“We’re Conservative Until it Costs Us”: Ross Douthat on Americans and Marriage

From Ross Douthat’s most recent op-ed in the NYT (HT: Russ Moore):

“More than most Westerners, Americans believe — deeply, madly, truly — in the sanctity of marriage. But we also have some of the most liberal divorce laws in the developed world, and one of the highest divorce rates. We sentimentalize the family, but boast one of the highest rates of unwed births. We’re more pro-life than Europeans, but we tolerate a much more permissive abortion regime than countries like Germany or France. We wring our hands over stem cell research, but our fertility clinics are among the least regulated in the world.

In other words, we’re conservative right up until the moment that it costs us.”

The whole piece is worth reading over.  If Douthat is right, Christians who desire a just moral order are struggling not simply against secularists, but against weak-willed conservatives and theists.  Perhaps it is this group and its weak will that has cost us many crucial cultural battles, not others that we might identify.

One wonders, furthermore, how much this kind of weak will applies to the church in its own right.  How often do we vouch for conservative theological ideals, only to flinch at the last moment, leaving someone else to fight the battle, someone else to do the hard work of ministry, whatever form it may take?  Douthat’s words are worth thinking over both in a cultural sense and a kingdom sense.

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  • Or perhaps it’s not a battle we fight at all, and the “weak willed” Conservatives simply see the Bible as teaching us that the answer is in a changed heart via the gospel and not trying to change someone’s behavior.