Danger, the Day After Tomorrow

Anti-abortion activists march near the Supreme Court building during the March for Life in Washington on Jan. 18. (Jose Luis Magana/AP)

Michael Gerson gets to the lurking problem for the Pro-Life movement and its embracing of and embrace by this President, what he terms “the Trumpification” of the movement. The danger happens when it wins, in the day after tomorrow.

But if the overturn or revision of Roe comes, it will almost certainly return greater flexibility to states regarding the regulation of abortion. This will kindle dozens of debates across the country and become a contest of persuasion and organization.

It is then that the Trumpification of the pro-life movement will exact a price. There is a serious cost when a movement that regards itself as pro-woman associates with misogyny. There is a serious cost when a movement that claims to be expanding the circle of social inclusion associates itself with nativism and racism. There is a serious cost when a movement that needs to be seen as charitable and reasonable associates itself with the politics of abuse and cruelty.

This turns out to be a particularly pure test of transactional, single-issue politics. Would you trade a major political gain for a large chunk of your moral reputation?

Gerson leaves untouched the present danger, that in this all-too partisan age, political antagonism reduces, evaporates the moral question. Principle is reduced to a kind of tactics, the means to win some political ground.

The only counter is to recognize that moral positions require moral lives, as well, seeing the other not as mere antagonist, but as one traveling the same road.

Michael Gerson, “The Trumpification of the pro-life movement exacts a price.” The Washinton Post. Jan. 21, 2019

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Blame the Culture War?

Think Christian points to a Capital Commentary from Michael Gerson, and asks, “How can Christians rise above political polarization? ”

The appropriate Gerson comment is this:

“(partisanship) turns near every political disagreement into a culture war debate, making social compromise far more difficult. “

That’s the issue, it would seem. How do you unwind the cultural war?

No matter how much Matthew Anderson wants to play it down, the point of the cultural war was to weight political decisions with values, such that the usual pragmatic concerns, those that split the difference, could not be acted on. This weighing of political discussion with values, where nominal decisions become freighted with (eternal) significance is the product out of any number of religious disputes. It is peculiarly the creature of American church conflict and its myriad of self-differentiating sects, and of American culture’s natural bent towards an individualism. So the same tactics, the same type of over-the-top invective so useful for (religious) product differentiation, becomes the stuff of the every political task.

But in one sense we are at the end of the cultural wars. The great clarification, the sorting in the Protestant church and in the political sphere, both sides have seized their appropriate ground. So as long as you keep going to the cultural war well, you end up with the same stalemate.

The stalemate is a trap. It’s very frustration, it’s deadlocking encourages participants to the path of power, to basically forcing the issue by might. For Christians that is a trap since it trades short term success for long term disability in the public sphere. (Win and the losers resent, lose and the winners discount your belief. Lose-lose either way).

Gerson gets the point that maybe we need to move sideways. Talk about Africa, say. As part of that, one must necessarily also die to self. We need a new vision of what it means to serve God in this world other than that conventionally political one which the cultural wars have brought us.

Climate Change

This from Michael Gerson:

The resistance of many conservatives to arguments about climate disruption is magnified by class and religion. Tea Party types are predisposed to question self-important elites. Evangelicals have long been suspicious of secular science, which has traditionally been suspicious of religious influence. Among some groups, skepticism about global warming has become a symbol of social identity — the cultural equivalent of a gun rack or an ichthus.
But however interesting this sociology may be, it has nothing to do with the science at issue. Even if all environmentalists were socialists and secularists and insufferable and partisan to the core, it would not alter the reality of the Earth’s temperature.

The transformation of skepticism into a shibboleth is fascinating, and something of a learned response. It’s a matter of identity, that in turn suggests that the issue is tapping something deeper in the skeptic. Climate disruption carries with it the whiff of disruption, or impermanence, true; perhaps even more it is the role of climate as a sign of hope. The issue is the bow in the sky, Nature/Creation’s seeming permanence proclaims that one can begin again. It’s never drastic. Our nature calendars tell us that this world is good. this is a delight that is egalitarian — we all have access to this beauty, this goodness that is outside our door.

Climate disruption would seem to put a lie to this; the tragic has happened. The beauty we see, the memories of cold winters and green summers at the lake are fading, not to be ours. Science and the elites seem to take it away from us. And so it becomes a matter of cultural war, not because of science or faith, but of loss.