The November elections left moral conservatives perplexed, and no wonder. Even though 70 percent of Americans oppose partial-birth abortion, voters in two states rejected referenda banning it. Though 65 percent of Americans disapprove of the President's personal behavior, Democrats made gains while some pro-impeachment congressmen were defeated.
The results deepen a malaise I've sensed among evangelicals over our ability to change the culture. According to exit polls, religious conservatives dropped from 15 percent of the electorate in 1996 to 13 percent this year. On all sides I hear battle-weary evangelicals talk about abandoning cultural engagement and tending our own backyard instead.
I can't imagine anything more self-defeating, or more ill-timed, for two reasons. First, it is unbiblical. Scripture calls us to bring Christ's redemption to all of life; despair is a sin. Second, to leave the cultural battlefield now would be to desert the cause just when we are on the verge of making a historic breakthrough. I believe John Paul II is exactly right in predicting that the year 2000 will usher in "a great springtime for Christianity." Sound like I'm wearing rose-colored glasses? Consider the evidence.
The revival of moral discourse. Just a year ago it was nearly impossible to discuss serious moral issues in public forums. The consensus was that private morality has no public consequences. But who would say that today? In recent months, I've appeared on several national talk shows discussing repentance and other moral themes.
The tide is turning in the culture war. Richard Nadler notes in National Review that most social pathologies are declining: the divorce rate is down 19 percent since 1981; the birth rate for unmarried teens ...1