Skip to comments.A different path - 30 years of trying to transform culture into the conservative image has failed.
Posted on 11/06/2008 7:07:34 AM PST by XR7
When Barack Obama takes the oath of office on Jan. 20, 2009, he will do so in the 30th anniversary year of the founding of the so-called Religious Right. Born in 1979 and midwifed by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, the Religious Right was a reincarnation of previous religious-social movements that sought moral improvement through legislation and court rulings. Those earlier movementsfrom abolition (successful) to Prohibition (unsuccessful)had mixed results.
Social movements that relied mainly on political power to enforce a conservative moral code weren't anywhere near as successful as those that focused on changing hearts. The four religious revivals, from the First Great Awakening in the 1730s and 1740s to the Fourth Great Awakening in the late 1960s and early '70s, which touched America and instantly transformed millions of Americans (and American culture as a result), are testimony to that.
Thirty years of trying to use government to stop abortion, preserve opposite-sex marriage, improve television and movie content, and transform culture into the conservative evangelical image has failed. The question now becomes: Should conservative Christians redouble their efforts, contributing more millions to radio and TV preachers and activists, or would they be wise to try something else?
I opt for trying something else.
Too many conservative evangelicals have put too much faith in the power of government to transform culture. The futility inherent in such misplaced faith can be demonstrated by asking these activists a simple question: Does the secular left, when it holds power, persuade conservatives to live by their standards? Of course they do not. Why, then, would conservative evangelicals expect people who do not share their worldview and view of God to accept their beliefs when they control government?
Too many conservative evangelicals mistake political power for influence. Politicians who struggle with imposing a moral code on themselves are unlikely to succeed in their attempts to impose it on others. What is the answer, then, for conservative evangelicals who are rightly concerned about the corrosion of culture, the indifference to the value of human life, and the living arrangements of same- and opposite-sex couples?
The answer depends on the response to another question: Do conservative evangelicals want to feel good, or do they want to adopt a strategy that actually produces results? Clearly partisan politics have not achieved their objectives. Do they think they can succeed by committing themselves to 30 more years of the same?
If results are what conservative evangelicals want, they already have a model. It is contained in the life and commands of Jesus of Nazareth. Suppose millions of conservative evangelicals engaged in an old and proven type of radical behavior. Suppose they followed the admonition of Jesus to "love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit those in prison and care for widows and orphans," not as ends, as so many liberals do by using government, but as a means of demonstrating God's love for the whole person in order that people might seek Him?
Such a strategy could be more "transformational" than electing a new president, even the first president of color. But in order to succeed, such a strategy would not be led by charismatic figures, who would raise lots of money, be interviewed on Sunday talk shows, author books, and make gobs of money.
God teaches in His Word that His power (if that is what conservative evangelicals want and not their puny attempts at grabbing earthly power) is made perfect in weakness. He speaks of the tiny mustard seed, the seemingly worthless widow's mite, of taking the last place at the table and the humbling of one's self, the washing of feet, and similar acts and attitudes; the still, small voice. How did conservative evangelicals miss this and instead settle for a lesser power, which in reality is no power at all? When did they settle for an inferior "kingdom"?
Evangelicals are at a junction. They can take the path that will lead them to more futility and ineffective attempts to reform culture through government, or they can embrace the far more powerful methods outlined by the One they claim to follow. By following His example, they will decrease, but He will increase. They will get no credit, but they will see results. If conservative evangelicals choose obscurity and seek to glorify God, they will get much of what they hope for, but can never achieve, in and through politics.
And, when the majority of parents, conservatives included, voluntarily send their children to government schools where they have been inculcated with leftist ideology for generations?
Anyone ever heard of the classic definition of insanity?
Hear, hear, XR7. Time for a new crusade, the separation of school and state.
That is the core of the issue - government sponsored indoctrination camps. Private school and home school are the way to go. That and infiltrate the NEA and public schools to pursue our own agenda. That is how they were taken over by the Dims to begin with - now turn about is fair play.
I'm close to dropping politics and just concentrating on my religion.
Thanks for posting this thoughtful article. I enjoy Cal Thomas.
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I agree entirely. The government schools teach children how to use, oppose and re-stock the government. There is no interest in teaching children to be free men and women.
In playing defense, Pat Robertson’s Landmark Legal Foundation was brilliant in stopping nationwide liberal efforts to undermine society at the local level. Whenever they would attack some public school for any display of religion, for example, the LLF was instantly there to show the judge that what was being done was legal and to defend it.
However, conservatives started much later in the offense against liberals, and have never pursued them as viciously as liberals were willing to fight against conservatives. Conservatives have not stormed the battlements of liberal academia, nor Hollywood, nor the MSM.
