Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Opting Out

Reader DA says this about the culture wars.

Interesting point. I'm a member of the (liberal) Presbyterian Church (USA) which has been losing members since it provided support for Angela Davis. Not that AD is a warcry today, but the authoritian liberalism emanating from the top is the same or worse. Congregations generally ignore the Word from Louisville. Still, we're shrinking. Ditto the other mainline ("sideline") churches. My son and his wife have joined a huge Presbyterian Church in America congregation and love it. They can't stop talking about it. The PCA is far more socially conservative. My son's two sisters in law--with their husbands--are going to conservative churches and becoming very closely involved. It is interesting that the six of them are well-educated, and have good jobs. The girls are all about six feet tall, outstanding high school and college athletes, homecoming-court-qualified. They have no deficiencies to be hidden or salved. The churches they attend are growing. My own congregation is growing, one of few in the PCUSA, partly because we are socially conservative. There is a sense of circling the wagons, in churches, Scouts, other organizations. I think the tipping point will be when a fire company arrives to find an ACLU office on fire and declines to act. That's an example. That would be a true clash of cultures. Still, there is a perverse pride among soldiers and others that the free-loaders and parasites and whiners are allowed the same freedoms as are their betters who provide the protection, services, food.

Yes, there is an opting out, which is far less noticeable than a resistance, but will probably have more of an effect in the long run.

If "opting out" becomes widespread practice it will inevitably result in a gradual resegregation of society into "separate but equal" communities divided along ideological, religious or ethnic lines. One of the strengths of America, vis-a-vis Europe was its vision of itself as a melting pot of humanity in pointed distinction to the Balkanization of parts of the Old World. The day a fire company refuses to put out a conflagration in an ACLU office will mark the end of that dream.

But there may be a temporal aspect to the culture wars as well. The baby boom generation of both Europe and America threw up its own peculiar and largely liberal ideology which naturally found its way into social mores and regulation. That generation is passing into history. In thirty years there will be no living men with a firsthand recollection of the Civil Rights Movement or the Vietnam War. Yet the dead hand of its custom will enshroud social discourse for some time to come. Social policies created when the European baby boomers were preoccupied with overpopulation will carry forward on sheer momentum into an era when its population is actually shrinking. Historians will be able to study, not without a feeling of pathos, the effects of a youth culture carried forward into a geriatric society. Reader PB from the UK writes:

Marriage is certainly, in my view, a major civilising institution for males. Single males here in the UK are neotenic and one would be hard pressed to differentiate between a 13 year old and a 30 year old as far as behaviour, dress and interests go. Only the stubble is a bit of a give away. I know of several instances where "mummy" runs them about and waits on them hand and foot, needless to say these blokes don't work, males need a "wife" to instruct them that life isn't like that.

But that is assuming there will be historians to record the tale and it is an open question whether it will be written, if at all, in English or Arabic.