After President Obama signed the executive order allowing funding to go to international organizations that perform abortions, people began talking about the return of the culture wars. Personally, I have found Professor James Davidson Hunters’ coining of the phrase “culture wars” to be quite helpful. The term helps us understand that the tensions we see throughout America today are the clashing of two very different metaphysical and moral visions for the nation. The issues we fight over – pro-life vs. pro-choice, the definition of marriage, etc. – are not actually the root of the tension but the manifestations of the culture wars in America.
Although the word “war” connotes a physical struggle and violence, the culture wars are a battle, rarely for physical territory, but for the hearts and minds of individuals and cultures.
The Apostle Paul’s words may be helpful as we look for another image. In 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, he says:
“3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (emphasis mine).
Paul makes clear that we are in a war. And in fact, it is a war for our nations and our cultures. But we do not need to wage war as the world does, with physical violence and in dehumanizing our “enemies.” Ultimately, the battle is in the strongholds of the mind, an ideological battle. Paul argues that we are to “take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ.” He is not speaking simply of religious or spiritual thoughts, but every thought. It is said that he who controls the language controls the culture. Christians are to fight for the soul of our nations. We are to bring every thought – about science, art, communication, healthcare, law, economics, governance, etc – captive to Christ.
Metaphorically, the Greek word “to take captive” meant “to capture one’s mind,” or “to captivate.” Noah Webster, in his 1828 dictionary of American English, defines captivate: “To overpower and gain with excellence or beauty; to charm; to engage the affections; to bind in love.”
The battle in the West is a battle for the soul of the culture. It is not to be fought with military weapons and incivility, but with ideas and with love. We are to be consciously Christian in substance (orthodoxy), and in style (orthopraxy). We are to captivate the culture by speaking truth, seeking justice and promoting beauty in a winsome way.
Let us captivate, overpower with the excellence of our ideas and the beauty of our love, President Obama and those who ideologically support him. Then we will win the battle of substance and style and the sun will not set on the West.
-Darrow L. Miller