Eight years of Ronald Reagan didn’t do it. Massive congressional election victories in 2010 and 2014 didn’t do it. Despite conservative successes at the polls at various times, we see the nation continue to slip away from its Christian and constitutional moorings. Why is that?
David French wrote an insightful essay the other day that points to the problem. He calls on conservatives—and Christian conservatives, in particular—to recognize what has transpired. He begins by saying, “We’ll often seek every reason and justification for . . . failure short of our own flaws before we face the truth.”
What truth? We have been living with the illusion that there is this vast conservative army out there ready to turn things around and we have focused on politics as the means for doing so.
That army, he says, does not exist in the strength we had hoped it does, and our focus on politics has blinded us to where the real battle lies.
Real conservatives, French believes, have proven to be “a minority within what looks increasingly like a minority party, at least at the national level.”
Yes, Republicans control Congress. Yes, Republican governors and state legislatures outnumber Democrats. If this is so, why has so little changed? Why are we further from our founding principles than ever?
French pinpoints the problem:
In hindsight, the reason for their error isn’t hard to discern. Indeed, it’s a reason that conservatives have been identifying for years. Conservatives have been competent at winning elections, but they’ve been terrible at influencing the culture. Thus, they’re good at holding down the right side of a leftward-shifting political spectrum, but they can’t arrest the broader cultural shift to the left.
In spite of many electoral successes, the nation keeps marching Left. He then quotes an essay by Paul Weyrich, one of the founders of the conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation, written back in 1999, which warned of the problem. Weyrich noted,
It is impossible to ignore the fact that the United States is becoming an ideological state. The ideology of Political Correctness, which openly calls for the destruction of our traditional culture, has so gripped the body politic, has so gripped our institutions, that it is even affecting the Church. It has completely taken over the academic community. It is now pervasive in the entertainment industry, and it threatens to control literally every aspect of our lives.
French then goes on to explain why he thinks this has happened. There is a real difference between conservatives and progressives. Conservatives vote for champions to go to Washington to straighten out the mess and then they return to their lives without infusing all their daily interactions with what they say they believe.
Progressives, on the other hand, “take their core values into every sphere of existence.” They don’t compartmentalize their lives; they want what they believe to affect everything.
That’s how you get local bar associations celebrating Earth Day, or third-grade classes doing a whole semester’s worth of art projects on climate change, or corporate HR departments running extended, celebratory profiles of transgender employees. It’s the agenda, always and everywhere.
We trust in politics to set things right. We are placing our trust in the wrong place. It’s the culture that drives a society, while politicians, eager to get re-elected, follow along in its wake.
I’ve often called on Christians to realize that their faith is not to be relegated to church activities. We are to take it into all spheres of life. When we shy away from doing so, it’s no wonder the culture becomes ever more depraved.
Until we’re willing to make at least the same commitment to our ideals that progressives make to theirs, we may still offer words of defiance, but our actions will show our true intent. Right now, the movement is busy dying. It’s time to get busy living.
I couldn’t agree more.