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Christian America no longer exists.
America may have a Christian majority. The country’s heritage and institutions may be inseparable from Christianity. Many of the leading figures in our public life may even profess to be followers of Christ. None of this changes the fact that Christian Americans are losing the long struggle to define the country. More importantly, they will continue to lose as long as they pretend the country is still theirs.
Conservatives celebrated prematurely after the huge turnout of Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day. The “guilty as charged” Christian chain may have set sales records and homosexual protests may have fizzled, but this was only a tactical victory in a long struggle. Leftists and their supporters are already winning more strategic victories.
The first sign of things to come was the decision by Davidson College to suspend Chick-fil-A from operating on campus. The school stressed that there was no final decision but that they wanted more “student input” about building an “inclusive community.”
As a veteran college activist on controversial issues, take it from me that conservatives are outgunned on campus. At many colleges and universities, the only right-of-center group is the College Republicans, which of course is primarily interested in electing anyone who has an “R” next to his name. Leftists have a wide variety of ideological and political groups to utilize, as well as a vast network of nominally “apolitical” multicultural and sexual groups that receive large amounts of funding and official campus support.
Even the other right-of-center groups that do exist are not going to touch this issue. As reported in a recent story in the New York Times, campus conservatives mostly ignore social issues, while some libertarian groups even define homosexuality as central to their cause. While some of this is out of belief, much more is out of fear. There is a well-funded campus infrastructure in place to support progressive social beliefs, and there is nothing in support of social conservatives. It’s far easier – and safer – to limit activism to harmless quibbling about free trade.
The leftist counter-offensive will not be limited to Davidson. At least 30 other colleges have had petitions started to drive Chick-fil-A off campus. It has nothing to do with what the majority wants or even freedom of speech. The fact remains that the progressive left generally has a structural advantage in campus battles, and the campus right is generally interested in economic issues. A militant minority always triumphs against an apathetic majority, and I would not be surprised to see Chick-fil-A successfully purged from most campuses within the next year.
Even off campus, conservatives face structural disadvantages. Mitt Romney was notably silent about the issue, preferring to talk about the economy. This is probably because many of his most prominent financial backers are also backing referendums to legalize homosexual marriage in several states. Nor is this some kind of an exception – the most important group in intimidating the Republican legislature in New York into passing gay marriage were the rich Republican donors straight out of an Occupy parody about the 1 percent.
Conservatives and libertarians can take solace in rhetoric about “limited government” and “freedom of speech,” but the truth is more complicated. The hard reality is that what is and is not acceptable to say is a product of power, not free choice. Culture is a product as much as any plastic toy, the outcome of conflict and dialogue among educational, media, social and religious institutions. What Lenin called the “Commanding Heights of the Economy” are not nearly as important as the “Commanding Heights of the Culture,” and Christians and traditionalists need to realize they are all in enemy hands, especially on the campuses. The beliefs of a society don’t just develop organically – they are imposed.
This is why the left doesn’t win through open debate in the marketplace of ideas. It wins by cutting off access, funding and legitimacy from any groups or individuals that defy the egalitarian zeitgeist.
This is why, tactically, they are right to oppose Chick-fil-A and drive it off campuses. This is why they were correct to pressure business into dropping support for the American Legislative Exchange Council following the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman controversy. This is why conservatives ignore corporations like Wal-Mart, Facebook, Home Depot and News Corp. (parent company of Fox News) donating to the likes of Al Sharpton at their peril. This is why no matter how many referendums, primaries or general elections conservatives win, it never seems to change anything.
Unfortunately, progressives are right. By driving Chick-fil-A off campuses, by denying funds to pro-family groups, by making where you go to lunch a political decision, they are shaping the culture (and electorate) of the future. It’s uncomfortable to admit, but the personal is political, and whether it’s controlled by the government or not has little to do with it.
It’s bigger than the battle over marriage. Politics is about who, not what, and remaining neutral simply means that others will determine the kind of world you and your children will live in.
It doesn’t matter if the majority of Americans are Christians or conservatives or patriots – the people in charge are not.
The game is rigged. Flip over the table.