Talk of war is everywhere. It exploded into popular discourse when sociologist James Davison Hunter of the University of Virginia published Culture Wars, his book-length analysis of our nation’s moral impasse. In his follow-up book, Before the Shooting Begins: Searching for Democracy in America’s Culture War, Hunter argues that the conflict over values is so severe that our very democracy may be in jeopardy.

In his provocative book Beyond Culture Wars: Is America a Mission Field or Battlefield? Reformed theologian Michael Horton uses the same language of battle and claims the war has been fought and lost. Horton cites Jewish scholar Irving Kristol's doleful lament: “In his [1992 Republican] convention speech, Pat Buchanan referred to the ‘culture wars.’ I regret to inform him that those wars are over, and the Left has won. . . . The Left today completely dominates the educational establishment, the entertainment industry, the universities, the media. . . . There is no point in trying to inject ‘family values’ into these institutions. They will debase and corrupt the very ideal while pretending to celebrate it.”

Evangelical leader James Dobson of Focus on the Family also uses the powerful metaphor of war, writing urgently about “the ongoing civil war of values.” His newsletters rehearsing various battles of this “civil war'” mobilize thousands. Other ministries and, indeed, Christianity Today authors comment on both victories and losses in this Herculean struggle.

Undoubtedly, the metaphor of “culture war” reflects the reality of conflict. Today Christians swim against a tide of sub-Christian behavior: drugs, distorted sex, greed, ...

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