Monday, April 27, 2009

The Culture Wars and The Loss of Civility

I don’t get angry very often about the culture wars stuff like I did the other night.

I figure that the nation is not a church and that unbelievers have as much a right to express their lack of faith, as I have to express mine. I would not want to live in a theocracy even if we had the ability to vote one into power. (Would you want any of our denominations or parachurches to control the government? I wouldn’t!)

I really do believe in freedom as a basic human right and am persuaded by conviction and experience than a coerced faith is no faith at all. So I am much more comfortable living with difference of opinion and lifestyle than many of my fellow Christians.

But the other night, I was outraged.

I wasn’t watching the beauty pageant when Miss California gave her now famous answer. I would rather walk three miles in the rain than watch a beauty pageant. As far as I am concerned, it is of no consequence at all whether the judges select Miss Twittlely Dee or Miss Twiddddley Dum to be the reigning monarch of bathing suits and hair stylists.

So I don’t care who wins. (Unless and until one of my granddaughters decides to enter the contest, which may change my present opinions about the entire subject.)

OK. Here’s what angered me.

Imagine this scenario:

There is a beauty contest and I am a judge.
I do my homework and discover that Miss Tennessee is a Hindu.
It comes time to ask my questions of the contestant and so I say, “Many states of our country have already passed legislation that recognizes the Judeo-Christian roots of our county. Do you support the current efforts of many in Tennessee to support such legislation in your state?"

Well, can you imagine? Even Christians would be outraged!

What possible justification is there for such a question to ever be posed to a beauty pageant contestant?

We all know better. The issue here is that a known gay advocate has been allowed to escape any consequences for his violation of this young lady’s rights. He is being allowed to escape because his cause is so just, so vital to our national interests, so upright and moral – that he can with impunity harass and insult someone who did not even wish to express her opinion about the subject.

In other words, she was judged not because she came armed and ready to fight, but because of a suspicion that she might have a private opinion that differed from that of the judge.

So this is democracy? This is a neutral public forum?

If a brain-dead, culturally irrelevant and spiritually vacuous event like a beauty pageant is not safe enough for a young lady to hold a private opinion that she does not even plan to express, what, pray tell, is a safe place now?

If this polarization continues, how will our democracy survive?

Orthodox Christians will not embrace a secular worldview. They will die first. They will resist the state. They will not conform.

Secular minded people will not embrace a Christian worldview. They will rebel against laws that impose faith upon them. They will not conform to Christian values.

Is this a new situation? No! It is as old as our Republic.

So what has changed?

Our loss of civility, of that unspoken contract that we will reserve our ideological struggles with one another to certain venues: the ballot box, the party platforms, the magazines and radio programs, and blogs. In other words, we have thought it civil to offer our political opinion only in those times and places in which people CHOOSE to offer and to hear political opinions.

When it comes to the American culture wars, I am one of those despicable moderates. I didn’t choose the adjective “despicable” for myself; the likes of Rush Limbaugh chose it for me. (I actually agree with Rush most of the time, but as with all narcissists, even 80% agreement is not nearly enough for the king of American conservatism.)

I am a conservative that still relates to the ideas of William Buckley, a great thinker from the bygone days before “conservative” came to mean “libertarian.”

I am not a libertarian. Therefore, in the eyes of a new generation of conservatives, I am not a “Real Conservative.” I view political opinion as a spectrum instead of just two huge groups of “them” and “us.”
I am a Christian first, a patriot second, and a conservative third.

My Christian beliefs are formed by my view of scripture, which one might call Protestant orthodoxy. I believe and confess without internal reservation the two great creeds of the historic church and hold to the major tenets of the Protestant reformation. That is about as “conservative” as it gets, at least when it comes to Protestant Christianity.

As for my patriotism, I believe I would lay down my life for the ideas of contained in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, and the nearly biblical lines of the Gettysburg Address and Lincoln’s Second Inaugural. I even believe that an exercise of American citizenship ought to involve the memorization and understanding of these documents.

That’s pretty conservative.

I reject libertarianism because it is only a half a shade removed from anarchy. If the government is always the problem, then what do we do with the fact that in a democracy “government” is simply the way the people rule themselves?

I believe that our increasingly inflammatory talk about the government and our disdainful attitudes toward our elected officials is incompatible with Christianity. Jesus Christ did not allow his disciples to fight the temple guard or to even take up arms against the Romans. He was willing to give his life on behalf of those who opposed him and prayed for them as he was dying.

How then should we live in a cultural situation that is only mildly uncomfortable for our faith?

Like that young lady in the beauty pageant... she kept her end of the unspoken contract. She was civil. She entered an area of the public arena where people of vastly different views and beliefs are supposed to be able to meet and enjoy the event.

There was an understood cease-fire agreement so everyone could take a break from the culture wars.

Mr. Pervert broke the cease-fire.

So who is at fault? The young Christian woman, apparently.

What will we do if neither Rush Limbaugh nor Perez Hilton allows anyone to be moderate or civil? We will fight – first with words and then with more dangerous weapons.

Welcome to Yugoslavia.

Welcome to Sodom.

1 comment:

Jan said...

Really enjoyed reading this (not once
but three times!) Oh, and your sermon
yesterday was incredible. I look forward to this Journey to Pentecost.