Rules of Engagement for the Culture War

Posted on July 10, 2011 by


Oxytocin is commonly referred to as the love hormone, but it can be better described as the tribalism hormone.

A team of psychologists asked male volunteers play an economic game and found that those who received a nasal spray of oxytocin made financial decisions that were more altruistic toward members of their own group, keeping less money for themselves and donating more to the communal pool. Yet they were also more likely to punish members of a competing group—taking money away from them—when there was the possibility their own group could lose money if the other group chose to punish first. Because this type of aggression helps the ingroup become stronger.

But is this exclusive tribalism compatible with the “Love thy neighbor” commandment?  It is easy to love your neighbor when he agrees with you, but what about when he doesn’t?  What if he has an agenda in complete opposition to your own?  This is the dilemma that has erupted in what we call the culture war.  Thankfully, our faith provides some rules of engagement:

  • Pray for your enemies.   Don’t pray that they win and you lose, of course.  Just pray that God’s Will is done in their life.  Praying for someone releases oxytocin and makes you care more about that person.  In a way praying for ones enemy is like subconsciously bringing them into your tribe.
  • Remember that in the end  (Spoiler Alert) .. ..we WIN..Phillippians 2:10 says “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,”  Don’t lose your soul in the pursuit of your agenda.
  •  Use the least amount of aggression necessary to neutralize the threat.  This is one of the principles of just war theory, and it can be applied to the culture war as well.  Remember that our enemy is the ideologies, not the person…so we want to attack the ideology while not attacking the dignity of the person.  E.g: there is a significant difference between arguing against a gay lifestyle and holding up a sign that says “God hates fags” at a persons funeral.