Baseball has been called "America's Pastime." When we talk about American icons…people who are regarded to be the best America has to offer we often name those who have thrilled us on the field of athletic competition. The names Willie Mayes, Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, and in more recent times; Alex Rodriguez, Greg Maddux, and Barry Bonds immediately come to mind when we think of those who represent the best baseball has to offer.
But something extraordinary happened recently when Barry Bonds came to bat in San Diego with the possibility of sports immortality hanging over his head. Rather than standing to their feet to cheer with anticipation of being in the stadium with one of baseballs more hallowed records on the line the crowd resoundingly booed Bonds. Why? It was because Bonds legacy as one of the great hitters of all time is rightly being questioned because of his alleged steroid abuse. But later, at a subsequent at bat Bonds hit a long home run that divided the crowd. This time, the boos were drowned out by a chorus of cheers as more fans decided to go with the flow of the moment rather than dwell on the drug charges of the past.
I think that crowd in San Diego was a reflection of our culture in microcosm. There were those who were so desperate to participate is something larger than themselves that had real meaning they decided to overlook the path Bonds likely took to secure his place in the record books. There were those who also wanted desperately to cheer this milestone accomplishment but they just couldn't bring themselves to minimize the accomplishment of Hank Aaron, the current record holder, in order to do it. And make no mistake, since Hank Aaron set the record without the help of banned substances to recognize Barry Bonds accomplishment without at least an asterisk brings a cloud over the sport that dims the brightness of Aarons legitimate lifetime achievement.
What it comes down to is whether or not you believe in absolute truth. If you believe there are things that are absolutely true for all people in all places at all points in history you probably have a Christian worldview. This worldview is under attack from many different directions in our culture today. Dr. James Dobson and Gary Bauer described the current attack against traditional values this way, "Nothing short of a great civil war of values rages today throughout North America. Two sides with vastly differing and incompatible worldviews are locked in a bitter conflict that permeates every level of society. It is a struggle for the hearts and minds of the people. It is a war over ideas."
I want to try to answer the first two questions every Christian must answer. The first question is, "Is the battle real?" Is our culture really embroiled in a desperate battle for the hearts minds of the people? There are six key indicators from the culture itself that suggest the battle is certainly real. Those indicators are:
1. Open hostility toward biblical Christianity in the marketplace.
2. The majority of people no longer believe absolute truth exists.
3. The rise and acceptance if immorality.
4. The loss of civility and the rise of harsh rhetoric in public debates.
5. The trashing of traditional agents of stability in the culture such as marriage, the family, and sexual abstinence until marriage.
6. The elevation of science to god-like status and the emphasis on genetics as the cause of sinful behavior.
There are many places in the God's Word which point to a culture war. Paul wrote the to Colossians, "See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ" (Col. 2:8, ESV). Paul lifted the phrase "takes you captive" straight from the battlefield. In essence he is telling the Colossians that there is a spiritual war taking place and they should avoid being taken captive by the enemy.
If we agree there is a culture war where opposing ideas are vying for primacy in the marketplace, the second question we must answer is, "What place should Christians have in this fight?" The answer is found in Jesus prayer for His disciples from in John 17:15-18, "I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world." We belong in the world but we are called to be not of the world. We must not retreat into our church fortresses and call to the lost from the safety of our watchtowers. We must build the bridges of relationship with the lost, sharing the love of Christ while pointing to the path that will lead them away from eternal destruction and into the gates of heaven.
Dr. Tony Beam is Vice-President for Student Services and Director of the Christian Worldview Center at North Greenville University in Tigerville, South Carolina.