The Cultural Memory is Fading
August 10, 2011
The recent appointment of Ann Coulter to the GOProud advisory council will no doubt cause much controversy. However, I think it simply demonstrates what many evangelicals will likely be uncomfortable admitting: many so-called "conservatives" like Coulter are cultural conservatives. And so are many evangelicals. Let me explain.
The older crowd who traditionally votes GOP will likely be shocked and saddened by Coulter's decision. The younger GOP crowd will likely be indifferent, if not applaud the move. Why the dissonance? I think one answer is the fact that the younger crowd are cultural conservatives. No, I don't mean they have a conservative stance on hot-button cultural issues (else we would not see the appointment of Coulter) while perhaps being fiscally liberal. Rather, I think they have been raised in a conservative culture that, because it was no way anchored to a Biblical understanding of ethics and culture (nor desired to be), finds itself woefully unprepared to deal with the cultural revolution that is the homosexual movement.
So, for instance, the older crowd may recoil in disgust at Coulter's (and others') move, but the child is theirs, so to speak. Middle-age to older conservatives were culturally conditioned to work hard, climb the corporate ladder, move to the suburbs and impart, William Bennet in hand, "conservative values" to their children. Unfortunately, since such values were largely shorn of any Biblical mooring, they changed the moment the cultural tidal wave crashed over them.
Their children, while growing up in homes that taught so-called conservative values, nevertheless were taught by people who had drunk deeply at the wells of Rorty and Fish. In addition to this,they saw their parents divorce and remarry multiple times. And they watched countless hours of television which preached a gospel of tolerance for any and everything under the sun. So while the parents had some sort of a nascent cultural Christianity, the children had very little of the same. Now, the younger GOP crowd is indifferent to the awfulness of something like homosexuality because the reasons given to them for rejecting homosexuality were based on the whims of a generation that wanted the American dream, even at the cost of Biblical morality. Or, give us conservative values, just don't change our hearts to love righteousness.
As Christians we must be clear that conservative values oftentimes do not equal Biblical ethics. The Bible is hard on greed and hard on homosexuals. How many conservatives would admit that they are guilty of the former? Or just think how many younger conservatives, unwed girlfriends or boyfriends in tow, would protest the high demands of sexual purity that are the warp and woof of the Biblical ethic? Praise God, the gospel gives grace to the greedy and the sexually impure - and for any other kind of sinner. But it has very little to do with conservative values, so conceived. Indeed, it challenges every culture's values.
So is Coulter's appointment really that surprising? Not at all. She is representative of the "new conservative" in all is ethical vainglory: values are determined by the sentimental attachments of a cultural conservatism that has long since been swept away by the flood of a culture that is saturated with what the Bible unambiguously calls immoral, from homosexuality to rampant divorce to unhindered greed.
When the sentimentalism turns to pragmatism (and turn it must), then why not attract a new voter base? After all, only our parents believed homosexuality is wrong. And we're free to disagree with them, just as long as we keep our conservative values in other places. Most notably, we'll keep them as long as we can live comfortable lives and raise happy, amoral children, teaching them what mommy and daddy taught us while demurring to teach them to think critically. We'll protest high government debt but cling to our copy of Maxim. We'll decry government spending and handouts but go to sleep on soft pillows with the poor on our doorsteps.
But at least we will have conservative values.