Wednesday, August 13, 2014

How the culture wars function in opposition to the common good

From an interview with Vince Miller, the Gudorf Chair in Catholic Theology and Culture at the University of Dayton, in the National Catholic Reporter:

What are the culture wars?
Culture war politics focuses on what can divide groups, polarize them and then mobilize them against each other. Part of what defines the culture wars is rhetoric: using language that portrays the opponent as not simply wrong, but morally depraved. Politically, it seeks policies and legislation that do not appeal to the majority. It aims to mobilize the base, but not broad coalitions. It's always about getting 51 percent.....
And igniting these battles was a deliberate political decision.
the culture wars developed out of a political strategy intended to mobilize conservative evangelicals and other conservative Christians in opposition to the cultural changes of the 1960s -- the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement and the women's movement. It wasn't just a grassroots backlash; it was a political strategy designed to mobilize a backlash. It turned those moral issues into political issues, and in so doing, it dissolved complex constituencies and communities. It sorted America out along the lines of the culture war.
While politically this has been successful, in the sense of empowering certain political viewpoints, it has been deeply harmful to a functioning government or any concept of the common good.  He explains that the consequences to Christianity are severe, losing an entire generation
For people whose access to Christianity is largely what they see on television or in the news or in the paper, they got to define the public face of Christianity. And study after study has shown that the millennial generation has gotten that message loud and clear, and they don't find it interesting at all. They find it repugnant.
Remember, the "nones"are a large and growing group, and ex-Catholics are also a large and growing group in the spectrum of American religious identity. The Christian right has tried to force their brand on us and damaged it perhaps irreparably.

What's lost in all this warfare is any sense of community or shared values.  "My way or the highway" is not the way to govern or get anything done, as we see in the gridlock in Congress. Compromise is not a dirty word.
I think it could turn around if we understand the dead end that this style of politics is. And that's the work of journalists, that's the work of politicians, to say how fruitless it's been and to point out what's been taken off the table in the process -- to point out that this kind of politics has not led to a more just and flourishing society, but to a society where people are more vulnerable and more on their own.
And if we don't?
My greatest fear is that the next step will reject the culture war morality but simply slide into a complete libertarianism, where there's no moral obligation of society to anybody, where government shouldn't be involved in any kind of moral question. And we'll just continue on with Republican economic politics. My fear is that we've really been set up for that move. What we have to do to avoid it is argue clearly that what we've been ignoring is the common good itself.


Kevin K said...

Your fears are well grounded. I remember an interesting article by a liberal commentator (I can't recall her name) about how to construct social policy if court's reject accepted social norms of morality. It was not encouraging.

JCF said...

Test, test, test: is this thing on? [I'm looking for my post to show up on this (now moderated) thread:]

Hey, if you've got a minute, could y'all go to the Episcopal Cafe, here:
and ask them to keep the Cafe going? I believe it's a vital resource. Thanks, JCF.

it's margaret said...

"deeply harmful to a functioning government or any concept of the common good."

Yeah... the common good, the common culture --the community...

I hope we can pull it around.

But then again, there's evidence that the stalemate benefits the richest among us because it maintains the status quo... A Study in Plutocrasy at

IT said...

Margaret, exactly. The rich benefit from the stalemate and they benefit from the conflict amongst the people.