We Lose Culture Wars by Putting Them On Trial

Instead of prosecutors trying to win arguments, we’re supposed to be defending what actually matters.

This piece was adapted from Russell Moore’s newsletter. Subscribe here.

“Why are we on defense,” one frustrated culture warrior asked me, referring to some religious freedom issue, “when we should be on offense?” As I’ve written elsewhere, I find this metaphor telling. It assumes that what really matters is the church’s state rather than its mission.

The more I’ve thought of it, though, the more I’ve come to believe that—in one sense—“defense” is exactly what we’re called to do.

Metaphors matter. They shape the way we see who we are, where we are, and what we do. Even though we use the metaphor “culture war” for what some would call “worldview conflicts,” underneath all the military imagery is an unspoken legal metaphor that might be even more controlling. We lose ourselves in culture wars when we think we are prosecutors. But we’re not—we’re attorneys for the defense.

The image of culture war as prosecution makes sense. After all, we are often dealing with principles of righteousness and unrighteousness, of morality or immorality. We make the case for who’s wrong and who’s right, and having won the argument, we thus win the case. This sense of purpose has the additional benefit of being fully in step with the times.

From the social-justice advocate on TikTok policing pronouns and cultural appropriation to the “own the libs” right-winger showing how “wokeness” will make everywhere like Portland, almost everyone can find people or movements to prosecute their cases. And we cheer our favorites on from the courtroom benches.

The problem is that the Bible tells us the role …

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