I occasionally listen to the liberal talk-radio station in Chicago. The longer I listen to liberal (or progressive) talk-show hosts and commentators the more evident it becomes to me that most of these folks are extremely bright but morally challenged. One such liberal national radio host is the infamous Jerry Springer, the former mayor of Cincinnati. Springer was crowing last week about how the liberals have already won America. (He could be right but the evidence is, generally speaking, still quite anecdotal.) Springer said: “We may not be winning all the elections yet but give us time since we are winning the culture wars!”

Jerry Springer’s argument was based upon his personal vision of moral values, which in his case is an extremely limited vision in terms of anything you could remotely define as decency and morality. He asked, “What books do young people read? What shows do they watch? What music do they listen to? Where do they spend their time? What are their real sexual practices?” He concluded that the evidence abounds that liberals have won the day and the political landscape will soon catch up to this cultural reality. Personally, I think he may be right. This underscores two points to my mind. First, if you want to change a society you must first change the culture, not the politics. Second, modern liberals are morally challenged when it comes to culture. Rarely does a political or social liberal speak up on issues that address essential moral values in our increasingly coarsened and depraved society. This was not always the case with social and political liberals, at least prior to the 1960s. Today it seems to be a rare exception to find a liberal who is not morally challenged.

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  1. Philip Larson October 2, 2006 at 5:55 pm

    You wrote today, “First, if you want to change a society you must first change the culture, not the politics.”
    I doubt that this is true; here’s why. In the recent past, many white Christian folks accepted the reconstruction-era unlove of black folks: too many failed to regard each other as image-bearers of God. This is changing, but not because hearts first changed, but because the law changed. It was perhaps entirely top-down. Grudgingly (on both sides), and very slowly, this is changing.
    So we have at least one case in which the way to change culture was to change the politics, not bottom-up.

  2. Nathan Petty October 3, 2006 at 10:11 am

    Philip, I imagine that the change in politics, and ultimately the change in law law, was preceded by a change of heart for many. Christian abolitionists were working to abolish slavery decades before any law made slavery illegal.
    But your point is well taken. All too many white “Christians” did accept slavery. And today all too many “Christians” of all colors turn a blind eye to all kinds of sin and injustice.
    We may have many new laws, but (to use John’s words) we still “enjoy” a society that is “increasingly coarsened and depraved”. And new laws will probably do little to change this.

  3. Mike Clawson October 3, 2006 at 9:07 pm

    Hey John,
    I’ve been enjoying reading your blog.
    Just out of curiosity, what do you mean by “morally challenged”? Which morals are you referring to? I’m guessing that you primarily mean sexual morality?
    Would you consider issues like poverty, war & violence, racial and gender equality, economic exploitation, care for the Creation, civil rights, etc. to also be moral issues? On these issues I wonder if it’s possible to find a conservative who is not morally challenged. 😉 IMO, of course.
    -Mike Clawson

  4. John H. Armstrong October 4, 2006 at 10:13 am

    Good comments from all. Mike, I refer to much more by my term than sexual morality. Modern liberals generally equate the state, and its ability to provide solutions to human problems, to biblical Israel and the OT statements on justice, etc. In the process they often treat the state as virtually mediatorial. The state has a very limited role, as old liberals once understood.
    All the problems that you cite should be of concern to Christians who love justice and mercy but utopian statist solutions are generally worse than conservative non-response or narrow response, which I would not defend either. In this case the liberal solution is worse than the problem. This does not mean that government has no interest in issues of equality, fairness or morality. It does mean that the Bible should not be used to support economic engineering as many in the emergent community have not yet realized from what I read. The mainstream conservative churches fall into deep traps on the far right while the emergent respones have tended toward modern state solutions through a colossal misuse of Anabaptist ethical thought (a noble Christian tradition itself).
    One example will have to suffice. The Bible does not advance a full-blown free enterprise system (or for that matter capitalism) but it does seem to favor individual (and family) property rights and incentives. Huamn nature is seriously flawed and this should lead us to mistrust government much the way the American founders wrote it.

  5. Mike C October 4, 2006 at 10:16 pm

    I’m not sure who exactly you mean when you refer to modern liberals or their “utopoian statist solutions”. In fact, after six years of the massive pork-barrel policies and exploding national debt of our Republican dominated government, I’m really don’t think conservatives can claim to believe in “limited government” anymore. The proof is in the pudding so to speak. Personally, I’m still a fan of limited government, but that seems to be more of a “liberal” position these days.
    However, if you’re going to make generalizations about “liberals” you might do well to find a better representative of our beliefs than Jerry Springer. Why not instead look to people like Jim Wallis, Tony Campolo, Jimmy Carter, Barack Obama, etc.? Brian McLaren has some wise words about not comparing one’s best to the other side’s worst.
    Not that I really think the “labels” or “sides” are all that helpful anymore. I don’t care much about abstract “statist” or “libertarian” philosophies (or whatever philosophies are inbetween). What I care about is real solutions. Poverty, justice, the environment, are all societal issues, and as such, should be addressed by our society as a whole.
    It seems to me that the government, as the central institution in our society, should play at least some role in improving it. I think we should look at it as just one more tool at our disposal as we work towards the Kingdom of God – i.e. as we fight poverty, injustice, etc. Why shun that tool out of some abstract disdain for “statist” solutions? Would it be better if the government just did nothing? What about when the government itself is responsible for the injustice? Should we do nothing to work for change?
    Campolo and Wallis have wisely said that both conservatives and liberals are right in their approach to fighting poverty. Change has to happen both on the societal level (the liberal answer) and the individual level (the conservative answer) – as well as the community, city, and state levels. As with the answers to most questions, it’s not an either/or, it’s a both/and.
    When it comes to my own political views, I likewise take a both/and approach. I mistrust big government, but I also mistrust big business. I think we need both to keep the other in check. “1984” is something to be feared, but so is “Jennifer Government”.
    What makes me most fearful and cynical these days is when it appears that our government is more or less controlled by big business already anyway. With lobbyists, gerrymandering, political patronage, gas prices that seem to be tied more to mid-term elections than to genuine market forces, etc. is there really any such thing as democracy anymore? Was there ever?
    Anyhow forgive my cynicism, but as you can see, I may be “liberal”, but I hardly have a “utopian” view of the effectiveness of government. Nor do most other “liberals” that I know of. These days most liberals I know just want our state to stop killing people in Iraq and cutting eduction funding and social services for the poor while giving tax cuts to the rich.
    Mike Clawson

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