Reflecting on the idea of Culture Wars

It was back in college (Liberty University) that I learned about the “Culture War”. I remember having to be convinced that there was one. Prior to that, I do not remember having many enemies. In the 90’s, I think I disliked two groups of people, abortion doctors and Red Sox fans ;-). Around that time, I only had a few problems, bad luck with girls, Greek (the language, not any frat reference. Come on, the context is Liberty University! ;-), and rock n’roll sucked. As I recall, in 1997, there were two songs on the radio, Matchbox’s 20 “Push” and Sugar Ray’s “Fly”. Oh wait, there was Chumbawaba and boy bands were about to take over the world. In response, I started listening to John Coltrane, Miles Davis and other classic jazz musicians.

Anyway, I was informed that we were at war. I’m not talking about Ephesians 6 (Our battle is not flesh and blood …), but a war of competing ideologies, beliefs and values and the fate of the world rested on it. My real enemies were the ACLU, Bill Clinton and his Democrats, and Marilyn Manson. It was then that I started reading Chuck Colson’s Breakpoint, World Magazine and books by Cal Thomas and William Bennett. I was also very interested in apologetics and really believed that I could prove Christianity. So Ravi Zacharias, RC Sproul, and Phillip Johnson and on serious days, Gary Habermas and William Craig. I remember that summer reading Robert Bork’s Slouching Towards Gomorrah (which is an awesome book title) and thinking that I needed to be ready “to take a stand” and “hold the line” because a good Christian was a good soldier.

Like all good soldiers, I was headed down the road of not questioning my superiors. The orders I was given were more of disposition and rarely of action (after all, we were evangelicals ;-) But as influential as Bork’s book was, I remember coming across a report where the ACLU represented a student-led after-school Bible study in a public school. What??? I knew that Jesus said, “a house divided against itself cannot stand” but was this something even more diabolical? I started seeing that things were a bit more complicated. Later I began understanding things like why many people had abortions (turns out, the white, affluent, liberal, career women represented a very, very, tiny percentage. It was lower-income minorities that comprised much of the stats.) And while that didn’t change my position on the topic of abortion, I started seeing the complexity of life, this world and God, Himself (including His mercy and justice).

Later I stumbled across Addicted to Mediocrity by Franky Schaeffer which eventually led to the work of his father, Francis. Titles by C.S. Lewis and Peter Kreeft starting filling up my shelf and while I have always been and still remain conservative/moderate on most issues, the idea of objectivity (meaning that we as flawed, sinful people could actually be objective) was losing its grip on me. While I did not recognize it at the time, the idea of postmodernity was becoming a good thing and instead of seeing myself at war within my society, I started understanding the potential virtues of plurality and the power of relationships and conversation.
Part 2 later.


  1. How can you leave me hanging!?! How dare you!?!

  2. Ryan Fitz says:

    The idea of a Culture War is an effective political tool, and I’ve gotta imagine the idea of it is certainly tied to the cultural struggle on the left during the 1960s. Now the only people who talk about such a thing are on the right, its interesting to see Tea Partiers reading Saul Alinsky.

    But the idea that someone is trying to take something away from you is a very powerful strategy, and its probably why the Culture War of today does better politically than the one in the 60s. The 60s version was focused on trying to create something different, where this version seems to focus on trying to hold onto something that people are being told is being taken from them by people who don’t share their values, the classic “Other.” Creating fear about the “Other” can drive movements and create mass hysteria.

    Of course its a morally bankrupt strategy.

  3. the slothful one says:

    For someone who spent a summer reading Slouching Towards Gomorrah, thats a pretty superficial treatment of the book if all you came away with was the ACLU is 100% evil and can do no good.

    Some of the men you listed are serious thinkers. You may not agree with them, but its simply unfair to define them as knee jerk Manicheans; unable to see the “complexity” of the world. And they are very much a part of the conversation unless your point is that we return to the naked public square.

    Cheers, cuz

  4. Ryan Fitz says:

    It seems to me like his references to Slouching were all made in past tense, and his point was to demonstrate the evolution in his own thinking from where it was then to where it is now. I don’t think he was saying that NOW he doesn’t believe they can see the complexity of the world.

    As for the ACLU, they are pretty consistent in their defense of civil liberties no matter where they are, or how heinous some of them are, for instance, NAMBLA. Everyone deserves legal defense, the ACLU takes on cases to help give people a shot at getting a fair hearing, not necessarily because as an organization they necessarily agree with who they are defending.

  5. I appreciate the pushback my friend and I happily await for you to start your own blog.

    Ryan summarizes my intent very well, I will only later try to ruin it – lol. I encourage you to both to feel free to dialogue with each other. Ryan was one of our sharpest students when I served at the church in Newtown. He’s a grad of George Washington and is getting ready to take over the world, but in a good way, not a Dr. Evil way, you see?

