Ross Douthat is one of the very few New York Times columnists I can tolerate in more than tiny doses. His “The Changing Culture War” from earlier this month is sobering reading. I blogged a few weeks back about the survey in which nearly 40% of Americans said that marriage was becoming obsolete. Douthat cites a study that shows this is quickly becoming true among the less educated portions of the American population.
As a result, the usual (hackneyed) view that the culture wars in America are between educated liberals and conservative yahoos, if it was ever true, is pretty much obsolete today. Instead, the culture wars are now between different segments of the educated populace: “pitting Wheaton and Baylor against Brown and Bard, Redeemer Presbyterian Church against the 92nd Street Y, C. S. Lewis devotees against the Philip Pullman fan club.”
Douthat says that without strong family and community structures among the less educated folks, we can forget about working-class prosperity. I think we have something like 40 million Americans on food stamps today. Anyone care to guess how many of those people are from dysfunctional homes?
The essay ends on a grim note:
As a result, the long-running culture war arguments about how to structure family life (Should marriage be reserved for heterosexuals? Is abstinence or “safe sex” the most responsible way to navigate the premarital landscape?) look increasingly irrelevant further down the educational ladder, where sex and child-rearing often take place in the absence of any social structures at all.
This, in turn, may be remembered as the great tragedy of the culture war: While college-educated Americans battle over what marriage should mean, much of the country may be abandoning the institution entirely.
OK, churches, time to roll up your sleeves and get to work undoing the carnage our culture and defective institutions have wrought.