CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

In For the Long Haul

Nov 2, 2015

Most people, as well as most politicians, only think in terms of the short term and immediate gain. They seldom think about the bigger picture and the longer term. Immediate benefits and short term gains tend to be the main focus of most folks.

And this would be true of far too many Christians as well. They tend to see at best only days or weeks ahead, and consider things only from their immediate circle of contacts. Big picture believers with a long term vision tend to be rather rare regrettably.

Christians of all people should be those with the long term and the whole picture in mind. Even many non-believers understand this. I recall reading decades ago the words of economist Henry Hazlitt. In his 1946 book Economics in One Easy Lesson he said that economic policy must always have a two-pronged approach:

In addition to these endless pleadings of self-interest, there is a second main factor that spawns new economic fallacies every day. This is the persistent tendency of man to see only the immediate effects of a given policy, or its effects only on a special group, and to neglect to inquire what the long-run effects of that policy will be not only on that special group but on all groups. It is the fallacy of overlooking secondary consequences.

big picture 3He too knew the importance of considering long term outcomes and the good of the greater group. I write all this, in part, because of a conference I have just attended. Indeed, I am sitting in a hotel lobby in Salt Lake City where the World Congress of Families IX has just finished.

Plenty of discussion obviously arose this past week about the condition and future of marriage and family. Things are looking rather bleak at the moment, at least in the West. Therefore much attention was paid to how we can defend and strengthen these crucial institutions.

Numerous main sessions and smaller workshops were held, and one of them I attended looked at protecting marriage in Australia against its redefinition (and therefore destruction) by the homosexual activists. Discussion centred on how we can win the upcoming plebiscite on this issue.

Both sides are of course hard at work on this one, hoping the plebiscite to legalise homosexual marriage will be defeated or voted in, depending on where you stand. I and many others are rightly working very hard to ensure that marriage is saved in Australia, and that the tiny minority activist groups do not destroy our most important social institution.

So we must work very hard indeed on this battle. But I must remind my fellow pro-family activists that this is certainly just one battle. And even if we win this one on the plebiscite (and pray that we do), it will mean nothing to the activists on the other side.

They will just come up with a dozen new strategies to destroy marriage. Indeed, they would likely already have a dozen such strategies in place. You see, the other side neither sleeps nor eats. They are ever on the prowl to do their thing. They are always at work to cause mayhem and misery.

Our side however does not like to get its hands dirty, does not like a fight, and especially does not like to think about the bigger picture and the long haul. We think that we can fight a battle just once, and then we can all go back to sleep. But it does not work that way.

As Maggie Thatcher once put it, “You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.” That is certainly true in the marriage wars and in any of the other great cultural battles of our time. The fight for the protection of the unborn is another such battle.

Recall that it took Wilberforce and his team many decades of hard work, struggle, prayer and exertion before they won on the slavery battle. So too it must be for us today and the battles we face. And given the nature of those opposed to us, we must realise that our fights for what is right will be ongoing until we die, or until the Lord returns.

The truth is, our culture is getting worse and not better. We are losing so many political and legislative battles because we are losing the culture – or perhaps we have already lost the culture. All over much of the West the political scene is moving leftwards, and that is because much of the culture is doing the same thing.

And for my purpose now, by leftward I mean a move primarily to a secular, anti-God and anti-morality position. This we see in so many places, be it with the election just held in Canada, the major disaster of Obama in the US, or the recent backstabbing done in Australia’s conservative party.

I am not a fatalist and I do not think that all of this move away from God and morality to unbelief and immorality is going to prevail. However, when asked about how I see the West and its future, I always say that in the short term it looks terrible, but in the long term things may possibly turn around.

If the Lord should tarry – and he may well – we have work to do. We as believers must immediately suspend the unbiblical notion that we should simply sit around with our bags packed and our feet up, just waiting for the Lord’s return. Might Jesus come back today? Sure.

But perhaps he will not return for another decade, or century, or longer. That means we have a job to do – a big one. Jesus said “Occupy till I come”. That we must do. And to have any sort of lasting contribution to the work of the Kingdom, we must think in terms of the bigger picture and the longer term.

Just praying that your next door neighbour becomes a Christian is great, but is not nearly enough. We must fight on all fronts, including the cultural, social, political and intellectual. We have a culture to protect, not just individuals to save. For all its faults, Western civilisation – which was for centuries synonymous with Christian civilisation – has been a tremendous good and blessing.

We are now seeing it be destroyed before our very eyes. What took centuries to develop is being smashed in mere years. I for one will not stand by as this happens. And I must remind my Christian friends of how momentous it really is if we allow the culture to crumble.

Culture is important, and God gave us a cultural mandate back in Genesis 1:26-28. We should not sit back so cavalierly as we watch it being massacred by those who hate God and his values. Despite its shortcomings, some cultures are worth preserving and protecting.

If we allow our culture to be destroyed by the radicals and barbarians of the secular left, and if the Lord should tarry, we will then have a huge job on our hands of reconstructing it. I have spoken often about this elsewhere, and I have often quoted T. S. Eliot about all this.

