09 January 2020

Instead of spiritual warfare… a culture war.

Spiritual warfare is about resisting temptation. It’s about fighting our own self-centeredness, our tendency to produce works of the flesh, and anything which tempts us to choose ungodly, evil behavior. Tempters might be evil spirits, but more often it’s just our own corrupt nature. Regardless, we gotta fight it and follow Jesus.

But to many Christians, spiritual warfare doesn’t look like this at all. It’s about being a “prayer warrior” and praying really hard for things. Because our prayers somehow provide energy to the angels fighting the demons in the clouds above. Or so the Frank Peretti novels tell us.

And to Christianists, spiritual warfare has nothing to do with praying away the demons, nor self-control. Spiritual warfare is solely about fighting Satan and its evil plan.

What’s its evil plan? To take over the world. Didn’t Satan tell Jesus it already ruled the world?

Luke 4.5-8 KWL
5 Taking Jesus up, Satan showed him every kingdom in civilization in a moment’s time.
6 The devil told Jesus, “I’ll give you all these powers and their glory: It’s been surrendered to me.
If I want, I can give it to anyone. 7 So once you worship before me, all will be yours.”
8 In reply Jesus told it, “It’s written you’ll worship your Lord God and serve only him.”

Thing is, Satan’s a dirty liar Jn 8.44 and we can’t trust a thing it tells us, so why should we believe it when it claims to rule the world? Especially since Jesus states he conquered the world, Jn 16.33 and he’s eventually coming back to take possession of it. But meanwhile we run things… and we’ve made a mighty mess of things, and since humans don’t care to take responsibility for our mess, we blame Satan. It wrecked the world; not humans who exploit one another and vote for morons.

Anyway, blaming the devil for everything, and presuming spiritual warfare is about fighting the devil, means logically these Christians think they’re at spiritual war with everything. Seriously, everything. They’re fighting the world—however they define “world.”

In practice, this usually means the things they personally don’t like. Like the opposite political party. Like all the forms of entertainment media they don’t like: Television, movies, music, video games, and certain sections of the internet.

And if they’re bigots, it includes all the people they don’t like. Like foreigners. Coloreds. Rednecks and white trash. The poors. The one-percenters. Queers. Incels. Hippies. Millennials (which they still think means “college students,” ’cause they don’t realize millennials are in their thirties now). Non-Christians. People of other churches, whom they’re pretty sure aren’t real Christians. People who live in liberal enclaves on the coasts, or conservative enclaves in the “flyover states.” Anything “other”—meaning other than them.

However tightly they define their circle, their spiritual warfare consists of fighting everyone else, leaving ’em all alone in the world. It’s just them and Jesus.

Well… Jesus left to join all the people they’re persecuting. But they don’t wanna hear it.

Yep, this is some dark Christian stuff. It’s how Christian terrorists get developed: They think they’re right to even descend to violence in the fight against “evil.” So they build bombs, shoot “bad guys,” and imagine themselves righteous. Hey, didn’t people in the bible kill bad guys? Why not them?

And in so doing, they utterly lose the real spiritual battle. And think they’re victorious as they become less and less like Christ Jesus every day.

Your politics don’t matter.

You may presume I’m writing specifically about people on the Christian Right or Christian Left. Certainly you can think of more examples in the opposition party.

I’m not. I know bigots on both sides. I grew up conservative, so I knew plenty of people who think the entire reason we join God’s kingdom is to become his culture-war foot-soldiers. That’s all they focus on. Meanwhile they make excuses or cover up their own temptations and sins, they don’t develop any fruit of the Spirit, and they don’t rid themselves of their old bitterness, hatred, and anger. Why should they?—they can use ’em to fight the devil!

But in the workplace I’m largely surrounded by progressives, and man do they hate conservatives. Mostly because they’ve got conservative relatives who are jerks, and they imagine all conservatives are like that. (To be fair, many are.) But same as conservative Christians, progressive Christians figure the battle’s with the forces of evil without, not within: They don’t concentrate on overcoming their own selfish impulses, but on political victories, large and small.

So this isn’t a political problem. It’s a human problem. Politics are the distraction. They’re the means by which we figure we can conquer the world… forgetting, ignoring, or even dismissing, the fact Jesus already has conquered the world. (To their minds, he’s simply not conquered it enough. Not to their satisfaction!)

I’ve heard a number of Christians claim politics is the way the devil gets us to miss the point. Ugh… again with the devil. Yeah, I’m entire Satan gets a kick out of the way we self-righteously tear at one another, and enjoys tempting people to join in. But the devil doesn’t have the power to fuel all that rage and bile. That’s humanity. That’s all us. We don’t need a lot of provoking to do what comes, thanks to our fallen nature, naturally. We just need to take our eyes off Jesus.

So don’t.

Our duty is to fight our own sins. Quit being distracted by other people’s sins: Look at your own. Stop getting so angry at their misbehavior that you feel the urge to fight them: Fight your own misbehaviors. Stop putting all your energy into changing the world, and put it into changing yourself. Because until we’re able to conquer our own sins, we’re in no position to tackle the sins of the world. We’re just hypocrites.

Yeah, the sins of the world frustrate me. The misbehavior of my elected government officials outrages me. But what should outrage me is my own misbehavior—the stuff I know better than to do, and you’d think I’d’ve stopped doing it by now! Resisting temptation is a constant fight, and one we can’t let up on. But that’s the battle we must win first. Till we do, we simply contribute to the world’s problems.