Our Century of Culture Wars

Today, Christianity Today carries my review of the new book Moral Combat, a history of culture wars over sex in the 20th century:

Sex is at the center of the culture wars because sex is essential to religion and also (as the basis of the family) to politics. Conflicting approaches to sexuality, caused by different religious views, create political conflict because they produce different understandings of the family. The family is the institution that connects individuals to the wider social world, so any major change in the life of families implies some kind of major political change as a result—and vice versa. We see this today in debates about the definition of marriage, but it was just as true in debates about birth control laws in the 1920s or sex education in schools in the 1960s.

I’m especially proud of this sentence:

She bends over backward to rescue Margaret Sanger and her movement from their creepy enthusiasm for eugenics; Griffith delicately remarks that they were “caught up in the eugenic ideas then common among the white middle and upper classes,” which is a little like saying Al Capone was caught up in the glamorization of organized crime then common in Chicago.

I argue that one major underlying cause of culture wars is our inability to build social organization on the family as the basic unit of society rather than the individual since we adopted women’s suffrage – which we were right to do, but which we did without an adequate plan for how to adjust our polity to preserve the family’s social role under the new regime:

Thankfully, we are no longer willing to deny women the equal political rights to which they are entitled. But we no longer know how to build our social order on the family rather than on autonomous individuals, and that is a potentially fatal flaw.

Let me know what you think!

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