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“CULTURE WARS”

 

 

A post-homiletical discourse delivered by the Rev. Dr. James R. Beebe

Rector, St. Patrick’s Church, Incline Village, Nevada, September 4, 2011

Text:  Romans 12:9-21 – “Bless those who persecute you….”

 

 

     Another season of political campaigning and posturing….I think it’s time to let you know where I stand.  So this is my “Political Manifesto”….

To the people of St. Patrick’s,

This is a difficult time in our nation's history. There is a rift—a deep, enduring wound—among the people of this once-great land, and while I'm not sure it will be healed in my lifetime, I do not think all hope is lost. I believe change is possible, but the road will be long and difficult. The truth is, this nation can never be united as long as it is home to people other than myself.

The entire population of the United States and I simply can't see eye to eye on many of the key issues facing this country, and that is what tears us asunder. There are two Americas, and unfortunately, I'm the only person alive who is truly able to see things from my point of view. Thus we have a long way to go before our nation becomes a nation of Jim’s.

And that saddens me.  One day, people will realize that fostering a worldview identical to my own is the most sensible course of action. From where I stand, it's the only course of action.

There are 310 million people in this country who are not me.  But deep down, all of us really want the same thing: to bridge the gaps that divide us, to live in peace and harmony.  It can happen, but it's going to take some major concessions from everyone who isn't me.  It's going to take everyone coming together, shutting their mouths for once, and doing exactly what I want, when I want it.

Because the time for me is now.

I'm not naïve. I realize there are many Americans who have no interest in letting me do their thinking for them.  Well, perhaps they should move to France or Bulgaria or some other country that isn't inhabited by me.

(OK, that was a riff on Kurt Barnhurst, the erstwhile columnist for the satiric online magazine, The Onion.)

 

     Everywhere people are talking about the “culture wars” that seem to plague the United States.  The expression was introduced in the 1991 publication of Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America by James Davison Hunter, a sociologist at the University of Virginia.   Hunter argued that on an increasing number of "hot-button" defining issues — abortion, gun politics, separation of church and state, privacy, recreational drug use, homosexuality, and censorship issues – have provided the seedbed for the conflict.   

     Essentially, there are two warring groups which are not driven by religion, ethnicity, social class or political affiliation, but rather by ideology.    Hunter characterized this polarity as stemming from opposite impulses, toward what he refers to as Progressivism and Orthodoxy.

     You’ve all heard of Red States and Blue States.  Red States are those which voted in the majority for the values represented by conservatism and orthodoxy.  Blue States are those which voted in the majority for the values represented by progressivism.  Red States, Blue States.  But what if I vote Red in a Blue State?  Or vice-versa?  Does living in a Blue State define my world view?

     I think there’s a more telling statistic.  Forget Democrats and Republicans.  There’s a different Blue State/Red State divide – that between which states have In-N-Out Burger locations and those that have Dunkin’ Donuts.  Much of the Western half of the United States lacks Dunkin’ Donuts.  And much of the Midwest and Eastern part of the United States lacks In-N-Out Burgers.  What does it say about our country when there are only three cities where you have both:  Mesa, Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, and Las Vegas, Nevada?  Oh, the humanity!

     There’s something exhilarating about being right.  As in righteous.  As in self-righteous.  About hunkering down in front of the cable news drug of choice to increase your resting heart rate.  Or shaking your head at the absolute outrage of what those Republicans/Democrats (you choose) are doing to this country.  They are destroying our country!

     Well, I have been to the mountaintop and I have seen the other side.  And the other side doesn’t feature Red States and Blue States.  They’re all Bled States.  They are based on a world view that teaches the following:

*   Let love be genuine.

*   Love one another with mutual affection.

*   Outdo one another in showing honor.

*   Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.

*   Contribute to the needs of people; extend hospitality to strangers.

*   Bless those who persecute you.

*   Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.

*   Live in harmony with one another.

     Those are teachings from Paul, a first century Jew and follower of Jesus.  We do have a choice, you know.  We can define ourselves by our ideologies.  And we can define ourselves by being followers of Jesus.  There is a very large gap between the Jesus camp and the color camps. 

     Once upon a time, there were two brothers. Their father had a large farm and when he became too old to work, he called his sons to him. "I am too old to work anymore," he said.   “I will divide my farm in half and give each of you one half. I know that you will always work together and will be good friends."

When the brothers first started farming on their adjoining farms, they were the best of friends and would share everything together.

Then, one day there was an argument between the two brothers and they stopped speaking to one another. For many years, not a word was spoken between them.

One day, one of the brothers was at his house when a carpenter came to his door and said, “I would like to do some work. Do you have any work that I can do?”  

The brother thought for a moment and then replied, “I would like for you to build a fence on my property.  Build it down near the stream there that separates my farm from my brother’s.  I don’t want to see my brother any more and I would like for you to build a high fence there. I’m going into town and I’ll be back this evening.”

When he came back that evening, he was shocked to see that the carpenter had not followed his instructions.  Instead of building a high fence, he had built a bridge over the stream.

The man walked down to take a look at the bridge, and as he did, his brother walked toward him from the other side.  His brother said, “After all the terrible things I’ve done to you over the years, I can't believe that you would build a bridge and welcome me back.”   And so ended their culture war….