How Do I Do Kingdom Work Without Engaging in Culture War? (podcast)
Greg talks about questions and the spirit in which those questions are asked.
Dan Kent: Peter says this, “I’m a recent college grad, and have long been a podrishioner at Woodland Hills. Thank you, both, for your work and ministry.”
You’re welcome, Peter.
“My question is this. I work for a magazine that you could say very much embodies the religious right. Hot button issues like abortion, homosexuality, transgenderism, they’re constantly and militantly being engaged in and disputed. While I agree in principle with many of the viewpoints being expressed, I’m finding myself in tension. I feel like I’m participating in a culture war, instead of joining in God’s kingdom work of reconciliation. I find myself hungering for the kingdom alternative that eludes both the conservation and liberal assumptions about the world. Can you speak into this struggle?”
Greg Boyd: I like the fact that you’re struggling with that, Peter. You’re asking the right questions. Follow that through and you’re going to be alright. I like the direction you’re going. I’ll tell you this, the position that you’re currently in reminds me a little bit of me in the mid-eighties or so, when the moral majority first started really coming into power. At that point it was kind of standard evangelical, and for a while I got on board with that. I agreed with most of their positions, at the time. But I was uncomfortable with the tone of it, or the flavor of it, or the methodology of it. It was a conquering kind of mindset. “We’re going to win this thing.” I didn’t see the spirit of Jesus in that. And so I guess I would encourage you to adopt this perspective, don’t just ask what positions you agree with, but ask the question, what is the spirit by which these questions are being answered and being addressed. What’s the spirit of it? And if it’s done in a kingdom kind of way, it’s got to be done in a spirit of love and out of a spirit of humility; an inquisitiveness, and putting the other first; listening before you talk. The methodology and the spirit of a group is at least as important as the content of what they actually believe.
If Jesus—there are several times when people tried to lure him into the cultural wars of the time. “Weigh in on this issue: force my brother to share the inheritance with me.” They didn’t like the law that said it all goes to the first born. Or, “Shall we pay taxes?” They’re trying to lure Jesus in to the culture wars and Jesus always found a way to avoid them. He turned it around and made it into a kingdom question. “I’m not here to settle all the world’s problems; I’m not here to settle all the political issues of the day.” He didn’t come to bring another cultural thing. He came to bring something altogether new, altogether different. Orientate your life around a different center, is what He’s saying. That center is God, as God’s revealed in Him.
And so, I can’t tell you what to do with your current job, but that’s the kind of questions I would be asking. You’re in the right struggle. The kingdom is always a third way. Avoid the cultural binaries. The kingdom isn’t the right answer to all of our world’s questions. It brings its own questions. What’s going on in our heart? And it brings its own methodology. It always looks like the cross. It always looks like servant. It’s always washing feet. Engaging with an “opponent” quote/unquote, it ought to be to serve him or her. Or help them. Not just to refute them and to be right. The culture war in both the left and the right is wrapped up in such arrogance, and such pride, and you know, we are the right ones, and they are the idiots. It’s just so ugly, and so even if you agree with one side or the other on a cultural/political basis, don’t buy in to the spirit of one or the others. But in to the spirit of the kingdom.
Dan: That’s well said. And I think the same thing. My reaction was that I appreciate that he’s distinguishing the what from the how. Because even though he agrees with some of the ideas that they share, the how they’re sharing those ideas is what he’s having a hard time with. And I empathize with publication companies right now, because there’s this temptation, this seduction, to be provocative, and that’s what gets clicks, that’s what gets eyeballs. So you have to be arrogant, and you have to be boisterous, and you have to share your ideas in ways that are not really godly, in my opinion. And I’ve even heard people say, “well, you know, the ends justify the means.” But it’s like, no, in the kingdom, the means, that’s all there is.s The means is the whole show. And the how is what we’re called to be, not the what. I mean, it doesn’t matter what you think is the right thing for how the government should manage their money, if you’re treating people as if they’re worthless.
Greg: You can have all the right opinions in the world—1 Corinthians 13—and you can have all faith that could move mountains, and have all knowledge and all wisdom, and understand all mysteries, but if you do not have love it is a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. A bunch of religious noise. The center’s always got to be love. It changes everything.
I was just reflecting on the media and how it’s, they get more hits they get more attention, the more radical they get. If you ever spend an evening watching MSNBC News, or the next night watching Fox News, and in the evening, when the radicals more come out, if you’re watching you realize that no one from the other side is watching this show. No Fox audience is watching MSNBC, unless it’s a special research project, or vice versa. So what’s going on here, actually, is, we have the name of “news” which is synonymous with entertainment, you’re preaching to the choir and you know you’re preaching to the choir, and the folks that are listening know what you’re going to say, usually, basically, and so it really becomes a feel-good fest for being right. We are the ones who really know what’s going on and those people are corrupt and bad, blah, blah. There again, you have to ask to ask the question, even if you agree with what your hear, and usually people only watch just what they agree with—confirmation bias, it feels good to be right. But then you’ve got to ask, “is this the spirit of the kingdom? Should I let myself get caught up in this, yay for us, rah, rah prideful kind of a thing?” I encourage kingdom people to really make sure you don’t get sucked into either of those binaries and those silos, those echo chambers. It hardens your brain.