PROFILING OUR CULTURE

     Tucker Carlson’s recent opening monologue (“Tucker Carlson Tonight”) was so clear, coherent and frankly, competent— a feat rarely witnessed in our culture these days— I could not resist recording it as an introduction to my blog: “Profiling Our Culture:”

     “America, the country, is as divided as it has been in 150 years, since the Civil War. Right and Left live in entirely different cultures in a lot of ways, rarely encountering one another personally. They live in different cities, attend different churches, read different books, even have different hobbies; they even eat different foods increasingly.

      At the political level, state and local governments don’t just denounce federal policy, they actively defy it. Eight states defy the federal ban on marijuana letting citizens grow and sell it with impunity.

      Countless cities tell their police to pretend immigration laws don’t exist or are invalid or so immoral you can ignore them. Can we salvage a functional nation out two groups who increasingly despise each other? It’s a real question and not asked often enough.”[1]

      “Right and Left live in entirely different cultures in a lot of ways, rarely encountering one another personally,” consequently most Americans think that any attempt at having a normal conversation with a person different from themselves would be so difficult, we choose to avoid one another. 

     Evangelical Christians consistently admit that they have significant difficulty communicating with people not like themselves. For example, nearly 9 in 10 Evangelical Christians (87%) report higher tensions than any other group in American culture when it comes to normal conversation with an LGBT person or a Muslim.[2]  Further, 85% of Evangelicals have increased anxiety when it comes to dialogue with atheists or people unaffiliated with any other faith.[3] Perhaps even more surprisingly, nearly 3 in 10 Evangelicals— nearly 1/3 (28%) report having difficulty engaging in normal conversation with other Evangelicals.[4]

      Compared to Evangelicals, a much lower percentage of LGBT people (58%) say they have difficulty sharing in a normal conversation with a Christian.[5] 69% of people in faiths other than Christian report that a conversation with an Evangelical Christian is difficult for them while 55% of U.S. adults in general admit that they have problems talking with [Evangelical/born-again] Christians.[6] Our problems associating with one another, especially people different from ourselves, doesn’t appear to be helped by social media.

        As our culture increasingly becomes more like Europe—that is, increasingly secularized, Christian morality is fast-fading from America life. As the moral vacuum grows in America, many U.S. adults are admitting that they are uncertain about how to differentiate right from wrong.[7] 

        A majority among American adults (57%) of our nations’ population to include all ages, ethnicities, genders, socioeconomic categories and political ideological views, believe “knowing what is right or wrong is a matter of personal experience”[8] — differentiating between good and bad, moral and immoral, is now a purely subjective choice. America’s majority moral code has become: “The morality of self-fulfillment” and now, the highest good in our society involves “finding yourself” and then living by “what’s right for you.”[9]

     Statistics related to the “morality of self-fulfillment” and responses from “all U.S. Adults” and “practicing Christians” — “practicing Christians” (as distinguished from Evangelical and/or born-again Christians) are described as “self-identified Christians who say their faith is very important in their lives and have attended a worship service within the past month”[10] — are morally troubling.

     For example, in response to the statement: “The best way to find yourself is by looking within yourself,” 91% of U.S. adults “completely” or “somewhat” agreed compared to 76% of practicing Christians. In response to the assertion: “People should not criticize someone else’s life choices,” 89% of U.S. adults “completely” or “somewhat” agreed compared to 76% of practicing Christians and to the notion: “Any kind of sexual expression between two consenting adults is acceptable,” 69% of U.S. adults “completely” or “somewhat” agreed compared to 40% of practicing Christians.[11]   

      But when the “morality of self-fulfillment” is displayed in our culture, especially in high profile ways, it generates considerably more confusion than moral clarity. Consider, for example, the stories of three people, Elizabeth Warren, Rachel Dolezal and Caitlyn Jenner. Two of these women, Warren and Dolezal, assumed racial identities different from their original race at birth and Jenner, chose sexual reassignment.

      Rachel Dolezal was formerly the head of the Spokane, Washington NAACP but she was forced to resign because it was “discovered” that she is not black. She is the daughter of white parents and she was born and raised in Montana as a freckle-faced strawberry blond. Rachel was socially charged with “cultural appropriation.” Cultural appropriation is a charge made against people who have allegedly high-jacked elements common to one culture and applied them to a different culture.

     In her defense against the charge of “cultural appropriation,” Rachel Dolezal has tirelessly contended that race is simply a “social construct” and she is “trans-racial.” But her defense has fallen on deaf ears and she has instead been widely ridiculed, slandered and abused.

