The Cultural Wars, Explained

Culture Wars

The group that fights against “X” instead of for “Y” ultimately loses.

Anytime your cause is characterized by opposition to a position, or reactionism (think anti-abortion vs. pro-life), it will be less palatable to the people you’re trying to convince. It makes it sound like your movement is overtly critical or backward, implying right off the bat that your opponent’s views hold the upper hand…even when they don’t.

This negativity has saturated the mindset of conservative and evangelical reactionaries.

This group goes by many names like, “conservative”, “conservative Christian”, “traditionalist.” But I prefer to call them by what their strategy and views really represent: culture warists.

Cultural warist is the overarching term for anyone who relentlessly fights against cultural shifts in the name of moral homogony. Their biggest worry is the slippery slope, leading to their worst nightmare: moral erosion. They see these shifts as a fight between two cultures. Every hill is worth dying on because at the bottom of the hill is the hellish state of moral decay.

This die on every hill strategy turns every morally diversion into a conspiracy to destroy everything they love and hold dear.

In many ways, their fear isn’t without warrant. Their worldview is one of absolutes. They believe that a thriving society is one that’s built upon the presuppositions of Judeo-Christian values. They believe that without a solid moral code, society will crumble. And to a degree, they’re right.

But they go too far.

America Is Too Diverse for Nuanced Moral Views

In this day and age, a completely homogenous moral code isn’t feasible. America is too diverse; it’s made up of too many subculture pockets.

A nuanced moral code might have worked before the 1900s, but thanks to globalism, immigration, and the internet that has disappeared.

Cultural warists are for the most part, fighting a society that has become too diverse for their standards.

Not everyone believes divorce is bad. Not everyone wants to wait for marriage before having sex. Not everyone views homosexual acts as abhorrent. Not everyone thinks marriage is between a man and a woman.

In a Society of Diverse Beliefs, Your Beliefs Become Subjective

The more diverse a society gets, the more worldviews there are to compete against each other. It’s the marketplace of ideas.

Now, in the marketplace, a seller’s worldview (i.e. their product) is viewed as subjective by the buyer. The sellers believe what they’re selling, but that’s just their opinion to the buyer. They believe their product works, but it’s not guaranteed. Of course the seller believes in their product, they have to.

The buyer, however, isn’t held to those same standards. They’re looking for the best fit. They’re looking for what works. To them, every worldview (in the beginning) has the chance of working. It’s only after talking with each seller and researching the products that they start to craft an idea of what works the best.

The subjective nature of the marketplace doesn’t mean there’s no “best option” for the buyer. There is an absolute truth, but to the market, everything is a subjective opinion until believed. The reason why nothing is absolute in the market, or why it’s not important to the decision process, is because no one buys a product because the seller says “it’s the absolute best.” The buyer has to believe it is.

Saying your worldview is the only true way isn’t an argument. It’s a value statement made by you, someone who happens to believe in the product. I believe that the Christian faith is the one true faith, but my Muslim neighbor thinks his faith is the one true faith, and my atheist friend doesn’t believe either of our faiths are “truth.”

If I’m outside looking in, I don’t care if you think it’s the only true real product. I want to know how it’ll help me, and why it’s the best pick. This applies to everyone. You don’t have to be a “subjectivist” or “atheist” for this logic to apply.

Your beliefs are subjective to everyone else, and vice versa. What matters is how you market your product with this reality in mind. And if you don’t believe in the cultural change taking place, it doesn’t mean you have to blindly submit to it. But bear in mind that publicly “sticking up for your values” isn’t all there is to it. You have to craft the right message.

Your values are more than a commodity to you, sure; but you have to be willing to market them as such if you want to actually reach people (especially if the cultural tide is against you).

It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stand up for your values, it just means there’s a right and wrong way to do it. Which is why being a culture warist is so counterproductive.

Connecting This to Cultural Warists

A cultural warist’s argument is simple: “There is only one true path. Any divergent paths lead to social decay. Therefore, fighting against any social change through any means possible is morally required.”

