Jos Claerbout (deceased) assembled a web site entitled "Culture Wars 101". It is the Web's first (and only?) objective tour of America's political and cultural battles over abortion, homosexuality, and the separation of church and state.
He began this work at Pomona College in 1995 and continued it after his graduation until the fall of 1997. Even during his life, he was seeking someone to help him maintain it. Since then, it has fallen far out of date, yet it remains an inspiration to many. Readership is rising steadily. Almost 2000 people came to read Culture Wars 101 in the first quarter of year 2000. Currently about 22 people per day come to read its most popular page. We have found and identified seven external sites that recommend Jos's Culture Wars site and the numbers are growing as the web expands.
This printing, assembled by his father, does what Jos did not want to do; it concatenates his material into linear print form (for temporary use only). As with many web publications, Jos's creation achieves much of its zest by the helter-skelter of outward links to the protagonists, to the news media, to the court cases, to the references, and to the humor. Readers of the print media will be largely unaware of these vital links as well as missing color in text, images, and background. Only a small portion is included here.
|Truth is not partisan.||
Culture Wars 101
|Welcome to the Web's only objective tour of America's political and cultural battles over abortion, homosexuality, and the separation of church and state. Whether you think of it as the "Christian Right" or the "Pro-Family movement", this site will help you learn more.||
No Longer Updated.This site will decay until it completely falls apart.
Judge Strikes Down Part of Net Porn Law
Court Weighs Decency Standard in the Arts
Anti-Abortion Activist Delivers Graphic Message
Genetic Tests Can Lead to Tough Questions
White Asks for Forgiveness Over Remarks
Canada Court Backs Homosexual Rights
Unsafe Sex Common Among Bisexual Men
District's Refusal to Post 10 Commandments Upheld
This roundtable discussion, moderated by James Davison Hunter serves as a good introduction to some of the concepts in the American Culture War.
Abortion in the Bible
Organizations That Deal With Abortion
I can't resist a few comments here. The links below give the impression of a bipolar America, split down the middle on abortion. Don't believe it. The issue of abortion, we can all agree, is incredibly complex. And just as you would imagine, the opinion of the American people is complex as well; far more so than a simple "pro-life" or "pro-choice" name tag. In fact, many of the polls you will read on these links will reach their conclusions (that America is definitely Pro-Life or decidedly Pro-Choice) by defining their terms differently. In truth, the percentage of the population who think that abortion should be either legal or illegal in absolutely all cases is no more than 10-15% on either side. The rest of us (a sizable 75% majority) try to deal with the issue the best we can. For more information on finding common ground in the abortion debate, I strongly recommend visiting The Common Ground Network for Life and Choice
One other thing - on nomenclature: In this page, I use the terms "Pro-Life" and "Pro Choice". This is an attempt to be nonpartisan. Others claim that "Pro-Choice" and "Anti-Abortion" are more accurate, and that may be true. Regardless, either is an improvement over Pro-Choicers' tendency to label their opponents as "Anti-Choice" (yes, technically, I suppose it's true) and Pro-Lifers' habit of labeling their opponents as pro-death. Heck, why not just dispense with the pleasantries and just go by "Pro-Genocide" and "Anti-Woman"?
The Bible has nothing EXPLICITLY to say about abortion (i.e., nowhere is there a passage saying that it is wrong to abort a fetus before its birth). Of course there are many things the bible doesn't cover (somewhat hard to believe for those who have read Leviticus). Essentially, explicit silence doesn't mean that the Bible is not loaded with either implicit commandments or potentially inspiring words on this controversial subject. The inquisitive reader will never want for people offering their own interpretations of scripture. I have posted what I consider to be the better ones available here. Just because I label these perspectives as 'liberal' or 'conservative' does not mean that that they are not interesting and potentially valid biblical commentary; it just means that I want the reader to be aware of this as the page is read.
An Unresponsive Judiciary?
Supreme Court Links
The American court system has not been a hospitable place for the views of religious conservatives. Rulings on school prayer [Engel vs. Vitale (1962) and Abington vs. Shempp (1963)] and the Bible in classrooms in the 1960s started what has been seen by many as an attempt to expunge God from the classroom entirely. While the court decisions on prayer are seen as troubling, it was Roe Vs. Wade (1973) that convinced religious conservatives the Supreme Court would be a future battlefield.
This article provides an excellent overview of the High Court's rulings regarding religion in addition to the trouble they've had defining the term 'religion' itself.The Imperial Judiciary: Placing Justice Back in America's Courts (The American Center for Law and Justice)
This November '96 issue of First Things created quite a stir when it came out. The articles contained herein question the judgment and even validity of an "imperial judiciary" that makes decisions many view as intolerable or even immoral. This particular issue symbolizes for many the official split between the theological and political conservatives. Why not take a peek?
After a rancorous month, and the resignation of several members of the journal's board, First Things continued their discussion with more opinions. Why stop the fun now?
|The Separation of Church and State||
History of the "Separation of Church and State"
Hoo boy. This one ain't easy. Now, before we jump in, let me just point a few things out. The people listed on this page are not polar opposites. No one here is trying to establish a theocracy (I'll put in links to Christian Reconstructionists later) and no one is trying to persecute others for their beliefs. This still being America, we all fall somewhere in between.
