The Culture War is a Myth
If we aren’t fighting for “conserved” Christianity, it may be better to stay at home.
(Clockwise from top left): Patrick J. Buchanan (Mark Reinstein/Shutterstock); Andrew Breitbart (Win McNamee/Getty Images); John Adams (Everett Collection/Shutterstock); Jerry Falwell (Mark Reinstein/Shutterstock); Donald Trump (Michael Candelori/Shutterstock); C.S. Lewis (John Chillingworth/Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty Images).
Andrew Breitbart stated, “Politics flows from culture.” But, strangely enough, he did not go on to be a painter, playwright, or operatic tenor. He went into politics.
I’m certain Breitbart intended it that way at the time. At some level, though, he must have known the truth: culture is a function of politics. Everything is in the modern world.
Take the latest example. Shortly after Roe v. Wade was overturned, NPR helpfully compiled the reactions of sixty-four musicians, all of them negative. Taylor Swift stated that she was “absolutely scared” of the ruling. Lukas Nelson created a song about a girl forced to bear the child of her father. He is a hypocrite, self-righteous and church-going.
“F–k the Supreme Court,” Lorde stated during her performance at Glastonbury Festival. Billie Joe Armstrong, Green Day’s frontman, went even further. He told another group of Britishers, “F–k America.” I’m an F–king and have renounced my citizenship. The F-word, just like abortion, is an important part of our culture.
It’s more than the musicians and the left. A frat party doesn’t exist without at least one man wearing a Reagan/Bush tank shirt. At least 12 MAGA caps are required for a bonfire in the backwoods. Ten years ago every bar had sports on their TVs. Half of these bars now show cable news. Between Kanye’s strange foray into politics, Kim’s lobbying President Trump on prison reform, and Caitlyn Jenner’s run for governor, the Kardashians have replaced the Bushes as our most important Republican dynasty.
Elections is our national pastime. The new music of protest is “protest songs”. Every doctor can be an activist. She should be an activist if she hopes to get a job. A propagandist is every reporter. (Ditto.)
This is what some folks call the Politicization of Everything, and it is hardly news to anyone. Conservatives claim it has been happening since the French Revolution. A few progressives agree. George Steiner, the late George Steiner stated that the Jacobins had “abolished millennial barriers between common life and historical enormities.”
The timeline is irrelevant. It doesn’t really matter what timeline you choose, the point is that Politicization of Everything has been ongoing for a lot longer than we realize and almost no one can stop it.
Let’s go back to the Roe example. Our right-wing comrades saw the Supreme Court decision as a significant victory in the Culture War. They said that “at last” “our JudeoChristian values were making a comeback against Culture of Death!” I wish this was true. Honestly, it is true. However, I am not sure.
First, it was not making any judgment about the morality or legality of abortion. It was quite the contrary. The Constitution does not explicitly support the practice. It is now not viewed as a good like interstate commerce. Like alcohol, it is morally neutral. It’s certainly not seen as something evil, like slavery or excessive bail.
Secondly, Dobbs v. Jackson was an unpopular decision handed down by an unpopular court appointed by an unpopular president. This decision will not change the tide in America on issues related to life. It would be a great thing if it did. It won’t.
The third and most important thing is that life questions were not “cultural” at all. Our country’s abortion debate was deeply and scandalously politicized from the beginning.
Through the 1960s, Catholics were the only solidly pro-life electorate in the country. Back then, a surprising number of evangelicals were in the pro-choice camp. In 1968, a symposium held by Christianity Today–the flagship of evangelicalism, founded by Billy Graham himself–argued that abortion is not sinful where matters of “individual health, family welfare, and social responsibility are concerned.” When Roe was handed down in 1973, the Baptist Press–the official mouthpiece of the Southern Baptist Convention–declared: “Religious liberty, human equality, and justice are advanced by the Supreme Court abortion decision.”
All of this began to change when Republican leaders realized they might coax Catholics away from the Democratic Party by turning the GOP against Roe. Paul Weyrich, of the Heritage Foundation, handled political lobbying while Jerry Falwell, a televangelist worked to influence the minds and hearts of evangelical ministers.
They succeeded and we thank God. It is not wrong to protest the killing of children. It is not difficult to believe that evangelicals who support abortion rights are true believers. I can see that they are more sincere than Catholics who support abortion rights in large numbers. This is our particular case. In general, Catholics chose to support the Democratic Party rather than their prolife convictions. Likewise, many evangelicals chose to support the Republican Party instead of their pro-life beliefs.
Even today, the best indicator of one’s position on life issues is not religion, but party. Evangelicals are pro-life by a 63 to 33 margin; they are also Republicans by a 56 to 28 margin. Catholics are narrowly pro-choice, 48 to 47; they also tend to be Democrats, 44 to 37. Meanwhile, members of historically black Protestant churches (or black churches) are pro-choice 52 to 46; they’re also Democrats, 80 to 10.
What’s more, black churches have been declared pro-life just like the Catholic Church. Their members support abortion rights and are in violation of official Catholic teachings. These numbers are not misleading. No matter what creed or colour, the majority of American Christians take their cues not from religion but politics.
