This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

Beware the culture war

Since the U.S. presidential election, tensions have heightened rather than calmed. Polarizing and offensive statements by President-elect Donald Trump have made many Americans feel threatened for their welfare.

Sympathetic to the concerns of vulnerable people, Christians are using the language of the culture war in calling for opposition to Trump’s presidency. Our concern for society’s disadvantaged should naturally cause us to sympathize with those who will suffer if certain promises become law. Sympathy should lead to action, not sideline-sitting.

But is taking sides in the culture war — no matter how righteous our intentions — the best course of action for our collective witness? The challenge we face as followers of Jesus is to love our neighbors in tangible ways without being co-opted by a political ideology. This is complicated by the fact that our diverse neighbors have legitimate concerns that sometimes are at odds with each other.

Christians in other parts of the world face even starker choices. In a report expected to be released this month by The Center for the Study of Global Christianity, around 70 percent of the 90,000 Christians killed for their faith in 2016 were targeted for their refusal to participate in African tribal conflicts.

We may think that because we refuse to use physical weapons, we remain nonviolent. But our call isn’t only to nonviolence. It is to reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:16-21). God has made us ambassadors for Christ to diverse people with competing social, economic and environmental needs. More important, all are fallen and lost apart from Christ, whether rich or poor, dominant or marginalized. Redemption through Jesus unites us into a family that transcends other identities (Gal. 3:27-29).

Identity politics fuels the culture war. A focus on the transformation of hearts and lives through the gospel will bring reconciliation with God and each other.

It is not right that Christians allow our political identities to undercut our unity in Christ and harm our mission to our neighbors. In the current political climate, rural and urban Christians may feel estranged from each other due to the political leanings of the cultures that surround them. Mennonites with ties to both rural and urban communities are well placed to be ministers of reconciliation.

Trump and company will take office Jan. 20, but our citizenship is in a kingdom both here and yet to come. Instead of joining the culture war, let us share the good news of our King, who “has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us” (Eph. 2:14).

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