Thomas has made the same you are making in prior columns. To bad he didn’t mention it here.
re: “Does the secular left, when it holds power, persuade conservatives to live by their standards? Of course they do not. “
What an absurd statement. Does Thomas think for one moment that general cultural rot hasn’t infected all of America, left and right? Where does he think this disintegration is coming from? It’s coming from the secular left, which has moved beyond trying to persuade conservatives to live by their standards, and is now using the power of the courts and the media to all but force conservatives to live by their standards. The secular left hasn’t persuaded Americans to accept abortion and pornography; they use the sword of Caesar to force this barbarism on us.
Thomas is not wrong to insist that we, as Christians, need to do more to foillow Christ’s example to pray for our enemies. But he is hopelessly naive to think that societal change can quietly be accomplished from within, in an age of 24/7, wall-to-wall, every-waking-moment degradation.
As Christians, we are always strangers in a strange land, but I see nothing wrong with working toward making our laws reflective of a righteous society. Beneath the lofty, flowery rhetoric, what Thomas is advocating here is cultural surrender.
That would be great except that Obama and the Dims have an agenda to eliminate Home Schooling for most people. The liberals are already trying to do that in California by making any home school parent get a teaching degree first before they will accept a child’s academic completion. This way they can force children in to their indoctrination camps. Also, unfortunately most people cannot afford private schools for all of their children.
It’s not and cannot be either/or. I don’t think in fact conservatives have ever thought winning the war depended solely on attaining government power. I respect Cal Thomas a lot, but he’s wrong here.
Sure, we have to change the culture. But that’s darn hard to do when the government, via activist courts, extra-constitutionally stole the schools and the public square from us. So we’ve been fighting to get it back.
Sure, we can withdraw into compounds and home schooling and to some degree that’s a necessary stop-gap measure.
But we need to be stone-cold realistic. They, meaning the anti-life, anti-faith, anti-Christian government is our God side, will not leave us alone to home-school and raise our families as we choose. They cannot yet move en masse against home schoolers and the enclaves of freedom in the mountains and rural areas that up to now remain relatively free. They are only waiting until they consolidate power to crush these remaining pockets of freedom, including home schooling.
We have lost the courts forever. The Democrats frustrated Bush’s efforts to carry out that mandate, for which he was elected. Now they will reshape both SCOTUS and the other federal courts forever.
Constitutionally, our only recourse, slim as it may be, is through Congress reasserting, as they are constitutionally able to do, congressional control over what is subject to judicial review. I doubt that enough respect for the Constitution remains in the culture for that to succeed, but it has to be tried.
But in order for it to be tried, we have first of all to gain enough strength at lower levels—school boards, county boards, state legislatures, governorships, then US Congress.
It’s a long shot, but it’s all that’s left. To do this, conservatives have to stop sniping at each other. Jindal, Palin, Thompson, Romney all need to work together, not try to kneecap the other as a rival. Freepers need to stop sniping at fellow conservatives. It’s not about which conservative becomes the standard bearer in the next presidential election, it’s about learning to work together toward a common goal.
But Cal Thomas is wrong to think that we could somehow regroup and refocus our efforts outside government. The Government, as it is deified, will come after us. They will not leave us alone because as long as we still exist, we are a reminder that they are wrong. To put their consciences at ease, they must silence all those who disagree with them.
I usually really like Cal Thomas. However I see this as a "cultural surrender" too. I do agree with him that we cannot expect the government to " legislate" morality, however to bow to their godless rules is absolutely throwing in the sponge.
I generally ignore Cal Thomas as a Johnny One-Note (I’m not an evangelical Christian), but I have to say that this is pretty thought provoking.
The reason liberals can succeed in using government power to shape society (& conservatives cannot) is because all liberals have to do is “poke holes” in the social fabric. They are like guerrilla fighters while conservatives are engaging in a linear defense. Poke a hole in the line, and the line crumbles (or is made irrelevant).
Perhaps we need a real counter-insurgency type strategy & start opting-out of public run institutions? Good job, Cal. I’ll be reading your stuff with renewed interest.
But in that voting booth they mark the ballot for whoever promises them the most goodies.
And I bet there are some of these folks in your church, too.
Taking a look at the massive church edifices, homes, fleets of cars and planes, etc. belonging to all the prosperity preachers, it's easy to see that the resources to teach a lot of kids outside the government school system are there. If only we could convince churchgoers to direct their checks differently.
If Cal is really serious about doing something else they should look into a Christian alternative to Hollywood. Why should American culture always be trashy, tawdry, immoral, and dominated by bad taste and liberalism?
Also, Cal is forgetting the “human” laws that are being instituted by the liberal judges placed in courts by the Democrats to override God’s laws of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
These judges think they are above God’s laws and have convinced the majority of people that we have to obey man’s laws not God’s.
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