    As for The Slothful One, there was a time when we would have donated our liver should the other needed it. Yep livers. Well not mine, because it’s been ruined by all the years hitting the coffee mug but you get the point.

    To be clear, Slouching is a good book and it may be do me well to read it again since my first read was 10 years ago. I would probably still appreciate many of Bork’s arguments and this time around, I probably won’t take him so seriously. I am willing to own up to my lack of maturity, then, now and later.

    Second, while I still have a bit of respect for the work of the aforementioned men (Zacharias, Sproul, Colson), I also have criticism. As a young brother in Christ and as an individual, I am free to do so for I follow Christ, not Ravi. Know that I am not implying that you suggest otherwise. In short, I find their stranglehold on the claims of modernity to be unBiblical. Romans 1 (Hab. 2) teaches that just shall live by faith. It is does not say by logic, or by better reasoning, or by hermeneutics or even by doctrine. Applying the scene of Galatians (and Acts 15) today would be an extremely interesting sight to watch. What makes one a believer? Circumcision? Conservatism? Nope.

    Back to the intent. I probably could have included a transitionary sentence between Bork and the ACLU but here’s what I am trying to say. Sitting in convocation 3 times a week and hearing Dr. Falwell throughout my time at Liberty, it was unmistakeable where the ACLU stood and they were against us – they were out to rid America of Christianity – them and the Teletubbies ;-) It is helpful to remember that we have different starting points and different understandings of what conservatism is (and consequently liberalism).

    I want to avoid the clliche that we need a balanced digest of reading but you get the point. For me, had I continued only reading Colson and Zacharias, there’s a good chance I would only be watching one news channel and last week one of their “priests” told me to leave any church that was interested in social justice. Yeah, because when we help others, we defile the name of Jesus. Well we just took a deacon’s collection so I guess I better spruce up the resume. Turns out you can worship the risen Savior and care for the “other”. I know you are not in disagreement, only adding context.

    The world was made much to simple back then and I caution from lamenting my love for complexity and plurality. It is in part, the rejection of that strict objectivism that our doctrinal differences are not a point of question, at least for me ;-)

  6. the slothful one says:

    Hold on, brother. My kidney, my eyes, and about 40-60% of my liver (at least according to webmd) are yours anytime. Just because you’re wrong doesn’t mean I don’t love you :-)

    I’d like to make sure we’re not talking past each other here. I’m not challenging your belief that there is no culture war nor am I questioning your “evolution”. Whatever my personal thoughts, its simply not my place to do so in the comment section of your blog.

    My point is that it was unfair to say the sum total of reading STG, a very important book and one that led to much public debate when it was released, was that you learned the ACLU is bad. I thought it crude characterization that needed a response. You’ve graciously replied and I now know to keep your Liberty experience in mind.

    Further, I can only speak for Robert Bork & especially Bill Bennett among those you named. These are two brilliant men who were/are engaged with the culture in both academia and the public square. They do not exist in some apparent Evangelical ghetto warning you to stay away from the “other” (as your friend Ryan so eloquently states) from whom you’ve now broken free and no longer need to follow without question. I don’t think it fair to associate them with that experience.

    For me they were simply fresh water after my own four years of indoctrination.

    looking forward to part 2…no, really, I am!

  7. Thanks Slothful, I am glad the clarification was helpful.
    As you know, I consider myself somewhere in the post-conservative camp, meaning reacting and reflecting on my conservatism (or the one I was brought up in). Know that I am saying that Bork, Bennett, other apologists should not be read. My problem was that I took them too seriously. Or maybe I took what I thought they represented too seriously.

    But Bork was very critical of the ACLU.
    “The pure version of intellectual class leftishness, to the point of being a parody of modern liberalism, exists in institutionalized form in the American Civil Liberties Union, which has had through litigation and lobbying, a very considerable effect upon American law and culture” (Bork, p. 97)

    “Thus the ACLU argues on the one hand for rights to abortion, to practice prostitution, to homosexual marriage, to produce and consume pornography and much more” (ibid).

    He shifts his focus on the influence the ACLU has had on the Supreme Court and their understanding of the Bill of Rights.

    That said, I agree that Bork (& Bennett, Hewitt, etc) are obviously brilliant, brilliant people. It’s how they are used that unnerves me.

    But that does not mean that I think the ACLU is right or “good”. If I had the time to look into it deeper, I am fairly certain that I could produce a sizable list of differences. So
    at the end of this, they will not be receiving a donation from me. However, when they defend Christian rights too, they cannot be portrayed as the Devil incarnate as they have been. Just trying to be fair and add to the point that Christians have been fighting the culture war at times poorly and unjustly.

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