For most of the British Christians I know, it is a source of some pride or at least satisfaction that we are not fighting the culture wars. A quick glance across the Atlantic appears to reveal a war-zone in which Christians are fighting what looks very much like a desperate and increasingly compromised rear-guard action against the modern world. We are pretty glad to be out of it.
There are a number of reasons we're not fighting the culture wars, I think. For starters, Christians are fairly evenly spread across the main political traditions in the UK, which makes it almost impossible for us to act as a block in political matters. There is enormous value in this for the church - it means that we have represented in our congregations people who see the goodness in each of those political traditions, which keeps us from becoming narrow, and it brings us regularly into contact with people who share our fundamental allegiance (to Christ) whilst having a largely different political loyalty, which keeps us from becoming too partisan. This is good. I think there is also a different tradition of Bible-reading and interpretation, less influenced by fundamentalism (in its historic, not its pejorative, sense), which is less quick to shut down discussion with a 'because the Bible says so'. This, I think, is also good.
Because there are good theological reasons not to join in this fight. I think the central reason is that the gospel is not a worldview or a philosophy or a rule-book for society, but is the glorious and joyful good news of what God has done in Christ. That good news cannot be identified absolutely with any worldview or form of society, but critiques them all; it is therefore not in order to use the gospel to defend a nostalgic or utopian social order. Then again, there is good theological reason to avoid fighting because the offensive or defensive posture necessary for the culture wars does not sit well with the openness of the gospel or the freedom of its invitation. Angry or frightened soldiers don't as a rule look like emissaries of the gracious King.
Still, I have a few anxieties. The first one is about motivation. There are all sorts of potential motives for not fighting the culture wars which are really good, but I can't help feeling that quite often we don't fight because we want to look good or credible to the world, or just because we're afraid of taking a stand for anything. That is something I need to check my own heart on.
Second, I'm anxious that by not fighting we must just be losing by default. After all, it only takes one side to start a war. When you notice the preponderance of stories on the BBC seeking to normalise the idea of gender fluidity, for example, it's hard to escape the impression that just because we're not fighting doesn't mean we're not being fought against.
Third, I'm anxious that we're allowing a social order to solidify which presents a sort of penultimate challenge (in Bonhoeffer's sense) to the gospel. That is to say, although issues of, for example, sexuality or economics are not ultimately gospel issues, it is entirely possible to create a setup of penultimate things which makes it harder for the ultimate (the gospel message) to be heard. I wonder if we're doing that.
Fourth, I'm anxious for my children, who are growing up in a world where a Biblical stance on numerous ethical and social issues is completely implausible - much more so than when I was young. Have we let them down?
Fifth, but perhaps most urgently, I'm anxious - or rather, distressed - at the way in which we've allowed issues of the utmost importance - like the value of life - to become grey areas. There's nothing grey about killing babies, and I'm not sure that avoiding fighting the culture wars, even for good motives, is a good reason not to speak up.
I don't want to fight the culture wars. I don't think we'd win anyway, and I don't think it would do the cause of Christ's gospel any good. But what are we going to do?