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commit c1fe26b0637cceaf59c0c722ba932f359abfc3c5
parent 9bed923fe0337b652a21276b88ba4f2909e12a8b
Author: Daniel Moch <daniel@danielmoch.com>
Date:   Mon,  6 Dec 2021 14:18:24 -0500

Add post:the-culture-war-is-a-holy-war

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diff --git a/src/posts/2021/12/the-culture-war-is-a-holy-war.md b/src/posts/2021/12/the-culture-war-is-a-holy-war.md @@ -0,0 +1,91 @@ +title: The Culture War Is A Holy War +author: Daniel Moch +copyright: 2021, Daniel Moch +date: 2021-12-05 20:16:00 UTC-05:00 +description: America in 2021 + +The title, I'm sure, will offend people in at least two different +groups. The first will see it as an attempt to inflame an already +simmering conflict within American culture. The second will see it +as an attempt to make a very real and necessary conflict seem +unsavory. To the first group, let me assure you that I have no such +desire. I already think our public discourse in America has come +off the rails, and the last thing I would want is to further toxify +the conversation by raising passions further. + +My response to the second group is a bit more complicated. The fact +is that I do not know what might come of my attempt to reframe our +present moment. Perhaps the ideal outcome would be that we would +continue to see conversations about race, equality, justice, and +the rest as critically important, while also admitting the need to +adjust how we engage in them. But I'm getting ahead of myself. If +I'm going to convince anyone of that, I first need to demonstrate +that it's true. So let me try to do that by way of two analogies. + +The first analogy is that of marriage. I am not a marriage counselor, +but I know several, and the message I get from them pretty consistently +is that poor communication is behind many if not most of the problems +married couples experience. That poor communication can take many +forms, from hurt feelings to shouting matches, and from off-limits +topics to stalemate arguments that become a test of wills. What's +needed in these situations is for each partner to accept that the +other wants to make the marriage work, and to parlay that small +step toward one other into a healthier environment where honest, +patient, even vulnerable conversation can take place. + +## Politics As Religion + +The second analogy concerns the title of this post. I think it is +equally valid to view the current cultural-political climate in +America as a kind of holy war. We usually see holy wars as fought +over religious belief, and of course they are ... _usually_. But +what is religion if not a set of beliefs about ultimate reality[^tk]? +And what can we say about a country that seems at times on the brink +of civil war if not that perceive their sense of ultimate reality +as under threat? + +That last paragraph is a bit abstract, so let me try to bring this +idea of ultimate reality down to earth. It is a truism that +human beings all try to seek The Good, however we each define it. +To the extent that's true, The Good is just another phrase for +ultimate reality. If The Good for you is your own wealth and +happiness, that's your ultimate reality; you're a hedonist. If your +notion of The Good is a more traditionally religious ideal like +the glory of the God of the Bible, then you're a Christian. + +I submit that what we're seeing in American culture is the replacement +of traditionally religious notions of the good (which are more or +less gone from the public sphere) with political ones. That can be +tricky to see in part because one side of the political spectrum +regularly clothes itself in religious language. But it's easy to +see past that once you realize that the religious language is used +in service of political ends. "God bless America, and vote for me." +And if it's true that political notions of the good reign today over +religious ones, then it's just as accurate to say that politics has +become a replacement for religion. Call it the Church of American +Folk Religion. + +It's important to note that, even though the political right is +more prone to clothe itself in religious language, the left is no +less susceptible to this. If the left has been marked by anything +in the past few years, it's an identity politics that defines "the +good" as each individual's right to be recognized for however they +choose to define themselves. My only point here is that&mdash;good +or bad&mdash;this is something that seems to have reached the +status of a religious ideal. + +## How To Avoid A Holy War + +We all seek our notion of The Good. But when we define The Good in +political terms, we risk political disagreement becoming a holy +war. The American Founding Fathers were able to put aside religious +disagreement (at a time when such disagreements would often devolve +into violence), to create a country where the political process +replaced raw power with discourse&mdash;conversation, persuasion, +and, yes, impassioned debate. That discourse intended to be carried +out with the belief that the good they sought wasn't identical with +The Good (these were for the most part religious men, after all). + +Can we emulate their example today? + +[^tk]: I'm paraphrasing Timothy Keller, a Christian pastor in New York City who has written extensively on modern forms of worship.