In the aftermath of the Supreme Court's ruling on same-sex marriage, David Brooks notes that social conservatives still seem determined to turn back the clock on sexual morality. Brooks tries to steer them away from the course they're on:
These conservatives are enmeshed in a decades-long culture war that has been fought over issues arising from the sexual revolution. Most of the conservative commentators I’ve read over the past few days are resolved to keep fighting that war.
I am to the left of the people I have been describing on almost all of these social issues. But I hope they regard me as a friend and admirer. And from that vantage point, I would just ask them to consider a change in course....
Put aside a culture war that has alienated large parts of three generations from any consideration of religion or belief. Put aside an effort that has been a communications disaster, reducing a rich, complex and beautiful faith into a public obsession with sex. Put aside a culture war that, at least over the near term, you are destined to lose.
I'd argue that the War on Sex not only makes religion look stifling and awful, it's done the same thing to conservatism, which was going great guns in the 1980s, and might have won an overwhelming, decades-long victory if righties hadn't been so obsessed with unwed mothers and gay people and porn.
What Brooks is trying to do is futile, because these folks aren't going to listen to his recommendation for an alternative course:
Social conservatives could be the people who help reweave the sinews of society. They already subscribe to a faith built on selfless love....
The defining face of social conservatism could be this: Those are the people who go into underprivileged areas and form organizations to help nurture stable families. Those are the people who build community institutions in places where they are sparse. Those are the people who can help us think about how economic joblessness and spiritual poverty reinforce each other. Those are the people who converse with us about the transcendent in everyday life.
... the sexual revolution will not be undone anytime soon. The more practical struggle is to repair a society rendered atomized, unforgiving and inhospitable. Social conservatives are well equipped to repair this fabric, and to serve as messengers of love, dignity, commitment, communion and grace.
But these social conservatives aren't remotely interested in "selfless love." They're interested in God's wrath. More specifically, they're interested in being the broken-windows cops enforcing God's wrath. They want to scold. They want to ban. They want to identify sinners and declare them unworthy unless they repent, while society, in unison, chants, "Shame! Shame! Shame!"
And, failing that, they want to regard themselves as the culture's most long-suffering martyrs. Here's Rod Dreher, one of the conservatives Brooks mentions by name in his column, responding to what Brooks wrote:
I am recommending a strategy for resisting, enduring and thriving under the reality of occupation.
Yeah, there's a guy you want ministering to those in need, right?
The sense of being under siege feeds Dreher's sense of self-righteousness. He knows he stands for good. He knows that the society we live in is evil -- and that those of us who share the values of this society are deranged destroyers of civilization:
The point is, there is no way for Christians to undertake the task of nurturing stable families, as David correctly wishes for, without making the teaching of Christian chastity part of the mission. This is the one thing the world cannot accept....
The romanticization of sexual love is no new thing. But it continues to seduce us and to confuse us, and, along with economic individualism, has become on of the two dominant ideologies of our civilization. This bad idea has consequences. The destruction of the family and the sundering of social bonds are among them.
Love your significant other? Love your significant other romantically and sexually? You're going to hell. And you're taking the rest of us with you.
Stop trying to reason with these people, David. Stop trying to be one of these people -- we've read the rumors and we know you can't live according to their moral code. I'm sure most of these clowns can't do it themselves, either. But that won't stop them from lecturing us. David, please realize that what they want most for society is to be its morality cops. They don't really give a crap about Christ's love.
Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog