mere mortal. hand grenades, and decisions I don’t like

This is a rerun, with some editing, of a blog I ran a while back. In a week filled with controversies over Hobby Lobby and World Vision, and the imminent end of the world because of them, I felt it good to revisit. I hope you agree.

Human beings look separate because you see them walking about separately. But then we are so made that we can see only the present moment. If we could see the past, then of course it would look different. For there was a time when every man was part of his mother, and (earlier still) part of his father as well, and when they were part of his grandparents. If you could see humanity spread out in time, as God sees it, it would look like one single growing thing–rather like a very complicated tree. Every individual would appear connected with every other.” C.S. Lewis

“I am not in a culture war. I am in love with people within a culture. We fear the loss of what we know. So we react in anger. This is not a healthy way to live or change anything.”

I wrote those lines above a few months ago in my “random blog ideas” file. As you might guess, I have several random ideas. Per minute. When I go back to that file, I have one of three reactions:

1) Wow! What an amazing idea! That is perhaps the most genius idea ever conceived by woman!

2) Wow! That is perhaps the stupidest idea ever conceived by woman.

3)I have no idea what that means. A blind orangutan on meth could have made more sense.

It seems the “culture wars” concept is appropriate to discuss this week. Again. And I am so done with that phrase.

I used to be comfortable with the culture war concept. I’d generally call myself a conservative Christian, though some of my views definitely don’t fall traditionally or neatly within that arena. Under that label, caring about right and wrong, and the general drift of American culture far from values of any sort, comes naturally. I care. I thought, years ago, that meant taking up arms and joining the “war.” But I don’t think that anymore.

It’s that word “war.” See, by nature, in war, you have an enemy. You don’t like him. You want to hurt him. You fear, reasonably, that he wants to do the same to you. You want him to lose. If that isn’t your aim in a war, you should be playing intramural shuffleboard instead. War is violent.

That concept, when applied to someone standing on the street next to me or an acquaintance on Facebook, isn’t one I can sleep well at night with. Because culture is people. And people are God’s image. And people are . . . me.

Why would I ever want to start lobbing grenades at myself? That’s just . . . not normal.

I can’t draw lines anymore. I can’t, as Lewis explains above, separate myself from that “other” with whom I may not agree. We are part of the same creation, beautifully made and dangerously flawed. Both of us.

I can’t look at another person and say, “I wish you’d lose your hopes and dreams and deepest desires, because they’re different than mine.” I can’t treat another person as an enemy. I find it paranoid to assume a person who doesn’t agree with me wants to do me harm, although I’m not naïve enough to believe this is never the case. 

I can’t have to win. Coming from a former championship debater, this is a huge concession. And here’s an even bigger one–Rarely can I even declare with certainty that I’m absolutely right. Not anymore. At least, I can’t do that and think God smiles on it and is going to give me a purple heart or something. 

God never smiles on us when we toss grenades at other people he created. 

Of this, I am certain I’m right. 

As long as sin exists in this world, it’s going to hell, handbasket or not. And the kicker is, sin exists in me, so I’m part of the downhill slide. Its pretty stinkin’ foolish of me to point out someone else sliding down the hill and yell, “This is all your fault!” Its a lot more sensible to reach out to that guy and try pulling us both out.

This doesn’t mean giving up what you believe is right and wrong. It means making the decision that it isn’t people who are right or wrong. It’s ideas. 

People are beautiful, broken, amazing, amusing, complex, extraordinary, eternal creatures. There is an enemy—but they are not it. No matter what he looks like, no matter what he believes, no matter how he dresses or votes, a human is what C.S. Lewis describes in another brilliant quote.

There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”

And that is why I will never again be in a cultural war.