The culture wars haven’t ended – they’ve escalated, and they will continue to escalate in a society where people have fewer commonly held views, and less respect for those who disagree with them for any reason, least of all a religious one. The lack of a shared language of compromise and respect leads to ongoing and increasingly contentious clashes of faith, politics, and sexual rights, where lightning rods of courts and culture lead to flashpoints that strain social bonds, break friendships, and end the ability to have a healthy community where disagreement over law and politics does not lead to death threats on social media.
The writer, Benjamin Domenech, is publisher of The Federalist, a web magazine focused on culture, politics, and religion. The quote is from his end-of-year article “The World in Crisis.”
Here’s some elaboration:
- The culture wars have not ended, though many people wish they would. Some, including many within the evangelical Christian community, are trying to ignore the culture wars or pretend they do not exist.
- Until these differences are resolved at the root level—the level of worldview and ideas—the friction at the political level will only increase.
- As a nation we no longer have a shared language. Our founding documents and institutions used theological language. Such was our common discourse. For many Americans of faith, this is still their language of discourse. For others it is only a memory, or a wish. But for most Americans today, the language is secular and psychological. This change in language is reflective of the change in worldview from the founding fathers to the present day.
- Until there is a revival and corresponding reformation which restores the nation to the faith of the founding fathers, or until the shrinking minority gives up the fight, these tensions will continue.
- This chasm will lead to an increase in the number and intensity of the flashpoints “that strain social bonds, break friendships,” divide communities and churches, and reduce or destroy civil discourse.
- This uncivil discord has led to death threats on social media. But few people want to talk about or contemplate the potential of an eruption of violence. Citizens fearful of the future are buying guns and ammunition. The Office of Homeland Security and the National Guard are preparing for civil unrest.
This cultural struggle is going on at three levels in the West: internationally, between Europe and the United States; nationally, among citizens of North America; within the church, among Christians.
Francois Heisbourg, Director of the Foundation of Strategic Research in Paris, describes the disconnect between mother Europe and her daughter, the USA: “The biblical references in politics, the division of the world between good and evil, these are things that we simply don’t get …. In a number of areas, it seems to me that we are no longer part of the same civilization.”
“The biblical references in politics, the division of the world between good and evil, these are things that we simply don’t get …. it seems to me that we are no longer part of the same civilization.”
Europe was the root that produced the fruit of Western civilization. From Europe came the experiment in freedom known as the United States of America. But today we are no longer part of the same civilization.
While this chasm is fixed between Europe and the USA, it is growing to the breaking point in the US. Orthodox Rabbi Daniel Lapin observes that the 50 states are no longer united but divided: “We are no longer one nation under God. We are two separate nations with two distinct and incompatible moral visions.”
Dan Balz, an American political correspondent with the Washington Post, writes on the culture wars as manifest in the political culture in the United States.
Political polarization has ushered in a new era in state government, where single-party control of the levers of power has produced competing Americas. One is grounded in principles of lean and limited government and on traditional values; the other is built on a belief in the essential role of government and on tenets of cultural liberalism.
On the political level Balz understands the problem. He focuses on the distinction between so-called “red states” grounded in conservative values and limited government, because the people are self-governing, as opposed to the “blue states” grounded in progressive values (particularly social values) and a powerful central government.
The values that underpin these governing strategies reflect contrasting political visions, and the differences can be seen in stark terms in the states. In a red state such as Texas, government exists mostly to get out of the way of the private sector while holding to traditional social values. In blue states such as California and Maryland, government takes more from taxpayers, particularly the wealthy, to spend on domestic priorities while advancing a cultural agenda that reflects the country’s growing diversity.
Go here to read the Balz article.
While Balz acknowledges that the divide in governing strategy is based on differing “political visions,” he does not seem to understand that the political vision of a nation is a small part of a larger cultural vision. And that cultural vision is derived from principles, ultimately from a worldview.
To say it differently, the Judeo-Christian worldview will produce different first principles and subsequently different governing policies than will the worldview of secular-materialism.
Here’s another example of the eruption of the culture wars to the forefront of American life: the firing of Phil Robertson by the global communications giant A&E Networks. Robertson is the patriarch of the popular Duck Dynasty. A&E, a socially progressive no-holds-barred entertainment channel, took offense at Phil’s candor, in an off-air interview, about the nature and importance of traditional family. His words were both coarse and politically incorrect. But coarse and even vulgar language is the coin of the realm in the modern entertainment industry. That wasn’t the offense. A&E reacted because Robertson advocated for the importance of the traditional family for building healthy and stable societies. Our friend Rick Pearcey has written a piece analyzing this eruption of the culture wars in popular media in the provactively titled article at the Pearcey Report “Quack! Earth Needs Men Who Stare at Ducks and Women.”
The struggle between Europe and North America and within the United States between the so-called red and blue states manifests itself at a pragmatic level. Politically, Democrats and Republicans quarrel about racial tensions between black and white, or tensions between the sexes, or between young and old, Christians and Jews, Protestants and Catholics. These manifestations are real, but we must not be fooled into thinking that they are the root of the problem. These are merely symptoms of a deeper issue.
The root of the conflict is moral and metaphysical. It is a battle of sacred belief systems, worldviews, ideologies. It is different theologies – beliefs of Theists vs. those of Atheists. These different beliefs produce different moral visions. They are competing fundamental assumptions about life and the nature of the universe. They are two radically different ways of understanding reality. These differences between paradigms and principles open a wide schism that permeates all of life. This gap shows up in our answers the questions of the day, in how we form the institutions and structures of our society.
The way our nation’s leaders perform in Washington reflects the country, and culture, they represent. Moral relativism and postmodern disregard of truth has been promoted by academia for decades; sometimes it seems that the best students of that thinking live in Washington. We live in a time when laws and rules are defined by the whims of those in power. “Messaging” is paramount; never mind how far removed the message is from reality.
Perhaps we should adopt the tag line of The Federalist: “Be lovers of freedom and anxious for the fray.”
Join the fight. Speak the truth in love. Bring beauty in the midst of mediocrity and crassness. Be good and do good.
- Darrow Miller