Clash Of The Cultures
Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America,by James Davison Hunter (Basic Books, 400 pp.; $24.95, hardcover). Reviewed by Robert W. Patterson, a minister of the Presbyterian Church in America, who is associate to the executive director of the National Association of Evangelicals.

In 1955 the noted Jewish philosopher Will Herberg wrote his classic Protestant, Catholic, Jew, claiming that a new cultural consensus had been achieved in the United States as three historically antagonistic groups had learned to accommodate themselves to each other. While tensions still existed between these faiths, Herberg found that their shared ethical idealism and belief in social progress rooted in a common biblical theism gave American society in the midtwentieth century a powerful sense of identity and purpose.

The thesis made a lot of sense a generation ago, but if he were living now, Herberg would find that his neat structure of American pluralism has collapsed. According to a young sociologist at the University of Virginia, James Davison Hunter, we have not peacefully progressed from the consensus of Protestant, Catholic, Jew, but reverted to heated religious conflict that many had thought was confined to America’s past. Hunter forcefully articulates and vividly illustrates the contemporary crisis in Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America.

The book examines the various contemporary strands of public disagreement, highlighting the heightened social tensions: between prolifers and those defending abortion rights, between defenders of the traditional family and those calling for tolerance of “alternative” lifestyles, between critics of school textbooks and television programming and those who cry “censorship.”

Far ...

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