My boys love dinosaurs. And that’s an understatement, to say the least! I’ve actually learned more about dinosaurs from my 6-year old than I did in elementary school, probably due to the fact that there is so much more knowledge available 25-30 years on. But he has much knowledge to pass along about the Styracosaurus or Rebbachisaurus or Yangchuanosaurus! It’s truly amazing.
And my 4-year old is learning a lot, whether from story time just before bed or listening to his brother tell about the varied dinosaur creatures.
But here is what they also love – to roar and scream like dinosaurs! Of course, what else could one expect from 2 boys?! My 4-year old can scream like a T-Rex over and over and over. Ear plugs probably wouldn’t help.
While it’s cute at times, and annoying at others, the best way we’ve counteracted the constant dinosaur screams is by explaining to him the concept of losing his voice. One day, after many attempts of belting out like the beloved T-Rex, my son’s voice started to somewhat go, sounding a little raspy. That was when we took the opportunity to enlighten him.
Joshua, it’s ok to pretend to be a dinosaur at times, but if you yell too much, you’ll lose your voice. That’s why your throat is hurting. So try doing a quiet roar. You can still look scary, but you won’t lose your voice.
I was shocked that he was willing to try this – raise his hands in a T-Rex position, open his mouth, expose his teeth, and roar, yet with hardly a sound coming out of his mouth. He’s actually learning pretty well, though not always.
Well done, my Joshua. Way to listen!
I share this story by way of introduction, as I believe it relates to the current culture wars Christians engage in across America.
What is a culture war?
It usually refers to the conflict that exists between two or more groups that carry competing value systems. The biggest is seen as conservatives typically champion a certain set of values, all the while having liberals defend another. And on both sides there are Christians (or self-proclaiming Christians, again on both sides) campaigning for their tried-and-true set of values.
This has caused not a few problems – oh, yeah, from both sides.
Being from the southeastern states of the U.S., I’ve typically been around the more conservative branch of Christianity – on both a doctrinal and life-conduct level. Thus, I mainly hear calls coming from that perspective when it comes to the culture wars. In foregone days, it has been the championing for prayer in schools or keeping the 10 commandments hung in our courtrooms. However, the two issues that rise to the top, both in days past and present, are that of abortion and same-sex marriage. Obviously, conservative Christians would be against such practices.
You’d have to be from another planet to not know these 2 major issues have been, once again, at the forefront in the past few weeks. From the Supreme Court decision regarding the legalization of same-sex marriage in the U.S. to the undercover video of a Planned Parenthood staff member, these situations have caused not a little heated debate, outrage, heartache, and more – again from and towards those on both sides.
But, through it all, what has troubled me the most is the consistent reactionary measures, especially those splattered around the social media outlets. It’s a unique experience in and of itself, a social media phenomenon existing primarily in America.
And while this does come from both sides of the fence, I’m more interested in engaging my conservative brothers and sisters, the reasons being are multiple: I hold somewhat similar positions to them on many of these fronts, I find this the predominant group whom I live amongst, and I’m concerned at the continued communication practices of this group, all the while noting how much ground they’ve continued to lose over the past few decades.
But this is where my 4-year old’s dinosaur roars meet the communication practices of the conservative Christian community.
One can only keep “screaming” the same thing over and over and over again before his or her voice goes at some point.
My little guy will begin losing his voice after a couple hours of intermittent T-Rex rumbles. He has to find another way to communicate as a T-Rex. He’s found that way. The same stands true for those championing a particular set of conservative values. Another way of communication has to be found.
To be honest, I think getting caught up in the culture wars has been part of the problem from the get-go. I see no precedence for such in Scripture. I don’t see the early church engaged in heavy political practices. But, of course, the early church did not have the political platform conservative Christians have looked to build today. I’d venture to say it’s a multi-billion dollar enterprise. It’s a confusing venture, at least for me.
It’s not that Christians cannot be involved in politics. Rather, it’s the power-lust lobbying that goes on for a particular political and culture war agenda, all wrapped up in the name of Jesus. This latter caveat causes the greatest concern for me.
But here is reality, at least as I see it: The conservative Christian right has lost its voice. It has continued to scream, shout, roar, and so much more. And it’s done it over and over and over and over ad nauseam. Now all that comes out these days is an ear-splitting, raspy noise that no one can quite make out. Or if they can make it out, they shut out the clamor coming from the broken record.
Somehow I’m reminded of the clanging symbol that Paul refers to in 1 Cor 13.
Dinosaur roars, broken records, clanging symbols. Whatever metaphor you choose – and I like my son’s dinosaur roar the best! – it’s not getting the job done. We have to take a step back and realize we’ve lost our voice. The sexual revolution is in full swing…and has been for quite some time. Planned Parenthood are offering abortions…and other clinics as well. And that dinosaur-of-a-voice is not causing any change to take place, at least no change in the way the conservative right wants it.
Do we not realize no one’s listening?
Do we not see that the footing has been lost?
Do we not know there is a better way?
Do we really not know?!
Listen, I am aware that liberals are involved in the same tactics in many ways, yet coming from the other viewpoint on the issues at hand. That’s what I wrote about following the Supreme Court decision. So, yes, both sides are involved in such atrocious tactics.
But one side is gaining ground, the other is losing ground.
And perhaps one side is losing ground because they’ve lost their voice, not knowing how to faithfully communicate in the world in which we live today. Perhaps.
So, here’s the question – If you keep trying the same tactics over and over and over, and you never actually get anywhere, never progress forward, never earn a listening ear, is it possible that new practices need to be taken up? If all that’s heard is an age-old raspy T-Rex roar that makes others want to cover their ears, would it perhaps behoove us to consider a different path of communication?
I would offer a simple yes.
And here’s one many won’t be willing to consider, but I think is worth our time – What if we stop doing what we’re doing, put ourselves on voice rest, and focus primarily on compassionate practices of hospitality, serving the poor, caring for the widows and orphans and homeless, giving ourselves to attentive listening and learning from the “other side,” fasting and praying towards our own spiritual growth, reassess our actions, and then begin thanking God for those who take a different view?
Might this be a refreshing cup of water – for our own souls and others?
Might this be a time of renewal amongst our own broken community?
Might we earn some respect?
I think the answer to these questions is yes.
Or we can continue in the same patterns with the same voice and we’ll have the same results as we’ve always had. Though I love him, I don’t expect my 4-year old to be wiser than those 30, 40, 50, 60, and 70 years his senior. But I’m starting to wonder who is the wiser here.
Remember that, many times, Christ had his harshest words for the religious gatekeepers. Perhaps we need to reassess whether Christ has his harshest words not for “them,” but for us.
What do we do when our voice has been lost? We rest our voice and take time to reconsider, reassess. We need to. The world is waiting. It won’t be a quick fix. It will have to be a patient process modeled in the ways of Christ. But it will be well worth it.
Are we willing?