In E.J. Dionne’s Christmas Eve column he argued that the religious culture wars in America had experienced a “ceasefire” in 2009.
Yes, we continued to fight over gay marriage, and arguments about abortion were a feature of the health-care debate. But what’s more striking is that other issues — notably economics and the role of government — trumped culture and religion in the public square. The culture wars went into recession along with the economy.
The most important transformation occurred on the right end of politics. For now, the loudest and most activist sections of the conservative cause are not its religious voices but the mostly secular, anti-government tea party activists.
I think Dionne is right in suggesting that anti-government activism trumped moral/religious activism this year. But I also think that Dionne draws a false dichotomy between “religious voices” and “secular, anti-government” voices.
As I have argued elsewhere, many on the Christian Right embrace free-market, limited government ideals as part of their overall world view. I spend a lot of time with conservative Christians and most of them do not like Obama because he supports abortion, gay marriage, AND an active role for government. Many tea party activists are conservative Christians. The Christian Right promotes tea parties.
Economics and the role of government may have trumped religion and culture this year, but many of the agitators remain the same.