The Corner

Re: The Trouble with Social Conservatives

I want to echo Mark Steyn’s endorsement of Maggie Gallagher’s recent post on the “Trouble with Social Conservatives.” It’s brevity and brilliance remind me of an admonition commonly given to young pastors: “Remember, for a message to be immortal, it need not be eternal.”

Not only is Maggie exactly right, but the depressing fact is that the culture of social conservatism makes it unlikely that we’ll change anytime soon.

First, the mass-uprising delusion is, I think, common to almost any relatively ideologically homogenous group of significant size. It’s just human nature to believe that you are stronger than you are when (almost) everyone you know agrees with you. The Left is not immune to this same impulse. For example, college campuses are often less ideologically diverse (especially in the leadership ranks) than your average evangelical church, and this monoculture quite often leads faculty, administrators, and student activists to make outrageous misjudgments about the world and the community they live in.

Second, the “secular messiah” and “godly leader” temptation is deeply ingrained in the culture of evangelical Christianity, and it is hardly limited to politics. People flock to churches with particularly dynamic pastors, certain Christian books can absolutely dominate the religious marketplace, and biblical examples of prophets, kings, and apostles do demonstrate the obvious truth that leaders matter. But leaders aren’t everything, nor are they the main thing.

Social conservatives need to understand that polls (where social conservative issues always do well) matter less than action and results, that culture matters more than politics (if the culture is moving in your direction, then the politicians will follow), and that there is enormous value in patience and persistence. No one person is going to bring us out of the wilderness, no one election is going to save a nation’s soul, and each one of us has a responsibility, in our own communities, to not only live our values but also to contend for the hearts and minds of the next generation.


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