The Battle of Indiana and the Promise of Battles to Come

Here are extended excerpts from an article by David French which was adapted from a speech delivered earlier this year at Hillsdale College’s Kirby Center in Washington, D.C. Emphasis added is my own.

The dust is clearing from the Twitter and Facebook battlefields, the people of Indiana are out from under the white-hot glare of the national media, and both sides are taking stock. Who won the Battle of Indiana? Who lost? What’s next for religious liberty in America?

While conservative pessimists looked at Indiana, watched its politicians immediately compromise, and saw defeat, a closer look shows something else: a cultural stalemate. Nobody truly won in Indiana. From the grassroots to the intellectual elite, conservatives are girding themselves for the long war, and a long war it will be.

Four truths are emerging: First, the battle is not between gay rights and religious liberty—although religious liberty is certainly at stake—but between the sexual revolution and Christianity itself. This means that Christians are faced not with allegedly “minor” or “insignificant” theological changes to gain leftist acceptance, but with wholesale changes to the historical doctrines of the church.

Second, not a single orthodox denomination is making or even contemplating such changes. This means that tens of millions of Americans will remain—indefinitely—opposed to the continued expansion of the sexual revolution.

Third, rather than going quietly, cultural conservatism is showing increasing strength at the grassroots—opposing leftist campaigns at the ground level, bypassing politics to support those most embattled by radical hate campaigns.

In short, if the cultural Left is hoping to dominate the culture—and feels strong in its coastal bastions—it is overreaching, extending beyond the limits of its power. It is exposing itself to embarrassing cultural defeats and succeeding mainly in hardening conservative resolve. In the fight over religious freedom, the Left will not prevail.

The gay rights movement is inseparable from the sexual revolution, and the sexual revolution is inseparable from the gay rights movement. The principles of radical sexual autonomy, freedom from any form of moral judgment, and government support to ameliorate the consequences of sexual libertinism are present in the fights over abortion, gay rights, and now transgender issues. Those who surrender on one issue tend to surrender on others as well. With similar moral principles implicated, similar moral outcomes result.

[T]he religious liberty movement is showing increasing, not decreasing cultural strength. While it is easy to grow discouraged in the face of events like Brendan Eich’s departure from Mozilla, the wave of threats directed at vendors like Memories Pizza, Republican politicians’ continued timidity on “culture war” issues, and the climate of intolerance that exists on campuses and in the mainstream media, the Left’s prominent failures are starting to outnumber its recent successes.

David French then lists the following:

  • The failed Chick-fil-A boycott where cultural conservatives swamped stores nationwide.
  • Leftist pressure against Hobby Lobby failed, which also won its Supreme Court case.
  • Efforts to drive Phil Robertson—of Duck Dynasty fame—off the air failed.
  • In Houston, leftist government officials were forced to backtrack within days after issuing subpoenas requiring area pastors to turn over the contents of their sermons and other communications.
  • In Indiana, as Republican politicians quickly caved to corporate and media pressure, the grassroots response in support of Memories Pizza soon swamped the Left.

While the Left has proven adept at using social media, so have cultural conservatives. And now when the Left overreaches, attempting to drive Christians out of work, there is often an opposite (and greater) reaction.

Fourth, conservative public intellectuals are holding firm in defense of life and religious freedom. Throughout the Battle of Indiana, there was striking unity among leading conservative thinkers. The consensus was clear even among those who support gay marriage: The Left had become illiberal and dangerous. A pluralistic nation must have room for cultural dissenters, and the desire to shame and blacklist individuals and destroy businesses had to be opposed, and opposed vigorously.

The combination of high stakes—with the sexual revolution confronting Christianity itself—and the continued resolve of Christian churches, church members, and conservative public intellectuals, means that the Battle of Indiana is not only indecisive in the larger struggle, it will soon be forgotten as new battles inevitably erupt. These battles will stop only if Christians abandon their historic faith on a truly national scale or if the Left decides that it is content to “live and let live”—to work, attend school, and share the public square with people who express moral disagreement and who work actively to promote a cultural return to traditional morality.

For the time being, however, neither side looks ready to yield. So conservatives should be prepared for more—more battles over weddings, more campus intolerance, more boycotts, more buycotts, and more cultural anger and division.

Read the entire post at Imprimis.

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