The battle against the culture wars

The battle against the culture wars May 10, 2012

Three smart people saying smart things about the “culture wars.”

John Aravosis: “Mr. Cantor, your culture war is my life

Brad Dayspring, the former spokesman for the number two Republican in the US House, Eric Cantor, had the following to say about President Obama’s support for same-sex marriage:

“With the economy in stagnation and crippling amounts of debt, the President seeks to further divide America by launching in a culture war.”

Your culture war is my life.

And isn’t that the problem with so much that the modern Republican party stands for. They’ve turned all of our lives into one big culture war.

Access to affordable health care is a culture war. Jobs are a culture war. Protecting the environment is a culture war. Student loans are a culture war. Civil rights are a culture war.

What isn’t a culture war to these people?

Rachel Held Evans: “How to win a culture war and lose a generation

My generation is tired of the culture wars.

We are tired of fighting, tired of vain efforts to advance the Kingdom through politics and power, tired of drawing lines in the sand, tired of being known for what we are against, not what we are for.

And when it comes to homosexuality, we no longer think in the black-at-white categories of the generations before ours. We know too many wonderful people from the LGBT community to consider homosexuality a mere “issue.” These are people, and they are our friends. When they tell us that something hurts them, we listen. And Amendment One hurts like hell.

… Amendments like these needlessly offend gays and lesbians, damage the reputation of Christians, and further alienate young adults — both Christians and non-Christian — from the Church.

So my question for those evangelicals leading the charge in the culture wars is this: Is it worth it?

Is a political “victory” really worth losing millions more young people to cynicism regarding the Church?

Is a political “victory” worth further alienating people who identify as LGBT?

Is a political “victory” worth perpetuating the idea that evangelical Christians are at war with gays and lesbians?

And is a political “victory” worth drowning out that quiet but persistent internal voice that asks—what if we get this wrong?

Too many Christian leaders seem to think the answer to that question is “yes,” and it’s costing them.

Peter Enns: “Speaking of Culture Wars: Evangelicals and the Bible (Again)

Defending a particular way of understanding what the Bible is and how it is to be understood are staples of evangelicalism. Evangelicalism was founded to stay “true” to the Bible, which means contending against the theories of much of biblical scholarship deemed unacceptable to a “high” view of Scripture.

No, I am not condemning all evangelicals, but anyone who is at all active in this subculture can relate without much difficulty. Evangelicals have a long history of protecting the Bible from perceived “attacks,” and they have been remarkably successful in passing down that defensive legacy, and throwing under the bus those who raise serious voices of dissent.

But a growing generation of younger evangelicals has grown suspicious of the tremendous expense of energy needed to sustain the status quo. They live in a world where evolution is true, world religions intermingle, evangelicalism has lost its political and cultural luster, and where biblical scholarship has convincingly offered alternate paradigms for understanding the Bible.

The faith of their evangelical heritage no longer defines their spiritual journeys, and so these evangelicals are ready to deal with the Bible as it is rather than shuffle their feet in embarrassment.


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  • Lori


    When Romney’s supporters immediately subtracted a few years, making him look less bad, 

    A move which I’m sure was carried out  by people who complained bitterly about how “manipulative” it was of the press to use a picture of Trayvon Martin that was a few years old.

  • Exactly. Kulturkampf is a Bismarkian concept originally – a divide and rule plan used against the Catholics when Bismark transitioned Germany to some semblance of a democracy (with voting and secret ballots and such). And, of course, GWB’s immigration fix relied on Gastarbeiter – don’t the US Right know they are Godwinning themselves?

  • Lori

    Speaking of why it is not OK to run bigoted, homophobic campaigns to deny people full Civil Rights—-

    As guest pointed out, other people matter even when they’re people we don’t see.

    I’ll put a small plug in for the Ali Forney Center in NYC. They do good work that few other centers are doing.

  • Even the way taxes are discussed has an inherent bully psychology to it. The bully wants to reinforce his or her position and to the extent that it means keeping what’s “mine, mine, mine!” it’s astonishingly easy to tap into that when it comes to taxes. Ontario elected the Conservatives in 1995, at the time run by a man named Mike Harris. There was something a bit assholish about the way they insisted they were cutting taxes so to the extent that government spending needed to be cut, that was the problem of someone on welfare, not the Finance Minister.

  • they can’t not vote for him twice

    I am now officially homesick for Chicago.

  • It comes back to “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” doesn’t it?

    Bill Mauldin did a whole series of cartoons on civil rights – I think this one is appropriate.

  • LouisDoench


    From my experience, bullies don’t often remember being bullies.

    In my experience bullying was such a normalized behavior that its seemed like just about everyone I knew when I was 15 was in some way a bully. If you were one of those people at the bottom of the totem pole it can seem that way. When I met classmates years later I was shocked at how nice they all were, because of course none of them were horribly scarred by being bullied. So they grew up normal, unhaunted by their behavior towards me and my fellows at all.  Of course some of them remained assholes to this day, and considering that my school, St Xavier in Cincinnati, was a pretty expensive college prep school that means some of them grew up to be Mini-Romneys.

  • LouisDoench

     Not to over generalize, but that’s the way I feel about people who complain about  “new atheists” being “shrill”.

  • Mary Kaye

    Yeah, the case where the billboard just said “Atheists” and gave two web site links–and was banned for being “controversial”–makes the case fairly plain.  “Shrill” can just mean “audible.”  It means that when women are talking, too.

  • Jeff Weskamp

    Here’s the problem:  what happened in North Carolina is not a “culture war” issue.  It is a *religious* issue.  Certain people in that state feel that marital unions between people of the same gender are intrinsically sinful and offensive to God, and therefore should not be allowed in that state.

