by: S.R. Shearer
Most Americans are used to thinking that almost any issue can be worked
out if people will only sit down and talk. Unfortunately, that is not
always the case, and that may be particularly true with regard to the
Culture War now being played out in America. Even a liberal like Ronald
Dworkin believes that with regard to issues like abortion and homosexuality,
there may be no middle ground - and Americans are only kidding themselves
in thinking that there is one.
Alan Wolfe, professor of sociology and political science at Boston University
concurs, he writes, "... abortion (and homosexuality) are matters
of high politics, involving fundamental questions about
the definition of public and private, liberty and authority, and the
meaning and purpose of life ... At this principled elevation, abortion
(and homosexuality) present a tragic conflict, like the Civil War (and
the question of slavery). Each side to the debate understands itself,
and is understood by its antagonists, as standing for a worldview
that cannot be compromised." Under these circumstances,
our national discussions on questions of morality, religion and culture
have become a "language game that has the form of meaningful communication,
but is in fact merely another form of aggression" against those
with whom we disagree. Wolfe explains: "The problem begins
with intellectuals, who routinely violate fundamental democratic principles
in the way they balance the competing interests at stake. Both a liberal
such as Laurence Tribe of the Harvard Law School and a conservative
such as R.C. Sproul, an evangelical theologian, are incapable of recognizing
the legitimacy of their opponents position ... Tribe is explicitly
anti-democratic. To him, the whole purpose of a constitution and a Supreme
Court is to act as a check on popular positions. Sproul, by contrast,
sees government as having no other purpose than to embody Gods
will - not exactly a formula for pluralism or religious liberty."
James Davison Hunter, one of the few American writers who is trying
to understand the Culture Wars rather than fight them, agrees with both
Dworkin and Wolfe; he believes that new fault lines are emerging
in U.S. society which inevitably will set citizen against citizen
over questions of identity, sexuality, and private behavior - questions
which do not lend themselves easily to discussion and compromise. In
this regard, Hunter believes that a fundamental change has occurred
within the larger conservative religious community in America; they
are no longer the fractured community they once were - a fact which
had enabled liberals to run roughshod over them for so many years; they
have united. Protestants have joined forces with other Protestants,
and Protestants with Catholics in an effort to confront the forces of
"secularism," "globalism," and "modernism"
which they believe threaten to inundate and render irrelevant their
larger Christian community. Under such circumstances, their own "inter-family
differences" have been set aside in order to confront what is perceived
to be a larger threat: the destruction of their community by forces
which they see as inimical to their continued existence as a meaningful
and viable community.
Hunter apparently agrees with Dr. Samuel Huntington, Eaton
Professor of the Science of Government and Director of the John
M. Olin Institute for Strategic Studies at Harvard University.
Huntington says that "... world politics are entering a
new phase ... (in which) the great divisions among humankind
and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural ... The
clash of civilizations will dominate global politics ..."
The clash, however, has not limited itself merely to a clash between
different civilizations, but it is also a struggle to "purify"
or "cleanse" each respective civilization of "foreign
elements" and the emasculating effect of secularism and the
new multi-culturalism and globalism - and this is true not only with
regard to Western Civilization, but other civilizations, for example,
the Slavic, the Islamic, the Confucian, the Hindu, etc.
In all of these civilization increasing numbers of scholars see
a new movement away from the globalism and secularism of the last forty
years; they believe that this is what the new "fundamentalism"
in all the major civilizations is all about. It is this precise
struggle that Dworkin, Wolfe and Hunter are attempting to describe when
they talk about such questions as abortion and homosexuality. Both these
questions involve the clash of different world views, specifically,
Christianity and globalism or the new multi-culturalism. It is in this
new and ominous context that these scholars believe the questions of
abortion, homosexuality, family, single motherhood, feminism, etc. must
be viewed. Seen from this perspective, there can be no middle ground.
Each side is pushing for total victory.
- Please see "The Coming Face of the Culture War" in The
Wilson Quarterly, Spring 1994, pg. 74
- Ibid., pg. 74; also see Before the Shooting Begins: Searching
for Democracy in Americas Culture War by James Davison Hunter,
Free Press, 320 pgs.
- Wolfe on Hunter in "The Coming Face of the Culture War,"
The Wilson Quarterly, Spring 1994, pg. 74.
- Ibid.., pg. 74.
- Samuel p. Huntington, "The Clash of Civilizations," Foreign
Affairs, Summer, 1993, pg. 22-25.
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