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Heads-Up for Preaching in an Election Year

Part 4: When Lutherans Should Engage in Culture Wars
Mark and Mollie Hemingway, Alexandria, Virginia

Editor’s Note: Lutheran pastors are careful—and wisely so—to avoid endorsing particular candidates for office. However, a preacher’s task does include informing his hearers of issues in the public arena that are addressed by Holy Scripture or that might impact our freedom to proclaim Christ. With 2020 a national election year in the United States, we asked well-known Washington commentators Mark and Mollie Hemingway to select and discuss topics of such interest in each of the four quarters of CPR Volume 30. Mr. and Mrs. Hemingway are members of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Alexandria, Virginia.

We’re often asked to talk about political issues to Christian or Lutheran audiences, and while this can be a necessary and useful endeavor, it’s not one we always relish. Our secondary vocations as writers or political commentators should be separate from our more important vocation as Christians. The proper amount of, say, corporate taxation is a matter for democratic disagreement, not scriptural authority. Labels like Republican or Democrat in and of themselves do not say anything meaningful about a person’s character or faith. There should be plenty of room in politics for Christians to disagree with one another while upholding a common faith, or even for Christians to disagree with nonbelievers who are respectful and responsible citizens.

However, political polarization is increasing, and most of us can’t remember a time when culture wars didn’t define our politics. While there are no good objective ways to measure the zeitgeist, it certainly feels as if things are getting worse—a twenty-four-hour news cycle feeds unending controversies driven by guilt-by-association and bad faith accusations.

Further, you’d be forgiven for feeling that both the tenor and the stakes of political debates have changed. Partisanship and cultural lightning rods become part of the debate over benign policy questions, and this is by design. Polarization is often the goal, because it prioritizes issues that partisan or moneyed interests want to see prioritized. Obama Senior Adviser David Plouffe reportedly made this into an unofficial policy that he dubbed “stray voltage.” According to CBS reporter Major Garrett, “The [stray voltage] theory goes like this: Controversy sparks attention, attention provokes conversation, and conversation embeds previously unknown or

marginalized ideas in the public consciousness.”1

While Plouffe and the Obama White House perhaps deserve some condemnation for such tactics, Plouffe was really just articulating a tactic that had already become standard operating procedure for both sides of the aisle. Building consensus and reasoning with people are, well, a lot of work, and since human beings are inherently sinful creatures, it’s much easier to foment anger than understanding.

Of course, gaslighting half the country to attack the other half, even when the issues are inconsequential, is deeply damaging to the democratic process—but don’t take our word for it. Alexis De Tocqueville makes this state of affairs sound rather more sophisticated and ominous: “When great political parties begin to cool in their attachments without softening their hatreds, and at last reach the point of wishing less to succeed than to prevent the success of their

opponents, one should prepare for servitude—the master is near.”2

Let’s hope we are called to account by our heavenly master long before we’re faced with the prospect of an oppressive earthly one. In the meantime, you can help defuse the culture wars by recognizing that often the only winning move is not to play. When you see something in the news, or worse, social media, that upsets you, more often than not, the winning move is to say

nothing. And further, it’s often useful to ask who benefits from getting you riled up and what their motives are.

Alas, it’s not just the tone of the debates and level of manipulation that has ramped up. Some —such as our friend Rod Dreher in his influential book, The Benedict Option—have argued that Christians should respond by withdrawing from mainstream American culture and politics to places where they can protect and create communities in accordance with their beliefs that minimize harmful outside influences. Dreher’s book is commendable, and there is much to be said for this approach when it comes to education and many other matters of import to Christians. However, the space in civil society where you can choose to ignore the arguments at the fringes of politics and culture is still shrinking. And again, that’s by design—the goal is to force societal “progress” by any means necessary. To this end, advocates of religious liberty have a saying: “You will be made to care.”

Not that long ago, it seemed reasonable for many Christians to say they didn’t care what happened in their neighbors’ bedrooms, so long as they respected your beliefs. Well, nearly half a century after a handful of unelected judges first legalized infanticide in the womb, same-sex bathrooms are being outlawed across the country and people are forced to bake wedding cakes at gunpoint. Large majorities are being forced to bend to the will of small minorities, and the process by which this is happening is rarely a democratic process. It’s often being done by an ideologically driven judicial fiat or naked abuse of administrative power precisely because they know that the majority cannot be made to heel any other way.

