In the past couple of weeks, I've noticed a small but positive shift in the way the media covers and promotes the so-called culture wars. Several publications have profiled two prominent evangelical figures who depart from the standard media narrative on religious issues. Biologist Francis Collins and megachurch pastor Gregory A. Boyd are both Christians who aren't taking sides in the culture wars.
Collins, an evangelical geneticist, is able to reconcile his traditional Christian beliefs (including belief in miracles, the Virgin Birth, and a physical resurrection) with support for scientific concepts like the Big Bang and evolution. His new book, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, apparently argues for a middle ground in approaching science and religion. This interview (you must watch a short ad before reading, via The Green Knight) is fascinating.
Rev. Boyd (who's also promoting a new book, The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power Is Destroying the Church) has received much attention for refusing to promote politics from the pulpit. Although Boyd's opinions are in line with those of most conservative Christians, his St. Paul, Minnesota, congregation lost 1,000 members because of his refusal to marry the gospel with conservative politics. The New York Times* quotes Boyd as saying, "When the church wins the culture wars, it inevitably loses. When it conquers the world, it becomes the world. When you put your trust in the sword, you lose the cross."
Usually the media play up stereotypes and conflict in pieces like these - creationists vs. atheist Darwinians, religious right vs. secular left (or for a twist, vs. the religious left) - so it's refreshing to see coverage of Christians who are outside the box in debates over hot button issues. Throughout the past several years, the media, pundits, and politicians have painted Americans into seemingly irreconcilable camps based on cultural issues. Some Christians have embraced this conflict, but I think many others are recognizing the culture wars as divisive, ugly, misleading, and ultimately distracting from our work as the body of Christ. (The Internet Monk has an excellent essay on spiritual emptiness and the culture wars.) Most Christians, like Collins and Boyd, don't fit into simple boxes of "us" and "them." And I get the impression that a growing number of Christians are tired of a manufactured culture war that foments anger and will never have resolution. Perhaps we're seeing a hopeful sign that times are changing.
* The NYT article is no longer available for free online; the Internet Monk links to this piece with more information on Boyd's controversy.