    This issue doesn’t just affect gay and bi people.  It affects *everybody* in North Carolina whose religious beliefs and practices (or lack thereof) conflict with those held by the majority of the state residents.  If the voters have the right to ban same-sex marriage, what *else* will they decide to ban?

  • One of the worst aspects of the American national character is that as a nation, we tend to love a successful bully and abandon a defeated one. Look at the way George W. Bush could do no wrong in the media from about 2002-2005, and then when the Pubs were safely defeated in 2006’s midterm elections it became the standard wisdom to say he was the complete disaster that he’d always been.

    Let’s not give the dog torturer the same eight year long chance to do the same thing.

  • swbarnes2

    “It comes back to “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” doesn’t it?”

    It absolutely does.

    “I felt that we would be supported by the white church.  I felt that the white ministers, priests, and rabbis would be among our strongest allies.  Instead, some have been outright opponents….I came to Birmingham with the hope that the white religious leadership of this community would see the justice of or cause and, with deep moral concern, would serve as the channel through which our just grievances could reach the power structure…But again I have been disappointed.”
    “I have traveled the length and breadth of Alabama, Mississippi, and all the other Southern states.  On sweltering summer days and crips autumn mornings I have looked at the South’s beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward.  I have beheld the impressive outlines of her massive religious education buildings.  Over and over I have found myself asking “What kind of people worship here?  Who is their God?  Where were their voices when the lips of Governor Barnett dripped with words of interposition and nullification?  Where were they when Governor Wallace gave a clarion call for defiance and hatred?  Where were their voice of support when bruised and weary Negro men and women decided to rise from the dark dungeons of complacency to the bright hills of creative protest?”

  • Lori

    Margaret and Helen once again remind me that I want to be them when I grow up.

  • VMink

    …  That’s probably the most wonderful thing I saw all week.

    It may even beat out the modern rendition of Aristophanes’ “Assembly Women” I saw last night… phalloi and all.

  • hapax

     Phoenix_down_9999:  I know that I’m coming in late, and I don’t have anything useful to say but “That was HORRIBLE, you didn’t deserve to be treated like that, and I am so sorry” (all of which you already knew)… but ….  thank you so much for being brave enough to tell your story.

    These are important stories to tell.  Last night, hapaxdaughter was watching the news about Romney, and she almost began to cry.  She told me about how her junior high conducted “anti-bullying awareness programs”, and how other students would whine and complain, “I don’t see why we have to do this, I’ve never seen anyone be bullied in our schools” — and many of them would be the same students who were standing by, doing nothing, or even participating, as she was bullied physically and verbally all through elementary school.

    She said that Romney sounded exactly the same.

    It’s IMPORTANT that people tell these stories.  Thank you for the grace of yours.  And thanks for the grace of Romney’s classmates, who had the courage to share theirs.

  • Phoenix_down_9999

    You do have a point there. But I still think rational debate is important. Maybe the idea is to be rational and reasonable while trying to explain how to people how certain political issues are hurting people more than they’re helping, but then give up on that when/if it becomes clear that the person on the other end just doesn’t seem to care?

  • He never uttered a word about Mitt Romney or the haircut incident to his sisters.

    Big whoop. I don’t know anyone who was bullied who told their family members about it, including me. Even if other family members were the ones doing the bullying. 

  • rizzo

    We’re not the ones that start culture and class wars, those are usually started by the prevailing culture and the classes that are in power.  We’ll damnwell finish them though.

  • Phoenix_down_9999

    Thank you! It’s *hard* to tell these stories, people here are being supportive (Thanks, guys, really :) but a small part of me still wants to go hide somewhere, and I’m sure it’s hard for hapaxdaughter too, and hard for the student Romney bullied (they say he didn’t even tell his sisters). :( But you’re right; sometimes it’s the only way to get the point across. People tend to see what they want to see, and no one wants to see themselves as a bully or a by-stander even though we all are sometimes, and it takes a lot to make them see otherwise. 

  • guest

    I guess what I’m getting at is that it’s easy for people like me, or like Ann in the other thread, to debate any number of political or cultural issues from a position of what we think is right or rational or what coincides with our pre-existing beliefs, without really, truly grasping that these are not abstract issues, they deeply physically affect real people.  It’s no skin off my nose, for example, if cannabis is legal or not.  But that abstract political issue, in my perspective, is the entire life of someone with cancer who is in pain and can’t eat, but whose suffering can be temporarily alleviated with cannabis.  Sure, I can be perfectly rational about debating the issue, but then again I’m not the one who’s suffering.  Given that, I don’t feel that it’s ethical for me to treat any political issue that has that kind of potential to intimately and overwhelmingly affect people’s lives as something that can be debated rationally by disinterested people.

  • guest

     Oh, and I forgot to add that that kind of uncaring is overcome by people like you, who can bravely and honestly say ‘you know that thing youall are talking about?  This is how I’m hurt by it.  Please pay attention.’  So thank you.  If it doesn’t affect me or anyone I know (at least anyone who’s spoken directly to me about it), I need to be made aware by people like you who are willing to risk sharing their stories, showing the rest of us what the consequences of our abstract decisions can be, and trusting us to believe that what happens to you matters to us.

  • Ontario elected the Conservatives in 1995, at the time run by a man named Mike Harris.

    Mom was a teacher in Ottawa during the Harris budget slashing, and the teachers all went on strike. We were out of school for several weeks, as I recall, and the local paper devoted a page to the students, on which we could put anything we wanted – letters, articles, cartoons, all manner of stuff. It was intended to be temporary, but became a regular feature. For many of us teens, I suspect it was our first taste of journalism. The exchange of letters on the page was pleasant, with an air of polite debate not unlike the one here. So, perhaps what I’m saying is that something good came out of the appalling leadership of Mike Harris.