Over at First Things, Greg Forster writes a very important essay, “If It’s Not a Culture ‘War,’ What Does Winning Look Like?”
Please, for your own sake and for the sake of neighborliness, read the whole thing here.
Gallagher talks about the “deinstitutionalization” of marriage; that idea was what hit me like lightning back when I read [her book] The Abolition of Marriage. But there has also been an institutionalization of enmity.
If “winning” means the preferences of our cultural subgroup are enacted as policy, there is no hope for victory in the culture war – for either side. We will not submit because our consciences don’t permit it, neither will they for the same reason, and there is no serious prospect of either side eliminating the other. As long as we aim for a “victory” in terms of dominance for our cultural subgroup, the war will grind on. All we will accomplish is the fragmentation of society, the hollowing out of what used to be a real moral consensus and shared culture across religious divisions, and the ongoing destruction of the relational capital that might provide a basis for “living together.”
Gallagher says, “the challenge of our time—and it is a deep challenge, not an easy one—is to find new ways to combine truth and love.” Truer words were never spoken. If we want to rise to them, we have to rethink what counts as victory in the culture war. Victory means a truce we can all live with. We have to find a way to live together that doesn’t require either side to sacrifice its conscience.
I don’t know what that “victory” of peace would look like, in which people from both ”sides” would feel that their consciences are respected.
Is such a victory even possible?
If not a “culture war,” what’s this “thing” that we’re in (in which we very sharply disagree with each other, believing that the other’s position ultimately creates a serious injustice toward some group of persons)? We have our reasons for disagreeing, but we often find ourselves exasperated at the other sides’ inability to understand, and see the brilliance of, our reasons. I mean, sometimes it sure feels like we are enemies in combat. But of course, when you get down to it, we’re neighbors and friends and coworkers and, well, people living life together, and mostly (except, of course, for some of those nasty people on the other side!), trying to do what we think is the right thing to do.
In this essay, Forster is mainly talking to conservative Christians like me, but his challenge applies to anyone with a point of view about same-sex marriage.
If both sides of the same-sex marriage debate were to keep their positions on same-sex marriage but drop the “culture war” stance, what is the stance we assume toward each other? What’s the metaphor?