What Is The Culture War In America?
Respect is a virtue that is becoming less commonplace in the US. How so? Democrats and Republicans no longer just respectfully disagree on key issues, they despise each other. When discussing issues such as welfare, marriage, and abortion, people do not simply attack their fellow countrymen’s bad ideas–they attack their character. To Democrats, the Republicans are religious nuts who hate women and homosexuals. They believe that conservatives must give up their obsession of controlling women’s bodies and imposing their outdated morals on other people. The country’s only hope is for these old white men to finally die out so the rest of society can progress. For Republicans, the Democrats are baby killers who want to ban Bibles and imprison Christians who dare to live by their conscience. Republicans believe if the Democrats are not stopped, this nation will simply turn into another secularist, socialist European country that will teach children to hate religion and give into hedonism.
The polarization of the two parties is not caused by their competing political philosophies of big government versus limited government, but by their opposing views on morality. Democrats and Republicans now debate morals, not ideas. Everything is framed in moral terms. A voter is either supporting good or evil. There is no in-between.
American politics was not always so polarized. In the past, Republicans and Democrats were both fairly moderate in their political principles. Take Republican President Richard Nixon for example. Not only did he lack strong views on abortion, Nixon established through executive orders several big government programs such as the Environmental Protection Agency. Democrat President John F. Kennedy? Just like the Republicans, he credited God’s grace as the source of the US’s prosperity and advocated for lower taxes on the rich. What about the Civil Rights Movement? The social progress made during that time was not a partisan issue. During the 1960s, both the Republicans and Democrats worked together to protect African-American rights. A Republican controlled Congress passed the Civil Rights Acts while Democrat President Lyndon Johnson signed the legislation into law. Racial equality was a bipartisan issue. All this to say, American politicians and regular citizens were pragmatic in their political views–not ideological. The parties did not accuse each other of being fundamentally immoral.
How Did It Come To Be?
Politics changed when the forces of liberalism began to roll away some of the nation’s traditional values and political structures. Since its founding as an independent state, the US has held to a Judeo-Christian Worldview–the perspective that the Bible provides the basis for justice and a moral society. They saw the good book dictate what laws and societal norms were just and proper. However, by the late 1950s, the media, academia, and Hollywood had started using their influence to shift public opinion towards the values of liberalism–a worldview that demands separation of church and state, and social justice. By the end of the 1970s, liberalism gave America sex revolutions, feminism, gay rights movements, and the Civil Rights movements. While Liberals view this time as social progression, evangelical and fundamental Christians saw the period as an era in decline. This divide in demographics began shaping the moral framework of the two political parties: one that values secularization and moral relativism, and the other that sought to defend the nation’s Judeo-Christian heritage.
In 1980, the Republican and Democrat platforms showed that the parties no longer championed political ideas, but moral values as well. Along with tax cuts, the Republican Party promised they would protect family, abolish abortion, and reinstate religion back into the public school system. On the other hand, Democrats promised to defend women’s reproductive rights, fight for gay rights, and continue providing children with proper sex education as the party pursued a larger welfare state.
The Republicans would win the 1980 election because the majority of Americans still held to Judeo-Christian values, not the liberal principles of secularism and social justice. And they believed that liberalism was out of control. The Democratic Party’s platform of promoting feminist and gay rights clashed with the society’s traditional views on family values and gender roles. They were also concerned that legislation dictating morality was no longer being decided by the people, but by activist judges who were unilaterally changing the meaning of the Constitution.
The Republicans in the 1980s have pastors to thank for convincing the public that the Republican party was morally superior. Pastors across America framed the election in terms of good versus evil. The televangelist Pat Robertson stated that feminism,“… encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.” In their mind, every Christian should be opposed to the liberalism that enables such obscene evil into society. In one of his radio broadcasts, the late Jerry Falwell, another famous televangelist stated, “there is a war between fundamentalists and liberals…between those who love Jesus and those who hate him.” Evangelical leaders made the choices very clear, there was team Jesus and then there was team Satan. Every Christ follower had a duty to vote Republican and be dogmatically opposed the Democrat Party to the values of liberalism. There is no in-between. You are either with Jesus, or you are against him. Thanks to the rhetoric of Evangelical leaders like Robertson and Falwell, value voters enabled Conservatives to dominate politics all the way up the Obama years.
While Republicans have been winning elections, the Evangelicals have been losing the culture war. Gays serving in the military? Legal. Sodomy Laws? Repealed. Pornography? Legal. Gay Marriage? Legal. Abortion? Still legal. Creation science in schools? Banned. Sexual gratification? Totally normalized. Public school prayer? Still banned. Scripture reading in public schools? Sex education? More informative than ever. Win after win after win, liberals have won the cultural battles that form this nation for what it is today. Spouting out religious rhetoric and merely slowing down liberal ideals is all the Republican Party has done for Evangelicals. The GOP have simply used their Evangelical base to pass tax cuts for the rich and stay in power. The Evangelicals have lost their Christian Nation. The culture war is now a losing battle for the Evangelicals.
The Democrat Party is now winning the moral argument. Democrat leaders such as Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders have successfully portrayed the Republicans as a force of religious bigots who apply 2000-year-old morals to modern times. The Christian Right should know by now that it is wrong to impose religion on others. If Evangelicals cannot change their homophobic and transphobic behavior, then Congress needs to pass hate speech and anti-discrimination laws so to protect the LGBT community from religious nuts. Religion with such outdated morals have no place in modern society.
How Will It End?
One of three things need to happen before the culture wars in America will end.
1.) There is a miraculous rebirth of organized religion in America,
2.) Evangelicals change their religious beliefs, or
3.) The Evangelical community dies out.
Of these options, the latter is what will most likely happen in America. Since the 1980s the number of people who do not affiliate with organized religion has increased by 15%. Though Evangelicals are not decreasing as rapidly as other mainstream religious demographics in America, they too are dying out. But once they do die out, there will no longer be a demographic that believes that the Bible is the Word of God in the United States. The Bible will no longer influence the social norms and values of America.
American polarization is going to get a lot worse before it gets better. As the Democratic Party continues to lead the non-religious sections of the country farther left, the Republicans will become more and more of a reactionary party. The more the Republican Party rejects the ever-growing liberal values of liberals, the more resentful the Democratic Party will be. As long as the Evangelicals make up around 25% of the Republicans’ electorate base, there will never be a consensus on LGBT rights, feminism, or religious freedom. There will always be two parties with two diametrically opposed views on morality. The culture war will not end.
Author: Zane Merkle
Zane Merkle currently studies Political Science and has worked as a Research assistant at a Fundamental Christian University called Cedarville. He identifies as an evangelical conservative and plans on commissioning as a marine officer in the United States military after graduating in 2019.