While we still strongly believe that the Lutheran Church and Christianity writ large should be kept apart from political debates as much as possible, there is real concern that it will be impossible simultaneously to practice and confess our

faith and stand on the sidelines. With that in mind, we offer three principles that, in our humble opinion, could be useful for evaluating when we as Lutherans could or should choose to engage in culture wars or controversial political battles.

The Assault on Objective Truth

The first and most foundational question for considering whether an issue is threatening to the church is also the most broad and difficult to apply: Does it undermine shared notions of objective truth, agreed-upon facts, and a belief that we all experience the same flawed human condition?

The philosophical term of art for this is “the correspondence theory of truth,” and undermining the belief that we share a notion of what is true, as opposed to having the truth dictated to us by

some authority, has always been a key way that totalitarians wield power.3 The twin horrors of fascism and communism were different in many ways, but it’s telling that they shared fondness for damnable, inciteful propaganda. People who thought or even merely looked differently were called subhuman in order to justify their mass murder. The reality is that their beliefs, religion, race, or culture were deemed an impediment to wielding absolute power.

These days, a related set of ideas about who controls “the truth” seems to be gaining purchase in the form of “identity politics” and the related concept of “intersectionality.” Identity politics is defined as when people form political coalitions based on narrow characteristics such as race, class, religion, or something else inimical to their background. This has traditionally been seen as a move away from broad-based political alliances, such as parties, based on shared beliefs.

However, what we’re seeing in American politics and elsewhere is larger political coalitions, particularly on the left, but not exclusively so, prostrating themselves before a variety of identity politics claims that are constantly evolving. These claims typically center on arguments about

who is most deserving of special deference or even the exclusive ability to exercise power, based on the belief that we must rectify various historical incidents of political oppression. In America, with our admittedly horrendous history of chattel slavery, the most potent forms of identity politics center around race, though claims revolving around sexuality, feminism, and gender are obviously potent forces as well.

So how does one square these claims of particular identities with a more broad-based, politically effective movement? This is where intersectionality comes in. The concept of intersectionality creates an interconnected hierarchy of political and cultural grievances. In order to explain intersectionality, at this point we found this description in a recent essay at The American Mind by Peter Boghossian quite useful:

Think about it like this: cis-hetero white males see the world in grayscale. Every oppression characteristic gives one access to an additional color. So cis-hetero black males see the world in grayscale and blue. Cis-lesbian black females see the world in grayscale, blue, and orange. Trans non-binary disabled uneducated black immigrants see the world in a panoply of colors and thus are positioned to have a more accurate view of reality. In Culture War 2.0, correspondence theories of truth aren’t just dead: truth itself is inaccessible to people who

do not possess the right identity characteristics.4

We regret to inform you that Boghossian’s claim that many influential disciples of intersectionality believe that “truth itself is inaccessible to people who do not possess the right

identity characteristics” is by no means hyperbole.5 We would also note that this hierarchal, identity-based claim to the truth is plainly at odds with Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision of a color- blind America that ultimately persuaded America to reject its most prominent forms of governmental racism in the 1960s and that best represents the notion of equality that the majority of Americans believe in.

Now it’s fair to say that acknowledging and making reasonable political and cultural allowances for historical injustice isn’t merely something that Christians can embrace; in certain instances, we may be compelled to do so by our faith. And as Christians, we are always called to have empathy for those who disagree and to put the best construction on opposing arguments. But this is a far cry from certain sectors of society deciding on a preferred remedy and then arguing that anyone who doesn’t find this reasonable is part of some outgroup who is engaged in additional oppressive behavior by choosing civil disagreement. (Or rather, civil disagreement is deemed impossible when your opponents’ alleged privilege renders them incapable of understanding.) This is at worst an inverse racism, where people get defamed as oppressors by skin color and other arbitrary characteristics.

