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Reading CT, you might get the impression—fair or not—that we have lost the culture wars, which probably weren't worth waging in the first place. Consider:

• Likening culture to the weather, Frederica Mathewes-Green (March) counsels: "God has not called us to change the weather. Our primary task as believers, and our best hope for lasting success, is to care for individuals caught up in the pounding storm."

• Columnist Philip Yancey (November 2005) worries about "how tempting it can be—and how distracting from our primary mission—to devote so many efforts to rehabilitating society at large, especially when these efforts demonize the opposition. (After all, neither Jesus nor Paul showed much concern about cleaning up the degenerate Roman Empire.)"

• In July, Yancey warns of a "harsh fundamentalism" spreading not among Muslims, but among politically minded Christians.

Certainly these writers are making a perennially important point that evangelism and social ministry must never take a back seat to political activism. But we must also beware of going to the opposite extreme of a privatized faith. Christians are to be salt and light in all spheres of human life—even at the risk of occasionally offending our neighbors.

Carl Henry, the first editor of Christianity Today, said as much almost six decades ago in his classic book, The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism. "The battle against evil in all its forms must be pressed unsparingly," Henry said. "[W]e must pursue the enemy in politics, in economics, in science, in ethics—everywhere, in every field, we must pursue relentlessly."

Of course, relentless (and sometimes confrontational) cultural engagement has a long history among Christians. ...

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Foolish Things
Stan Guthrie is an editor at large for Christianity Today and author of Missions in the Third Millennium and All That Jesus Asks. His column, "Foolish Things," ran from 2006 to 2007.
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September 2006

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