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America’s culture war isn’t lost, Land counters political strategist

WASHINGTON (BP)–Social conservatives have not lost the battle over values in the culture, a Southern Baptist ethicist said in the wake of such an assessment by a respected political strategist.
Even if such a judgment were accurate, Christians would not be justified in withdrawing from society, said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
Land called “too pessimistic” a declaration by Paul Weyrich that those who believe in a traditional, Judeo-Christian culture “probably have lost the culture war.” Weyrich, president of the Free Congress Foundation and a longtime conservative strategist in Washington, made his bleak estimate of society in a Feb. 16 letter.
In response to polls showing the public’s high approval of President Clinton’s performance and its opposition to his removal from office even though a large majority also believed he lied under oath, Weyrich said he no longer believes “there is a moral majority,” a phrase he coined and Jerry Falwell used for a now-defunct organization he started in the late 1970s. He also believes conservatives have learned to win elections but have still failed, Weyrich said.
Politics “has failed because of the collapse of the culture,” Weyrich wrote to other conservatives. “The culture we are living in becomes an ever-wider sewer. In truth, I think we are caught up in a cultural collapse of historic proportions, a collapse so great that it simply overwhelms politics.”
While “we have been fighting and winning in politics, our culture has decayed into something approaching barbarism,” he said.
The battle may have been lost among baby boomers, that generation born from about 1946-64, but it has not been lost in the generations that have followed them, Land said. There are clear indications that Generation Xers and millennials “are more conservative on virtually every social and moral issue” than the boomers, he said.
“Nothing is finally and totally lost or finally and totally won, because there is always the next election and the next moral crisis,” Land said, and the battle is “won or lost every generation.”
It needs to be remembered, Land said, “social and moral renewal is a marathon, not a sprint, and if God blesses us with awakening, the institutions of our culture will be changed from the bottom up by changed people.”
Also, there are “important indications that the culture in many significant ways is swinging our direction,” Land said. He cited polls showing the public’s overwhelming disapproval of the president’s morality, as well as a recent survey revealing American women have become more conservative and more affirming of religion’s impact on society.
Gary Bauer, former president of Family Research Council and a candidate for the Republican Party presidential nomination, also disagreed with Weyrich.
“I do not think we have lost,” Bauer said in a written statement. “Millions of Americans want abortion on demand to end and family values to be upheld. They are against same-sex marriage and want our children to be taught reliable standards of right and wrong.”
Because the culture war is lost, Weyrich wrote, “we need to drop out of this culture and find places, even if it is where we physically are right now, where we can live godly, righteous and sober lives.” While Weyrich said he is not suggesting everyone “become Amish or move to Idaho, I do think that we have to look at what we can do to separate ourselves from this hostile culture. What steps can we take to make sure that we and our children are not infected? We need some sort of quarantine.”
Land said, “I don’t believe that withdrawal is an option that is available to us if we are going to be biblically obedient Christians. If we are going to heed the call of the Lord Jesus to be salt and light, we cannot withdraw.”
Christians cannot be salt and light if they “withdraw into a fortress Christendom,” he said.
“But it is also true that we must protect and insulate our families and loved ones and communities from the ravaging and negative influences of a largely secular and increasingly pagan society. So, it’s not an either/or; it’s a both/and,” Land said.
Weyrich said people need to turn off television, video games and other means by which they “are being infected with cultural decadence.” He cited homeschooling and the boycott of The Disney Company by Southern Baptists and others as examples of how people have protected themselves from cultural decay.
The difference in their views also reflects a general difference between evangelicals and Catholics, Land said. Weyrich is a Catholic.
He is not surprised “Catholic social conservatives are more disappointed and depressed than evangelical Protestants at the current moral state of the nation,” Land said. “There is a long Catholic social-issues tradition which has historically placed more confidence in government and societal institutions’ ability to effect moral change in the culture than would be the case among evangelical Protestants.
“Evangelicals historically have had a profound mistrust of such institutions and certainly have never expected as much from them in terms of real moral change in society,” Land said. “Evangelicals have known from the beginning that unless there is heaven-sent revival, spiritual awakening and reformation, America as we have known and loved her was doomed.”