One's ideas regarding the 'proper' role of religion vis a vis the state clearly goes straight to the heart of all of these debates. As such, the stakes are high. The 'original intent' of the framers in crafting the first amendment, "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof", has been hotly debated by those who know far more about these things than I. Indeed, to secure the blessing of the Founding Fathers on their own interpretation of the proper lines between Church and State is seen by many as the 'brass ring' of this overall debate.
I fear, however, that such partisans are subject to the same 'prooftexting' that has hindered and perverted the reading of the Bible for millennia. Plunging into history (be it constitutional or otherwise) already armed with firm answers almost guarantees that one shall find the exact viewpoint which one seeks.
As you browse through the following pages, the most important thing to remember is that anything can be taken out of context, and that to build firm convictions about the intentions of the founders of this country (or anyone else, for that matter) by reading a few phrases plucked out of historical context is not a sign of intellectual rigor.
A Very Brief History
The mere phrase, "a wall of separation between church and state" is continually invoked in the debate over the role of religion in public life. The American author of this phrase was none other than Thomas Jefferson, who wrote it in his letter to the Danbury Baptists. After reading this brief letter, the reader will conclude that "the separation of church and state" had for Jefferson none of the meaning that it has for today's "strict separationists". All that is clear from the letter is that Jefferson felt that the state should have no control over the minds of its citizens.
Jefferson himself is a very problematic figure for those seeking an answer rooted in the opinions of the founders. His legitimacy to interpret the constitution is questioned by some, because, after all, he did not attend the constitutional convention. However, he did write the Declaration of Independence, which makes explicit that, as humans, our rights derive from our creator (although for Jefferson, this was almost certainly not the God of Christianity).
Jefferson and Madison and the Legacy of Virginia
Besides Jefferson's aforementioned letter, those who interpret a strict separation between church and state pay particular attention to a series of events that took place in the Virginia legislature shortly after the American revolution. Without going into too much detail (gotta keep things moving), a bill was introduced which would collect a tax from the citizens to be given to local churches. Although the tax-payer could decide which church was to receive the "donation", the tax was to be required by law.
This was simply too much for Jefferson and Madison. James Madison (soon enough to become president) wrote a multi-point argument against the proposed legislation, his famed Memorial and Remonstrance. The writing was said to have such an effect on the citizens as well as the lawmakers that the bill to establish a "religious tax" was voted down the next year. Riding on the crest of this victory, Jefferson and his supporters pushed through Jefferson's Bill to Establish Religious Liberty, another much quoted document.
There have been several more scholarly histories and interpretations of the events listed above. Follow these links to read people more academic discussions:
To illustrate the divergent opinions that people derive from the writings of the founders, I provide the following links for the so inclined:
Homosexuality in the Bible
Organizations dealing with homosexuality
Statistics and opinions about homosexuality
Depending on whom you ask, the growing public debate about homosexuality is either about an heroic struggle for civil rights or yet another indicator of society's general moral decline.
Homosexuality in the Bible
The first proscriptions against homosexuality found
in the Bible are in the Torah, or Pentatuch: the first five books.
If you manage to make it through the first eighteen chapters of
Leviticus (no small task in itself), you will come across the
seemingly unambiguous commandment:
"Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind; it is an abomination."
Two chapters later, in Leviticus 20:13, another commandment is given:
"If a man committed an abomination; they should surely be put to death...."
In the new testament, Paul writes of what happens to people when they turn from God (Romans 1:26-1:27):
"Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error."
To give another example; in the New Revised Standard Version, 1 Corinthians 6:9 is translated as:
"Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God."
And finally, who could forget poor Sodom? The fate of this unfortunate town was sealed when the town's men actually attempted to rape an angel of God (not a wise move in anyone's play book).
As you can imagine, the above citations, like anything in the bible, are hotly debated. Recently, a large body of scholarly work has emerged contesting the traditional interpretation of the above citations.
Organizations that Deal with Homosexuality
Accepting of Homosexuality
Political Organizations and Lobbying Groups
Religious Sites That are Accepting of Homosexuality
The Metropolitan Community Church
Sexuality, Marriage, and Christian Values: Arguments for Including Gays in Full Christian Fellowship
Information Sites and Links Pages
Not Accepting of Homosexuality
Political Organizations and Lobbying Groups
Homosexuality Conversion Ministries
Information Sites and Links Pages
The Homosexual Threat
I find it hard to resist comment that this page, with section
titles such as "HOMOSEXUALS HAVE SEX IN PUBLIC PLACES" and "EVIDENCE OF JEWISH
SUPPORT OF HOMOSEXUAL CULTURE" is not for the faint of heart. For those who think
that the public debate over homosexuality is marked by too much civility and
"middle of the road" squeamishness, then this is the site for you.
When people speak of the "Christian Right", they are talking primarily about one of the following six organizations:
There are, in addition to these groups, several other organizations that, while religious and conservative, are not as overtly political as the groups above. These groups include:
This is a link to the UNOFFICIAL site. The official site does not yet exist.Wallbuilders Inc.
