Author: Daniel Moch <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Mon, 6 Dec 2021 14:18:24 -0500
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+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
+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—good
+or bad—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—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.