Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Liberty and the so-called “culture war”

Excerpt from an article by W Robert Godfrey:

There need be no “culture war.” Secular and religious forces have labored together since John Witherspoon and Thomas Jefferson collaborated in the founding of our Republic. The honest difference between a secular and a religious point of view need not be either a contest or a “war.” Unlike the theocracies of Islam or the Christian Middle Ages, and unlike the state-enforced secularism of contemporary republics such as France (where Muslims are not permitted to wear the hijab to school), our Republic chose a middle ground. In our Republic, religion is permitted and protected by the government (unlike secularist France), but not promoted by the government (unlike Islam or medieval Catholicism).

What’s in a word?

In warfare, things that would be intolerable in civil society are tolerated, such as killing other human beings, an act that would ordinarily be deemed somewhat uncivil. The language of “war,” therefore, tends towards total war and a lack of restraint. If a person becomes persuaded, whether by a secular or a religious fear-mongerer, that “our very civilization is at stake,” then all ordinary restraints and civilities are easily put aside for the sake of the great cause of winning the war and preserving the civilization. Ironically, civility is then sacrificed to civilization.

Why we cannot (and should not) win a culture war

Christians cannot win a culture war for two reasons: First, if we gained a majority and imposed our will on others by means of the coercive power of the sword, we would not have won; we would have lost. We would have lost the remote possibility that others would offer obedience to God sincerely from the heart. If an individual behaves externally according to certain Christian principles only to evade going to jail or being fined, he has not been “converted.” He is still lost, still estranged from God, and the culture has been lost with him.

Second, by embracing coercion as our tool of influence, we reject the two tools by which progress might genuinely be made: moral suasion and example (“that they may see your good works…”). That is, we only resort to coercion when we have already failed by moral suasion and example. When we embrace coercion, we embrace the very tool the apostles refused to employ (The weapons of our warfare are not fleshly, 2 Cor. 10:4). We thereby concede not that we might lose the so-called culture war, but that we already have lost it. Far from converting others, they have converted us; they have converted us to using their totalitarianism, their coercion, and their disregard for conscientious faith or obedience.