Wednesday, January 11, 2012

‘How to Win the Culture War: A Christian Battle Plan for a Culture in Crisis’

Peter Kreeft delivered a lecture on how he thinks the Devil plans to win the culture war by making Catholics [you can insert Christians here and it works equally well), particularly bishops and theologians, into hypocrites and phoneys. This was done from the particular perspective of the situation in America.

Although Kreeft delivered his talk through the voice of the devil (from Screwtape,C.S. Lewis’ senior demon) instructing Wormwood on how the powers of hell can win the culture war through particular and deadly temptations, the point is entirely serious and pointed.  A summary of his points are listed below:
  • Politicization –the tendency Americans have to confuse politics for religion. He drew awareness to the trend of defining oneself by politics instead of religion,saying,‘We have persuaded many of them to judge their faith by the standard of ‘political correctness’ rather than vice versa.’
  • Happy Talk –the principle of happy talk raised the ante on the average ignorance-is-bliss mentality. He pointed out that Catholics must first return to being Catholic,and correct their own practices before projecting to non-Catholics. “Catholics abort, contracept, sodomize, fornicate, divorce, and sexually abuse,” he said,“at almost exactly the same rate as non-Catholics. Amid this devastation, keep them happy talking. Keep them saying ‘Peace,Peace,’ when there is no peace.”He wants Catholics to take responsibility for their behavior, make a conscious effort to change it,and to acknowledge that blame can’t be placed entirely on the secular world.  [Again, you can substitute Lutheran or Christian for the word Catholic and it is equally effective.)
  • Organizationalism - Catholics suffer from organizationalism, causing them to regard everything—including the Church—as business ventures. This is especially bad because people have lost sight of the role of the Church,and instead focused on the goals of business. “They must worship success,not sanctity,” he said,“and fear failure,not sin.”
  • Neo-worship - or worship of things new at the expense of the old, in particular the rejection of things “pre-Vatican II”.
  • Egalitarianism –Describing society’s misguided translation of egalitarianism, Kreeft pointed out that “sexism” has persuaded men and women to perceive each other as equal,when they should instead be considered beautifully inferior to each other. He believes in the importance of regarding men and women as separate and unequal,and in acknowledging the positive impact of the differences that define each. According to Kreeft, society’s deterioration of egalitarianism fosters “the difference between the beauty of black and the beauty of white reduced to a boring grey.”
  • Yuppydom - which is essentially selling out to the fads of the times rather than holding God as God. Yuppydom is a generation that prides itself on not being prideful, saying, “Let them feel superior about not feeling superior, judgmental about not being judgmental.”
  • Spirituality - in which Christians seek salvation, or at least affirmation,while recoiling at the thought of suffering—they want Christ without the cross.
I believe that Kreeft has well summarized the great temptations before the Church and to which we as Lutherans are just as tempted as Roman Catholics.  In the end, it is sad to see how truly effective the devil has been at gutting the heart of Christian faith and practice -- with the willing support of those who believe that the Church's ultimate flaw has been failing to listen to what people want and, therefore, failing to keep up with the times.  The agents in league with Satan are not the dark demonic faces of the netherworld but the pious and passionate faces of those within the Church and who occupy positions of leadership and influence, who have come to fear failure more than sin and who are willing to trade off anything in order to achieve the kind of success the world will recognize and respect.

We think that those who refuse to allow a creche on the courthouse lawn or those championing the latest social justice agenda are undoing the good work of Christ but we are our own worst enemies.  It is for this reason that I believe President Harrison's call for repentance is so appropriate and yet so misunderstood.  It is appropriate because we as a Church have chosen the business model of management by outcome and sold the very birthright of the faith because of our unfaithfulness and even fear of the faith expressed in creed, confession, and liturgy.  For this we need to repent and for our slavish allegiance to measuring success more by statistics than by faithfulness Scripture and confession.  This call is misunderstood because too many deride it as if it were simplistic and the end in and of itself.  As Harrison once said, "Before we can be more than who we are, we must first admit who we are."  For Christians, repentance is the first step toward renewal -- both personally and as a church body, without which we will be nothing more than the sum of our failures and failings.

I do not agree with everything Kreeft says but I find his perspective intriguing and the way he presented his points highly effective.  You can listen for yourself here.


Pastor Harvey S. Mozolak said...

thank you. Listened to someone I have enjoyed reading on C.S. Lewis. I am interested in what you also said about not agreeing with all he said... that would be worth talking about... how can he be so right about our wrongs (and well-stated) and yet resort so easily to things Lutherans would find difficult to accept, like adoration of the Eucharist (tho Lutherans are largely guilty of quite the opposite) and an active attempt at sainthood that sounds very much like work-righteousness at times. I am not sure I followed him completely on his saying that Islam would succeed because Christian west was failing to be saintly. Was his talk too much the Law and not enough of Faith, Forgiveness and Gospel. Though I did like very much his use of Christ's suffering and how it applies also to his followers. The Steubenville gang (I was born there but left in childhood) are a conservative and charismatic bunch at least by background. I wondered how my Bible Class would relate to hearing his talk. Harvey Mozolak

Anonymous said...

“As Harrison once said, ‘Before we can be more than who we are, we must first admit who we are.’" So true! But I think we are misguided if we think our problem is that we are not conducting this Kulturkampf properly. The war in which the Devil is engaging us is just a ruse to keep us from the “one thing needful.” He will jump up and down with joy to see us gird ourselves for this struggle on his terms. The Church has done it before: slavery, prohibition, apartheid, abortion, communism, Nazism, homosexuality – all of these have occupied the attention of the Church to the detriment of the proclamation of the pure Gospel. The Gospel has emerged from these struggles with patches of human accretions which ultimately make it something other than “the power of God for Salvation.” I am not saying that the Church should not be concerned about these matters, but if we adjust the Gospel in order to solve them, we have not gained anything.

Praise God that our Confessions give us an unequaled vision of the pure Gospel. But even they are not perfect. If we cannot bring ourselves to admit that there are places in the Confessions that are contrary to the pure Gospel, than we can never find out “who we are.” Any limitation to the field of inquiry in this regard, except for the reliance on the inerrant, written Word of God, makes the task of finding out “who we are” impossible to achieve. If we are convinced that we really cannot be wrong, then what is the point in any self examination or even repentance?

The more I look at the history of the last two centuries, the more I become convinced that it is not knowing what the pure Gospel is, and failure to proclaim it that leads us to “our unfaithfulness and even fear of the faith expressed in creed, confession, and liturgy.” I am not talking here about Christmas crèches or business models, but ultimately about the suffering and death of millions of people.

Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart

Anonymous said...

I partly agree with Rev. Marquart. In addressing modern issues we have, indeed, often lost sight of the pure Gospel.

However, I do not see these issues occupying the attention of the Church as the major problem but, rather, that in addressing these issues we have often done so from an overwhelming Law standpoint rather than a correct Law/Gospel application.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Anonymous, for the partial support, and you may be right about the confusion of Law and Gospel. But with all due respect, I must decline the title of Rev. I am a layperson. But the ad hominem fallacy argues that it is not who you are, but the contents of what one writes that determines whether it is true or not.

Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart

Anonymous said...

“Catholics abort, contracept, sodomize, fornicate, divorce, and sexually abuse,” he said,“at almost exactly the same rate as non-Catholics."

This is not true for Catholics who attend weekly Mass.

It is only true for "self-identified" Catholics.

Big difference.

Kreeft is getting his info from researchers who deliberately misrepresent faithful Catholics by lumping them in with people whose families are Catholic.

The data for Christians who attend weekly is much different from those who self identify. Kreeft is far too trusting.