What Does A Changing Culture Mean For Christian Conservatives?

REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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If you’ve seen the movie Fletch, you remember the scene where Chevy Chase’s character takes on an assumed identity in order to pump a doctor for confidential information about another patient.

The conversation goes something like this:

Dr.: You know, it’s a shame about Ed.
Fletch: Oh, it was. Yeah, it was really a shame. To go so suddenly like that.
Dr.: He was dying for years.
Fletch: Sure, but… the end was very… very sudden.
Dr.: He was in intensive care for eight weeks.
Fletch: Yeah, but I mean the very end, when he actually died. That was extremely sudden.

That’s kind of what the culture wars have felt like these last few years. Gay marriage has been coming for years, but the very end was extremely sudden. And, as this Washington Post piece illustrates, a lot of conservative Christians are freaked out right now.

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Rod Dreher has been front and center in pushing what he calls the “Benedict Option.” If you’re wondering what this means, Dreher describes it thusly: “Let’s stay involved in the outside world, but let’s also do a strategic retreat. That’s not, ‘head for the hills.’ That’s doing things like turning off the television. Back away from the culture.”

That makes sense, but what do you do if your job requires you to talk about culture and politics in a public forum? Will there come a time when simply being a Christian and/or a conservative disqualifies you from being taken seriously? Will there be a time when, say, supporting traditional marriage or even expressing the mildest skepticism about transgenderism will make you akin to a bigot?

I’ve noticed an uptick in the following phenomenon: I go on a TV debate show, and the people I’m talking to fail to grasp my points. I don’t mean they disagree with me — I mean they don’t comprehend what I’m saying.

This, I suspect, is not just because I’m a less than perfect communicator. It’s also because I’m talking to people who have completely different worldviews. From the time of Constantine, until fairly recently, western civilization has been nominally Christian. And a lot of secular conservative ideas are fundamentally based on this foundation (for example, the concept of original sin). But today, Christianity is, by definition, countercultural.

It’s been coming for years, but the the very end was extremely sudden. There are now calls to end tax exemptions for religious institutions. I don’t want to overplay this. It might actually be liberating for pastors to quit worrying about losing their tax status. But this is merely the next stage in what seems to be a trend.

There may be some salutary benefits to losing a culture war. If nothing else, you get clarity. This is kind of what Christians sign up for. In the New Testament, Jesus declares: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” That line probably didn’t make much sense in America, circa 1940; it makes a lot more sense now. Christians today are “peculiar people” — or, with apologies to Heinlein, strangers in a strange land — and I suspect this is going to be the new normal. It’s probably better to accept this now.

We’re not yet to the point of persecution — unless you count possibly going to jail for refusing to bake a cake persecution. But — at the rate of speed we’re going — I suspect I may be fed to the lions by like Thursday. If that happens, expect blogging to be infrequent.