Cultural warfare threatens the death of community virtue
By Dr. Phil Stringer
Author of Transformation
The term “Culture War” has become common in describing contemporary American life and politics. Robert P. Dugan, Jr. (National Association of Evangelicals) said: “We are in the midst of raging ‘Kultur-kampf’, a cultural war to determine the ways of thinking, living, and behaving that define a society.”
The following two statements are from Dr. James Dobson’s book Children at Risk:
“Nothing short of a great Civil War of values rages today throughout North America. Two sides with vastly differing and incompatible world views are locked in bitter conflict that permeates every level of society . . . Let me put it in another way. Children are the prize to the winners of the second great Civil War. Those who control what young people are taught and what they experience—what they see, hear, think, and believe—will determine the future course for the nation.”
A Culture War exists when two or more different cultures compete to be the mainstream in a society. A Culture War may be cold (when the conflict is a strong clash of values or ideas), or hot (a civil war of violent force for control). For the most part, the American Culture War has been cold (though more and more liberals are calling for government harassment of Christians).
The Scripture warns that those who oppose Christianity and Christian culture will want to draw people away from their faith and values. Colossians 2:8 says, “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.”
This passage begins with the strongest possible word of warning—BEWARE. This is a very strong warning with very serious consequences for failure to take this warning seriously.
This is the very important warning: There are people who want to “spoil” your spiritual life—ruin your faith, values, and doctrine. The reasons for this obsession on their part will be covered in the next three chapters. Nevertheless, make no mistake about it, these people do not want to just be free to live in personal rebellion against Christian truth. They want to lessen their feelings of personal guilt by involving as many people in their non-Christian lifestyle as possible. This is why they are waging a Culture War against Christian values, against Christian morality, and against America’s historic Christian culture.
THE BATTLEFIELD OF THE CULTURE WAR
It should be remembered that it is often hard to persuade adults to change their culture. Because of this, the primary targets of the war against Christian values are children and teenagers.
The Culture War is fought in many areas in the United States:
The American news media often reports events and evaluates them from a non-Christian (or even anti-Christian) perspective.
The public school system is full of non-Christian ideas taught as facts to American young people.
The entertainment media often provides TV programs, movies, and music that promote non-Christian values.
In the political arena, many politicians campaign against Christian values (and a few openly campaign for them). Many politicians desperately try to find a way to appear to be in the middle.
Many government bureaucrats use local, state, and federal programs to promote non-Christian values or to hinder historic Christian values.
The Culture War shows up in: National political campaigns, Situation comedies, School board meetings, The federal tax code, Adoption policies, Health care and abortion proposals, Television and radio talk shows, Political primaries, News coverage, Foreign policy, and endless other areas of American life.
It should be noted that in spite of all the propaganda to the contrary, the Culture War is not something that has been declared by Christians. Most Christians simply want to be left alone to spend time with their families and build their churches. Historic Christian values were already in place in America. Those opposed to such values had to declare the Culture War.
After three decades of a cold culture war against Christian values, large numbers of Christians are finally starting to defend their much assaulted way of life. This self-defense has brought a vicious attack upon Christians from those who have been at war with Christian values. In a June, 1994, column, Cal Thomas comments on these criticisms:
“Susan Estrich, who managed Michael Dukakis’ 1988 presidential campaign, accused ‘religious extremists’ of coming out of the closet and beating the system. That used to be called democracy before what ought to be called the pagan left decided that only people who think as they do are entitled to hold office.
These vicious scare tactics aside, most people have awakened to the fact that something has gone dreadfully wrong in America. We won the Cold War, but we have lost the Culture War. More people fear guns and drugs in the schools and on the streets than they do someone who might say a prayer over the public address system.”
A warning to the pagan left comes from a CNN-USA Today-Gallup survey, which reports that most Americans prefer a president with strong morals to one with compatible political views.
The pagan left smears conservative Christians by conjuring up images of snake handlers and the like because it knows it has lost the issues. It raises the specter of imposed morality, but cannot defend its imposed morality, which has produced, according to the Census Bureau, the highest divorce rate in the world, the highest teen pregnancy rate, the most abortions, the highest percentage of children raised in single-parent homes, the highest percentage of violent deaths among the young, and a male homicide rate that is five times greater than any other developed country except Mexico.
Is the pagan left suggesting that the imposition of some of the Christian rights’s morality would be worse than this?
Colossians 2:8 refers to four methods that will be used to “spoil” (wage a Culture War against) Christianity. The first is philosophy. Although the term philosophy makes most people think of a formal class in college, the word actually refers to the “love of learning.” While that may sound positive rather than negative, it deserves a closer look. Learning is not automatically good. Learning the wrong information is damaging.