It should also be obvious that drilling down on the claims of identity that underlie this aggressive new form of anti-democratic politics exposes how problematic these distinctions are. While racism remains a serious problem in America, progress has certainly been made, to the point where ample numbers of historically oppressed minorities are now born into wealth and privilege that surpass a great many poor white people. If you’ve been following the recent litigation against Harvard that questions why it is rejecting high-achieving Asian American students at inexplicably high rates, you might understandably conclude that our elite universities are some of the most officially racist institutions in America, contrary to how much these same institutions foist intersectionality upon students’ worldview.

Other claims undergirding identity politics are even more problematic. The legal arguments behind the Obergefell Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage conveniently, and not very logically, vacillate between whether one’s sexuality is intrinsic to a person at birth or defined merely by behavioral choices. We’re seeing the disturbing

fruits of muddling these distinctions played out in the debates over transsexual rights, where biological men are now allowed to enter high school girls’ locker rooms and women’s shelters—

and even compete as equals in women’s sports.6

Rather than acknowledge that men and women are obviously different biologically, even large swaths of the medical and scientific community have become captive to defending the idea that men and women can be treated as biological equals—that is, when they aren’t defending the existence of dozens of self-identified “genders” and sexual preferences. After a transsexual professor started dominating the world of female cycling competitions, Wired magazine reported, “One way to address these issues . . . [outlined] in an essay published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, would be to create a handicap system that uses an algorithm to account for physiological parameters such as testosterone, hemoglobin levels, height, and endurance

capacity, as well as social factors like gender identity and socioeconomic status.”7

We have reached the point where allegedly serious people are arguing that the fastest person doesn’t win the race if the person who came in second grew up in a poor neighborhood. If such attitudes become even more widespread and politically enforceable, you don’t have to see how it undercuts basic notions of reality in ways very detrimental to society.

Finally, it must be said, if it’s not obvious already, that intersectionality and other attempts to undermine objective truth contradict the natural rights that undergird all of America’s agreed- upon founding principles. You don’t get a much more bold declaration of the correspondence theory of the truth than this: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

If there are any more bold declarations of belief in objective truth, perhaps they are the following: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Jn 1:1) and “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn 14:6). There is a reason we refer to “the Gospel truth.”

A society that increasingly rejects objective truth in favor of political expediency is one that will increasingly see faith, as well as reason, as a threat and act accordingly. Even in America where the First Amendment and the free exchange of ideas are supposedly valued, we increasingly see the media and courts either ignore facts or rewrite them altogether when they are at odds with political narratives that indict the sinful behavior of those they find politically sympathetic.

Accordingly, we see several prominent innocents, particularly in religious liberty debates, actively prosecuted for practicing and confessing their faith in the public square. We do not see this improving anytime soon, and the church must be prepared to state the truth of its beliefs and articulate its faith in the public square insofar as such declarations of the Gospel truth are compatible with American principles of freedom, both of which stand or fall on a belief in the divine.

The Assault on the Family and Community

A Lutheran friend of ours who is doing missionary and educational work in China recently explained the importance of what he is doing this way: “The last thing they can stop you from saying is what you tell your children when you’re putting them to bed.” His point was that the very last bulwark against tyranny is family, and this is especially true in a country that spent decades brutally dictating how many children you could have. As a general rule, strong families correlate with freedom and the kind of healthy society that is most compatible with self-rule.

So it ought to be very concerning that new Pew research confirms that the American family is crumbling right before our eyes. “Kids in the U.S. are more likely to live with a single parent and

no other adults than in any other country in the world (23%),” notes Pew religion researcher

Stephanie Kramer.8 The global average for children who live in single-parent households with

no other relatives is just 7 percent.9

But this latest Pew research, alarming as it is, doesn’t explain the full nature of the crisis. A study by Sara McLanahan and Christopher Jencks, professors at Princeton and Harvard respectively, found that 41 percent of all American children are born out of wedlock.

Further, the figures are even higher for minorities. Fifty-two percent of Hispanics are born out

of wedlock, and an astonishing 72 percent of African Americans are born out of wedlock.10 The last stat is especially notable, because McLanahan and Jencks’s study was released to mark

the fiftieth anniversary of Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s11 1965 report “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action,” which warned of the demise of the black family.

