Ceding the Culture Wars

The Religious Right is winning the culture war. Mostly because they are the only ones fighting in it. I just watched the latest episode of Frontline on pbs.org. The title is “The Last Abortion Clinic”. It’s about the pro-life movement’s attempts to close down the last abortion clinic in the state of Mississippi.

Now, despite being a dues-paying member of Planned Parenthood, I’m no big fan of abortion. I consider it a tragedy and a failure of our education and healthcare systems that so many women end up having unwanted pregnancies. And I don’t intend to write in defense of abortion. My problem is that there are no moderates addressing the issue. The right-wing thumps their Bibles, screams bloody murder, and gets pro-life candidates elected to office, and the left-wing does all their fighting in the courts going on-and-on about women’s rights. But the elected officials get to decide who the judges are, so you can see how this is going to work out. Abortion will get outlawed soon, but in the meantime a great deal of damage is being done to our public institutions.

The agenda of the pro-life activists is much broader than just getting abortion outlawed and they are getting more politically savvy and making progress on many fronts. These people are just one portion of the Christian Conservatives who are fighting against birth control, AIDS education, evolution, and separation of church and state. They are getting abstinence-only sex education taught in the schools. They are interfering with public health measures like condom distribution and needle exchange that would slow the spread of AIDS. They are getting the Kansas Board of Education to redefine science in the state education standards so that it no longer just applies to natural phenomena. They claim discrimination if they’re asked not to lead the entire audience in prayer at government events or to not put up the Ten Commandments in government buildings, and in many places they just go ahead and do it anyway.

They are just going to win more and more of these fights as time goes on because they are just going to keep getting elected to public office. They have ready-made political organizations behind them in their church congregations. The moderates just don’t stand a chance against that because politically moderate people just don’t go to church much anymore. I hear statistics occassionally about the large percentage of the population that goes to church regularly, but either I live in a neighborhood that is oddly skewed towards the godless-heathen persuasion, or a lot of people are lying to the pollsters. I would tend to believe the latter.

I hate to say it, but people who are less-than-enthusiastically religious should probably consider going to church more often. If not, then you may have to cede the public square and the right to make decisions about public policy to those who are more enthusiastic about their dogma.