War as Metaphor

“The quickest way to end a war is to lose it.”

-George Orwell

The culture war. I’ve always felt like I’ve been caught in the middle of this one. In part this is for the simple reason that I have a great deal of difficulty supporting the idea that we attempt to legislate good behaviour. What I really want to address though is why this is treated as a war. We use war metaphors a great deal, war on drugs, war on poverty, war on terror. Paul used war images and metaphors in his letters too, so it’s not exactly new. But, in this case, is it helpful?

I sort of twigged on to this idea when reading Andrew’s post here where he suggests that the tendency for Christians to see the gay community in “us vs. them” terms as a sort of consequence of the culture wars. As much as I understand the desire to change our culture (something that both liberals and conservatives seek to do), I wonder what the consequences are for us to frame this as a war.

War is a nasty affair, there are casualties, sides are taken, those who don’t sufficiently take sides are viewed suspiciously, there are spies, betrayals, propaganda, wild accusations and all manner of other unpleasant things. Is this how the church wishes to interact with the world? War makes people rotten, look at the caricatures of Japanese people made by Allied press in World War II.

Such things happen in culture wars too. I remember a Christian speaker in 1998 at the height of the Clinton impeachment furor speak of the affair. Make no mistake, this was not some sort of explanation that no one is immune from temptation or that wrongs done in private usually have a way of coming to light, no, this was lurid smear. This was insult and innuendo of a type that was thoroughly mean-spirited – more of a gloating than a moral lesson. This was a middle-aged woman becoming a high school gossip right in front of our eyes. But hey, it’s a war out there right?

I think we need a better paradigm.