The culture wars are over, according to Barton Swaim, a former speechwriter for former South Carolina Gov. Mark Stanford. The left has won and all that’s left, according to Swaim, is to negotiate the terms of surrender.
As evidence, Swaim offers statements by two prominent evangelicals, Albert Mohler of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, to the effect that their “side lost the culture war.”
And while some on the left may argue this is merely a “rhetorical pivot,” Swaim argues that “religious conservatives are rethinking their role in American society and politics.” Instead of looking to convert everyone, or the culture itself, to their way of thinking, religious conservatives are recognizing the value of pluralism:
Many have finally given up on the whole idea of a culture war or are willing to admit they lost it. They are determined only to remain who they are and to live as amiably and productively as they can in a culture that doesn’t look like them and doesn’t belong to them.
Whether or not they are successful in doing this, says Swaim, is up to “the adherents of ascendant social progressivism,” who need to decline to “take full advantage of their newfound cultural dominance.”
There are a couple of problems with Swaim’s argument. One, religious conservatives may have lost some key cultural battles, most prominently the fight over same-sex marriage, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve lost the war. That’s because it’s a multi-front war and because sometimes you can lose the rhetorical battle but still win the ground game.
Abortion is a case in point. Social conservatives have spent more than 40 years trying to convince Americans that abortion is a moral evil and should be banned at the national level. But they haven’t succeeded. Opinion on abortion is roughly where it was 40 years ago, with a small majority of Americans believing it should be legal in all or some circumstances. But social conservatives have been widely successful over the past decade in severely curtailing women’s access to abortion by working through state legislatures to pass a host of bills that erect hurdles to abortion, from multi-day waiting periods, to rules that limit access to abortion pills, to regulations designed to shut clinics down and forced women to travel great distances to get an abortion.
Is the culture war on abortion over? Has the right given up? Not by a long shot.
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