This is also true for progressive churches. Since I was born, the Democratic Party has been in control of so-called mainstream Protestant churches like the Episcopal Church. Anyone who has attended any of their services knows that their sermons serve little more than to stump for progressive causes du jour .
Orthodox Christians may laugh at themselves, but it is only for our own good. Rod Dreher, my friend and fellow journalist has documented for years the moral bankruptcy in “conservative” churches. Jericho March’s grotesque spectacle is just one example of how subservient leaders like the Republican Party are.
Even when we attempt to change our course, it is too late. The Southern Baptist Convention elected Ed Litton last year as its president. Litton, who is theologically sound, ran for the presidency on the promise to eliminate “systemic racism” within the SBC. Litton, who was criticized for his theological orthodoxy, said, “I’m very conservative…in politics.” As if this made him an ideal pastor-in–chief of America’s second-largest denomination.
I am clearly a man who believes in the rights. Litton is not my enemy. However, Christians from all political stripes should not be offended by the church’s naked politics in an election. Social issues are not the responsibility of clergy. Do I need to repeat it? To bring people to Jesus Christ. Many evangelical leaders follow the GOP path too quickly. But the solution isn’t milquetoast centrism. Gospel radicalism is the answer.
I’m afraid that things will only get worse before getting better. Republicans have the ability to influence Christians regarding moral matters, but not always in their favor.
In 2012, Mitt Romney’s support for traditional marriage was a huge draw for evangelicals and orthodox Catholics. In 2016, he was succeeded by Donald Trump, an open supporter of gay marriage–one of about three in a field of eighteen. Many conservatives, including myself, supported Trump. Our argument was that the conservatives would not take moral guidance from a TV actor who had been married three times.
Lo and behold, in 2021, Gallup found that a majority of Republicans now support same-sex marriage. We’re at 55 percent and counting, up from 40 percent in 2016. The fifteen point spike was the biggest in both parties’ history. It was all during Trump’s presidency.
Now, let’s say a charismatic leader won the hearts of conservative Christians in 2030s–the way Falwell did in the Seventies, and the way Trump did in the 2010s. Let’s say this new leader ticked all the boxes on important “Culture War” issues–except that he was pro-choice. And let’s say that current trends continue apace, so that about 70 percent of Americans are pro-choice in 2030.
How would you respond? Maybe the way we did in 2016. He’s solid on all other issues. In this environment, we won’t get any pro-life candidates elected. And he promises not to expand access to abortion…”
Would this leader have the ability to change Republican views on abortion? If so, how?
It seems to me clear that the “Culture War”, is a smokescreen for power-plays by factional factions. There are many brave warriors. Pat Buchanan is the magazine’s founder. But they are a minority, just as they were in 1992. Of course, that doesn’t mean the rest are hypocrites. It should be obvious. It’s not that the GOP or its media flunkies are tricking us. The same is true for liberals. This is why there are so many Catholics who remain staunchly pro-life and refuse to leave the Democratic Party. )
Most people spend only one morning per week in church. Meanwhile, we spend eleven hours a day consuming media. Mammon is now directly in our frontal lobes. We are constantly drawn from the City of God to the City of Man.
But all of this existed long before the iPhone and will continue even after President Hawley returns all Apple products to the People’s Republic of California. The real problem was known by King David, and the solution.
Republican leaders betrayed us over same-sex marriage. Even as we speak, they’re betraying us on transgenderism. They’ll also betray you on abortion if they wait. They have no power, but we do. Cut them off.
But–ah! I can just hear some reader muttering the word retreatist under his breath. He asks, “How can we survive in this modern world without having secular allies?” That’s precisely my point. There are no allies. There is a political class in our country that panders during elections, then works tirelessly to destroy our values once they are in power.
These are not the priority of a Christian. It’s the exact opposite. C.S. C.S.
If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. It was because they were occupied with Heaven that the Apostles set out to convert the Roman Empire. The great men who built the Middle Ages and the English Evangelicals abolished slavery trade, among others, made a lasting impact on Earth.
Christians have lost the ability to see and think about other worlds. If you aim at Heaven, you’ll get “thrown in” earth. But if you try to reach earth, you won’t get either.
Granted. This is an odd argument to use in a magazine. The whole idea of conservatism, however is to ensure that good politics are based on more than just politics.
That is what Burke meant by saying, “All persons with any amount of power should be strongly impressed with the idea that they act and trust and that they must account to the one great Master Author and Founder, of society.”
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That’s exactly what Adams meant by warning that the Constitution was only intended for moral and religious people. It’s completely insufficient to the government or any other.”
It’s Kirk’s “true understanding” of liberty: “Freedom to live within God’s compass, and not freedom to demolish .”
The Western civilization was founded by Christians. It was almost entirely inhabited by Christians for the greater part of two thousand years. The city’s philosophy, politics, poetry, art and music were all directed towards the advancement of Christianity. Christianity is the West’s lifeblood and wellspring. If it’s necessary to keep their power, Republican elites are willing to pay lip service for Christians. What about the rest of us? We may be better off staying home if we aren’t fighting for “conserved” Christianity. The Culture War is not over. It hasn’t even begun. There is no Culture War. Only the Great Commission is available. We might get the White House, if we set our sights on Heaven. We’ll never get the White House if we try to aim for it.