The Challenge of a Dual Culture Nation

I’ve spent a lot of time traveling and working cross culturally. In fact, since I’m married to a Brazilian, my home life is that way, too. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the conservative v. liberal antagonism dividing our nation these days, and it occurs to me that part of the problem is we have two cultures living side by side: a Christian culture and a secular culture.

The Christian culture believes in traditional values which once formed the moral compass of our nation. These were the values our Founding Fathers had in mind when they wrote the founding documents of our nation. They may not have been believers or lived these values, but with the church of the day being the dominant voice of moral standards, these values nonetheless were a compass for them and influenced their thinking.

The Secular Culture consists of people who, for various reasons, believe that religion should be private and kept to one’s self; that people of faith shouldn’t share their faith with others or attempt to push its values into the public arena. Some of these are Agnostics and Athiests. Others are people of other religions than Christians. Others are members of mainstream Christian churches who may separate their faith and life in ways the members of the Christian culture don’t know how to do.

These are far from complete descriptions. They’re merely meant as sketches to give you an idea of what I’m talking about. The groups are far more complex than these few words can describe or explain.

The point is that Christians like myself, in the Christian culture, believe that our faith informs our lives. The way we live, think, breath and act is influenced by our beliefs. Like other humans, we are imperfect and don’t always live up to our ideals, but we are trying and constantly adjusting ourselves to learn from mistakes and live more like the Savior we believe in. As a result, we can not separate our values in the church from those in the rest of our lives. We believe that biblical values are God’s intention.

For example, murder is against God’s law, and babies are humans, so abortion is killing babies. Human beings are possessors of finite minds and thus incapable of deciding if a baby is worth living or not. I was the child of date rape, but I have spent a lot of my life helping others, teaching, giving. I think my life has meaning. If I’d been aborted, I couldn’t have made that difference. Who are we to know the child a woman is carrying won’t turn out to be an amazing human being? Who are we to deny that chance?

Secular culture, however, looks at that and says that a woman has a right not to be forced to raise a child she doesn’t want. There are too many abused and abandoned children already. Forcing women to carry to term unwanted babies will just create more.

Another example, gay marriage. The bible says marriage consists of “one man and one woman.” It also says explicit things about the sin of homosexuality. Now one can argue that the church misrepresents homosexual sex as a worse sin than other sins incorrectly, and I would agree, because the bible says all sins are equal. But that’s not the point. The point is, marriage is a religious thing to them, and therefore gay marriage can’t exist because it is against God’s law.

Secular culture sees this as Christians imposing their values on others, but civil marriage is separate and if laws were properly written to define the difference between civil and church marriage, some of the conflict would be a mute point. At the same time, secular culturists insistence that their view be upheld, feels to Christian culturalists like secular values being forced on them.

In any case, these are two opposing world views and their clash has created a great deal of anger, resentment and struggle in our nation and world.

We need to find a way to dialogue better in these cultures. If both sides object to having the others’ values forced upon them, they must also admit that they have no right to force their values on the other side. A compromise must be reached and the gap bridge or our country will never recover and reunite in ways necessary to solve the problems we face. I have no solutions or compromises to suggest other than mutual recognition of our rights to not have others’ views pushed off on us, but we do need to come together and I pray that we will.

For what it’s worth…