Let me finish my discussion by quoting from him again – from his 1948 Notes Towards the Definition of Culture – as we remind ourselves of the need to always view the big picture and the long term:

I am talking about the common tradition of Christianity which has made Europe what it is and about the common cultural elements which this common Christianity has brought with it. If Asia were converted to Christianity tomorrow, it would not thereby become a part of Europe. It is in Christianity that our arts have developed; it is in Christianity that the laws of Europe have – until recently – been rooted. It is against a background of Christianity that all our thought has significance. An individual European may not believe that the Christian Faith is true, and yet what he says, and makes, and does, will all spring out of his heritage of Christian culture and depend upon that culture for its meaning. Only a Christian culture could have produced a Voltaire or a Nietzsche. I do not believe that the culture of Europe could survive the complete disappearance of the Christian faith. And I am convinced of that, not merely because I am a Christian myself, but as a student of social biology. If Christianity goes, the whole of our culture goes. Then you must start painfully again, and you cannot put on a new culture ready made. You must wait for the grass to grow to feed the sheep to give the wool out of which your new coat will be made. You must pass through many centuries of barbarism. We should not live to see the new culture, nor would our great-great-great-grandchildren: and if we did, not one of us would be happy in it. To our Christian heritage we owe many things beside religious faith. Through it we trace the evolution of our arts, through it we have our conception of Roman Law which has done so much to shape the Western World, through it we have our conceptions of private and public morality. And through it we have our common standards of literature, in the literature of Greece and Rome. The Western world has its unity in this heritage, in Christianity and in the ancient civilisations of Greece, Rome, and Israel, from which owing to two thousand years of Christianity, we trace our descent.

[1596 words]

10 Responses to In For the Long Haul

  • Thanks Bill and thanks to TS Eliot. Preserving our culture is so important. We must be responsible and obey God. Fight the good fight.

  • Reading the Bible and reading history books, you can see that many things took what to our minds seems an inordinately long time to change or come about. Sometimes the case seems hopeless and lost but then God can turn everything around in an instant.

  • What is it that allows the fight against slavery to be “won”? It has been won once and for all. A different political party would not consider bringing it back, even in a reduced, more “palatable” form, with special conditions attached. There are no activists fighting for the right to own slaves. Can we win the fight against abortion and same-sex marriage in the same decisive way? It seems that these two issues may be more like an endless tug-of-war.

  • Powerful article again…thanks Bill

  • ‘The major disaster of Obama in the US.’

    www.firebreathingchristian.com/?s=obama+pin+the+tail+on

    Barack Hussein Obama. AKA Barry Soetoro. AKA Keyser Soze. AKA…today’s candidate for consideration on Pin the Tail on the Antichrist! [insert Omen theme music and applause here] So you may be asking, “How could it possibly have taken us so long to consider this guy as a serious contestant on PToA?” We here at Pin the Tail have heard your pleas and couldn’t agree more.”

  • As if to underline the issue, Julie Bishop just came out saying she ‘has absolutely no problems with gay marriage’ but does support the plebiscite to resolve the issue:
    www.news.com.au/national/politics/foreign-affairs-minister-julie-bishop-opens-up-on-same-sex-marriage-debate/story-fns0jze1-1227591457585

  • I was only just pondering as to where that “occupy till I come” is found as I read it in another book recently. Would you be able to give me chapter and verse please? Or is it like the trinity a concept wobven all through scripture? I think one of the reasons why Christians are a little hesitant to engage in the culture wars is because they feel they are being divisive merely for raising the issues or responding to them when raised and addressing them from a biblical point of view, because it tends to produce almost instant friction and controversy. But what we often don’t realize is that the division started earlier than this. It started with those who chose to leave the Lord or at least the umbrella of values under which we are humans and can flourish together. It is not the biblical position that causes division but the acceptance of none biblical thinking in our midst but because this happened over time without discernment or digression, the conflict occurs at the point where someone tries to steer the ship back to where it should be. We must do more than just preserve the culture, we must improve it at the same time and give people a tangible reason to want to become Christians in the sense that they get to see something that is not only radical but good and beautiful at the same time. As to abortion, I hear it so often now, it appears the lynchpin at least of incorrect thinking is that abortion is classified as no more than just another medical procedure. Has anyone addressed this maybe in a precice article, it certainly wouldn’t take a long book to explain why it is not.
    Many blessings
    Ursula Bennett

  • Thanks Ursula. It comes from the parable of Jesus about the ten minas:

    “And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come.”
    -Luke 19:13, KJV

  • Dear Bill,

    Thank you for the article. The Christian culture of the West is in grave danger of being swamped by the heresy of Islam and secularism because its impressive achievements have been taken for granted by the vast majority. Most will only realise what they have lost when it has to go underground. It has already been pushed to the margins of society. How many people in the Christian West could truly say “I have loved O Lord the beauty of your house and the place where your Glory dwelleth?” Psalm 26-8 When they never enter a Church from one year to the next if ever? The magnificent cathedrals of Europe have largely been turned into tourist attractions when they should be places of prayer. The faithful few will have to suffer what is coming along with the great mass of the indifferent. How long it will be before this process is complete is anyone’s guess but when it is complete the Christian West will have brought about the catastrophe on itself by its own apathy. Perhaps it won’t be in my lifetime as I probably haven’t all that many more years left but my heart breaks for the young who will be left to rebuild what we have lost. I hope these comments don’t sound too gloomy and hopeless because I believe Pope John Paul 2 laid the groundwork for a Christian revival with his focus on the young at the World Youth Days and I have every confidence that Christianity will never die out completely as we have Christ’s promise about that.

  • Thank you Bill. 🙂 Mark, yes, I was going to mention that too and the fact that the ABC is quite happy to report that this, Julie Bishop’s support of ssm is considered quite a feather in the cap of Rodney Croome and that he will no doubt stake much on the dynamics of the leaders opinion influencing the unthinking and unsuspecting sheep among the masses to manipulate their opinion in his favour. IF that plebecite is not held soon I fear for the outcome. I wonder if Christians will end up understanding that their vote for values is important to provide politicians who are prepared to stand by the fact that some things should not change and some behaviours should not be endulged as they fly in the face of people, especially children being able to do well according to common sense and varifyable evidence. We need these people more than ever who are prepared to voice these things where they count, in the Australian parliament.
    Many blessings
    Ursula Bennett

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