What cultural warists forget is that whether their path is the true one or not is irrelevant. Obviously everyone else doesn’t agree that your path is the only one, so they fight against it. What matters is how your worldview subjectively matters to everyone else. Making it matter is your responsibility.

You can legislate your morality into their lives, but it doesn’t mean it’s being accepted on a heart and mind level.

This is why conservatives and evangelical Christians have lost past culture battles. Just as any group does, we hold our worldview to be absolute truth; but the how we react to our principles being challenged determines whether we can influence society or not. Hyper-reactionary conservatives get infuriated when the rest of society doesn’t agree. They fight each cultural battle on that premise, instead of marketing their worldview as a product. They believe that since their moral code is the only acceptable one it should be forced on others. It doesn’t help that their moral code was the dominant force in US culture since the beginning; that former dominance has perverted many a Christian’s perspective on culture change. What is merely social diversification is viewed as threats to the culture warist’s way of life.

Here’s what I mean…

  1. Transgenderism is the next big step after gay “liberation.” It’s part of what some of you will call a slippery slope. Whether it’s slope, or just a checklist, is yet to be seen.
  2. This sexual liberation (this includes feminism, gay rights, LGBT, abortion rights, etc) is a result of culture moving away from Judeo-Christian values.
  3. Thanks to the former dominant worldview, certain laws and views were established that have caused problems once culture started to shift. These laws and views seemed legitimate for the dominant worldview at the time. But nowadays they no longer carry the respect they once did. Side Note: I define “dominant worldview” as the overarching social worldview and outlook on social, political, and economic issues. It includes legislation, but also social views, outlook on life, and best practices (e.g. there was a time when divorce was socially abhorred, now, not so much).
  4. Whether you like it or not, conservative Christian legislation oppressed (or at best muffled) certain groups it didn’t find acceptable. These oppressed/muffled groups are now finding the terrain easier to navigate. Therefore, they’re clamoring for a piece of the equality pie. They want to live their lives, and culture is primed to accept them.
  5. Culture is shifting away from legislating morality (to a degree). The remnants of a more legislated worldview are being pushed aside, and evangelicals don’t like that (which is understandable). Once society shifts the way it’s doing now, Judeo-Christianity (which seems “old-fashioned”) becomes a far less marketable product.
  6. This loss of status, and rise of alternative worldviews and groups, does not necessarily correlate with an attack on the Judeo-Christian worldview. It’s easy to confuse losing your status to being attacked. It’s a shift, not a coup. You’re still allowed to practice your beliefs. A reversal of anti-gay laws isn’t oppressing you, it’s the reality that your worldview is no longer popular.
  7. My fellow Christians have been reacting to this social shift in the worst of ways. It’s either a complete lack of knowledge of who these people are and what they’ve gone through, apathy to who they are besides being “sinners,” or insensitive labeling that can only be described as “asshole-ish”. Their reaction to this shift is summed up as “This isn’t how it used to be and I want it to go back to how it was.” There’s rarely an alternative to this change than to return to the good old days. The “good old days” where every minority that didn’t align with your moral code got oppressed, and you live in relative social stability thanks to you subscribing to the dominant code (in blissful ignorance of said minorities’ persecution).
  8. Going backwards is impossible with cultural change. Each new phase is different and once it becomes a problem for you it’s already too late. These things grow in the fringes of society for years before moving into popular society. Side note: “how it used to be” caused the cultural shifts we’re seeing now. The past created the present.
  9. Target tried to get ahead of the cultural shift by stating trans people will be allowed to go in the restroom of their choice. Unfortunately for them they jumped too far ahead and got heat for it. However, that jump will pay off (probably already has).
  10. Remember, Christians lost the gay marriage issue (ironically by the same way they would restrict it with, the government).  Instead of molding the shift that was happening on the issue of marriage, Christians decided to attack it without any clear plan other than a war of attrition (which they lost). They could’ve molded the debate to include both safety for gay couples and Christians who didn’t want to violate their conscience. But because they fought the change like ignorant bigots, no one was willing to entertain the idea of freedom of conscience. No one likes protecting the right of a bigot to be a bigot. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re a bigot or not, what matters is that that’s how everyone else describes and views you as.  Now the same thing is happening on the transgender issue. Christians are fighting a war of attrition, and they’ll lose.
  11. You don’t have to blindly accept or follow this change if it doesn’t line up with your beliefs. But how you deal with new change is important.  3 ways to deal with social change: follow, react, or lead. Reacting is the most unproductive, following is the easiest, and leading is the hardest. For those who don’t accept the change, they either coexist with it or are forced to accept it. It’s possible to ignite social change, lead it, or mold a current shift. It’s just really hard and requires specific messaging (and not being an asshole).
  12. Social change isn’t enacted through government bureaucracies or legislation. Governments are always the last ones to change (read: Pace Layers, and What One University of Sussex Study Tells Us About the Power of Social Change)
  13. Social change moves from the fringes of society, eventually getting accepted by the broader culture. (read: The Rogers Adoption Curve)
  14. Do not fight every cultural shift. You’ll lose if you do and you’ll be viewed as a “get off my lawn” old person who hates everything that’s not like them.
  15. Culture warists lose because they A) focus on ideology over people, B) use fear as a motivator, C) use negative rhetoric, and D) provide no viable alternatives to the issue except for stagnation.

