As I suggested in my last blog “The Rejection of a Christian Moral Consensus and America’s Political Polarization,” the best hope for our divided nation would be the re-embrace of Christian culture. But, absent that ideal outcome and notwithstanding the Economist magazine’s doubts, I settle for a better hope that goes by the wonderfully prosaic name “Better Angels.”
Politically centrifugal forces--- those that drive Americans from the moderate (not mushy) center to radical political extremes on the Left and Right ---are winning the day in America because the Christian cultural consensus that once united them is long gone. And the elite-motivated effort to substitute a progressive culture is not only failing, but actually drives Americans farther apart.
Ever since the 1960s when confident, brassy Baby Boomers rejected what I often call the Christian cultural consensus, we have been struggling to find what unites Americans. Sports? Ephemeral and fleeting. Freedom? A treasured ideal twisted into a license to speed past all the traditional sexual stop signs. Flag? A valuable symbol that, apart from our armed forces, inspires far less sacrifice than it ought. It seems as if we are so brittle that we break into cultural and political ice floes, our separate groups adrift on rolling, turbulent seas.
New York University social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has uncovered, through his research which he reports in the 2012 book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, a stunning insight into the very different ways that American liberals and conservatives imagine reality as seen through others’ eyes. Conservatives, he found, are very adept at imagining the lifeworld of liberals. By contrast, liberals are stunted when it comes to imagining life through the lens of a conservative.