War is destructive

War is always destructive. War always hurts the poor the most. War always benefits those that are privileged. War is always about creating enemies to be killed or defeated. War is always profitable to some.

It doesn’t matter if we are talking about a war in a far off land, or the culture wars here at home. The current battles of the culture wars are abortion, the teaching of race, and what can be said regarding sexuality.

And war, regardless of the type, is antithetical to what it means to follow Jesus. Last week, Holy Week, we heard about Jesus entering into Jerusalem weeping (Luke 19) because people were blind to the ways of peace. Jesus would be rejected later in the week in favor of Barabbas, a violent insurrectionist, because Jesus wasn’t interested in killing his enemies or war with Rome, while Barabbas had already shown his enthusiasm for war and violence.

While we can’t stop the war in Ukraine, we can stop the culture wars here. Are we willing to do that as a society, or are we just too committed to having enemies? Do we place “being right” as more important than seeing the image of God in others? Sadly, we’ll look for an enemy and scapegoat anywhere we can – even if that is our neighbor.

The battles of the culture war are far more complex than just a simple for/against belief about them. We’re talking about people’s lives after all.

Abortion is much more complex than whether you are for or against the procedure. A pregnant woman certainly understands this more than anyone else. Is she getting prenatal care that she needs? Will she have time off when the baby is born? Will there be any support at all to help with the raising of the child? What kind of housing is she in? Does she have insurance? What’s covered? And that’s just the consideration for someone who is in a pretty good position in life. We haven’t even mentioned women who are in poverty or who have other challenges.

Abortion isn’t a compartment walled off from the rest of a person’s life.

But sure, let’s make it nice and simple – something completely unrelated to the actual circumstance of the person facing the gut wrenching decision about abortion.

The problem with the culture wars are that the people who are fighting them with their words don’t have to be on the front lines and deal with the consequences of their words or decisions. It’s just an abstract debate on a topic of morality that is nice and simple and easy. You are either for or against it. And let’s move on to something else.

I don’t like abortion. And when I look at our society, I’m not seeing much in the way of support for women and children post-birth. We can’t have it both ways – say that we are going to force women to give birth and then not support these same women and children after birth. Either we support women and children or we don’t. Are we as a society willing to invest in the most vulnerable? Provide pre-natal care, contraception, maternity leave that actually will support a family, post-natal care, and so much more? Do we really want to support mothers and their children? Or are we content to use them as yet another pawn in an ongoing political battle that has nothing to do with abortion, but more to do with who is in power, and who can be riled up to go out and vote or give money to certain candidates who make the war cries to rally the troops?

There’s lots of money to be raised off of the culture wars – whether we are talking about abortion, race, or sexuality. These topics and issues generate emotional responses and touch on our idenities in ways that other issues can’t. They are easy to use. They are easy to create enemies with. They are easy to twist morality into them as well, to throw God in on also.

And they will stay that way as long as abortion, race, and sexuality remain abstract issues, separated from people’s actual lives.

But I’ll go back to a statement I made earlier. These aren’t just issues. These are our neighbors. You probably know a woman who has had an abortion – she just probably hasn’t told you, or maybe even anyone. Because the shame associated with it is just too unbearable. The judgement lobbed against her would be harsh. Why would she share it with people who might disowner her or berate her? And that’s not counting so many other folks who have been impacted by abortion. If abortion is just about right and wrong, we aren’t seeing the humanity, the hurt, the pain. We’re seeing an abstract issue.

When it comes to race, I can guarantee you that you know someone impacted by race and racism. Maybe you have someone in your family or a friend who is a different race. But even if you don’t, you have a race too. Maybe you’ve never thought about it, especially if you are white. But your race impacts how you see the world and interact with it, just as it does for others of different races. And that’s something that we need to be aware of and deal with. And hear how this impacts other people so that we can make appropriate changes so that all people can thrive. But if race is just about what can be taught in school, we aren’t seeing the humanity, the hurt, the pain. We’re seeing an abstract issue.

When it comes to sexuality, I can guarantee that you know someone who is LGBTQ+. Like abortion, you may not even know it. In certain communities, there is severe judgement and condemnation, moralizing, and throwing God in for extra measure – using God as a weapon. But if sexuality is just about what can be said or not said in society or schools, we aren’t seeing the humanity, the hurt, the pain. We’re seeing an abstract issue.

And when issues are abstract, we falsely believe that they have no impact on us. We’re living in a privilege where we don’t believe we have to face any consequences for our words, beliefs, or what we impose on others. We believe we are immune and that those who do have to deal with the consequences should just simply change to become like us. Except they can’t. That’s not how humanity works. And we don’t get to claim that we are the standard by which everything and everyone else should be measured.

Culture wars are destructive. And they hurt many people. Taking sides and thinking we are right misses the human cost of such wars.

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