Broad Morality VS Specific Morality

What works in a diverse society isn’t a moral code that covers all the nuances of life, but one that covers general morality while leaving most issues up to the decision of its members.

General moral issues these days are categorized as murder, theft, assault, etc. Specific moral issues are categorized as marriage, sexual preferences, definitions of what’s appropriate, etc.

Take the subjectivity of how families decide what movies are appropriate for their children. No family’s standard is quite like another’s. Some are ok with PG-13, others only watch PG.

No sane parent would say every family should adopt their standards. Each family has a standard that works for them. But all families agree that their child shouldn’t be watching sex scenes.

There’s a broad moral code, and a specific one. The key to deciding what constitutes broad and specific morals is where it gets difficult.

When dealing with a diverse nation, the focus should be on what you need to legislate, and what you can afford not to.

Q&A and Final Thoughts

Are you saying we have to accept cultural change? No. You are not required to blindly accept change. But you don’t have to be a reactionary either. I’m in favor of recognizing emerging shifts, then leading or bending them to have a favorable outcome for my worldview. Or better yet, creating my own cultural shift. Call it being proactive.

So you don’t believe in absolute truth? I do believe that absolute truth exists, but I realize that that doesn’t matter to everyone who doesn’t agree with me. To them, my brand of “truth” is just that; a brand.

If everything is subjective in the marketplace, how do we decide what becomes moral code? Moral codes are determined by majority opinion. I know this isn’t attractive to most of you, but it’s how these things work. The best you can do is stay alert, and win people to your side.

What if the majority moral code of the harms the minority? Try to win back majority opinion, or defend yourself depending on what the issue is. Majority acceptance of a moral code does not mean it’s moral, or just.

How can you say worldviews are subjective, yet still accept that moral truth exists? Perspective, basically. I believe that my worldview is truth, but recognize that others don’t. The absoluteness of my belief doesn’t matter to them, so I have to market my beliefs in a way that they’ll understand. Everyone’s views are subjective to everyone else, and vice versa.

If you have any questions about what I’ve talked about please hit me up on Twitter or in the comments below. I’d love to answer your questions, and discuss it further.

Final thoughts here…

Before you post something on social media about transgenders and gender neutral bathrooms, think how you should approach it.

Is calling transgenderism a mental disorder effective? How can you communicate your views better? What’s the middle ground so both sides can get what they want? Is this issue really a slippery slope, or just a shift away from your values?

Answer those questions and get back to me.

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About John-Pierre Maeli

Keeping it simple and crystal clear, because anything else is useless. I'm here to not only inform you, but to also connect with you. That's what The Political Informer is all about. Feel free to follow me on either Twitter or Google+ Let's talk!

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