Thought Prison


It seems that this situation of defeat is increasingly being recognized among Christians.

What is also being recognized is that - so comprehensive is the loss - any notions of assembling some kind of coalition army to counter-attack and retake culture is impossible - because there simply are not enough Christian people with enough power to contemplate the idea. It would be like fighting a modern army with pea-shooters, or modern mass media propaganda with hand copied notes.

Yet at the same time as it has become clear that secular Leftism has triumphed against Christianity in the culture wars, it has become equally clear that secular Leftism has lost all will to survive, has indeed destroyed its own capability to survive, and is indeed actively assaulting itself (e.g. by enforcing sustained mass immigration of people who will destroy secular Leftism).

Just as Christians have adjusted to the collapse of Goodness in culture, so Leftism has adjusted to the fact that it cannot achieve anything - that it has lost the ability to motivate, that it is drowning in self-inflicted bureaucratic red tape - that people nowadays cannot even imagine a Leftist utopia!

All that modern Leftist ideologues can offer as a lifestyle is the Social Justice Warrior, fighting ever-fewer, ever-weaker enemies, over ever-less-serious issues; an escalatingly hyped - but ever-less-convincing - dishonest rhetoric of hatred against the (almost entirely imaginary!) forces of reaction. Pathetic!

But, as these ideas sunk slowly into me - I suddenly realized what was going on - From a divine perspective we are seeing a recapitulation of the situation when God's influence is lost.

This can be understood as God withdrawing His protection, and allowing our civilization to collapse -- it can be understood as God ensuring that a deeply wicked society is not allowed to become too powerful and is reduced to impotence and ineffectuality -- or it can be understood as Modern Man turning away from God and stopping his ears against divine communications, and consequently making a comprehensive mess of everything he attempts, until he gives up attempting anything.

When we recognize that we have lost the culture war, but that the victors are killing themselves as fast as they can - there is a clarification and a liberation. Everything becomes simple - simple and difficult, true: but nonetheless simple.

We can easily see what is right and wrong, who is on the side of Good and who is evil in any particular dispute.

We can easily know what needs to be repented in our own lives - an awful lot of things, since the forces against us are so overwhelming and pervasive. But repentance is always possible and always effectual - so that should not be a worry.

In sum, acknowledged, comprehensive defeat leads to a certain lightness of spirit!

Since we know that we are in God's hands, in great and in small - and we know that we cannot know all the multitude of invisible ways in which He watches over us, cherishes us, helps us - we can afford to live much more in the here-and-now, and do what is right in the minutiae of everyday life.

And leave strategy to God.



Geoff said...

Yeah, I would say that the Christian's responsibility is multifaceted right now, but it is primarily (as always), "Make disciples of all nations..." In this case, since that command was to the original apostles first, we should make disciples of ourselves.

But the multifacted part includes:
1. Raising children to be Christlike.
2. Learning to be productive/self-sufficient (the whole community of Christians not isolated individuals)
3. Learning to care for non-Christians without assuming their worldview (the big mistake of the last century).

Unknown said...

Yes! Thank you. We can now tell how those around us will answer the question of "Who do you say that I am?" Doesn't make the road ahead easier but provides great clarity.

Stephens said...

"And leave strategy to God."

And in those angry moments I do indeed have little care for the future of this modern day "Sodom and Gomorrah" and feel quite smug being confident that it is doomed to failure, that it has no long term future.

But then I realize what "Western" folly has unleashed on Christian minorities in the Middle East. That Christian suffering is not just in the dim and distant past (like Christians being fed to the Lions by Rome) but that it is in the 'here and now' today.

I remember that evil often has dire consequences for Christians, as it has in the Middle East right now, as it did in the Armenian Genocide a century ago, as it always can.

Tied as I am to my worldly comforts and weaknesses it is hard to imagine that for some the 'here and now' will be lost. That 'eternity' is the victory. I feel so ill-equipped to ever play a part in such a conflict.

I "leave strategy to God." but appreciate the luxury that geography and/or time has allowed me and don't feel so annoyed, or smug.

JP said...

The problem is not so much that modern Christians "lost" the culture war but that they never actually fought it. They gave up without a fight. Their "strategy", then as now, was "hunker down and maybe the Left will leave us alone" - despite the fact that it has been obvious for decades that the Left will not leave them alone.

A real fight involves killing, suffering, and death. Real Christians have for millennia been willing to kill, suffer, and die for their beliefs.

