For decades there has been talk of a “culture war” in North America. This is the ongoing battle we’re having over which beliefs our society will use as its foundation, to build atop them our institutions, laws, customs, and even our art and literature. Many books and articles have been written about this war, explaining it in various ways. Some people probably just tune out the controversy, not fully understanding its implications.
However, it is possible to provide a summary of the main issues at stake, so that everyone can understand the basic conflict and react appropriately. Such a summary has been written by Peter Kreeft, a professor of philosophy at Boston College. He offers it in his 2002 book, How to Win the Culture War: A Christian Battle Plan for a Society in Crisis. While Kreeft is a Roman Catholic, and his theology openly affects his analysis, he gets the key issues right.
2 major fronts, 1 central issue
Since the late 1960s, the two major fronts in the culture war have involved abortion and homosexual rights. There are related but less salient conflicts over pornography, divorce law, and sex education. Strange as it may seem, all of these matters, in one way or another, involve sexuality.
Why is that the case? It all comes down to the traditional family and the “progressive” or left-wing campaign to fundamentally change society. As Kreeft explains:
“The most powerful means to destroy society is to destroy its one absolutely fundamental building block, namely the family.”
The best way to destroy the family is by destroying its foundation, stable marriage. And the best way to destroy stable marriage is, Kreeft notes, “by loosening its glue: sexual fidelity.”
Commitment to sexual fidelity is destroyed by characterizing traditional Christian sexual morality as repressive or confining. The Sexual Revolution of the last few decades has been a campaign to “liberate” people from their obligation to sexual fidelity.
Thus the central element of the culture war is a conflict over society’s ethical norms for sexuality – recognizing that is the key to understanding the ongoing culture war.
The Culture War is a religious war
In the West our traditional norms have often been rooted in Christianity. The norms of the so-called progressive Left are religiously based too, though some will undoubtedly dispute it. But it is religious in the sense that it a belief system through which they understand the world around them and everything in it. It is in this sense, Kreeft argues, that “sex is the effective religion of our culture”
It is this all-encompassing religious basis of the progressive sexual norm that explains its enthusiasm for the murder of unborn children. As Kreeft puts it, the progressives:
“don’t defend murder, except murder in the name of sex…. Abortion is backup birth control, of course, and birth control means the demand to have sex without having babies.”
This is a key point to remember, especially with the current high-profile controversy over pro-life laws in some American states. The progressives, Kreeft writes,
“are now even willing to murder to defend their so-called sexual freedoms. And to murder the most innocent among them, the only innocent among them. And the most tiny and weak and defenseless of all. And in the teeth of nature’s strongest instinct: motherhood!”
Of course, humanity’s weakness for sexual temptation has always been a problem and it has led to a multitude of sins over the centuries. It’s not like the Sexual Revolution initiated rampant sexual immorality for the first time: Sodom and Gomorrah were perverse millennia ago.
But something has changed in the last few decades. Until relatively recently, sex outside of the confines of traditional marriage was considered to be immoral, even by those who participated in it. Today, engaging in sexual behaviors that were deemed abominable just a few decades ago are considered to be very respectable, even something to celebrate with parades.
In order to properly fight the culture war, it is vital to recognize the enemy. Kreeft identifies two.
- “Our enemies are demons. Fallen angels. Evil spirits.” We are in a spiritual war, so naturally we have spiritual adversaries. As Ephesians 6:12 puts it, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (ESV).
- The second enemy is even worse, and that is sin. It is our own depraved tendency towards evil that must be fought most of all. The greatest enemy lies within each one of us.
From this fact Kreeft explains that if,
“…sin is the enemy, then the Savior from sin is the answer, and He is infinitely more powerful than his enemy. The weapon that will win this war – this war’s atomic bomb – is saints.”
In other words, the key weapon consists of Christians who will commit themselves to live truly holy lives in obedient service to God.
Our normal tendency as individuals is to see the political problems we face as somebody else’s fault. The other guy needs to change. He needs to correct his bad behavior and live right. But that’s the wrong way to think about it. We each need to focus on our own sinfulness, not somebody else’s. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we can become the people God can use to bring victory for His cause.
As Kreeft explains:
“Can you imagine what ten more Mother Teresas would do for this world? Or ten more John Wesleys? No, you can’t imagine it, any more than anyone could imagine how twelve nice Jewish boys could conquer the Roman Empire. You can’t imagine it. But you can do it. You can become a saint.”
Kreeft uses the word “saint” to describe a Christian who is fully committed to living a holy life in service to God. This is how he explains what is necessary to be a saint in his terms:
“Give Christ one hundred percent of your heart and life one hundred percent of the time, holding nothing back, absolutely nothing at all, anywhere, ever. This means martyrdom – and for most of us, a more extended and difficult martyrdom than that of the noose or execution block. It means the martyrdom of dying daily, dying every minute for as long as you live, dying to all your desires and plans, including your pet plans about how to become a saint.”
The best way to fight the culture war, in other words, is for every Christian to be the very best Christian he or she could be. Victory will not be found in certain political parties or laws that get passed. Those kinds of things may be necessary at various times, but the focus must be on how we can live holier lives, not on how we can get something else to change.
The culture war is essentially a conflict over sexual morality that began with the Sexual Revolution of the late 1960s. Left-wing forces have sought to fundamentally transform Western society by undermining the monogamous, heterosexual family. Liberating people from the strict confines of traditional Christian morality requires legalized abortion on demand and same-sex marriage, with all that they entail.
Peter Kreeft explains that the best way to fight the culture war is for every Christian to be the best Christian they can be, by the power of the Holy Spirit. There are no special political strategies that can bring victory, just old-fashioned holy living and service to God. That’s not to say that political and social activism are of no value. Rather, it’s that our first priority must be on dealing with the sin in our own lives. Good things will flow from that.
Michael Wagner is the author of “Leaving God Behind: The Charter of Rights and Canada’s Official Rejection of Christianity,” available at Merchantship.ca.