The attitude of our day is that the mere amount of information communicated can be the solution to all of our problems, regardless of the content of the information communicated. For example, in the early 1960’s Americans were shocked at a two percent teen pregnancy rate. Americans were told that only a massive sex education program could solve this “crisis.” Despite the howls of protest, the American people tolerated huge government programs to communicate information about sexual relationships. This information was taught in the schools and elsewhere. Tragically, however, much of the information communicated came from a non-Christian, non-moral perspective. After 30 years, billions of dollars, and hundreds of programs, the teen pregnancy rate has risen to 22 percent. The mere “love of learning” has not solved the problem, but rather has made it worse.
Our society is filled with examples of the same approach. Parents, concerned about the modern scourge of drugs, have tolerated hundreds of new so-called anti-drug programs in the schools. However, many of these programs teach young people, “It is up to you whether or not you use drugs.” This is the moral equivalent of a program citing statistics about teen violence and then telling teens, “It is up to you whether or not you participate in drive-by shootings.” While some programs, like “Just Say ‘NO’” have actually helped, many drug programs have actually made matters worse.
The same is true with some counseling and therapy programs. When someone gets into trouble today they are automatically referred to counselors for therapy without knowing what they are going to be taught in therapy.
It is interesting to watch those “modern” politicians, educators, and entertainers who have been teaching American young people that there are no absolute values. The same politicians, educators, and entertainers are now decrying the epidemic of teen violence. Yet what are those violent teens doing but living as if there were no absolute values? Our “modern leaders” have communicated their “philosophy” all too well.
This passage also gives warning that Christian values can be “spoiled” by “vain deceit.” Vain deceit is asserting as true that for which you can offer no evidence. You simply assert a principle that men in rebellion against God desperately want to believe is true. You assume that it must be true, you offer no evidence, and you attack anyone who asks questions or requires evidence. You then act as if your principle has been proven, and you expect everyone else to act accordingly. Tragically, many careless Christians will accept the “vain deceit” around them and adjust their thinking accordingly.
The following are twenty examples of statements based upon “vain deceit” that are common in the United States today:
The United States was founded upon principles of secular neutrality.
You cannot legislate morality.
All cultures are equal.
A fetus is only a mass of tissue in the mother’s womb.
Abortion is a constitutional right.
Man is the highest form of animal.
Fossils are scientific evidence for the theory of evolution.
Homosexuality is genetic.
Spanking is child abuse.
Sexual activity by unmarried teenagers is inevitable.
Christians are all interested in imposing their values on everyone.
Preaching against homosexuality is a hate crime.
Homosexuals never recruit.
Christianity opposes women.
The continued existence of our planet is threatened by American industry.
Our diversity has made us great.
Poverty is the root of all crime.
Consuming alcohol until you are drunk is a disease.
It does not make any difference whether there is a father in the home or not.
It is bigotry to prefer one religion to another.
Every year, billions of taxpayer dollars are spent on programs based upon these assumptions, yet the problems they are supposed to solve only get worse.
TRADITION OF MEN
Colossians 2:8 also warns of people having their faith be “spoiled” by the “tradition of men.” Traditions of men are principles of vain deceit that have been repeated so often, and for so long, that they have been absorbed into a culture. The religion of the Pharisees had been spoiled just this way. “But in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matthew 5:19)
Christians must be very careful to scrutinize their thinking and to make sure that the principles by which they live are based on the Scriptures and not on tradition. This is the basis for the process of Christian growth called “renewing your mind” (Romans 12:1-2, Ephesians 4:23, Colossians 3:10).
RUDIMENTS OF THE WORLD
In Colossians 2:8, we are also warned that evil men will want to “spoil” our Christian faith after the rudiments of the world. Rudiments is a word that refers to the basics, essentials, or fundamentals. The essence of man’s sinful nature is its selfishness. The world refers to those systems of men based upon the selfishness of man’s sinful nature. When anyone appeals to the inherent selfishness of men as the basis for electing a politician, approving a policy, or promoting wickedness, they are appealing to the rudiments of the world.
Rather than appealing to the moral self-discipline that the Word of God and Spirit of God can produce in the hearts of men, most modern leaders appeal to the worst in man. As a result, our culture is fast becoming characterized by rebellion against God and all the human tragedy that is the result of this rebellion.
NOT AFTER CHRIST
The last phrase of Colossians 2:8 gives us an infallible standard by which to discern the attempts of men to spoil our faith. “And not after Christ” is the standard by which we recognize the philosophy of men, the vain deceit of the human heart, and the traditions of men. The standard of Christ-centered thinking is what separates us from the rudiments of the world.
Christians must learn to be careful, Biblical, and Christ-centered in their thinking. They must learn to ask, “Where did this idea come from?” They must learn to be on guard against those that would spoil their faith, morals, and doctrine.