Cultures in Conflict

 In Blog, Charles Cavanaugh

Culture is the expression of the beliefs, traditions, behaviors, and priorities of a society. What is dear to that society comes out in its speech, how it spends its time and money, and it’s every day behaviors. Engrained in its psyche is what it thinks about self, others, and God.

Often there is within a culture other smaller cultures. We call them subcultures. While the subculture may have different traditions and think differently than the culture within which it exists, it generally coexists and to some degree submits to (as much as it can) the cultural ideas of the dominant culture.

Sometimes conflict occurs when the differences between a culture and a subculture are so marked that the two cannot coexist amicably. It is not unusual, at this point, for the dominant culture to oppress, suppress, or even persecute such a subculture.
Biblical Christianity has always been, by its very nature, a subculture. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” The Apostle Paul challenged the church to be in the world but not of the world. The early church understood that they were “pilgrims and strangers” and that genuine fellowship could not exist between children of light and those who walk in spiritual darkness. While the early church was instructed to submit to earthly authorities, it also understood that the Christian’s ultimate allegiance was to God and God alone. The beliefs, traditions, behaviors, and priorities of the early church and the modern church are Biblical and exercised with eternity in view.

Until recently, the subculture of Christianity has peacefully coexisted within the larger framework of American culture. This peaceful coexistence has been facilitated by the fact that many of our founders were either Christian or highly christianized in their thinking. Our founding documents were Biblically influenced writings and assumed a religious, if not Christian, constituency. The residual influence of this early American culture created a safe environment for the health and growth of Christianity for many years with little cause for conflict.

But recent years have brought new developments in the relationship between the church and American culture. We have witnessed the demise of a christianized culture and the waning influence of Christ’s church. The reality of the church as a subculture has become vividly apparent, and the hostility of the dominant culture is growing. Oppression, suppression, and persecution are on the rise. The old order is rapidly fading.

This we know. Our weapons are not human, fleshly ones. They are mighty through God. The Gospel is our sword. The Lord is our rearguard. The earthly outcome is not clear, but the purposes of our Lord are sure. This fading American culture is not our hope. We are its hope. We must not waste our time and energies wistfully longing for things as they used to be. Let us rather build our lives and the church of Jesus Christ on the beliefs, traditions, behaviors, and priorities of a Biblical, Christ-centered people. We must not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good; “And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly.” (Romans 12:21 and 16:20). Let us be marked by the love of our Savior, and let the world stand back and wonder.

In the love of Christ,
Charles Cavanaugh

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