Christians and the escalating culture war
Matt Welch at Reason magazine has a good editorial in the latest issue. In it, he speaks of the increasing polarization of our country, and posits that its from an increase in legislation that infringes on our values, mentioning the recent fervor over pre-abortion ultrasounds and contraception.
The kerfuffles over mandatory ultrasounds and contraceptive mandates made brutally clear an axiom that partisans have a hard time understanding: Any power that government has to do something you like will invariably be used for something you abhor. Today’s decision interpreting the Commerce Clause to justify snatching home-grown medical marijuana from patients in California becomes the justification for tomorrow’s federal mandate to buy health insurance. Reduce the scope of government, and we reduce the culture war, while promoting true tolerance of divergent viewpoints.
This point is something that I think a lot of people forget when they look to the government as their solution for societies’ woes. The more that we lobby and pass bills that bend large swaths of the populace to our own values that not everyone shares, the more resentment that is going to build between people of divergent views. Because government ultimately functions on coercion, whenever we pass bills regulating human behavior someone is forced to do something they don’t want to.
I wonder what this ultimately means for Christians. We Christians have enjoyed a large amount of religious freedom in this country for the last two hundred years or so, but the tides are turning. Christianity is increasingly seen as the religion of bigoted, backward thinking and our views are scorned and scrutinized more and more. While Christianity certainly isn’t going away in this country any time soon, our influence seems to be waning. A friend recently posted on Facebook the phrase, “Lets be intolerant of intolerance”, in reference to a story about the Boy Scouts ousting a gay troupe leader. Apparently the irony of the statement didn’t hit him. The very idea of tolerance, which so many people talk about these days, means accepting people even though you may not agree with their views or ideas, or may even find them morally repugnant. Being “intolerant of intolerance” is simply forcing your own view on someone that doesn’t share it with you, all in the name of an idea that is the exact opposite.
This pendulum swings both ways. When Christians get into the public sphere and attempt to pass bills in the name of “traditional values”, we must remember that not every one shares those values. Ultimately, we are the ones forcing someone to bend to our will, despite our good intentions. And our reputation suffers for it.
However, I’m not advocating a dilution of our beliefs; but I am questioning how we go about them in regards to the people around us. What sets a better example: Forcing our values on people through legislation, or simply modeling our faith while tolerating behavior in others that we don’t agree with?
The battles in this culture war have only just begun. The question is: Are we prepared to handle the collateral damage?