     Caitlyn Jenner has, however, been celebrated and consistently referred to as “brave” and “courageous” for identifying as “trans-sexual” — ESPN bestowed the “Arthur Ash Courage Award” on Caitlyn Jenner in 2015. And later, in the same year, Caitlyn was named Glamour Magazine’s “Woman of the Year.” 

     Why does “cultural appropriation” provoke hostility but sexual reassignment or “biological appropriation” is celebrated? How is individual expression in an outward biological form of how one feels on the inside, different from racial expression on the outside of how one feels on the inside? So, biology can be appropriated, but cultural/ racial identity cannot be?

     In his article, “Rachel Dolezal is Every Bit as Black as Caitlyn Jenner is Female,” Dan Foley asks the daring, but obvious question: “Can you imagine anyone confronting Caitlyn with pictures of herself as a young Bruce Jenner, as though such pictures could prove that Caitlyn is not a woman?” [12]  Foley’s question is, of course, rhetorical, however, when you think about it, was ESPN guilty of a “microaggression” — a term now common on university campuses for a small action or choice of words that although on their face pose no malicious intent but subtly represent a kind of violence nonetheless?[13]  In other words, when ESPN honored Caitlyn Jenner with the “Arthur Ash Courage Award,” why else was she standing in front of a room full of great athletes unless she herself had been one “in a previous biological life?” ESPN’s insensitivity might have been, at least in the understanding of millennials at preeminent universities such as Yale, a “trigger”[14] for a traumatic recurrence of Jenner’s struggles that eventually led to her sexual reassignment.

     Since moral reasoning founded on objective criteria is not a part of this discussion, at least in politically correct categories, please permit a little further speculation. Would an acceptable explanation perhaps be: “cultural appropriation” is a violation of the “cultural rights” of an entire culture; but sexual reassignment or biological appropriation is a decision affecting primarily the person making the choice?    

     But if moral choices are purely subjective, then on what grounds does anyone have the right to be outraged by another person’s moral choice whether only a few are perceived affected or an entire culture? And besides, if Rachel Dolezal was guilty of some serious social transgression punishable by slander, abuse and ridicule, followed by her resignation as the head of the Spokane, Washington NAACP in disgrace, then what about Elizabeth Warren?

     Senator Warren, formerly regarded as Native American while a tenured member of the faculty at Harvard Law School in the mid-1990’s, claims Cherokee and Delaware Indian ancestry. However, in an article entitled, “Is Elizabeth Warren Native American or What?”, Garance Franke-Ruta observed: “Elizabeth Warren is not a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. Elizabeth Warren is not enrolled in the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. And Elizabeth Warren is not one of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee.”[15]

     According to independent genealogists, Warren’s claims to having even 1/32 Cherokee ancestry is unsubstantiated— Senator Warren is not eligible to become a recognized member of the Cherokee Nation.[16] Why has Rachel Dolezal been disgraced but Elizabeth Warren continues to rise in power as a probable presidential candidate for the Democratic Party in 2020?

     Our culture is consistently inconsistent caught up in a vicious cycle of insanity, our quest for an absolute unbridled (autonomous) freedom, that is, freedom without any restraints, without any form or outside Transcendent or Absolute to guide us will inevitably lead us “in the direction of an establishment totalitarianism”[17] “If there is no absolute by which to judge society, society is absolute.”    

 

 

 

[1]  Tucker Carlson, “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” Fox News, 04/27/2017, 8:00 P.M., EST.

[2]  Barna Trends, 2017, “Americans Struggle to Talk Across Divides,” 115.

[3]  Ibid.

[4]  Ibid.

[5]  Ibid.

[6]  Ibid.

[7]  Ibid., “The New Moral Code,” 50.

[8] Ibid.

[9]  Ibid., 53.

[10]  This definition of “practicing Christians” is used by Barna researchers, Ibid.,10.

[11]  Ibid., 53.

[12] Dan Foley, “Rachel Dolezal is Every Bit as Black as Caitlyn Jenner is Female,” http://wfnt.com/rachel-dolezal-is-every-bit-as-black-as-caitlyn-jenner-is-female/, April 29, 2017, Downloaded: 04/28/2017.

[13]   Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, The Atlantic, September 2015 Issue, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/09/the-coddling-of-the-american-mind/399356.

[14]   Ibid.

[15]   Garance Franke-Ruta, “Is Elizabeth Warren Native American or What?”, May, 20, 2012, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/05/is-elizabeth-warren-native-american-or-what/257415/, Downloaded: 05/05/2017.

[16]  Ibid.

[17]  Francis Schaeffer, “The Church at the End of the Twentieth Century,” 25.