Individuals are not enough: the battle for culture

Alan Roebuck has published an important essay on the subject of what will, and what won’t, work for conservative Christians wanting to retake the culture.  His essay is prompted by arguments over the Manhattan Declaration among the conservative Protestant intelligensia.  A number of conservative Christians object to the Declaration because they say that political organization and culture war battling is a waste of time.  The only thing that matters is to convert individual souls; therefore, Christians should ignore culture and power structures and spend all their energies on evangelization.

As Roebuck points out, this view is, sociologically speaking, extremely naive.  It ignores the extent to which individuals are shaped by the surrounding laws, customs, and culture.  This culture is not determined by majority belief; it is (necessarily) imposed by an elite.

Cultural renewal means the renewal of American society’s order, the vast complex of her laws, rules, regulations, customs, traditions, habits and so on. And to be renewed, this order would have to be changed so that it is no longer (as it is now) largely based on the false worldview of the Left, but instead reflects a more accurate worldview, one based on Christianity, on the accumulated wisdom of millennia of human experience, and on the unique experiences of the American people.

America’s existing cultural order — consisting of all the left-leaning laws, rules, customs, habits and institutions — is not there because of the beliefs of John Q. Public. Most Americans, although they generally go along with our liberal order, are not particularly leftist in thought and deed. America’s leftist order is here because leftists have organized themselves and taken effective action to bring it into existence. Our leaders rule in accordance with liberalism and John Q. Public goes along, as he always does. Although Christian evangelism is absolutely necessary as the foundation of a properly-ordered society, America’s bad ordering will not go away spontaneously when more people come to faith in Jesus Christ. It will only be replaced when conservatives start doing the work of retaking control of America’s ruling institutions. [Or, at the very least, creating parallel, non-liberal institutions that could one day form the basis of a renewed society.]

Some similar points are made in James Davidson Hunter’s new book To Change the World.  Hunter puts things starkly:  Christians are 85% of the American population, but our influence on the culture is completely negligible.  That’s because culture is not determined by majority practice.  It is set by elites, and Christians are nowhere near the centers of cultural power.

Those who control the means of indoctrination control the country, and, more importantly, our children.  Consider this harrowing story told by Lydia McGrew in a comment at Zippy Catholic:

Last year we opposed a homosexual and even transvestite rights ordinance. It was such an extreme ordinance that it was possible to focus just on the transvestite aspect of it to show how extreme it was. Yet nonetheless it passed. When I was trying to get signatures to force it to a referendum vote (as opposed to its being allowed to pass on merely the vote of the City Commission, which would otherwise have happened), I literally had people say to me, “I don’t want to do anything against gays.” It was that stark. These were not ideologues (though I met plenty of those, too). These were nice, ordinary people who simply felt that it would be bad somehow to “do anything against gays.” One woman told me that she was afraid that her grown daughter would learn that she had signed and would be angry with her.

I don’t know where exactly this fits in, but I did think that the woman’s comment about her daughter was striking. And it wasn’t the only case of that kind I encountered. One woman I met was utterly dominated by her miserably unhappy young lesbian-looking daughter (perhaps about twenty) who was present when I visited and who was extremely angry about my position.

Some kind of corruption is working backwards through the generations–young people who have been sent (often) to public school and have either “come out” or at least have imbibed a strongly sexual libertarian ideology are imposing it on their naturally more conservative parents who may themselves have led quite chaste lives.

Let’s be honest.  Barring road-to-Damascus-style supernatural conversions, these kids are lost to God and to us forever.  When liberalism gets its hooks in that deep, there’s no getting it out.  And our elite is working hard to make sure that every child in the world is subjected to the full amount of homosexualist drilling.  If we allow this to happen to our children, nothing we can tell them–no amount of “sharing our faith” in private when the doors are locked and the shades are drawn–is going to make a difference.  And the only thing that can stop it is political action.

I hope Mr. Roebuck’s essay and Mr. Hunter’s book will ignite a discussion on the Right about how we are to organize to propagate our beliefs.  I don’t mean how to recruit voters or organize marches and protests.  I mean how to establish a rival elite, how to develop our own organs of indoctrination, and how to enforce our own censures.  These are the nuts and bolts of cultural survival, and we can’t trust either the State or the Church (in their current conditions) to take care of it for us.

2 Responses

  1. I am the manager of the Manhattan Declaration website and am glad to see that you’ve read it and considered it in your writings. One thing came to mind when I read the objections some people have to the Manhattan Declaration from your post–it’s that religion influences the family, families build a culture, and out of culture comes government. If we are upset with the government, we should definitely work to restore the proper order in our governing structures, but we should also look to the root cause that lies below government and sometimes even culture. Same goes for culture–culture comes out of something and reveals the flaws in the thing it grows out of. We have families that are falling apart, and yet we wonder why our culture is in such turmoil.

    Also, liberalism will saturate the ears and into the minds of the culture until we get people thinking critically about the issues of the day–including life, traditional marriage, and religious liberty, as we do in the Manhattan Declaration.

    Regardless, I appreciate your posting and hope you are your readers read and sign the Manhattan Declaration (

  2. Hello Mr. Atwell,

    I’m honored by your giving attention to my post. I strongly support the MD’s stands in defense of fetal rights and the patriarchal family. I have not yet signed the Declaration myself, due to scruples similar to those of S. M. Hutchens, articulated here. I may change my mind, and I encourage all my readers to consider signing.

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