Sunday, March 15, 2009

Declaring Victory in the Culture Wars

New York Times columnist Frank Rich crowed victory atop the dungheap yesterday, declaring that the right's anemic response to Obama's various leftist movements on social policy represent the capitulation of the right on most social issues.

Unfortunately, recent experience leads Philo-Junius to concur. The ongoing soap opera of Bristol Palin, coupled with such past episodes as the shameful case of Mark Foley, David Vitter and Larry Craig have demonstrated that most rightists will in fact overlook or forgive nearly any moral transgression as long as they believe it advances their overall political interests. The German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer had this to say about the willingness to presume upon God's forgiveness:

"Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like a cheapjack's wares. The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin, and the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut-rate prices. Grace is represented as the Church's inexhaustible treasury, from which she showers blessings with generous hands, without asking questions or fixing limits. Grace without price; grace without cost! And the essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing. Since the cost was infinite, the possibilities of using and spending it are infinite. What would grace be, if it were not cheap?

...In such a Church the world finds a cheap covering for its sins; no contrition is required, still less any real desire to be delivered from sin. . .

Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner. Grace alone does everything, they say, and so everything can remain as it was before.

...Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, (it is) baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate."

Cheap grace was always the preserve of the 60s-era leftists who have come to dominate the Democratic Party; it now seems that the gangrene has become politically systemic.

The ability of a free people to maintain self-rule has always hinged upon the ability of the self-governing people to restrain themselves: if cheap grace is indeed now the political consensus we cannot expect self-government long to endure. If the Republican Party can no longer credibly enunciate a compelling case for traditional morality coupled with the clear belief that its own standard-holders are to be held to an especially high standard, its appeals to dedicated social conservatives will inevitably be exposed as mere opportunism.

Rich argues that taking sides in the culture wars has reduced the Republican Party to the party of the Bible Belt. Philo-Junius argues that abandoning the culture wars will reduce the Republican Party to risibility, but that the Republican leadership must acknowledge and repair their badly damaged credibility as standard-bearers on these issues.

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