Disappointed in Hillary vs. Trump? Change the Culture.

By George Yancey Published on July 31, 2016

Over the past few decades socially conservative Christians could be relied upon to support the Republican candidate. They did so with the understanding that the GOP supported them on life and marriage. Once they had a political home, but is that true any longer?

Republican voters have put forth a candidate who has little to no history of supporting socially conservative issues. He promises to look after their interests, but he is not known for keeping his word. It should not be lost on social conservatives that Peter Thiel, one of the Republican Party’s platform speakers, openly calls for Republicans to drop their concerns over social issues. The nice safe warm home that social conservatives once found in the Republican party no longer exists.

It’s been argued that conservatives would lose out badly if a President Hillary Clinton were given opportunity to appoint federal judges, especially Supreme Court justices. Certainly nothing good could come from her holding authority to appoint federal judges. On the other hand, there are so many unknowns with Trump. He has made promises to appoint conservative Supreme Court justices, but he has not established a track record of commitment to conservative social concerns, or of consistently keeping his word, for that matter.

So, every socially conservative voter will face a dilemma in November. The Democratic presidential candidate is openly opposed to our positions on life and marriage. The Republican presidential candidate has made promises, but his track record is socially liberal, and if he is elected and slides left, it could further marginalize social conservatives in the GOP.

Each of us will sort through the far-from-ideal set of possible actions and make a choice in November. But in pondering that difficult choice, we should remember that there is longer-term work we need to be about.

The Long Game

There is a more hopeful front for socially conservative Christians. Our problems have mostly to do with the loss of cultural influence over the past few decades. It’s tempting to focus solely on politics, but political change is generally downstream of cultural change. The cultural alterations of the last few decades are the reason social conservatives have landed in this place where they have no political home. Which means it is time to make longer term investments in shaping culture and stop fixating on short-term political support of a sort that will be lost anyway if Western culture remains on its current path.

Conservative American Christianity has a history of setting up parallel cultural institutions rather than engaging in mainstream cultural institutions. Though there is nothing wrong with those institutions, their development seems to have come at the cost of engaging the larger American culture. While Christians should certainly continue to maintain their schools, publishing houses and so on, they must also begin to make their mark on mainstream secular cultural institutions.

For example, they could take this time in “the wilderness” to work toward establishing Christian Study Centers at secular colleges and universities, just as those colleges and universities have Islamic and Jewish Study Centers. They could work on getting Christian actors, producers and writers into mainstream movies and television shows. They could take the opportunity to promote the best Christian art and expand its influence beyond Christian circles. They could support Christians going into mainstream media, not merely assuming that they ought to work in Christian media outlets.

Steps like these could ensure their influence in shaping the larger cultural message in American society. If they don’t develop stronger cultural influences in media, academia and the arts, the cultural values that have driven cultural conservatives from their political home will persist and eventually prevail.

Socially conservative Christians have a choice, then. They can become discouraged about this depressing political year, or they can make the preparations it will take to keep it from happening again. In the end, as a Christian myself, I trust God will see us through. Based on that encouragement I am committed to helping make those preparations.

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