I have written several previous blogs that have referenced the excellent book, A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars, by author/blogger Jonathan Merritt. It is to this excellent book I return today and tomorrow.
Merritt argues, quite convincingly I am fully persuaded, that when Christians engage in perpetual culture war the tendency is to “reduce the immense witness of the Scriptures to only a few culture-war issues–namely, abortion and gay marriage. Both are important issues deserving serious thought. The scriptures speak often about life and sexuality. But they also regularly address poverty, equality, justice, peace, and care for God’s good creation” (89).
When Christians live as if the culture-war issues are paramount then “we dismiss the limitless bounty of the Scriptures into a tiny cup of condensed political juice” (89). When this happens we reduce the witness of Scripture and minimize God’s unbounded wisdom about everything necessary for a godly and good life.
What has happened in the millennial generation (20s and 30s) is that a rise of interest in a broader range of social and political issues has prompted a new kind of response to culture and cities. Organizations like Bread for the World, Food for the Poor, World Vision and Compassion International are flourishing as never before. This ought to say something to my generation but it seems, at least to me, that very few are listening. I encourage you to read Jonathan Merritt if you want to see why millennials are changing the church landscape in ways that will not allow us to go back to the days following the 1950s. This generation is helping us (me included) to wake up to the inadequacies of our public witness.
Along with this new call to wider and deeper public witness is another mark of change–deep political diversity. Christians share a desire and language of true diversity. “They aren’t trying to ride into the kingdom on the back of an elephant or a donkey” (93). Being a Democrat, or a Republican, is not tantamount to being a non-Christian. Some on the right, and some on the left as well, have lost sight of this and thankfully millennials are reminding us of our ideological denials of the gospel itself.
Jonathan Merritt concludes:
When I am tempted to turn my nose up at other Christians–yes, even culture-warring ones–who offer their witness in a way that differs from mine, I think about the navy blue codex [Bible] from my childhood. Between its bonded leather covers sit 66 books with 1,189 chapters and 31,103 verses, each one expressing something of our Creator’s character and speaking into our lives. I realize I can either throw this book into my spiritual juicer and attempt to force everyone to drink from my tiny glass, or let it be what it is, a vast and varied book with more wisdom than I might ever acquire on this side of eternity (98).