These days, Moynihan’s warning is generally acknowledged as prescient and well- intentioned, in spite of some criticisms about how he made his case. However, at the time Moynihan’s report was released and for many years after, Moynihan and the report were vilified for being patronizing toward African Americans, even racist, for daring to suggest children born into homes without fathers were significantly disadvantaged—and this was at a time when less than 30 percent of African Americans were being born out of wedlock.

Dismissing the importance of family had major repercussions. The African American community was already ravaged by more than three hundred years of slavery and state- sponsored oppression, and just as the civil rights breakthroughs in the 1960s were poised to provide black Americans with real opportunity to improve their lives, the emergence of powerful contemporaneous cultural forces—birth control, the sexual revolution, no-fault divorce—were piled on top of vestigial racism and laid waste the black family.

And though many supposedly enlightened people refused to acknowledge that the collapse of nuclear families had a potent effect on American civic life, crime soared. We had to deal with the consequences one way or another. We regret to say that America chose mass incarceration. In an essay titled “The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration,” progressive writer Ta-Nehisi

Coates12 directly connects the choice to ignore Moynihan’s warning about the disintegration of black families to the creation of the terrible policies that affected the black community in a wildly disproportionate manner.

“From the mid-1970s to the mid-’80s, America’s incarceration rate doubled, from about 150 people per 100,000 to about 300 per 100,000. From the mid-’80s to the mid-’90s, it doubled again,” writes Coates. “By 2007, it had reached a historic high of 767 people per 100,000, before registering a modest decline to 707 people per 100,000 in 2012. In absolute terms,

America’s prison and jail population from 1970 until today has increased sevenfold.”13

One of the few heartening political developments of the last few years is the emergence of bipartisan support for criminal justice reform. But again, it seems like the horrifying prospect of imprisoning nearly one out of every 100 Americans—and specifically, more than one out of

every fifty African Americans14—could be obviated by working a lot harder to make sure that more people were born into stable, two-parent families, to say nothing of making more of an effort at positive intervention earlier in the lives of at-risk children. This isn’t just the right thing to do; it’s much more cost effective than mass incarceration and the other societal problems associated with carrying the problems of difficult childhoods into adulthood.

Perhaps one reason people were so unconcerned about potential fallout from the breakdown of marriage and family some fifty years ago is that this all coincided with a massive expansion of

America’s welfare state. New entitlements and the Great Society programs of the 1960s were supposed to obviate poverty in America. And while America has been generally prosperous since then—the people in our worst housing projects still have a much higher standard of living than most of the world—money and resources provided by government welfare are no solution

to the emotional and spiritual problems caused by broken homes.15

Obviously, civic institutions, and churches especially, can help provide what’s missing by encouraging stable family formation, supporting those families that are struggling, and helping at-risk single moms and their children. Indeed, there may well be no substitute for churches when it comes to addressing broken homes and the attendant poverty.

One of the most important books of 2019 was Chris Arnade’s book Dignity: Seeking Respect in Back Row America. Arnade was a physics PhD working on Wall Street who decided to explore the roots of poverty by visiting with people in some of America’s poorest neighborhoods. As a liberal agnostic, he started out thinking of religion “as an old, irrational thing that limited and repressed people—and often outright oppressed them.” But soon his opinion changed. In contrast, the small churches that minister to them “are the only places on the streets that regularly treat them like humans. . . . The preachers and congregants inside may preach to

them, even judge their past decisions, but they don’t look down on them,” he wrote.16

While the comfort and moral instruction provided by America’s churches are essential components of helping struggling families and communities, it doesn’t appear that American churches—which have, not coincidentally, been on a fifty-year decline alongside family formation—are stopping the spread of cultural rot. In fact, the Pew study that found that more American children live in single-parent households than any other nation also reached this damning conclusion: “The study, which analyzed how people’s living arrangements differ by religion, also found that U.S. children from Christian and religiously unaffiliated families are

about equally likely to live in [single-parent households].”17

Even though we know churches are critical for holding together families and communities, we are failing to address adequately these urgent needs. Certainly, some of this reticence is because debates about gay marriage, feminism, and other topics have made it seem impolitic to say there is a proper way to structure our families and order our lives or highlight the superiority of our approach to family issues. But we should engage these debates in the public square as positively and constructively as possible, and we should not shy away from noting biblical truth in these matters; there’s a reason the metaphor for the relationship between Christ and the church is marriage. Further, we ought to think about how existing programs and charitable efforts we sponsor address these issues, and whether we can do more.

