Casualties of War

Innocence is the first casualty of war, or so they say. The culture wars, however, exact a different toll. And oftentimes what gets lost in the clash of worldviews, is critical to the ongoing battle.

I once heard Tim Timmons relate a story about his encounter with "the enemy." At the time, Timmons was pastoring one of the largest churches in SoCal, South Coast Community Church in Irvine. He went to his tennis club for a scheduled match, but when his opponent didn't show up, another was arranged for him. The men introduced themselves and headed to their respective lines to warm up. Suddenly, the man asked, "What's your name again?" "Timmons. Tim Timmons." "The pastor?" the man asked with astonishment. Then he moved to the net, jabbing his finger into Timmons' face. "Do you know who I am?" "Should I?" Timmons retorted. The man smirked. "I'm the porno king of Orange County! What do you think of that?" Timmons could tell the man was waiting for him to pull out a big, black Bible and start thumping him with it. Instead he pointed his finger into the man's face and said, "Let me ask you something. Can you play tennis?" The man gulped and nodded. "Then get back there and let's play!" After the match (a match won by Timmons), the man approached him and asked, "What time are your services on Sunday?" The man began attending and six months later, placed faith in Christ and retired from the pornography business.

Seldom will our encounters have such a happy ending. Nevertheless, this story illustrates a vital component of cultural dialogue -- an element that Christians often overlook.

Andy Crouch, in an excellent piece entitled Furrowed Brows Inc., bemoaned the casualties of war:

Not long ago I attended a strategy session for the culture war.

Participants examined the decline of marriage, the cheapening and flattening of human sexuality into contextless pleasure, the exploitation and destruction of unborn human beings. Speeches were given. Brows were furrowed. Resolutions were made.

War, I was reminded, does terrible things to the warriors.

In the room were veterans of a conflict that has simmered for decades, with few victories for the conservative side. All were earnestly committed to the cause. And most, to be blunt, were not having a very good time.

...many lieutenants in this war ...bear countenances etched with some combination of depression and derision. It is hard to believe someone who speaks of love through clenched teeth. I would not have wanted to bring a gay friend, or even just a committed Democrat, into that room.

Scripture does not paint a rosy picture of ensuing ages. "In the last days," the apostle Paul wrote, "grievous times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, no lovers of good, traitors, headstrong, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God" (2 Tim. 3:1-5).

Yet amidst this death and degeneracy, Christians are called to shine. “In this world ye shall have tribulations," Jesus said. "But be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 KJV). Maybe the most vital component of our end times arsenal is this "good cheer."

Let's face it, saints: What we've lost in the culture wars is our joy, our cheer, our dance-until-dawn exuberance. So the world's going to hell in a handbasket. Somehow, we're called to stay above the fray; to lend a hand, to love, to laugh.

Jesus assaulted the culture, not through boycotts, angry rants or tirades, but through mirth, grace and winsome generosity. Instead of thumping the reprobates with our large print KJV's, perhaps we're called to pull out the racket and stroke a few aces. Crouch again:

...everywhere Jesus went, life blossomed. The sick were healed, lepers were touched, daughters and sons were plucked from the mouth of the grave. Jesus left behind him a trail of leaps and laughter, reunited families, and terrific wine, as well as dumbfounded synagogue leaders, uneasy monarchs, and sleepless procurators. His witness against violence, amidst a culture in rebellion against the good, was neither withdrawal nor war. It was simply life: abundant, just, generous life. And, ultimately, a willingness to let the enemies of life do their worst, confident that even death could not extinguish the abundant life of God.

Maybe it's time we reexamine our tactics, take an inventory of our casualties, put away our Bibles and pull out the tennis racket. It's not enough to have our theological ducks in a row and our evangelistic arsenal aimed and ready. In this war, a smile is quite nuclear. Because sometimes what's won is not as critical as what's lost.


Janet Rubin said...

Amen once again Mike. What ever happened to "they'll know we are Christians by our love"?

siouxsiepoet said...

gorgeous writing mike. this line, what is won is not as important as what is lost, is just divine. will you consider abandoning fiction and joining me on the dark side of non-fiction. likely no, don't feel you have to answer. but i thoroughly enjoy reading you.

you wrote:
Seldom will our encounters have such a happy ending.

i would add, that we know of. the thing about it one of my dear pastors told me once is, the play is bigger than your part. i think we are amiss looking for little converts and notching our bibles. every interaction, every blessing, even the bad stuff (yes that too), is all used for the good. all of it. so, i havce to disagree and say, all the stories have that good of an ending, because all the stories end in His hands.

be thou well my friend.

Mike Duran said...

You're right, suz. I shoulda said, "Seldom will our encounters have such a happy ending...that we know of." Maybe my knee-jerk pessimism is indication I've already joined you on "the dark side."

Jeanne Damoff said...

Love this, Mike. Truly, truly. You write with an engaging, thoughtful intelligence--scripturally grounded, refreshingly logical. This piece is a sermon in the best sense. It makes me want to go forth into the fields laughing and dancing.

I agree with Suz that you have a winsome voice for nonfiction. Despite what the pharisees will tell you, it's possible to do both with success. But then I'd say (as evidenced by this post) you already are.

Heather Smith said...

Great thoughts, Mike. I actually posted on somehing similar to this today. The world is watching our lives, not listening to our sermons. If our lives show the love of Christ, they will be drawn to find out more.

Heather Smith said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Kelly Klepfer said...

" everywhere Jesus went, life blossomed "

What a beautiful word picture.

I hope that the fruit of love and joy wafts the delicious scent of life because I'd hate to have the ugliness of my flesh mask the life-giving aroma of Christ in me.

Ame said...

Wow, Mike, I love this. How poignant and real ... often the church ... or "we" the church ... miss the point ... focus on some bizarre something.

Another woman and I went to our Single's paster and told him we would love to begin a Sunday school class for Single Parents because there's not much for us in the church. He went bolistic ... literally ... and practically yelled at us telling us that single parents are being ministered to and he would line them up for us and that he, a young man who has never even been married, knows all about single parents! UGH!!!

One would think that if one desires to reach or minister to another person, they would take the time to get to know them enough to know what their needs are and then meet them ... that they would not run away from them in a tennis match or in church or in the grocery store (all have happened) ... that the "church" would meet people in a tree or on a dirty road or by a wading pool.

Okay ... off my soapbox ... ditto everyone else ... your writing is not limited ... it is excellent ... only you can limit your writing, Mike ... or is it High Powered Executive??!!! LOL!

Sandy Cathcart said...

Ahhhhhhhh thanksfor the beautiful reminder to enjoy my Lord . . . the music is calling me, and every time it does, others follow.

I was beginning to forget that.

Your words are so well written. Truly, I wish you would do more nonfiction, You could be like me and do both! Because I also like your fiction. Why not get double mileage out of the same thoughts?


d whitney quinn said...

"Seldom will our encounters have such a happy ending... "

i was a member of timmons' church, south coast community in irvine, california when he delivered that message. within a year, timmons was forced to resign due to an ongoing affair with his secretary. his wife subsequently divorced him.

oh, and btw - the title of your novel is grammatically incorrect. it ought to be "what faith AWAKENS", which may be one of the reasons your work is as "yet unpublished."


"Janet Rubin said...

Amen once again Mike. What ever happened to "they'll know we are Christians by our love"?"

but not our sense of irony.