Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Bonhoeffer on the culture war

The only way in which the Church can defend her own territory is by fighting not for it but for the salvation of the world. Otherwise the church becomes a "religious society" which fights in its own interest and thereby ceases at once to be the Church of God and of the world. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ethics
The latest salvo in the culture wars is The Golden Compass, a movie based on an anti-Christian book by an anti-Christian author released for the Christian holiday season. If our response is to argue in our own defense, we may succeed in showing that the author has drawn a bad caricature of Christianity in general and of God in particular. But we risk being drawn into an argument and a defensive posture. If, instead, we continue about our business of fighting for the world's redemption -- of showing God as the one taking on our sins and healing our wounds through Christ -- then we answer the current round of atheist misrepresentations more effectively than if we were to let ourselves be drawn into an argument about them.

5 comments:

P.S. an after-thought said...

This is parallel to the thoughts I've had at my church occasionally in the past when some well-meaning member would talk about our money problems being solved when we would get more people to attend.

We should be "the church" to everybody even if they don't attend or give or help out or whatever.

Drew said...

Cornel West made a really nice comment on Real Time a while back in reference to the misuse of the Bible in order to promote any policies that exclude others or justify clearly unethical ends. He said, "It's about justice, justice, justice on the one hand and love, love, love on the other". This is a radical justice and a radical love revealed in the cross. If we fail to view our relationship with the church and the world through that lens we do something to damage the Kingdom of God it seems. All of this focus on Pullman just distracts the people of God from the work they are called to do in the name of justice and love.

Weekend Fisher said...

It's so easy to lose sight of priorities. I'm not saying "ignore Pullman" -- he's a human being. If we spend our time engaging all the anti-Christian propaganda, we never get to live the Christian life. But if we bless those who curse us, we live the Christian life _and_ make the anti-Christian propaganda a bit difficult to swallow except among the wilfully biased.

Drew: All of this focus on Pullman just distracts the people of God from the work they are called to do in the name of justice and love.

It's not going to stop, the Christian-bashing timed around Christian holidays. The atheists have enough market-share these days to make sure to create a hostile environment for us particularly around the holidays. We have got to get better about not being drawn into squabbling. As you said we have a mission, and it includes helping them. "Bless those who curse you ..."

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

Craig said...

The Body of Christ is wide enough and diverse enough to not lose its focus from any of its callings. There are those in the church whose gifts and calling are to work as missionaries in far off places or at home. There are those called and gifted with defending the faith, as did the great Apologists of the second and third centuries. While our defense of the faith must be done in a way that shows forth the love of Christ, it doesn't serve anyone to ignore the charges against us.

Weekend Fisher said...

Hi Craig

On a general level I'd agree with you that we don't let things go unanswered. Lots of people assume that silence implies consent. I've done my fair share of time refuting the annual set of anti-Christian diatribes released around Good Friday each year.

The take-home points are
1. attitude, which you sound like you have under control. As soon as our response drops into a "defend our territory / partisan" type thing, we've made things worse instead of better. I'd bet that 90% of Christians defend well and 10% don't ... but boy are those 10% visible ...
2. priorities. I do think that Christianity as a whole spends too much time just plain old arguing and refuting. What percentage of our resources are spent arguing and refuting? How much is that letting the opposition set our agenda?

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF