I Quit the Culture War

It’s election season, apparently. I’ve noticed the sprouting yard signs and the increasing emotional urgency in political conversations. The internet is abuzz with people making their case and stomping their virtual feet.

As a follower of Jesus this season makes me tired. Everyone seems to have expectations and obligations for me; commitments that I have never signed up for.

In the course of a single week, for example, I had two different Facebook friends make essentially the same claim. One was lamenting an action of the President that they disapproved of, commenting that they couldn’t imagine how any Christian could vote for a Democrat ever again. My other friend, frustrated with a bill that was passed in congress, declared that it was inconceivable how anyone who took the Bible seriously could possibly vote for a Republican.

I’m told there’s a culture war on. Also a war on Christians. Possibly a war on women. Certainly a war against “our way of life.” As a Christian, and as a pastor, I am expected to march in this war.

Wave the flags as much as you like. This is a war I’m not coming to. I am officially declaring my status as a conscientious objector in the culture war.

A Conscientious Objector?

What’s that, you ask? A conscientious objector is someone in the military who objects to violence on religious or moral grounds. In certain circumstances they can serve in non-combatant roles. Growing up in the Seventh-day Adventist church, I heard a lot about Desmond Doss, an Adventist conscientious objector who served as a medic. Through heroic and self-sacrificial service, he won the Congressional Medal of Honor.

I have no illusions that I will be heroic, but I will be doing my best to follow Jesus. I’m tired of having people co-opt Jesus for their political agendas — both on the left and the right. Jesus said and did things that were profoundly political, but He was not the founder of a political party.

As a follower of Jesus my actions are also political, but my loyalty is not to any cultural agenda. My loyalty is to Jesus. Not only to Jesus as my Lord, but also to Jesus as my guide. That means that the way I follow is just as important as the One I follow.

To remind myself, I wrote this declaration. Some people in my community have found it helpful, and so I share it with you.

My Declaration

I claim conscientious objector status in the culture war.

  • I will not see people who disagree with me or believe differently from me as the enemy. They may be innocent bystanders. They may be victims. They may be prisoners. They may even be acting against me – but they are not my enemy. (Ephesians 6:12)
  • I will not be tricked into thinking that anything they can do to me will do me irreparable harm. My security has nothing to do with other people. (Romans 8:28-39)
  • I will not accept the lie that I must fight back when I am attacked, or else I am letting them win. In fact, I know that if I fight back, I will lose what really matters. (Matthew 5:39)
  • I will not fall into the trap of using power in any form to compel people to believe or to behave. God has chosen not to do this, and I cannot cross that line. I will not manipulate, or lie, or misuse politics, with the agenda of forcing others to conform to my way of being or thinking. (Matthew 4:1-11)
  • I will, however, be aware of the real battle going on in people’s hearts and souls. (James 4:1)
  • I will watch for what God is doing in the lives of people I come across. (John 6:44 & 2 Peter 3:9)
  • I will give God access to them through me and through my prayer. (1 Samuel 12:23)
  • The real enemy is selfishness and greed and every other satanic manifestation of pride, that leads to rebellion against God, whether in me or in others. (Romans 8:7)
  • Against this I choose humility, service, and every other form of love, which I have learned from Jesus and which I will live out through His sustaining power in me. (1 John 4:8)
  • I know that God’s plan for impacting culture is to change people’s hearts. I give Him access to change mine, and ask His grace that nothing I do would harden the hearts of people around me. (Ezekiel 36:26)
  • I give myself to be an avenue through which God’s love can bring about transformation in other people’s hearts. (Matthew 28:19-20 & Matthew 25:34-40)

God, change me first.

Marc Alan Schelske writes about life at the intersection of grace and growth at MarcAlanSchelske.com, where this article was originally published (it is reprinted here with permission). He is the teaching elder at Bridge City Community Church in Milwaukie, Oregon where he has served for 17 years. He's the author of Discovering Your Authentic Core Values. Marc is a husband, dad of two, speaker, writer, hobbyist theologian, recovering fundamentalist who drinks tea & rides a motorcycle. You can follow him on Twitter at @Schelske

Photo Credit: FreeImages.com/Jeremy Kendall

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7094
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There you go again, @MarcS, making Christ-like sense! They that follow the Lamb wherever He goes cannot be swayed by public opinion. This Declaration ought to be placed in the hearts and hands of all seeking the immediate return of God to this seemingly forsaken planet.

(if you don’t mind, I will be posting it upon my FB page for thousands to consider.)

Trust BEing!

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MarcS, you are very sincere in your decision, of that there is no doubt; but what if everyone also made that decision: your family, your neighbors; the citizens of you city, county and state?

Do you feel no obligation to participate by simply casting a ballot in quietness, not sharing your secret vote with anyone? Remember Kant’s Categorical Imperative. As a citizen, you are sharing in what you may not like, but also sharing in the bounties you enjoy as a citizen of this nation, the freedoms no other nation enjoys. Can you sit back and thank God for the liberty you have in silence? Do you believe that the men who framed our Constitution did not have God’s blessing? Will you be silent if, as most Adventists believe, there will one day be loss of religious liberty and more? How will you silence be seen then, if not acceptance and obedience?

