There’s battle lines being drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong
– Stephen Stills
After I printed in a Catch earlier this week a couple lines from the Stephen Stills song “For What It’s Worth,” recorded in 1967 by Buffalo Springfield, my good friend, Paul Clark, returned an email with just the opening line of the second verse of that song: “Battle lines being drawn.” It reminded me of how one popular song can capture the imagination of a whole era. In this case, it was the protest movement and political unrest of the late ‘60s culminating in the civil rights and anti-war marches of mostly young people of my generation who wanted to effect a change in their culture. And not only that, it reminded me how a prophetic song such as this one can also speak to just about any generation.
“Battle lines being drawn” is certainly an accurate observation of today’s culture, over 50 years later. The battle lines are everywhere today: between Republicans and Democrats, between immigration policy opinions, between Trump supporters and Trump haters, between gay supporters and anti-gay forces, between gun rights and anti-gun activists, and the list goes on and on and on. I would think it’s safe to say there are more battle lines today than there were 50 years ago when this song was popular.
But it’s the next line that cuts through much cultural confusion and speaks to what I think is the most striking truth in all culture wars: “Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong.” It’s a brilliant observation and one of my all time favorite popular music quotes. When people are divided into two completely opposite camps, neither one can be 100% right or 100% wrong. Reality is much too nuanced to fall into such neat categories. In fact, when you get people of differing opinions to actually talk to each other, you usually find they aren’t as opposite as they appear on the surface.
Divide society in half and everybody’s going to be wrong. This is why as believers, we need to be careful when we take sides. There’s going to be something right and something wrong about any position you take in society. Being on the side of truth is going to put us somewhere in the middle. And because we want to be able to reach those on both sides, we would be wise to find out what we can agree on versus focusing on our differences. Everybody needs the gospel, whatever side they are on.
Joshua once encountered a powerful angelic warrior when he was on his way to lead the children of Israel into battle. “Are you for us or for our enemies?” he questioned the man. The answer is something we need to cultivate as we make our way through the minefields of the culture wars of our day. “Neither,” the man replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” (Joshua 5:13-14)