The Great American Divide
This column by ACRU Senior Fellow Robert Knight was published July 3, 2016 by The Washington Times.
On a July 4th that fell on a Sunday a few years ago, I made a mistake.
A guest speaker at a suburban Maryland church, I mounted the pulpit after a color guard had gone down the aisle with Old Glory. The congregation applauded those who had served in the armed forces. Then they settled in for what they hoped would be a Christian-themed patriotic message.
I started with humor, but soon fell into a jeremiad about how we were losing America’s culture war, turning us into a nation that our Founders wouldn’t recognize. It did not go over well. As I shook hands with people filing out, very few looked me in the eye. My wife later told me in a somewhat diplomatic tone, “it was a real downer, Bob.”
Well, okay, I won’t do the same to you here. Well, maybe a bit. These are weird times. I do want to discuss the Great American Divide, but will resist recapping how our “public servants,” especially the new Supreme Court majority, are going postal on our God-given liberties.
In his recently published posthumous book Subtracting Christianity: Essays on American Culture and Society, Joseph Sobran shows once again why he was the premiere essayist on the deeper conflict beneath contemporary American politics.
Sobran saw the culture war as a full-throated liberal assault on God, reason and American liberty, dressed in the language of “equality,” “fairness” and “tolerance.” He often lamented the church’s unilateral disarmament in many important areas. I can only imagine how he would now describe the cave-in by prominent politicians and the military brass to the “draft women and Klinger for combat” lunacy.
Many of his columns were primers on liberalism versus civilization. In 2001, he noted that people were shocked when a devout Catholic family man, Robert Hanssen, turned out to be a traitor who sold secrets to the Soviets. That’s because Hanssen’s treachery reflected “a life of strenuous contradictions,” Sobran wrote.
When Franklin Roosevelt’s advisor Alger Hiss was caught working for Joseph Stalin, Sobran observed, “nobody asked, ‘How on earth can you be a liberal and a Communist at the same time?’ Why? Because liberalism was the most hospitable camouflage for Communists.… The simplest proof is that William Z. Foster, head of the U.S. Communist Party, also sat on the national board of the liberal American Civil Liberties Union.”
Since then, the ACLU has done a boffo job hiding its pedigree, even as it fields junkyard dog lawyers that push increasingly radical policies.
At bottom is a fundamental disagreement over human nature. As America’s founders understood from their Christian culture, people are created in the image of God and therefore have unalienable rights that governments have no authority to violate. But because we’re all sinners, no one should get too much power. Romans 3:10 declares, “there is not one righteous, no, not one,” and Romans 3:23 says, “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” This understanding animates the Constitution.
Nonsense, say the liberals. Man is essentially good and just needs the right system to evolve toward perfection. The Constitution is useful, but only when it doesn’t hinder government expansion. By the way, ignore the wasteland that was Detroit. Our policies didn’t work because they were underfunded by a few trillion of your dollars.
Liberals (i.e. progressives) believe and act as if there are no enemies to the left. Constant cultural revolution is the prescription. No traditional aspect of American life is to be spared. As for America’s foes, well. As President Obama might say, we owe them an apology.
“When Americans finally awoke to the evils of Communism,” Sobran wrote, “liberals had harsher words for Joe McCarthy, who cost a few people their government jobs, than for Joe Stalin, who cost tens of millions of people their lives.”
In the current version, progressives label as “haters” and “bigots” anyone who believes in natural marriage, opposes open borders, defends the Second Amendment, or refuses to accept the fiction that all religions equally spawn terrorists.
Well, I don’t want to leave you on a bad note, like those poor people in that Maryland church who undoubtedly have since celebrated more joyous Independence Days.
America is still America, a beacon of liberty. Millions of Americans are raising families, working hard, living out their faith, and trying to ignore the ruling elites’ siren song of enlightened debauchery and government dependency. We have much to be thankful for.
In 1981, Ronald Reagan celebrated Independence Day with these thoughts:
“Let the Fourth of July always be a reminder that here in this land, for the first time, it was decided that man is born with certain God-given rights; that government is only a convenience created and managed by the people, with no powers of its own except those voluntarily granted to it by the people. We sometimes forget that great truth, and we never should. Happy Fourth of July.”