While there is liberty to use our God-given freedom in the one nation where it is greater than any other, to be silent is to acquiesce to whatever the majority elect.

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thank you. but you haven’t seen nothing yet there isn’t a Thomas Jefferson in the lot. Tom Z

It’s the “culture war” Marc is claiming conscientious objector status in (not civil society). I don’t read his manifesto as a declaration of withdrawal from civil society by boycotting the polls.

Conscientious objectors are members of one force or the other, and they do wear a uniform; they are supporting their “side” while objecting to violence. I suppose he’s wearing the uniform of the “Christian side” (though I imagine he would rather say he’s “putting on Christ”) while refusing to “shoot” at the “enemy” (the secularists).

At least this is following out the logic of his calling himself a “conscientious objector.” I think maybe Marc meant to declare his “neutrality” in the culture war–at least that would be more consistent with his title.

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I refuse to vote. It only encourages them.

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I’m with you, John. I vote on issues, not for corrupt politicians. Both major parties are corrupt, and cannot be trusted.

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Well, of course, during the Second WW, the Dutch quit war as well, and said they would not fight either, and look what it got them!

I note that Marc is a “recovering fundamentalist”, so I sense that those folk are some he would not wish to be associated with. They are an enemy of sorts. So, although there is an assertion of neutrality, skirmishes continue in the hinterlands. Why say you are recovering from something that you do not have a problem with? Most patients don’t say, “I am recovering from heart failure, but my heart continues to fail…”

If that phrase had been left out, the piece would be more believable, but as it is, Marc still battles a side he claims to be recovering from. They are still the enemy.

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Glad you stepped right up to the plate!

There are limits to any metaphor. As we walk with Christ we CAN choose to hang out with and even be friends with people with whom we disagree. They do not become our enemies simply because we disagree with some of the things they think. In fact, if I had to agree with my friends on every single point I would have no friends at all.

Furthermore, I don’t believe that “friend” and “enemy” are the only two choices.

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I think it would be interesting to see what percentage of American SDA or all SDA are seeking the immediate return of God (Jesus). Since the election is more than a year away.

1 John 4:5 “They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them.”

Matthew 15:8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.

Jesus and the bible are basically counter culture since culture promotes self, pride, carnality and worldliness.

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“I Quit the Culture War” 26 September 2015 Marc Alan Schelske said:
“As a follower of Jesus my actions are also political, but my loyalty is not to any cultural agenda. My loyalty is to Jesus. Not only to Jesus as my Lord, but also to Jesus as my guide. That means that the way I follow is just as important as the One I follow.”

That is precisely the challenge each one of us face as “a conscientious objector in the culture war.”
Brother Schelske’s excellent article calls for each person to consider fundamental alternatives to the status quo of apathy and indifference in our response to the Gospel. If you had a public message to air in the ancient world, there was a range of accepted mechanisms in place for engaging a crowd. Jeremiah preached from the Temple steps, and Paul knew he could gain a hearing on Mar’s Hill.

But there were other voices sounding from those public spaces, many of them eager to gain a mass following. And the mass communication activities of prophets and apostles often resembled the culture wars of today being fought by religious celebrities. Bearing witness to the gospel within the media mechanisms of a culture that loves celebrities was, and still is, a difficult challenge. As we have witnessed with this recent visit of the Pope to the United States.

Paul would have blogged, Jeremiah would have used Facebook, John the Baptist would have tweeted, “The kingdom of God is at hand.” Their example and the content of our gospel message suggest a wide and frequent use of the media channels of our day. What we proclaim—from temple steps, from Mar’s Hill, or from cyberspace—can rise above the current noise of the culture war and direct those within range to Jesus. Unwholesome motives and worldly gimmicks can also easily sabotage our calling to proclaim Christ, through voice, stylus, or keypad.

Paul took pains to distinguish himself from the audience-craving Sophists, itinerant speakers who used their rhetorical skills to wow the crowds and stuff their purses. “Woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel,” Paul declared (1 Cor 9:16), yet the public squares were filled with the voices of others clamoring for a hearing. The words of God burned like fire in Jeremiah’s bones, but false prophets were engaged with what appeared to be the same line of work.

God is still putting fire in prophets’ bones. The Spirit still calls us to our keypad and pixelated text. Persons whom God has assigned a public message must be faithful to their calling. Yet they must also resist the corroding effects of celebrity, consumer culture, and being famous.

