Clean thine own mess
The Supreme Court’s gay marriage decision landed like some sort of culminating body blow onto this beleaguered climate. Rod Dreher, author of the truly outstanding book “How Dante Can Save Your Life,” wrote an essay in Time in which he argued that it was time for Christians to strategically retreat into their own communities, where they could keep “the light of faith burning through the surrounding cultural darkness.”
He continued: “We have to accept that we really are living in a culturally post-Christian nation. The fundamental norms Christians have long been able to depend on no longer exist.”
Most Christian commentary has opted for another strategy: fight on. Several contributors to a symposium in the journal First Things about the court’s Obergefell decision last week called the ruling the Roe v. Wade of marriage. It must be resisted and resisted again. Robert P. George, probably the most brilliant social conservative theorist in the country, argued that just as Lincoln persistently rejected the Dred Scott decision, so “we must reject and resist an egregious act of judicial usurpation.”
…Consider a different culture war, one just as central to your faith and far more powerful in its persuasive witness.
We live in a society plagued by formlessness and radical flux, in which bonds, social structures and commitments are strained and frayed. Millions of kids live in stressed and fluid living arrangements. Many communities have suffered a loss of social capital. Many young people grow up in a sexual and social environment rendered barbaric because there are no common norms. Many adults hunger for meaning and goodness, but lack a spiritual vocabulary to think things through.
Social conservatives could be the people who help reweave the sinews of society. They already subscribe to a faith built on selfless love. They can serve as examples of commitment. They are equipped with a vocabulary to distinguish right from wrong, what dignifies and what demeans. They already, but in private, tithe to the poor and nurture the lonely.
The defining face of social conservatism could be this: Those are the people who go into underprivileged areas and form organizations to help nurture stable families. Those are the people who build community institutions in places where they are sparse. Those are the people who can help us think about how economic joblessness and spiritual poverty reinforce each other. Those are the people who converse with us about the transcendent in everyday life.
It’s the same old tune. They tell us now the culture war is over. Give up the fight, and move on to champion social causes to give Christianity a good name, as if a good name depends on them. They dismissed our warnings after Roe v. Wade and the consequences of legalized abortion. They dismissed our advice about no-fault divorce and the breakdown of the family. Now we tell them of the repercussions of legalized homogamy, but have they ever listened?
No. They refuse our beliefs, but want us to “reweave the sinews of society”. They want our selfless acts to fix what they break, but they won’t heed our spiritual advice when the dangers they face result in social disaster. They tell us to “help nurture stable families” devoid of spiritual foundation. They want us to “build community institutions”, but don’t want our community. They even suggest a fixable connection between “economic joblessness and spiritual poverty” when they have no clue they live in the poverty of spirit while economically secure.
Yes, Jesus tells us to care for the poor and needy. Yes, Jesus tells us to tend to the widows and orphans. His Word also tells us to remain unstained or uncorrupted by the world. Yes, God is love, and Christians are people of His love, but we’ve also repented of our sinfulness and stupidity. We don’t need any of the Left’s worthless advice. Christians are smart enough to care for the so called disadvantaged and lonely without any advice from them, and we’ll continue to do it, but it is inseparable from the message of the Gospel. Take it or leave it.