Upon reading Rod Dreher’s new book, The Benedict Option, I was immediately struck by his declaration that the Culture War is over and conservatives have lost.
I was not aware of the signing of any treaty. Someone also should have told the other side, since they are still firing at us with everything they have. From the trenches, it looks like there must have been a mix-up in communications from higher ups.
Despite his protests to the contrary, this is the message you get from the book. It makes no sense to man the political trenches anymore if as the author claims “the public square has been lost.” It’s time to head for the hills and form little bands of intentional communities like Benedictine monasteries to ride out the great flood. The levees are breached, Dreher says, and it is better to build arks than curse the waters.
Identifying the Losing Side
In this Culture War, it is very clear to me who we are. We are the conservatives who have manned the trenches for decades. We are traditional Catholics, Christians, homeschoolers, pro-lifers, pro-family crusaders, second amendment defenders, anti-communists and so many others who are part and parcel of the broad coalition of conservatives who have won many battles over the course of this fierce war. We are the old right, new right, religious right, fiscal conservatives, defense hawks, neocons, paleocons and even Dreher’s own crunchy cons. We have no problem identifying ourselves. Thus, it is very clear who we are.
If I am called upon to surrender, I would like to know to whom I can honorably give my sword. Surely there must be people in the opposing trenches who are coordinating the stacking of arms.
Looking for the Enemy
But as I look over the Dreher’s battlefield, I don’t see anyone there. The book claims, “We’ve lost on every front and that the swift and relentless currents of secularism have overwhelmed our flimsy barriers. Hostile secular nihilism has won the day in our nation’s government.” That sounds very dire on paper, but secularism, nihilism and so many other “isms” are very abstract and flimsy targets. For most Americans, the local nihilists don’t seem to be very vocal or organized. Most people don’t even know what a secularist is.
Clearly these “swift and relentless currents” are represented by those in the “cultural left.” If we must leave the field to them, then we need to ask specifically who they are if they have actually won.
If anyone represents these leftist currents politically, it would be the Democrats. They certainly support all the cultural causes we oppose. However, they have also just suffered the greatest drubbing in national and state elections since 1928. Their local operational networks are decimated. They are disoriented and no longer have a coherent vision. The Democrats are certainly in no position to be collecting our battle flags.
Perhaps the promoters of the sexual revolution are the victors. Must we admit defeat to Planned Parenthood and its allies? Bloomberg reports that a record 162 abortion mills have been closed in the last five years. In addition, states have enacted hundreds of anti-abortion laws. The pro-life movement has enthusiasm and is full of young people. You can’t miss seeing them at the ever-growing number of Marches for Life in cities across America. On the other hand, the pro-abortion movement has lost much of its fire. Its most militant members are leftover liberal politicians and aging feminists from the sixties. For the first time in decades, the majority of Americans call themselves pro-life. Does it make any sense to call off the attack when the other side is clearly on the defense?
And so we might go down the list of battlefronts in the Culture War. Homeschoolers have challenged the education establishment. Angry parents have beaten back Common Core. Conservative talk radio dominates the airwaves. Traditional religious orders are bursting with youthful vocations. New and profound ideas come mostly from the right and increasingly less from the left. On every front, growing numbers of conservative cultural warriors are in the thick of battle.
The truth is that neither side has decisively won. But if the Culture War’s outcome still hangs in the balance, who gains by trying to convince conservatives they have lost the war?
A Moral Waterloo
Dreher singles out the LGBT movement. He claims that the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision imposing same-sex “marriage” on the country was a moral Waterloo that sealed conservatives’ defeat. The whole liberal, business and political establishment has closed ranks behind the LGBT movement. Young people and the public in general, “either actively or passively, approve.”
There is some truth to this, and it is an area of grave concern. But for those engaged in the Culture War, no one is surprised that the liberal, business and political establishment has caved in. They have always cave in. Culture warriors have always fought against the conventional wisdom of the establishment (even our own). We have always been told that the youth are not with us (they are actually less liberal than their parents or grandparents), although many are. With the help of God’s grace, we have faced similar crises in the past. There is no reason to believe that this revolutionary movement cannot now be opposed.
A Devastated Battlefield
If you look over the cultural battlefield of our day, you will see immense devastation on all sides. However, we cannot equate devastation with defeat. Both sides are engulfed in the fog of war. It would be good if we could take some time off, as Dreher suggests, to put ourselves in order so as to fight better in the future.
However, this is a messy and unrelenting war that does not allow such luxuries. Conditions are far from ideal. Our side has its share of problems and contradictions. However, if you look at our enemies, they are in much worse shape for God’s grace does not assist them and they are the victims of their disorderly passions.
That is why we must continue to fight. We can win if we stay on the field. Until someone can tell me exactly who has won the Culture War, I will continue to charge ahead. They are shooting at me. I will be firing back.
As seen on The Stream