I am not sure anything Jeremiah had to say to the Jerusalem populace would have sold like hotcakes on the Temple steps. But we also know that Paul had to clarify his distance from the Sophists because their rhetorical antics and his own activities seemed to share some parallels

Consider, John the Baptist, “a conscientious objector in the culture war” of his day, and my favorite Super Action Hero in today’s the war. As the forerunner of Christ he was a major celebrity in the ancient world. Crowds flocked to him from a broad geographical range. His following was immense. We should acknowledge, though, that his ministry launch base was quite counterintuitive (the wilderness) and his clothing was a far cry from designer jeans (camel’s hair). Jesus pointed out that John’s ministry did not conform to the expectations of his own day (Matt 11:7),.so we should be careful assuming he would have conformed to the protocols of the church leaders. Like John the Baptist, many of us have a message that needs public airing.

Faithful proclamation in John’s day of public heralding and in our own day of social media use is marked by pointing to Someone greater. Someone, who navigated the murky waters of voicing divine wisdom and prophetic speech in a culture that worships fame. The Culture War is part of the Great Controversy.

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Appreciate this perspective very much. I am non partisan and I have had people really get upset about that. I am weak livered… Or I am a bleeding heart, patsy. Even a coward. But I find inspiration in Christ Who didn’t do politics to move His mission forward. He rode above the fray. I also find inspiration from Joshua whose encounter with the sword holding angel just before engaging Jericho. Joshua asked the age old question “are you for us, or for our enemies?” The angel (pre incarnate Christ) says “neither.” What? Isn’t Israel God’s people? But the angel basically was saying, “Wrong question, Joshua. What should be asking is ‘are you on God’s side?’” That’s Whose side I am committed to and pray to stay submitted to.

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I think we need a vocabulary lesson. If you object to any culture you are in a culture war. Like it or not, you are part of a counterculture, and very much at war based on what you say. I think what you intended to say (pardon my assumption) is that you don’t want to hear what the other cultures have to say because you have deemed yours as the legitimate one - and who needs the clamor. It’s just another way of packing up and moving off grid. With that decision comes a resignation with “what ever happens, happens”; and it disqualifies you from complaining about the outcome.

The turmoil that abounds in every corner of society today is truly incredible, and the peace and quiet of a mountain retreat is tempting. Over and above the noise, however, come the words of Jesus: “render unto Caesar…”. This declaration places us right on the battlefield.

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Yes! Jesus did get in the political fray of His time.
Jesus said Love your Enemies. that is, Love the Roman Soldiers who traipse around your street all day. Love King Herod. Love Pilate.
He actually said to do Good to those that Hate you.
He also made it plain that when they went to Synagogue or the Temple, they were to Offer Prayers to God to bless their Enemies.
If they had to carry a Soldier’s pack for 1 mile. They were to excuse themselves to the Soldier, and carry it for 2 miles.
They were to Love the tax collectors.
What else did I forget?
Even John the Baptizer got into it by telling the Soldiers to be “good” soldiers in a foreign country, and dont complain about the job they signed up for.

Was Jesus a “5th Columnist”? a “Quizling” of his day?

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There is an interesting article on “Reason”, a site you can google, called: “Liberals are done debating”. The premise is that if you are morally correct, debate in no longer necessary, and any that disagree with you have some sort of thinking disorder or defect of some type. No one in their right mind would possibly do anything else but agree.

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Wow, I like that :+1: :+1:

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We read about Donald Trump, being against “Political correctness” and “clearly saying the truth” - no, he just lacks politeness and education. We read from the pen of Bill Knott, him - obviously shocked by some delegates speech at San Antonio, demanding “marginalisation” (- quite fourty years too late). We hear sermons and read local church periodicals with a speech we find in the tabloid press - or worse - We read official Union circulars on our screens humilating one ordained minister for his “disabilities” - this after a servic during twenty years - - - we read anonymous circulars about the history of an “affair” in one of our institutions and another, now signed, with strictly confidential informastions out of churrch board sessions - - -

Oh no, we are “not the world” - really ?

Groups can establish their standards. It is overdue to foster “No goes” in our communications - amd attitudes,… There are Biblical standards given, for just one exaple Job 31 or Gal 5 : 22 ( read what all is the verses befor), or Phil 4 : 8., 9.

"Not as though I haver already pertained either were perfect. but I follow after - "

The good illustrations you share is applicable to how we should relate to all people, not that He was engaged in politics “to move His mission forward.” Jesus didn’t seek the political realm to meet the goals of what He came to do. Change of hearts wasn’t, and isn’t, found in politics. That was my point.

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I can concur with a lot that the author here has said. I’m sick and tired of nonstop partisan bickering and hair pulling. Politics has become the art of survival of the filthiest. From gay bashers on the right, stewing over the recent SCOTUS ruling on same sex marriage, to radical left groups like “black lives matter” who take over a political platform in Seattle, there is this constant standoff, and it’s a real put off to me. The lack of civility of the current political climate is toxic.

Jesus never led a protest march or a boycott, , but he did at times protest. He didn’t sit idly by when the greedy money changers turned the temple into a pawn shop. There are times when silence is not golden, it’s yellow. I believe we all need to pray for wisdom in any given situation and ask WWJD.

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