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Culture Wars in the US and American Politics

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Cultural Studies
Wordcount: 1910 words Published: 7th Aug 2018

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The term “culture wars” gained national prominence when first used by Pat Buchanan at the 1992 Republican National Convention and declare that “there is currently a war for the nation’s sole.” This became a critic moment within American politics and can be viewed as a tipping point for a major politic shift within the G.O.P. This also garnered the attention of almost all of the main stream media sources and helped create the movement of Christian conservatism in mainstream politics.

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This idea is essentially a clash between what two different people (or groups) believe to be true within our society, and others with different viewpoints. No other collective set of ethical and moral issues have driven a wedge into the social fabric of the United States quite like the “culture wars” of the past thirty years. Lines of division have been drawn on social, political, religious, legal and family issues between two warring factions of secular institute and organized fundamentalists.

The culture wars take on more than an ethnographical approach in American society. It is about politics, education, communal relations and the anthropology of how this country will be shaped for future generations.

The examination of these “wars” should be dealt with as a category for the purpose of ethnographic inquiry. In other words, applicable scrutiny must be applied to each significant topic as a function of contemporary social process that makes up the foundation, and the catalyst, of this war. Make no mistake that this monolithic movement has caused a deep divide when the American landscape.

The battle against secularism is a movement with profound emotional dimensions. Along with the effects of political mobilization and a strategic purpose, the New Christian Right has developed an emotional construction of collective identities that is at the forefront of today’s issues.

James Davison Hunter believes that Americans have been divided between the “orthodox” and the “progressives,” characterized by “political and social hostility rooted in different systems of understanding.”

Public debate in modern America is not so much a process of mutual understanding and negotiation as the exercise of power politics, but of imposing one agenda to the exclusion of another (Hunter p.155)

He also goes on to state the media no longer mediates the political issues, but instead exacerbates the division by polarizing the moderate discourse that is in the average Americans’ mindset. This level and volume of this exacerbation can be calibrated and amplified with the unlimited reach and unregulated internet.

One defining feature of the “culture war” is the labeling and classification of issues that have been deemed as moralistic. This is a form of binary construction that lends credence to the idea that the struggle is religious in nature. In most cases, issues and players are presented as polar opposites with irreconcilable differences. Henceforth, most of the battles within this culture war are usually portrayed as liberal versus conservative, or to a lesser degree, Democrat versus Republican (Chapman p. xxvii).

Although most Americans may find themselves somewhere between the divisiveness or these polarities, the binary construction has a galvanizing effect on individuals who tend to fall toward either end of the socio-political spectrum.

This blending of religion and politics is still alive and well today with people like Ralph Reed of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, Jim Daly of Focus on the Family, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, Phyllis Schlafly of Eagle Forum, Tim Wildmon of the American Family Association, James Dobson of the Alliance Defense Fund, David Barton of Wall Builders, Beverly LaHaye of Concerned Women for America.

These are fundamental desperate views on how American culture operates.

Methodology of Unification

Social approaches through the use of communication, especially with electronic mass communication, are certainly nothing new. Below are a few sociological and psychological unification factors that have contributed to the success in the fusion of the New Christian Right. Evolutionary consideration should be made in terms of how this movement has generated support on such a grand scale. Many of the factors have been used successfully utilized by previous social and political movements, but this particular phenomenon has developed to the point of major influence in the current American political climate.

In conjunction with the dynamics of emotional appeal, a number of unifying factors come into play in the attraction and recruitment of interested outsiders. These factors can also strengthen the bond of internal group cohesiveness. Some of these factors are illustrated below, but this list is certainly not and end-all, be-all. Psychological approaches differ by the individuals’ world view and level of influence, or distraction, from local persuaders and opinion leaders.

In addition to drawing on preexisting emotional bases, within individual experiences, a conscience constituency can be emergent, especially in the case of highly successful social movements (Goodwin p.31). These social approaches are focused on visible behavior or mobilization into action by the identifying the groups’ cognition. Successful social approaches can eventually led to a version of a socially constructed reality.