No one can say exactly what policies and programs should be adopted going forward, and figuring that out requires serious engagement as Christians and citizens. What we can say is that cultural cohesion is becoming a crisis in this country and the root of the problem is a lack of intact families, as well as a lack of support for the ones we have. The church is both well-suited and obligated by our faith to address this issue.

Defending the Faith

One more reason churches must sometimes fight cultural and political battles is also a reason they may have trouble motivating themselves to do so: simply that people have been defaming Christianity and the role it plays in civil society for a very long time. The moment the church asserts itself in an important political or cultural debate, forces conspire to target the church and discourage it from speaking up.

It must be said that some of these problems are self-inflicted wounds. If people have an

unfavorable view of American Christianity, certainly pedophile priests and some

televangelists do not improve things. And while we would like to claim that Lutheran doctrinal superiority prevents us from beliefs such as a celibate clergy or the prosperity gospel that lead to public corruption, the fact is, we Lutherans preach that all men are sinners—and all too often prove it.

It’s important to remember that just because Christians may fail to live up to their beliefs, that in no way demonstrates they were wrong to hold those beliefs to begin with. But as far as secularists are often concerned, there is no greater sin than hypocrisy. This has the unfortunate side effect of unfairly penalizing Christians, who publicly hold themselves to higher moral standards and voluntarily give themselves more opportunities to be portrayed as hypocritical.

As such, we’ve reached a point where influential members of society think their relative lack of hypocrisy—which is often just a commentary on their own relative lack of principles—adds up to a sense of superiority over those who dare to profess the faith. Increasingly, people feel no shame whatsoever in casually slandering Christians.

To give you an idea of how bad things have gotten, not that long ago the US Attorney General William Barr, a Catholic, gave a speech at Notre Dame University where he expressed concern about the state of religious liberty in America, and his concerns are not unreasonable at a time when state officials are shutting down Catholic adoption agencies and comparing Christian bakers to Nazis. Barr has also been outspoken about the FBI’s corrupt and possibly political abuse of FISA laws to investigate President Trump, a stance that has not made him popular among liberal journalists. For NBC journalist John Harwood, Barr’s religion somehow explains certain of Barr’s unrelated political opinions that Harwood doesn’t like. “In Barr’s life, the share of Americans who are white Christians has fallen by half. He believes ‘militant secularists’ seek ‘organized destruction’ of ‘God’s eternal law.’ Putin has made common cause [with the] white

nationalist right around the world,” Harwood tweeted.18

Now Harwood is not some partisan bomb-thrower; he’s considered a “mainstream” newsman —so much so that he was one of the moderators at a Republican debate in 2016. Yet, he’s happy to suggest that someone who expresses valid concerns about religious liberty only does so because he’s motivated by white supremacy and somehow in league with Vladimir Putin. Harwood is hardly obligated to like Barr’s conservative politics, but this is nearly a libelous smear predicated on Barr speaking up publicly in defense of his faith.

One might think that the Trump era has people a little more hot under the collar than usual,19 but this sneering contempt for Christianity—which is divorced from facts and reflects a desire to devalue the church’s influence—is hardly new. In 2015, Harvard professor Robert Putnam, arguably the most influential sociologist alive, gave an interview to The Washington Post where he said the following:

The obvious fact is that over the last thirty years, most organized religion has focused on issues regarding sexual morality, such as abortion, gay marriage, all of those. I’m not saying if that’s good or bad, but that’s what they’ve been using all their resources for. This is the most obvious point in the world. It’s been entirely focused on issues of homosexuality and

contraception and not at all focused on issues of poverty.20

This is an astoundingly ignorant thing to say, especially coming from a man whose reputation rests on interpreting societal problems. Putnam’s comments prompted a damning retort from

