In my car this morning, I ended up behind a truck with a bumper sticker that read (something like) I’m a Christian (in big print) and I’m at war (in smaller print).  It said more than that, but I didn’t have time to read the rest.  And my bet is that this is a conservative Christian who sees themself fighting the culture wars on behalf of Christ.  I’m a Christian too.  And there are certainly parts of our culture that I might like to convert.  But I hope I’m not at war — not even with the guy driving this truck, with whom I’m pretty sure I’d find much with which to disagree.

My own read?  Our culture, which is a human institution, is like all human institutions fallen.  Powers and principalities may derive, at least indirectly, from God.  But they are made up of fallen people.  And it is my experience that groups of people can fall further, more quickly, than individuals.  Maybe it has to do with not feeling fully responsible as an individual for the actions of a group (though I suspect we really are).  Maybe it has to do with wanting to submerge our identity in something larger and self identifying, in an uncritical way, with the group.  (And while one of my Christian critiques of myself and American culture is that we don’t identify enough with our communities, in terms of what happens to others happens to me too, I’m pretty clear that the only place I want my identity submerged is in God.)  But fallen as it may be, I’m thinking American culture (as a community thing) partakes in some degree in godliness.  Repentance and renewal are certainly needed.  Going to war is not.

And I would probably identify a lot of the needed repentance as being connected with how we treat others, who may act differently than we do, and have different beliefs than we do, and look different than we do …  A lot of our sins have to do with how we treat strangers and widows and orphans and people who are out of work.  And the truth is, we tend to blame the victims.  And we tend not to see them fully as people like ourselves, people who Jesus loves, and for whom Jesus gave his life.

I suspect the driver of this truck is at war with people like these, who don’t hold all his (it was a guy in the truck) values.  My sense of those I’ve met who have been fighting the culture wars is that they are looking for a commonality of beliefs and practices to hold our very diverse society together.  And there is very little tolerance (let alone valuing) of what those who are different from us bring to the table.  And, in my experience, though what they bring to the table is often uncomfortable, it is also a gift from God.

I’m sure that’s true for the driver of the truck, who I’m confident brings very different things to the table than I do.  I doubt he is willing to receive the gifts I bring.  And I know I’m often fighting anger and frustration in this context.  But I do hope and pray that I can be willing to accept, with gratitude, the gifts I know he also brings to the table.

I still wish this were not so often a one way street.