This group (or it can be said, a number of these groups, but as a whole) utilize Automaton perspectives (Bryant p.7) to help influence their agenda-setting prerogative. In order for agenda-setting to occur, individuals must be susceptible to being programmed by the media. In this particle case, the media in specially honed to individuals who have a need for orientation.

Specialized interest groups need the recognition and attention of the mass media (and various specialized channels of media) in order to acquire legitimacy, visibility and credibility, as well as communicate their issue frames to the public (Callaghan p. 9).

With a number of carefully selected issues and/or stories, many of these media outlets attempt to completely define issues, or at least exemplify the issue. In these cases the exemplifiers attempt to exemplify the issue (and the perspective) as definite and exemplified. Exemplification is not an all-or nothing concept, however (Bryant p. 21). The degree in which the level of exemplification takes place is subject to empirical determination.

These methodologies fall into the parameters of a scientific field of study, but have interpretive qualities to the media consumer. Therefore, the levels of interpretation validate the level of effectiveness for not only each media outlet, but also by each strategy utilized.

A social cognitive can also lead into the philosophical position of moral relativism which is the difference between moral judgments across many people and cultures. In the case of the New Christian Right, the branch of moral relativism that copepods into meti-ethical relativism does not factor into their subjectivity of culturally moral issues. Meti-ethical moral relativism holds that no one is objectively right or wrong, but behavior should be tolerated even if that behavior goes against an individual’s value system. So, this relativism is relative to their particular stand or viewpoint.

The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy says that, “Many moral relativists, however, take the fact-value distinction to be fundamental.” There is not manner in which traditionalist can prove that their morals and ethics are particularly right or wrong, but there is still the judgment of their relativism being superior (Westacott).

From their perspectives, what is considered the truth is through cognitive relativism that is based on a cultural relativism that has been developed and molded in an all encompassing and unifying perspective.

The line that separates church and state has become more blurry within this country.

The praxis, by which moralists have coerced, swayed and sometimes enforced their belief system onto the political format has had a resounding affect on our legislative and judicial system.

Beliefs are a means to organize behavior and emotion. Therefore, many of these moral activists are seeking a means of ratifying their socially construction perception of reality.

Dominion Theology

Dominion Theology or Dominionism is the proposal that Christians should strive toward either a nation governed by Christians or one governed by a conservative Christian understanding of biblical law. This ideology is dominant among evangelical Protestants within the United States. It is a type of theocracy and is interconnected the theonomy, though it does not necessarily sponsor Mosaic laws as the basis of government.

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Some elements within the mainstream Christian Right have been predisposed by Dominion Theology authors. Indeed, some writers have employed the idiom “Dominionism” more broadly to the New Christian Right, wholly arguing that that faction is founded upon a theology that requires Christians to preside over non-Christians. Typical conservatives do not call themselves “Dominionists,” and the usage has sparked considerable debate.

Their ideas are often reflected by non-reconstructionist like Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell as a social revolution that should be forcefully swept across the country in reference to certain Biblical text.

This idea states that Christianity will rule all areas of society through strict fundamental interpretation of Biblical laws. These rules should permeate throughout all of society, politics and business. This is not a government system ruled by the church, but rather a government conformed to the Law of God.

Paul C. McGlasson states that Dominionism is constructed on four basic foundations:

  1. Epistemological dualism operates under the presumption that only devout Christians are truly capable of understanding and properly interpreting the Bible. Therefore, there is a distinct separation between God’s self-defined reality and human autonomy. Hence, any secularist’s Biblical interpretations are skewed and invalid.
  2. Dominion theology and the process of re-constructionism are all about a direct application of Mosaic Law to our society. These laws should apply every facet of American society and not just ancient Israel.
  3. Christian culture is an all-encompassing national perspective that affects every aspect of society; government, schools, families, corporations. This is viewed as the natural order of operations, and any resistance to this philosophy is purely secular.
  4. The forth, and most important aspect for this thesis is Christian political domination which states that individuals and cut into two different groups, believers and non-believers. Thus, there are two distinct forms of laws and governance, Biblical ans secular law.


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