Rob Schwarzwalder and Pat Fagan at Religion News Service.21 Just to give you an idea, a single Christian Charity, World Vision, spends about $2.8 billion on anti-poverty efforts. “That would rank World Vision about 12th within the G-20 nations in terms of overseas development

assistance,” World Vision President Richard Stearns noted in Christianity Today a few years

back.22 Fagan and Schwarzwelder do a lot more number crunching, but the upshot is that World Vision’s impressive spending is just a fraction of the overall effort—Christians spend billions and billions fighting poverty. By contrast, even the most generous estimates of the resources devoted to pro-life causes and organizations defending traditional marriage are just a few hundred million dollars. Note that the budget of Planned Parenthood alone is just over a billion dollars.

Around the same time Putnam gave this interview to The Washington Post, he appeared on a panel at the Catholic-Evangelical Leadership Summit on Overcoming Poverty at Georgetown University discussing with Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks, and then-President Obama. The former president joined in the mendacious chorus: “Despite great caring and concern,” Obama said, “when it comes to what are you really going to the mat for, what’s the defining issue, when you’re talking in your congregations, what’s the thing that is really going to capture the essence of who we are as Christians, or as Catholics, or what have you, that this”—fighting poverty—“is often times viewed as a ‘nice to have’ relative to an issue like abortion.”

Because Christians believe that every child is a gift from God, and that abortion is a grave evil up unto the point that they cheerfully and gladly volunteer to take care of as many needy kids as they can, the president of the United States saw no problem with disingenuously suggesting Christians’ concern about poverty is relative and inadequate. This is the same president, mind you, who went out of his way to force a legal battle with Little Sisters of the Poor over making them subsidize contraception and abortifacients. Based on the name of the organization, these nuns had better things to do than defend their conscience rights from a president who remained silent in 2012 when delegates at the Democratic

convention booed God and stripped the “safe, legal and rare” language out of the party platform. And yet, the leader of the free world had the temerity to say that it’s Christians who were making abortion too much of a priority.

Now it’s entirely possible that both Putnam and Obama sincerely believed what they were saying to be true, but the realization that such a gross misconception is so pervasive might be even more horrifying. It’s also hard to escape the conclusion that if the public had a better understanding and appreciation of the magnitude of the Christian contribution to society, it would, somewhat ironically, bolster the church’s public influence on abortion and other hot- button issues. And so there remain powerful incentives to promote misconceptions about the church.

Christians need to be aware that aside from the aforementioned religious liberty battles, the political knives are out for churches. When Obama was president, his administration repeatedly floated the idea of stripping churches of tax-exempt status—a policy so obviously beneficial to western society that it’s existed in some form or another since Constantine. Obviously, the Gospel does not stand or fall based on changes to the tax code, and the church has historically been persecuted by those in power. But we should not let falsehoods stand—particularly those that undermine and threaten institutions sincerely seeking to spread the Gospel and do good works.

Finally, it’s important to remember that correcting misconceptions about the church need not always be reactionary or defensive, even though speaking out in the face of slanders and falsehoods might seem increasingly necessary. Making more of an effort to involve our communities in charitable efforts, or doing more evangelism at both the personal and corporate levels, can have surprisingly positive ripple effects. People tend to fear what they do not understand, and in a society that is increasingly irreligious, more and more people are unfamiliar

with church life. Simply sharing your beliefs or exposing neighbors to church activities will help dispel the worst caricatures of Christianity and, God willing, may even make Christians out of unbelievers.

The important thing here is that we not be afraid to speak the truth when we have the opportunity to do so. Indeed, the final word on participation in the culture wars is, as always, best left to the Word of God. In this case, we have in mind Rom 1:16: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

Notes

1. Major Garrett, “The Pen, the Phone, and Stray Voltage,” April 16, 2014, www.cbsnews.com/news/the-pen-phone-and-stray- voltage/.

2. Quoted in Bruce James Smith, Politics & Remembrance: Republican Themes in Machiavelli, Burke, and Tocqueville (Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1985), 212.

