Thursday, August 07, 2003

The Culture Wars

The shooting war in Iraq may be winding down for now, but the culture wars are just hitting their stride. The US Episcopal Church, which is affiliated with the UK Anglican church and other Episcopalian churches worldwide is heading for a schism over the elevation of openly homosexual Gene Robinson to the bishopric. The fault lines on Robinson's elevation run not only across liberal and conservative boundaries, but cultural ones as well. Third World Churches, which make up the preponderance of the Episcopal Church's worldwide membership, have practically declared the issue a cassus belli. Bishop Lim Cheng Ean, the leader of the Church in Malaysia, said "Practising homosexuality is culturally and legally not acceptable here."

 The homosexual lobby, not to be outdone, is threatening to jail anyone who voices disagreement. According to the Irish Times,

Clergy and bishops who distribute the Vatican's latest publication describing homosexual activity as "evil" could face prosecution under incitement to hatred legislation. The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) has warned that the language in the 12-page booklet is so strong it could be interpreted as being in breach of the Act. ... Ms Aisling Reidy, director of the ICCL, warned yesterday that the statement could be in violation of the 1989 Incitement to Hatred Act. Those convicted under the Act can face jail terms of up to six months.

Such prosecutions have actually taken place in Canada under similar legislation there. The whole issue of the acceptability of homosexual activity, while seemingly unimportant in itself, has raised surprisingly strident passions because it has come to represent a litmus test, a line in the sand, a who-goes-there for a whole range of subjects on which Judeo-Christian civilization is supposed to depend. The Washington Times reported last week that

The White House yesterday said President Bush is willing to consider a constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman, which some congressional Republicans say is the only effective option.

In this kind of atmosphere, the Lawrence decision striking down the legality of sodomy laws has had the same calming effect that Dredd Scott had on the question of slavery on the eve of the American Civil War, which proved only that the issue was beyond settlement by ordinary means. Hence the consideration of a Constitutional amendment, which hopes do for marriage what the the 13th Amendment did for slavery -- settle the issue once and for all -- forgetting that the 13th Amendment only codified the results of the Civil War, not make it unnecessary.

The culture wars are in some respect, the intellectual doppelganger of the War on Terror. Who doubts that it was a morbid, powerful and well developed Idea that materialized in the clear blue skies over Manhattan to strike the twin towers down on September 11, 2001? An Idea that until discredited will perpetually reanimate its adherents into detonating themselves in hospitals, hotels and children's amusement parks? The physical War on Terror was merely a facet of a larger global struggle of ideas between the left and conservatives over whether America could legitimately defend itself and its civilization. The effect of the war would follow from the consequences of the cultural struggle. Saddam believed that the Left would prevail with a resounding no. It was with considerable surprise that he saw the American forces cross the Tigris.  As Anne Coulter points out,

according to the former director of Iraqi television quoted in the Telegraph, the last words he heard Uday speak were these: "This time I think the Americans are serious. Bush is not like Clinton. I think this is the end."

Uday though, was wrong. For the culture wars have scarcely begun. Right across the globe, over issues like the role of the United Nations, personal liberty, gun control, abortion, civil rights and national sovereignty, theocracy, sexual normativeness and much else -- the combatants are just beginning to muster under their respective flags. At stake are their respective visions of what it means to be free, to be human and to be saved. Like the Blue and the Grey of long ago, there will be many on both sides who will be high-minded, brave and doomed. For the harsh truth is that one side will triumph and the other will see its way of life and all that it holds dear, vanish forever.

O, that a man might know
The end of this day's business ere it come!
But it sufficeth that the day will end,
And then the end is known.