The Emperor’s Chair: “Retreat”

By Graham Glover


I quit. I give up. I will fight no more.

Not words you typically hear from a Soldier. But I do. It’s time to surrender and I’m waving the white flag.

To what? The culture war. It’s over. And it’s time Christians stop trying to fight issues they will never win in the civil realm.

Specifically I’m talking about abortion, marriage, sex, (and to a lesser degree, “public” prayer). Our relativistic modern world has won the debate on these issues and this side of the eschaton, they will never turn from their current trajectory.


There is no “going back” (although I’m not sure what that phrase means…) and it’s well past time to accept these realities:

1)    Roe v. Wade is the law of the land and abortion will never be outlawed in the United States. Some restrictions might withstand the courts, but these will account for only a few of the millions of abortions occurring each year.

2)    The definition of marriage will continue its evolution in ways we haven’t even considered.

3)    Issues dealing with sex have only just begun to change. If you dream of a world where only the sexually righteous live and reign, it’s time to wake up from your diluted fantasy.

4)    If anyone thinks that the United States will suddenly embrace a uniquely orthodox Christian ethic that will be evident in its public acts, I have some news for you: never been that way…never will.

Yes, the culture war is over.

I wonder though, should Christians have ever fought it? Why was it we thought we could “win” this war? To that end, what would victory resemble? And what do these answers say about how we understand the role of our Christian faith in the public realm?

lawThere is great danger in Christians thinking they can prevent sinful behavior through laws passed by our governing authorities. How often have we heard: “If only our leaders will outlaw abortions, then they will stop occurring. If only we keep marriage laws as understood by the Church, then the sanctity of marriage will be kept whole. If only sexual deviancy is not condoned, then our citizens will live sexually pure lives. If only our school teachers can pray, then the nation will come to saving faith in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Such thinking runs contrary to what truly changes our actions, namely the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Laws may curb sinful behavior, but only the Gospel changes lives. While I am generally supportive of laws that attempt to prevent the sinful behaviors noted above, I cannot fathom why so many Christians (including those in the LCMS) have invested so much time, effort, energy, and resources to fighting this battle on the political front. By doing this, we have put our faith in Caesar and not in the Lord.


Let’s assume abortions were outlawed tomorrow, along with homosexual marriage, that sexually deviant practices were publicly condemned (I’m not sure how you outlaw them, unless you advocate the government literally policing our sexual activity) and that public prayer (that is, Christian prayer…which nobody has ever clearly defined) is allowed and encouraged. Is anyone under the illusion that abortions would end, that marriages would be kept holy, that adultery would cease, and that millions of Americans would come to faith? On the contrary…I doubt much, if any of those things would occur.

dali-crucifixionYou want to stop abortion? Then preach how all people are made in the image of God and are redeemed by the blood of the Christ. You want marriages to stay intact? Then teach people that marriage is but an image of the perfect marriage, the one of Christ and his bride the Church. You want people to be sexually righteous? Then forgive others daily, even as Christ forgives us, and watch how this proclamation changes attitudes and behaviors. You want prayer to emanate in our land, then go regularly to receive the gifts that Christ offers you in His Word and Sacraments. (And for your clergy and congregations: offer this to your people…daily. Yes, daily.)

The culture war is over is over. To those of you who want to fight it, stop wasting your time trying to change laws and simply let the Gospel and the grace the Church offers us transform our world.