If you were an American who grew up during the Cold War, you knew the score. We were good, the Commies were bad, and we were dedicated to stopping Commie aggression. And of course, we really meant stopping the Ruskies. And then, something interesting happened. Soviet Russia crumbled.
Okay. Um... now what?
We hit a spell where we had to redefine ourselves as Americans. What does it mean to fight for Truth, Justice, and the American Way when there was no Soviet Union? What then does it mean to be the defender of the free world? See, this was part of the whole angst of the 90's grunge scene. Who are we? What makes us Americans the good guys? We stopped the Germans, then we stopped the Russians... and now... what? I mean, we couldn't even figure out if we should go over to the former Yugoslav republics and fight someone... because... well... what's an American anti-communist to do when there's no red commie to fight?
Well, now we have the War on Terror. Now we can talk about the Axis of Evil... we can worry that Iran might get a bomb, or look at North Korea with leery eyes. Of course, for a child of the Cold War... the War on Terror just doesn't have the same zing.
But I still think of my time in High School, in college when there wasn't really a good myth to follow. We were set adrift -- and even Rush Limbaugh didn't want us sending troops to the Balkans.
What happens when your rival falls?
See, this is a theological problem. Too often, instead of being positive, instead of being mere confessors of the truth, theologians want to be heroes fighting for the "right" side. We want to have our theological rivals, and we want to crush them! We want to fight the "good fight" - which isn't about the daily struggle against sin and temptation in our own lives, it's about crushing theological problem or specter X.
You know, like Seminex. Or the ELCA. Or Contemporary Worship. Or Keischnick.
But what happens when your rivals fall?
Seriously - what's a good Lutheran conservative fighter to do? What becomes our identity?
All too often we will invent a new theological red scare. Did you see that article that prof wrote... sounds like Seminex to me! Or maybe all the pastors I don't like are being influenced by... the ELCA! Or there's not enough Natural Law! Or there are now a bunch of Antinomians floating around... okay, well, maybe not antinomians like there were in Luther's day, but they don't do the Law like I want them to!
We create new villains. We establish new heavies for the piece. We find some new target to rail against on our soapbox. And what's sad is, our rhetoric changes. There's new dangers to fight off... and well, the old truths we proudly wove... eh. They don't mesh. There's new villains afoot that we have to meet and defeat. And there is a massive disconnect between the old and the new. Thus is the constant temptation when you want to be the hero of the piece.
Remember the good old days when we just wanted everything to be focused upon Christ and Him Crucified for sinners?