Part 2: Understanding the Culture War

Read the on-point one paragraph Part 1. Here are a few more quick and brilliant assessments I read in a compilation on culture wars today:

According to the culture wars thesis, individuals on either side of the divide see their worldview as absolute and the opposition’s as illegitimate and “utterly alien to the American way.” The ["I deserve"]-based emphasis of contemporary discourse along with the polarizing nature of modern public debate (fostered through sound-bite long news accounts and the inflammatory language of [blogs and social media]) serves to exacerbate the cultural chasm. The result is a climate where activists engage the battle with a winner-takes-all mentality and where the more nuanced voices of the “muddled middle” are eclipsed by the sensationalized pronouncements of the extreme. Pointing to the absolutized certainty with which the different sides hold to their positions, C. Taylor observes that “the very nature of the Kulturkampf resides in the certainty that only one solution is defensible.” As a consequence the opposition is vilified and a rational search for common ground becomes increasingly untenable.

-James L. Nolan

And then these short strokes of analytical genius appearing in John Davison Hunter’s The Culture Wars Reflect the Polarization of American Society:

Is it not impossible to speak to someone who does not share the same moral language? Gesture, maybe; pantomime, possibly. But the kind of communication that builds on mutual understanding of opposing and contradictory claims on the world? That would seem impossible.

The problem is not that positions on complex issues are reduced to caricatures, even if they are ugly and slanderous. In political discourse this has long been a practice. Rather, the problem is that democracy in America has evolved in such a way that public debate now rarely seems to get beyond these caricatures.

The terms of the so-called debate have already been set for us by powers and processes over which we have no control. Thus, for all of the diversity of belief, opinion, and perspective that really does exist in America, diversity is not much represented in public debate. Rather than pluralism, democratic discourse tends to reflect only the dualism of opposing extremes.

Do you feel public discourse will only continue hearing the extremes as normalized, or will there eventually be room for mutually beneficial dialogue? Where is public discourse going?

Much love.

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About Andrew Marin

Andrew Marin is President and Founder of The Marin Foundation ( He is author of the award winning book Love Is an Orientation (2009), its interactive DVD curriculum (2011), and recently an academic ebook titled Our Last Option: How a New Approach to Civility can Save the Public Square (2013). Andrew is a regular contributor to a variety of media outlets and frequently lectures at universities around the world. Since 2010 Andrew has been asked by the United Nations to advise their various agencies on issues of bridging opposing worldviews, civic engagement, and theological aspects of reconciliation. For twelve years he lived in the LGBT Boystown neighborhood of Chicago, and is currently based St. Andrews, Scotland, where he is teaching and researching at the University of St. Andrews earning his PhD in Constructive Theology with a focus on the Theology of Culture. Andrew's research centers on the cultural, political, and religious dynamics of reconciliation. Andrew is married to Brenda, and you can find him elsewhere on Twitter (@Andrew_Marin), Facebook (AndrewMarin01), and Instagram (@andrewmarin1).

  • Andy Catsimanes

    Perhaps we’ve reached the limits of Liberal Democracy’s capacity for solving the problems created by Liberal Democracy as it is currently constituted, viz: a Corporatist Market State which seeks to drive us ever further toward a radically atomized individualism.

  • J.

    “The terms of the so-called debate have already been set for us by powers and processes over which we have no control” Great quote. This guy get’s it right. Thank you.