BROADCAST TALKS presents ideas to cultivate Christ-like thinking and living. Each issue features a transcription of a talk presented at an event of The C. S. Lewis Institute. The following is adapted from a talk delivered on October 23, 2015, Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C., sponsored by the C.S. Lewis Institute.
Our topic, “Faithful Living in Challenging Times,” has been a concern from the very beginning of time. It is not a new concern. As Adam may have said to Eve on their way out of the Garden of Eden, “We live, I am sure, in a time of great transition.” But many respected theologians and social scientists have observed that we are living in a unique time of significant transition in our culture and our society. You may ask, how so? I would suggest the following.
The public square in Western society is no longer a place where people of orthodox Christian faith can feel they belong with any degree of comfort. We live in a culture where ordinary moral reflection and conversation about human sexuality and traditional marriage is often seen as a form of bigotry. In fact, in some places it is even seen as a “hate crime.” Any position other than the currently politically correct position on same-sex marriage is now met with surprise and disgust by almost everyone in our elite culture, as if one were defending racial segregation or slavery. Many of us who are defenders of historic Christian positions are seen by those in our elite cultures as curious strangers who are apparently speaking a foreign language from a distant land. I do not think it is melodramatic to say that our sincere beliefs and convictions as Christians are rapidly leading us into cultural exile and moving us to the margins of American life.
But is this really all that new, now? Have we not seen these rapid changes in our culture coming for several decades?
Twenty-four years ago, in 1991, an important book was published by James Davison Hunter, a sociologist at the University of Virginia, called Culture Wars. In it Hunter argued that we were in the midst of a cultural conflict between essentially two sectors in our society: those who hold to traditional Judeo-Christian moral values and those who adhere to a more liberal and progressive view of moral values and of religious faith. Hunter argued that our culture wars were the result of “political and social hostility rooted in different systems of moral understanding.” These involved “opposing bases of moral authority and the worldviews that derive from them.” Hunter suggested that these two groups were simply “worlds apart” in the way they saw not only moral issues but all of life. As people holding totally different worldviews, they engaged in these “moralities-in-conflict” as evidenced in what he described as a genuine culture war.
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