I apologize for missing your online post of May 6, 2016, in which you stated, “The culture wars are over; they lost, we won.” Although your words created quite a stir and drew a strong response from Dr. Ryan Anderson (among others), I only discovered them today, hence my delay in responding.
As an academic myself, I certainly respect your position as a law professor at Harvard (no mean achievement), and since my late father (himself a committed liberal) served as the senior law clerk in the New York Supreme Court, I grew up with great appreciation for the legal profession and the application of law to our society. Nonetheless, I must take the strongest exception to your post for two major reasons.
First, you stated categorically (and with emphasis), “The culture wars are over; they lost, we won,” referring to conservative Christians as “the losers in the culture wars,” and then reiterating, “the war’s over, and we won.”
Perhaps, sir, your view of history is shortsighted? Perhaps you have underestimated some of the self-destructive elements in LGBT activism? (I’ve documented them in my book Outlasting the Gay Revolution; a free copy is yours for the asking.) Perhaps there will be a healthy pushback against some of these purported advances?
More importantly, perhaps you have underestimated the vibrancy of the conservative Christian faith? As has been documented frequently, this is on the rise worldwide and could easily be revived here in America.
The Washington Postnoted in 2015 that, “Over the past 100 years, Christians grew from less than 10 percent of Africa’s population to its nearly 500 million today. One out of four Christians in the world presently is an Africa, and the Pew Research Center estimates that will grow to 40 percent by 2030.”
The article also stated that, “Asia is also experiencing growth as world Christianity’s center has moved not only South, but also East. In the last century, Christianity grew at twice the rate of population in that continent. Asia’s Christian population of 350 million is projected to grow to 460 million by 2025.”
As for religious faith in America, there have been notable times of spiritual decline throughout our history – as far as back as the 1700’s – and all were followed by seasons of awakening and revival. You don’t have to look any further than nearby Yale University for quite a few relevant anecdotes, as recently as the beginning of the 20th century.
It is reported that in the early 1800’s, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall wrote to Bishop Madison of Virginia, “The church is too far gone ever to be redeemed.”
So much for the esteemed justice’s foresight. His observations were quickly swept away by the Second Great Awakening and seem shockingly ill-advised in retrospect.
But it is not only Supreme Court justices who can err when it comes to religious matters. One century earlier, Rev. Samuel Blair, who became chaplain of the Congress of Pennsylvania stated, “Religion lay as it were dying, and ready to expire its last breath of life in this part of the visible church . . . .” His words were swept away by the First Great Awakening, led by the great philosopher Jonathan Edwards.
Perhaps your words will be swept away by another great awakening?
Are you 100% sure that this will not happen again? If not, you can hardly pronounce the culture wars over.
All this, however, is a matter of your opinion vs. mine, which leads me to my second point, namely, the grave insult you lodged against millions of fine people of faith, men and women of integrity, respectable citizens of America who are contributing massively to societal good and raising great families, yet you compare them to Nazis and slave traders.
Of course, you don’t make the comparison explicit, but you are a sharp thinker and you clearly implied the comparison when you asked how your side – the victorious side – should “deal with the losers in the culture wars.” Should the liberals take a hard line against the losers or try to accommodate them?
You recommended taking a hard line, noting that, “Trying to be nice to the losers didn’t work well after the Civil War, nor after Brown. (And taking a hard line seemed to work reasonably well in Germany and Japan after 1945.)”
Is this how you really view Christians who believe that marriage should be limited to one man and one woman? Does that make us the equivalent of genocidal Nazi butchers or merciless slave traders?
If we argue that biology, anatomy, and thousands of years of human history suggest that men were designed for women and women for men, does that liken us to the Japanese murderers who raped Nanking or bombed Pearl Harbor?
In your eyes, are we no better than the segregationists for believing that children deserve a mom and dad?
If that is how you see things, sir, I can only pity you, since your views betray the opposite of a truly liberal, progressive spirit and instead engage in the demonizing of a significant people group, the very thing of which you accuse your ideological (conservative Christian) foes.
I also tremble to think what kind of world could be built on the “hard line” foundation you propose.
That being said, I don’t tremble much, knowing that, “One thing is for sure – a faith that survived its followers being used as torches to light the streets of Rome will survive a modern age hell bent on ruthlessly stamping it out” (Erick Erickson).
And that reminds me of a wonderful quote from G. K. Chesterton. I suggest to you that it is more relevant than you dare realize: “At least five times the Faith has to all appearances gone to the dogs. In each of these five cases, it was the dog that died.”