This Wasn’t a War We Started

In 560 BCE, Croesus of Lydia consulted the oracles of Delphi and Thebes, asking if he should attack Persia. Both returned the same prophesy: if he attacked Persia, he would destroy a mighty empire. Confident in his victory, Croesus marshaled his forces and, for a while, it seemed he would prevail. But the tide turned and the Greeks, so enamored of irony, shook their heads as they realized that the mighty empire Croesus would destroy was his own. King Cyrus of the Persians was victorious in the war he had not begun.

Ed Stetzer, pollster for the Southern Baptist Convention, had this to say about the resounding defeat of everything he believed in on Tuesday, “We must face the reality that we may be on the losing side of the culture war.” I take heart in these sorts of statements. Stetzer seems to be incredibly realistic about this, despite, as Fred Clark points out, still being woefully ignorant of the reality regarding, “evolution, biology, geology, astronomy, etc.” which, for his faith, is “mandatory.” Yet, he is willing at least to make this concession

The truth is that I enjoy Fox News. … However, if you love Fox News more than you love facts, it undermines your credibility, and I think that is evident in the discussion all over the media today. I’m saddened that many Christians are being included in the groups that “create their own facts.”

Stetzer is not the only one. Rod Dreher at the American Conservative agrees.

But I think it is true that going forward, it will be very hard for a presidential candidate to win nationally if he or she is heavily identified as a social conservative. We social conservatives are going to have to figure out how to deal with that.

David Sessions at Patrol Magazine has a few more with links if you want to see, but the feeling seems to be pretty much the same: the right is losing the culture war. Even Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Seminary and grade-A bigot tweeted, “There is no evidence in voting patterns that President Obama’s evolution’ on same-sex marriage cost him anything. Another revealing truth.”

Now we move on to people like Tony Perkins who is sure that if the SCOTUS legalizes gay marriage that it will lead to open, violent revolution. (h/t Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters)

I find it revealing that Perkins is sure it’s his own side that will fire the first shot, and I find it sad that he doesn’t realize that that demonstrates something fundamentally rotten about his side.

The rhetoric of war is one that we’ve become accustomed to, and in many ways it is a war, but I want to point out that it’s not a war that was started by progressives. I was 9 years old when Pat Buchanan spoke at the 1992 Republican National Convention and said, “There is a religious war going on in our country for the soul of America. It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we will one day be as was the Cold War itself.” It dredged up an old phrase and gave it new life to define the direction of conservatism for the previous decade and so far for two decades after. I don’t remember watching it, but my parents did and say I was in the room somewhere, probably playing with toys.

And now it’s starting to dawn on the aggressors that they are losing, and losing badly. Not only losing, but their religious institutions are starting to crumble as “Christianity”, for better or worse and regardless of whether your church is different or not, is getting associated with bigotry, intolerance, hypocrisy, and backward thinking. More and more Americans are turning away from religion because they can’t see that it reflects their values. That is the result of the culture war, where the loudest and most intolerant took point and splashed everyone behind them in filth.

Again, I go to Clark to point out that the reason is that they are no longer considered to be “good” by default. Far too many religions, from the Catholic church to the 9/11 attackers, have ruined the default assumption that belief in god automatically makes you good, and now that they’re being questioned about the reasons for their moral stances, they find they have no leg to stand on. Being unused to trying to justify their positions to people who don’t automatically believe what they’re saying, they are unable to do anything other than react, to fight, to claim persecution, to make war.

We are realizing as a nation that our morality is independent of our faith, and that’s how it should be. Citing the authority of a book or an invisible person does nothing to advance our understanding of ourselves and our behavior, nor is it a solid foundation on which to build a society that encourages reflection and imagination, understands the primacy of reality, and is willing to recognize the fundamental and diverse humanity of those around us to increase happiness as much as possible. Instead, we have to be willing to accept that in a pluralistic world, we will disagree, but must predicate our disagreements on facts, not myths, especially ones that were designed to separate and alienate.

We did not start this war. But we will finish it. At any time you’re welcome to come over here, but your baggage stays back there.


2 thoughts on “This Wasn’t a War We Started

  1. Nice piece. Let’s hope this election is the beginning of peace and reconcilliation. One small correction. I think your date should be 560 BCE.

    • Yikes! You’re right. Correction made, and thank you.

      As to the rest of your comment, I sincerely hope so, but I doubt it. There will be people whose vast wealth depends on culture wars issues that will never give up, and the rumblings are already to make excuses rather than face the giant cultural changes that have happened that contributed to these losses. Perhaps after some time has gone by, cooler heads will prevail and we’ll see the political landscape less resemble a sharp, steep drop.

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