Over the last few weeks we have seen two horrific events in America, a racially motivated mass shooting in Buffalo, New York and a mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas. There has also been the leak of a potentially seminal Supreme Court decision that will change the course of abortion discussions in this country. Further, the Southern Baptist Convention released a detailed report that showed widespread abuse and a top level coverup of the situation. In all of this I want to do something, I want to say something so compelling that people will stop and listen. I want to see change in society, I want my children to grow up living in a healthier and safer society. But I realize I cannot say anything that will change society I cannot say anything that help move the needle on these issues and the reason is “Culture Wars Mentality”. Over the last few weeks I have engaged on Twitter (no I don’t expect to change minds, I want to see what people say). I have been called “pro-choice”, “woke”, “liberal”, “social justice activist”, “conservative”, “anti-abortion”, etc. I have come to the conclusion that only one of two possibilities is accurate, either I am completely wrong and delusional, or I am in the No-Man’s-Land of the Culture War.
Let me illustrate this point, this week someone said to me, “people like you want to make guns the problem, and take them away.” What had I said, “I think we need to close the loophole that allows private citizens to sell firearms to other private citizens without background checks because it allows convicted felons to easily obtain firearms.” Full disclosure I enjoy target shooting because it helps me develop my eye-hand coordination and so I am not keen on seeing all guns taken away. In this culture warrior’s mind I am the enemy because I want a change, therefore I am lumped in with the enemy and all rational argument is shut down. The characterization of me this person used is blatantly false but it is very real in this person’s mind because there is only “we” and “them” and my disagreement proved I am not on his team. And because I am not on his team I am part of the team opposing the truth and thus persecuting the ones fighting the good fight. In his mind I fired a shot at his defenses and so I must be an agent of the other side.
Likewise, I have been called pro-choice because I have said I do not agree that ending ALL abortions is good and I believe that the Church should worry about working with pregnant women and not about changing the law. Again, this does not make me pro-choice it simply means that I am willing to listen to the concerns of people who are and to dialogue with them about how to best improve the lives of our citizens. But again, because I am not aiming my rhetoric at “baby killers” on the other side I am suddenly the enemy; because I see where “The Left” has some valid points and concerns I am not truly pro-life. I become the target of the attack when I am sincerely concerned for the same outcome.
Now maybe I use these examples because I lean traditional in my morality that I feel these attacks more personally, maybe I am truly attacked by the right more frequently, but the reality of the “Culture War” mentality is that it is two-sided. There are just as many culture warriors on the Left as the Right and they are just as fierce. I have also been tongue lashed for responding to, “there is no need for anyone to have a gun” with, “I’d like to correct you, there is no need for you to have a gun, but there are legitimate uses for them.” or in pointing out the stupidity of the rational, “My body, my choice” is that at some point before birth it is clearly an independent individual. Unfortunately, as Bernie Goldberg pointed out two decades ago there is a media bias that points out this Culture War mentality on the other side but depending on the media outlet usually neglects it on their own. And so our media simply stokes the flames because conflict sells; the media help incite our hatred of the other side with intentionally inflammatory soundbites. Many Americans hear these clips and think they are using facts and statistics when debating without recognizing that these are usually carefully chosen figures shaped into talking points. What we have in America is a culture of right-fighters, people who are only concerned with being proven right rather than finding workable solutions to their problems. So long as this right-fighting persists we will be categorically unable to move beyond the ills of our society. But of course Culture Warriors do not mind this because they do not want to build a society with those people in it.
Unfortunately, this problem has wormed its way into the Church, and because of our commitment to the truth, right-fighting is an especially dangerous enemy. We have a tendency to throw up slogans like, “Stand for Truth” which, when boiled down means “My way or the highway.” We defend this notion of truth without ever considering if this is a hill worth dying on. We lay aside Biblical teachings on wisdom and peace while hardening people’s hearts toward the Church and its people. The Bible consistently tells us to seek peace with others, lay down ourselves to listen to others, even 1 John which is confronting heresy in the church is primarily focused on loving one another. Our mentality needs to change from right-fighter/Culture Warrior, to someone who seeks the good and peace of the nation in which we live. Change is not going to happen overnight, neither side is going to win a Culture War altogether, the key to building and maintaining a healthy society is by recognizing that fact and starting to find ways to work together.
I choose to focus on solving problems rather than being right. I know that many in our larger society have opinions which are logically valid but governed by a different set of ethics and so I might never be able to see eye to eye with them on all things, but when I see a problem like mass shootings, abortion, or abuse I consider these other opinions to understand the values motivating the statements. I am not so much looking for “middle ground” as what is one step we can take to push the needle in the right direction. My mentality is to work within the framework the other side presents to bring about change I desire. If, for instance, someone wants to be pro-choice, I say, “Can we agree on two things- one, once it is clear the fetus is a viable potentially autonomous life it should be illegal to abort it and we call it a baby. And two we should do more to help the women considering abortion.” I find if I make that concession most people are willing to meet me there and from there we can have an honest and usually fruitful dialogue. Believe it or not, this usually works better in solving problems than calling them murders and Molech worshipers. Does it prove me right, no; does it get me everything I want, no. But what it does is bring peace to the situation and proves to that person I am worth listening to in the next case. My call is for us to stop being Cultural Warriors and start looking for solutions that can help solve our nation’s problems.