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There is a line in a Leonard Cohen song which goes: ‘there is war between those who say there is a war/and those who say there isn’t’; quite apposite in the case of the so-called ‘culture wars’. Those who say that there is no war do so because their mind-set arranges things in a way which means that there really is no war. They are on the side of ‘progress’, and everyone (who matters) agrees that that is a good thing; the real progressives think it is a very good thing indeed; the revolutionaries are in such a hurry for it that they want to get there sooner. Where? There is an in-built teleology in the mind-set. Things are getting better and will get even better; history is tending in the direction of progress; one’s job is certainly to be on its side, and there are certainly jobs to be had that way; if one can direct it, there is real power to be had: ‘can we do it? Yes we can.’ No need to ask what ‘it’ is, it is progress, it is taking the steps on the road to the new Jerusalem: new wine for old, new ways for old, and even new wives for old. The past was a bad place where they did things we no longer do; we measure our progress against (self-selected) ‘benchmarks’ and, to our satisfaction, find things are better – thanks to us. So, no ‘war’ here, simply a following of the tide to a better and brighter future; there are, of course, those enemies of progress who create a culture war; but it is their fault.

There is a quite splendid piece of leger de main involved here; it places those who simply favour the status quo in the position of having to defend what is conventional wisdom; if not all that is, is good, it is at least something known and experienced; the reformers offer better jam in some distant tomorrow. Those who defend the status quo know there is a war, because they feel the foundations shifting, and they share Matthew Arnold’s view:

for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.
There is much to admire about the faith of the progressive. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, such people continue to believe that there can be certitude and peace, and that tablets will bring relief from the pain that psychiatry cannot cure. Every fresh demagogue who promises ‘equality’ is seized upon by them with joy, allowing them, as he does, to get over the last disappointment. I am old enough to remember when that old monster Mao Tse Tung (as we then used to spell his name) was looked upon by them with the sort of reverence which their predecessors had given to Stalin. It is a mistake to think the progressives have no faith, as I am not quite sure what else one would call a belief in the socialist utopia which never comes.
For them, the Christian position is, at best, providing an opiate for the masses; for those such as myself, their position is one of jam tomorrow and jobs for the boys (and girls) today. All of which is, when you come to examine it, a shame, because, as St James tells us, true religion is helping the poor. Both sides in the culture war want a better world. To me, the Christian world-view explains why the faith of the Left in man’s ability to deliver this by himself is misplaced. But perhaps in this broken world, it is enough that we can work together to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and visit the prisoners; they might do it for a better tomorrow; we do it because in so doing we do it to the Lord Jesus.
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