The real war unfolding in the Middle East that is throwing millions of people out of their homes and across borders is a direct challenge to the culture wars that many Western nations are currently playing at. And the term “playing at” is intentional, because the viciousness, as well as the perceived prize at stake in this cultural battle, are put into perspective when viewed against the atrocities of the situation in Syria, Iraq et al.
Why is it a direct challenge? Because I think it exposes the soft underbelly of entitlement that we have in our modern West, whether you’re of the Right or of the Left.
Which is why I made much yesterday of the push in Australia to have Christians placed first at the head of the queue when it comes to choosing which people to let into Australia away from the terror. I am all for minorities who are persecuted being given priority, but the way it was reading, from my perspective at least, was that many on the Right were making a cultural point, not a gospel point.
I could pick out South Australian Liberal Senator Cori Bernardi in particular, who, whilst recently saying he is not a Christian, has a strong stance on maintaining Western Judeo-Christian values in Australia (though these are probably more Enlightenment derivatives of such values, if a recent interview I read with Bernardi is any indicator).
Hence when self-avowed Christian politicians, such as Liberal powerbroker Eric Abetz, pushes that same button, many evangelicals groan, because, whilst we can often see his Christian heart for Christian brothers and sisters behind it, his track record as a culture warrior drowns that out. He isn’t known for gentleness and compassion in his day to day dealings in Government, in fact quite the opposite. Hence the political Right has played its hand too often in Australia, meaning the current request reeks of a cultural agenda, not a gospel agenda.
But the Right is not the only one under the spotlight at the moment. There is a certain irony that many on the Left who are vociferous in their opposition to Bernardi and Abetz etc, are advocating (rightly in my view), an open door policy to all who may come. In fact the 12,000 announced today by the Prime Minister Tony Abbott falls well short of the number many on the Left would like to see permitted to come here on a permanent basis (I agree with them on this one).
But here’s the rub. Traditional Christians have just endured several years of cultural warriors on the Left shrilly declaring that the traditional Christian sexual ethic is simply an expression of fundamentalist bigotry, homophobia etc etc, and that the sooner all forms of discrimination are removed and policed, whether in public settings or private, the better.
Yet we are going to welcome with open arms a vast cohort of people, many of whom would view the policies of Family First as way too liberal for their liking. Their views on sexuality, family, and identity politics make the average traditional Christian look lax.
The Left cultural warriors are left facing two possibilities. They can either treat such people and their differences in a patronising manner (a common fault), and give them a “hall pass” on such unenlightened thinking due to their victim status. The result will be that they can only ever treat such people as “feel-good” projects, unwilling to take them on face value, and simply projecting a value on to them learned from a liberal arts degree rather than real life and real love. They will never become true friends.
Or secondly, they could swallow their pride a little, and admit that good people from a huge variety of backgrounds are capable of holding views anathema to their own, especially in the areas of sexuality and gender politics, and still be good people worth loving, worth serving and worth getting to know. My guess is there will be a cognitive dissonance going on among the Left, because they haven’t thought this one through. I expect that their inability to think through this critically reveals how captured they are by a Western, liberal, elite mentality that scorns positions other than its own, and cannot truly view those who differ on such matters as intellectual and moral equals.
Meanwhile, gospel people on the Left and the Right, fling open your doors to the stranger, Christian, Muslim, Druse and Yazidi.