Saturday, December 24, 2005

Thoughts on the Culture Wars

Last year I wrote on this blog that the reasons I hate Christmas are:

1. Christmas was too materialistic
2. that the sappy morality of "Christmas spirit" espoused in TV specials was worthless, and
3. that calls to remember "the true meaning of Christmas" were just another front in the culture wars, as in "this is our holiday and we're going to take it back from those secularists"

My horrible prose aside, it seems that I was ahead of my time on the 3rd point. Maybe the media has been making a bigger deal out of it than it should, but even over in Japan I have been hearing about the "Happy Holidays\ Merry Christmas" controversy. Phil and Melissa have both written excellent posts on this, and they have inspired me to chip in with my two cents as well.

A lot of people aren't thinking very carefully about what they are doing. Was anyone ever brought to Christ because of a storefront display that said, "Merry Christmas"? Are we seriously thinking about what God wants, or are we just rushing ahead into the next battle in the culture wars.

Perhaps one of my favorite seminary students or PKs can correct me on this, but I think we need to make a distinction between what glorifies God and what glorifies us as Christians.
It strikes me that most of the culture wars are not about glorifying God, but ensuring that we as Christians are respected.

I think that ideally Christians should be willing to sacrifice our respect for the glory of God. If it would bring glory to God, we should be willing to let men say all sorts of evil about us or endure all sorts of indignities. In short we should be willing to play "the bigger man" in these sorts of situations.

Unfortunately it seems that most of the Christians in America are the most whiney snivelling bunch you could ever imagine. Their insistence on symbolic victories to ensure the earthly respect of the Church is actually driving many people away from God, and thus having the opposite of their intended effect.

This is true of most elements of the culture wars. Take for instance the "ten commandments" in the court house. ("Yes! We're number one!")

The words "under God" in the pledge of allegiance. ("Take that! In your face, secularists!")

Speaking of the ten commandments, I'm reminded of the 3rd commandment: "Do not take the name of God your Lord in vain. God will not allow the one who takes His name in vain to go unpunished". These are obviously pretty strong words.

Most people assume this means that we shouldn't use "God" as an exclamation, as in "Oh my God!" I of course am open to correction by a seminary student, but I'm skeptical of this.

After all the English word "God" wouldn't even be invented for thousands of years after the Ten Commandments were written. The commandment at the time referred to the Jewish word "Yahweh". The English word "God" wouldn't be used until the missionaries used the word for the Germanic deity to explain Christianity to the Barbarian tribes. And even then the spelling and pronunciation of the original German has evolved over time. So I think it's kind of arbitrary to think that the 3rd commandment refers to using the English word "God" as an exclamation.

Instead, what I think this commandment refers to is exploiting God's name for our own purposes. Like when Bush claims God told him to invade Iraq. Or when we use God's name as an "in your face" to the secularist as part of our cultural wars, such as by inserting it in the pledge of allegiance. I believe this is what the 3rd commandment refers to when it says, "God will not allow anyone who takes his name in vain to go unpunished."

Link of the Day
Since I started listening to Audio Books in Internet Cafes I have cut back on my NPR time. But every once and a while I forget the Audio books, and get a chance to catch up.
A friend alerted me to this interview with the new Beatles biographer.
And even more interesting is this program on Bart Ehrman's 'Misquoting Jesus'

1 comment:

Otherside said...

Wonderful post, and I couldn't agree with you more!

That point about the commandment was intrieging. Wow. I should run this by my dad sometime and see what he says about it. I think you make valid points and it's worth me meditating over. Thank you, as always for your wonderful insights.