Engaging a Recon Mission
This present life is a battlefield; that’s why the Church on earth is called the Church militant, and perhaps that’s why reconstructionists are so fond of military analogies. This present reconstructionist author is no different, which is why I have decided to grace my readership with “Christian Battlefields,” a series on learning how to engage the contemporary culture. Together, we’re going to surveille the battlefield—a different kind of “recon”—to see where the fighting’s at, the rules of engagement, and what victory will look like. Let’s strap in.
Before we run head-first to tackle secular culture’s strongholds, we need to know what kind of game we’re playing. Passing a ball to a wide-open teammate is a winning strategy, unless you’re playing soccer, in which case it’s a foul. Some Christians play the culture wars like pewee baseball. Filled with pride and adrenaline he sprints down the bases… backwards. To save ourselves the embarrassment, when we engage the culture, we need to concoct winning strategies and execute them carefully. I would like to borrow some principles I have learned as an educator in a classical Christian school. Applied broadly, these principles will help us consider what it will look like to fight the good fight.
Hurrying Up by Slowing Down
Our war promises to be a long one. If we believe this projection as postmillennialists, then we know it will do us little benefit to gain a parcel of ground now only to lose vast swaths of land in four years. Instead, we need to be content to play the long game. This is where the first principle of education comes in, festina lente, which means, “make haste, slowly.” Festina lente means we need to carefully yet consistently fight the challenging battles. While the Church has made this principle her Excalibur for millennia, she fumbled it under the influence of dispensationalism. By God’s grace, however, the Church has begun to wake up from this blunder in many ways, and we can hope to see her make meaningful, permanent advances in the future.
What will it look like to practice festina lente? This battle begins in the mind. First, we need to remind ourselves that slow progress is progress, small victories are victories, and that we will often not see the fruit of our efforts in our lifetimes. Abraham acted in faith towards God, faith in receiving the promised land of Canaan for his seed, but the only land Abraham ever owned in the promised land was his own burial plot. If Abraham was discouraged by this, he never showed it, but instead he rejoiced to see his promises from afar. He was content to consistently fight small, winnable battles, happy that he was securing an inheritance for his children’s children. As Christians, we need to have patience that the small mustard seeds we plant and tend now will one day sprout and flourish long after we’re gone.
Another mantra among classical educators is repetitio mater memoriae, “repetition is the mother of memory.” This principle undergirds the use of catechisms in the Church. My purpose for choosing this saying is not merely to exhort Christians to use catechisms in the traditional sense, however, but to use catechisms to engage the culture. Secular culture is already doing this. “My body, my choice,” is a classic, as well as “love is love.” By repeating these phrases incessantly, the left is successfully catechizing their own into the cults of Molech and eroticism. Christians, in contrast, notoriously coin their own lame taglines. “Life begins at conception,” while fundamentally true, doesn’t pack the same punch as “no uterus, no opinion.”
To exercise repetitio mater memoriae, we need to fix our eyes on the truths of the Gospel—truths about the bible, sexuality, etc.—and condense these truths in a way that’s understandable even to those outside our camps. Then, we need to repeat them. Repeat them to ourselves, to fellow believers, and to the opponents of the Gospel. And then, when our opponents get irate and wail at us, we need to repeat them again. In other words, we need to continually meditate on simple yet powerful truths of the Gospel until they transform our lives and the world around us.
Mastering the Craft
I saved my favorite principle for last, which is the saying multum non multa, meaning “much, not many.” When Christian educators rediscovered this principle, it revolutionized Christian education, and it can revolutionize our other battlefronts as well. Exercising this principle means focusing on a few challenges, rather than every area at once. We see public education and universities failing at this pretty hard. Every year, schools multiply subjects (and the topics covered in those subjects) to keep pace with the newest fads and anticipate the market’s demands on their future graduates. You would think this would produce students who are well-educated deep thinkers, ready to handle anything the world throws at them. You would be wrong.
As Christians, we need to play our part to enrich ourselves and fight the good fight. As the battle rages on around us, however, avoid the temptation of focusing on everything at once. You can’t. You can’t become a pastor, real-estate agent, teacher, lawyer, politician, musician, film-maker, CEO, and best-selling author. Not all at once, anyway. And unless the Lord reverses the curse today and we start seeing young men die at a hundred (à la Isaiah 65:20), you can still only focus on a few of those in your lifetime. God has planted each of us in certain places on Earth, at certain times, and with certain callings. Focus on what God may be calling you to do and start taking action.
At this point, I need to introduce one distinction. Christianity does not need specialists—experts who hyper-focus on a single area while neglecting everything else—Christianity needs masters, people who are so talented in one area of life that they’re able to apply those skills universally. A master would be an engineer who is so proficient at thinking systematically that he applies it to subjects such as music theory and philosophy. Once you determine what skills you want to focus on, master those skills and start applying them to everything else you do. This will produce a cumulative effect that will reverberate around everything you do.
The preceding list of principles is far from exhaustive, but I hope this brief article has whetted your appetite, and now you’re thinking about how you can live your life tactically to engage the culture. Keep an eye out for upcoming releases in the “Christian Battlefields” series, where I plan on identifying the various battlefields we’re facing right now, such as: education; entertainment; the economy; and the Ecclesia.