What Should Christian Conservatives Do Next?
Since Obergefell, many people have asked me: What next? What do we do?
Some suggest we retreat from politics, because (and they are right about this) politics is not enough. But politics is not the opposite of culture, it is one form of culture: it is particularly one way in a democracy we decide what ideas are within the mainstream and what ideas are outside it.
And anyway, while Rod Dreher is right to raise the question of how we transmit a vibrant Christian faith under increasing duress, the true Benedict Option in the contemporary world is not available — there is nowhere to go that aggressive equality progressivism may not follow.
For cultural reasons alone, politics is too important to abandon. Then there is the practical question of who will prevent the more aggressive equality progressives from redefining Christian views as the equivalent of racism and using powerful legal and cultural levers to repress Christian ideas from the public square and our own children.
The problem with Christian conservatives is not that we are too heavily invested in politics, but that we are too little invested. The problem is that too often we have gone on TV and talked like we are in politics without building political institutions. We’ve tried to substitute 501(c)(3) strategies for the hard work of political organizing.
This is the worst of all possible worlds because it means Christian conservatives generate the partisan hostility politics provokes, without building the army of activists and donors to protect you, to make it expensive to hurt you.
Argument is key in a cultural struggle. We need scholars, intellectuals, and academics committed to the idea of truth, to rational engagement, and with the courage of their scientific convictions. Some of us are called to that work, and donors in particular will need to find new and better ways to fund and support it. Simply endowing a chair at your alma mater is a shameful waste of your urgently needed money.
Stories are as important. Stories, much neglected in Catholic circles, are a principle way human being organize existence. Stories, both fiction and nonfiction, create characters and roles. They tell us who we in standing up for what’s right, they tell us who we are standing with, they fire the imagination with moral possibility, and they give us the emotional energy to sacrifice, where necessary. One Kim Davis is worth a thousand words. Expanding on and firing up the Christian imagination, from serious literature, plays and poetry to songwriting, films, sit-coms, and YouTube videos, is an urgent necessity.
The good news is the cost of imaginative production has never been lower in world history, but finding a strategy for distribution that helps the stories and the storytellers matter is part of the problem to be solved, both high-brow and low. “It’s not the individual genius, it’s the network” that carries culture, as James Davison Hunter informed us. Many of us are called to do and fund new things in this realm.
The stories the broader culture is telling about us — whether through art or social science — that we are hateful, ugly bigots, aren’t going to stop. We have to sing our own song, use the tools of science to courageously pursue truth, and, yes, build political institutions that can demonstrate to one party that anti-religious aggression will hurt them politically, and to the other that going along, getting along, and submitting to anti-religious aggression makes no sense at all, moral or political.
“The future belongs to those who believe their dreams are beautiful.”
I am proud to announce that one crucial piece of the building process, the Campaign for American Principles, has just been launched. I am proud to work for and with Princeton Professor Robby George in this endeavor, an army of activists joined to the power of a Super PAC to elect the friends of religious liberty and to bar its opponents from the halls of power.
I do not know what you are called to do in this rebuilding process. But one small thing you could do to help me and Robby George: Sign this call. Share this statement. And get the word out to every friend of the family, of marriage and of religious freedom that you can. The time is short, and our course of action is clear.
This column originally appeared in a different form at The Pulse.