3. The first line of George Orwell’s 1984—“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen”—is memorable precisely because it illustrates this idea so succinctly.

4. “Welcome to Culture War 2.0: The Great Realignment,” November 8, 2019, americanmind.org/essays/welcome-to-culture- war-2-0/. This essay is where we were reminded of “the correspondence theory of truth,” and aside from acknowledging the debt we owe in shaping our thinking here, we recommend it, obviously.

5. He cites a notorious academic paper on “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo to this effect—libjournal.uncg.edu/ijcp/article/ viewFile/249/ 116. If you go poking around academia, you will find more of these assertions along these lines.

6. If you want a dramatic illustration about how even after hormonal treatment men and women are decidedly not equals when it comes to sports, note that transgender MMA fighter Fallon Fox was allowed to compete against women. He broke the skull of one of his female opponents.

7. Christie Aschwanden, “Trans Athletes Are Posting Victories and Shaking Up Sports,” October 29, 2019, www.wired.com/story/ the-glorious-victories-of-trans-athletes-are-shaking-up-sports/.

8. @_StephKramer, December 12, 2019, https://twitter.com/_StephKramer/status/1205203865316012033.

9. Kramer, “U.S. Has World’s Highest Rate of Children Living in Single-Parent Households,” December 12, 2019, www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/12/ 12/u-s-children-more-likely-than-children-in-other-countries-to-live-with-just-one-parent/.

10. Sara McLanahan and Christopher Jencks, “Was Moynihan Right?” www.educationnext.org/was-moynihan-right/.
11. Moynihan would later go on to be a celebrated public policy thinker and respected senator from New York.
12. When Coates is right, he’s right. He has, though, written a great many things we find objectionable—not in the least because

his worldview doesn’t seem to accommodate Christianity in meaningful ways. It seems a little odd, for example, that arguably our most influential writer on the subject of race has publicly admitted to having no idea who St. Augustine is, especially given that Martin Luther King Jr. quoted Augustine in his seminal “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”

13. Coates, “The Black Family,” The Atlantic, www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/10/the-black-family-in-the-age-of- mass-incarceration/403246/.

14. “United States Incarceration Rates by Race and Ethnicity, 2010,” Prison Policy Initiative, www.prisonpolicy.org/graphs/ raceinc.html.

15. Again, we stress we are not offering specific policy solutions regarding America’s welfare programs. Government welfare assistance can be a good thing, and most Americans agree that there should be a safety net even if they disagree over what that should look like or how much money to throw at the problems. However, there should be broad agreement that, in themselves, welfare programs do not provide needed emotional and community support that comes from civic organizations and families. Saying we ought to think a lot harder about the design and structure of such programs, as well as demand more accountability from our leaders over how they are run, ought to be a point of agreement for all Americans.

16. First Things, www.firstthings.com/article/2019/06/back-row-america.
17. Kramer, “U.S. Has World’s Highest.”
18. @JohnJHarwood, December 10, 2019, twitter.com/JohnJHarwood/status/1204464762530217985.
19. We can see why some people have a problem with President Trump’s support from Christians, given his gross personal

failings and occasionally strained relationship with the truth. However, on key issues such as life and religious liberty, it’s hard to argue he isn’t much preferable to his predecessor and 2016 opponent.

20. Michelle Boorstein, “Have Faith Groups Been Too Absent in the Fight on Poverty?” May 10, 2015, www.washingtonpost.com/ news/acts-of-faith/wp/2015/05/11/on-poverty-faith-groups-have-been-missing-in-action-obama-and-others-are-trying-to-change- that/?postshare=8901431384555419.

21. “On Conservative Religious Activism, the Numbers Speak for Themselves,” www.washingtonpost.com/national/religion/on- conservative-religious-activism-the-numbers-speak-for-themselves-commentary/2015/ 05/13/aab63e3a-f9aa-11e4-a47c- e56f4db884ed_story.html?postshare= 4161431608010921.

22. Richard Stearns, “Christians Really Do Reduce Poverty,” www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2012/marchweb-only/fight-poverty- response-worldvision.html.

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