We live in a world that is divided between ideological poles: Left and right, liberal and conservative, red states and blue states. This dynamic plays out not only in popular culture, but also within the Church. Our congregations endure vicious arguments over hot button issues like gay marriage, the ministry of women and abortion – yet both sides in these debates lack a compelling and positive vision of what the Church is called to be. Both extreme liberals and extreme conservatives are more interested in ideological purity than in building up the Body of Christ and seeing real, practical changes in the way that we live as a community. If this were not so, we would spend less time on theological debates (important as these are) and much more time on outreach and service to our neighbors.
But there is an alternative. We do not have to pick a side in this false battle for the heart and soul of our society. Rather than getting caught up in these bipolar disputes, many of us are being called into an engagement with the real problems that confront our culture and our churches today.
We know that the culture wars are not from God. These debates are fueled by a smug sense of self-righteousness and superiority more in keeping with the spirit of the Pharisees than with the Spirit of Christ. Any ideology is false that calls for others to change without first confessing our own shortcomings and need for transformation. God calls us to lives of humility, endurance and self sacrifice; and when we live in Christ, we experience love and compassion for others – not a bristling sense of superiority.