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The evidence is clear: Many Christians have grown weary of the culture wars. Compared with prior years, Christians have little visible presence in this season's election campaign, and certainly younger evangelicals see the conservative religious agenda as strident and often offensive. What's more, prominent Christian leaders are telling us to take a sabbatical from politics—a seductively appealing message for so many fatigued by our 30-year-long uphill struggle.

At the same time, secularists berate Christians for the culture wars, claiming that we are trying to impose our bigoted agenda on them. Often intimidated, Christians fear raising controversial questions.

But someone should ask: Who started the divisive culture wars in the first place? Far from being the aggressors—as the press would have us believe—religious conservatives have simply been responding to the relentless secularization of American life.

There was a time when Christianity's positive influence on society was applauded. U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, a strong civil libertarian, stated in the 1952 Zorach v. Clauson case: "We are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being …. When the state encourages religious instruction or cooperates with religious authorities … it follows the best of our traditions. For it then respects the religious nature of our people and accommodates the public service to their spiritual needs."

Scarcely a decade later, the Supreme Court, in an astonishing reversal, declared in Engel v. Vitale (1962) and Abington v. Schempp (1963) that prayer and Bible reading in public schools were to be outlawed—and thus opened Pandora's Box. In case after case, justices decided ...

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We Must Not Despair
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October 2010

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