Russell recently wrote a piece on the "culture war" which is the featured article of the July issue of the Religion and Culture Forum. From the introduction: "Three recent books all claim the culture war is over, though they give quite different explanations. I argue that their different interpretations illustrate not why the culture war is over, but rather why it is so endlessly fascinating. In response to these books, this article clarifies what exactly the culture war is, and how to understand in what sense it is still a part of American life." Other scholars will post responses in the coming weeks. The article can be found here.
The Religion & Culture Forum is a digital publication of the Martin Marty Center for the Advanced Study of Religion at the University of Chicago Divinity School, which hosts conversations about the relationship between scholarly work on religion and global public cultures.
By David Barr
We are regularly reminded that our politics keep getting more polarized, and explaining why has become something of a national pastime. People blame social media, 24-hour news channels, or the fact senators don’t take time to smoke cigars together anymore, to name just a few. However, I fear we will underestimate the problem and fail to see its full range of consequences as long as we think of it only as a result of these new developments, rather than as something to which we feel a deep pull. It is not an unfortunate accident that these new factors drag us apart. It is in human nature to divide into camps, to be tribal, to want to see the world in terms of the good guys vs. the bad guys. And while I’m certainly not the first person to make that observation, there is one reason for that tendency that hasn’t been getting much attention: we are drawn toward political polarization because it feels good, because it satisfies our consciences.
Let’s think for a second about the National Rifle Association’s controversial new video, “The Violence of Lies.” Much has already been said about this one-minute video; critics say it advocates violence and racism, and defenders deny this and say “clenched fist of truth” is only a metaphor. So let’s break it down. It’s going to get a bit nerdy but bear with me; this video is a revealing piece of rhetoric and it’s worth taking a moment to understand what it’s saying and how.