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a martyr complex is the mildew of the church

June 26th, 2018 | 2 min read

By Matthew Loftus

I think these three pieces by Alan Jacobs, Matthew Lee Anderson, and Jake Meador pair very well together as they relate to how Christians ought to fight for what we believe in.

Alan starts with the general prescription of avoiding the sin of wrath:

I especially want to zero in on the the Twelve’s love of policing the people they think of as their enemies, because, as my friend Freddie de Boer says, these days everyone’s a cop. In my talk yesterday I explained why I think the characteristic sin of our moment is not lust or anything else sexual but rather wrath, and the Twelve exemplify that. Rather than doing what they’re told to do, which requires being loving towards others and the conquest of their own fear and pride, they are continually attentive to what they think everyone else is doing wrong, whether it’s ignoring Jesus or following Him from the wrong social location.

Then Jake notes how Christians adopt the broader definitions of the culture war, which (unsurprisingly) don’t work for genuine Christian moral discourse:

We can see this problem on both sides of this divide within evangelicalism. The conservatives are often far too happy to use a photo negative of the progressive agenda to define their own strategy while the progressive contingent is often too willing to co-opt left-wing rhetoric. Both moves are mistakes. The right aligns themselves with a party that is prone to ever greater displays of cruelty while the left is implicitly committing themselves to rhetoric that is embedded in a broader story that is deeply hostile to Christianity. When this happens, we lose the fundamentally Christian nature of our moral critique, which is to say we cease to speak primarily as Christians.

Finally, Matt urges a “sanctified indifference” to the broader controversies and a devotion to our immediate neighbors and the vulnerable people we actually know that will ground us against the changing winds while engaging us in the sort of work that makes any culture war worth fighting:

Taking a deflationary stance toward such cultural dramas and inculcating ourselves with a sanctified indifference to them will happen only if we saturate our lives with more obligations to our immediate neighbors than we can possibly fulfill. If we do need thicker communal ties in order to discover and transmit virtue, I fail to see how they can be had when our time is directed toward neighbors far away, through the internet, and the majority of our emotional energy is consumed by conflicts that have no immediate bearing on our lives. The culture war will someday touch us all — but it hasn’t yet, and if our own lives were more entangled with the lives of those in need who we can see face-to-face, its hastening may be delayed longer than we expect.


Matthew Loftus

Matthew Loftus teaches and practices Family Medicine in Baltimore and East Africa. His work has been featured in Christianity Today, Comment, & First Things and he is a regular contributor for Christ and Pop Culture. You can learn more about his work and writing at