Unfortunately, Christians in Europe and North America today not only did not fight, but they were not (and are not) mentally prepared to fight. They are not merely unprepared to die for their beliefs, they are unprepared for any kind of physical suffering or hardship, unwilling to risk loss of employment, and unwilling even to suffer mild social embarrassment for their beliefs. A more flabby, cowardly, and contemptible army can scarcely be imagined.

Even a small group of Christians willing to fight could make a LARGE difference. The Left, after all, started as a relatively small group of conspirators. It is completely untrue that a "counterattack" is impossible - but it would require the kind of motivation and willingness to suffer that is conspicuously lacking in today's western Christians. "It would be like fighting a modern army with pea-shooters" -- ah, but motivated primitives in Afghanistan have indeed defeated a modern army with peashooters. The key is motivation!

A group, or nation, that fights and loses can rise again. A group that gives up without a fight is finished forever, and deservedly so.

"we know that we are in God's hands

In one of the Flashman books, the protagonist is trying to demoralize some men so that they won't fight. At the proper time, Flashman says to them "the five most depressing words in the language: "We are in God's hands.""

Such words do not lead to lightness of spirit, but to despair. They are appropriate for people who have given up, not for people who want to fight.

Those who want to fight do not leave the strategy to God. That's why God gave us brains - to devise ways to defeat our enemies.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Stephens - Not sure what your conclusion is - is it that you are annoyed and I am smug?

@JP- Not sure what timescale you are talking about, or what you mean by 'fight'? If you are talking about organized political action as 'fight' then there was a fairly big and determined evangelical backlash in the USA in the 70s and 80s (Francis Schaeffer etc). It didn't succeed. Are Christians stronger now?

Who's talking about giving-up? Not me. Maybe you think organized political action is the only or most significant thing in the world? I don't.

And I suppose you appreciate the irony of egging other people to sacrifice their lives for Christianity when you are commenting under a pseudonym? That, I can't take seriously.

stephens said...

@ Bruce Charlton - "Not sure what your conclusion is - is it that you are annoyed and I am smug?"

It was purely a comment on my own personal feelings about myself, that I can get a little *too* annoyed and smug.
It's not that I shouldn't want the promotion of sin to end in failure but that, on reflection, I should perhaps have more regard for those who are suffering and will suffer as things go bad.
I have, so far, had it very easy in life but realize I tend to be more thoughtful in the bad times. Perhaps "blessed are the poor in spirit" applies and the bad times will be better for my soul?

Leo said...

What have we lost?

We have lost the mass media. The mass media was once approving of or at least neutral towards Christianity. Much of the media is now avowedly hostile to Christianity in general and towards its more conservative expressions in particular. Unfortunately, the editor of the Boston Globe is now considered by many to be the arbiter of public morality in Boston, not the archbishop, likewise the editorial board of the New York Times instead of that city’s archbishop. And much of the media is merely mindless drivel.

The Internet is a babble of conflicting opinions, but there is a very strong anti-Christian current, and the Internet is the conduit of vast amounts of pornography and stupefying clickbait.

Under these circumstances direct political action, while sometimes helpful and occasionally inspired and inspiring, does not look particularly promising. But that was alway an unreliable strategy. See Psalm 146:3. Not that Christians should eschew politics and government. They just need to be aware of its pitfalls, temptations, and spiritual limitations.

We have lost many churches. Many churches have been torn by schism over the culture wars, and many churches, often the most liberal ones, are in steep numerical decline. Some venerable stone churches have been emptied and turned into condos or otherwise repurposed.

I am not directly in touch with college life, but from what I read, many colleges are in full PC mode, and those individuals not with the program have to keep their heads down. Many American colleges and universities were founded as seminaries and centers of Christian learning. It is difficult now to see that original founding.

But we are not in retreat on all fronts. Many in the West still stand firm as individuals, congregations, institutions, and denominations. Russia, once the citadel of atheism, is encouraging a rebirth Christianity. That came about by a combination of self-published notes, internal collapse, and, I believe, unseen spiritual forces. We are blessed to have native Mainland Chinese missionaries serving in our congregation (an LDS ward) who will likely return to China after their missions. This would have been impossible a generation ago. Christianity is doing well in the Global South. When I visited Chartres a few years ago, the Cathedral was packed, not with Frenchmen, but with Sri Lankans!

As I quoted elsewhere:

And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.