Breaking the Cultural Wars Cycle: Commending & Critiquing Huckabee’s Shootings Comments
It’s happening like clockwork. First a national tragedy happens. Then a conservative Christian ties the event to the decline of the Judeo-Christian worldview, which in this case came from Governor Mike Huckabee. Then progressive and moderate Christians, many of whom who are embittered former fundamentalists, decry the perspective as insensitive and stupid. Then the conservatives rally to the cause, lashing out with full rancor against their ideological adversaries. And thus the culture wars are perpetuated. My modest intention here to help break that cycle of faux thinking and imprecision baptized with emotional fervor and self-righteous piety coming from either side.
Let me preface my perspective by acknowledging limitations. I’m neither a logician nor a cultural anthropologist. Though I’ve studied both, clearly I’m an expert in neither. Therefore, I hope for constructive if critical feedback from scholars in those field and encourage all others to read my comments with a grain of salt. That being said, many critics of Governor Huckabee’s seem to be interpreting his reasoning as follows:
A: God was allowed in American schools.
B: School shootings didn’t happen.
If A, then B.
This is the propositional fallacy of denying the antecedent and many conservative Christians are saying precisely that. The trouble is, that’s not what Huckabee asserted. Today he clarified, “I’m not suggesting by any stretch that if we had prayer in schools regularly as we once did that this wouldn’t have happened, because you can’t have that kind of cause and effect. But we’ve created an atmosphere in this country where the only time you want to invoke God’s name is after the tragedy.” As a hardlining moderate, I agree with his literal words if not his larger tenor.
To be clear, I’m not bemoaning the loss of a Judeo-Christian background nor condemning our present cultural wellspring of pluralism. In fact, this is creating some profound opportunities for Christians. In my opinion, that’s what we should be focusing on. What I am saying is that, from an anthropological perspective, it’s true that we are facing the loss of a shared narrative providing cohesion, identity, purpose, and, yes, moral consensus. The institutions and belief systems that once bound us together are fading or being cast off. So far as I can tell, true pluralism is a virtually unprecedented reality in human history, and what little precedent exists isn’t encouraging.
As I said in a recent blog post, I suspect there are numerous factors leading to this rise in tragic, senseless public shootings. That’s why I’m insistent we look at these events as multicausal rather than monocausal. We must begin to think with greater precision if we’re to overcome this bypass in the culture wars. Within that complex schema Huckabee’s comments have merit. The key is to see them as representing one strand in that multicausal rope instead of the reason. If you interpret his comments that way, he’s not off his rocker. The trouble is the Chicken Little syndrome so common among conservatives that permeates his perspective and clouds the message’s reception.
Lastly, I’m going to prod my fellow christian bloggers a bit. Many of you profess to loathe the culture wars all the while inadvertently participating in their proliferation. All too often your public venting lacks the sort of humble civility, principled convictions, and communicative precision that’s necessary to break the cycle of culture wars. While having long made a diligent effort not to fall prey to these vices, I confess my own occasional guilt. Too often we tell people what they want to hear in order to get page views rather than serve as the prophetic voice and faithful alternative that we ought. My challenge to you is to model a better way; actually blog like a follower of Christ.