Requiem for the culture war

By Alan Bean

Like me, Jonathan Merritt has been engaged in a prolonged love-hate relationship with both ends of the moral spectrum.  Young Christians look at both political parties, Merritt says, and find themselves longing for a third option. 

“Christians are rejecting the polemical, power-hungry and partisan politics of the culture wars.   We need to be involved in politics, but in an independent, civil, embodied way.”

After reading Bob Allen’s excellent review of Merritt’s new book,A Faith of our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars, I found myself thinking that it isn’t just “young Christians” who feel this way. 

There is a lot to like in both the conservative and liberal traditions.  Hard work, sexual fidelity, commitment to family, entrepreneurial spirit, economic realism–hooray for the conservatives!  Inclusion, respect for diversity, compassion, non-violence, equality, fairness–thank God for liberalism!

But there’s a lot to dislike in both camps too, and partisan zealots have constructed a cottage industry out of exploiting the weakness in the other sides’ vision.  These fish-in-a-barrel massacres are easily arranged: Liberal and conservative virtues, considered in isolation from one another, are equally unsustainable. 

Liberals and conservatives need one another and America needs both kinds of people.  Robbed of the insights at the heart of the parallel virtue, zealots on both sides succumb to moral malnutrition.

The culture war is understandable, possibly even inevitable, but that don’t make it pretty.  A focus on hard work and responsibility with no place for compassion and fairness is a recipe for despair.   Focusing on diversity and fairness apart from personal responsibility is a one-way ticket to nowhere. 

Duh!  What could be more obvious?

Tragically, liberal and conservative partisans are consigned to cultural hell by their refusal to recognize the glories of the opposing creed. 

Maybe its only those who lived through the tumult of the 1960s (the kind of folks currently running the show) who feel called to subsist on an impoverished and unbalanced moral diet.  If so, the kids can’t take over soon enough!

Merritt’s book will be available May 6.  In the meantime, I commend Bob Allen’s review.