There are several groups that have entered the political world to oppose the efforts of these religious conservatives. The main organizations involved in this effort are:
In addition to the above organizations, there are literally dozens of sites dedicated to "fighting the religious right". Below are the best examples:
Finally, this group below presents a *relatively* balanced view of most topics. (Although the careful reader won't have much trouble finding the liberal slant)
Religion In General
Originally, I was going to chastise visitors for going to this page first, without first looking at the more substantive links. On second thought, it might be a good thing. Now, I'm not sure of the biology of this, but I suspect that the funny bone isn't that far away from the brain, and that if a silly joke or accurate cartoon makes you laugh, it might just get you to see the opinion of those you've always laughed at, rather than with.
Now that none of us feel guilty about this, let's get the chuckles rolling!
If this were less demented, it would be satire.
The Courage to be Ridiculous Before GodReverend Fun
Not much to add there, really.Monk Gloats After Yoga Championship: 'I Am the Serenest!' he says (The Onion Archives)
A beautiful collection of photos showing the lighter side of church facades. Extreme pun warning.
Through cartoons, the virtual Founding Fathers tackle all the tough questions, from abortion and evolution to inter-racial marriage and drug legalization. Quite possibly one of the strangest things I've ever seen.
Private Schools (Vouchers)
The public schools are the "ground zero" of the culture war. Due to economic constraints, attendance is essentially compulsory and religious conservatives feel that the schools are an increasingly inhospitable environment. Religious conservatives feel that the schools restrict their childrens' rights of religious observance while pushing a 'secular humanist' agenda of sex education, religion-free classrooms, and 'situation ethics'. The offenses of the public schools in the eyes of religious conservatives, then, are of both omission and commission.
On a historical note, conservative Protestants had seen the public schools as an ally in the first part of the century, where they served as a tool of assimilation for the children of Catholics. Of course, the King James Bible was read in the classrooms in those days, and things were *quite* different. The changing environment of the public schools has changed a feeling of alliance between conservative Christians and their public schools to one of betrayal.
Homeschooling is by no means exclusively a phenomenon among religious conservatives. Indeed, many parents homeschool their children for what could be considered "liberal" reasons. Regardless, the homeschooling movement has grown tremendously in the last ten years, and many see it as an "escape valve" for parents fed up with the public schools.
|Society and Culture||
The funny thing about pornography (besides all of the goofy outfits) is that it is one of the few issues on which cultural conservatives and feminists actually agree.
"Point of View"
I haven't gotten around to these yet.
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The Naked Public Square
Mammoth Political Sites
I Just Couldn't Find Anywhere Else for These Things
This survey, done for the Pew Center for People and the Press in the Summer of '96 is an excellent source of statistics regarding the influence of faith in American politics. A must for anyone not already familiar with America's religious geography.
Progressives readily admit that there is less overt religious presence in the national 'public square' than there has been historically, but deny that the extent is as dramatic as conservatives assert. Progressives also point out that in a diverse society, it is bigotry to expect our nation to continue to reflect the same religious values that it has for the first part of its history.
This incredible PBS mini series was lauded by those on all sides of these issues for both its objectivity and its scope. When was the last time anything aired by PBS was previewed at the Christian Coalition's Road to Victory rally?
Religious Persecution Abroad
America exports its culture wars when it comes to international bodies such as the UN or NATO. Biblical fundamentalists see the UN as the harbinger of a "one world government", a sure sign of the end times.
However, many of this country's religious conservatives oppose the UN because they see its conferences and declarations as extra-constitutional attempts to rule the people of the United States. Whether one sees this country as a "Christian Nation" or not, they argue, membership in such international bodies is not in the interest of a United States that wishes for self rule.
On the other side, liberals think that all this worrying about the UN is nothing more than common paranoia, and that the shoddy American treatment of the UN embarrasses our country before the world. Why not head to the United Nations Website right now and see how safe you feel with these folks?
The World Food and Population Summit: The UN Makes Another Grab For Power (Concerned Women For America)
UN Convention on the Rights of the Child: A Treaty to Undermine the Family (Concerned Women for America)
Some Goals of the New World Order (The Eagle Forum)
Exposing CEDAW: The United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (Concerned Women for America)
For many Christians, religious persecution did not end with the Roman emperor Constantine's Edict of Milan in 313 AD. Worldwide, Christians can count themselves among the innumerate groups that are daily persecuted for their beliefs. This persecution can arise from either a government that has a different religion (for instance, in some Islamic countries) or from one that has no official religion at all, as in China or Cuba.
American religious conservatives think that the indignities (and frequently far worse things than that) that are perpetrated on Christians abroad is not treated with sufficient gravity by the US government or private groups within our borders. In short, many think that the international plight of Christians is ignored, symptomatic of the marginalization that Christians have encountered within our borders.
While this may sound a bit far afield from the usual topics discussed on this site, foreign treatment of Christians is heating up as a domestic political issue as groups like the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family have chosen to oppose renewed "Most Favored Nation Trading Status" with China, largely due to human rights abuses. This represents a significant departure from their traditional Republican allies, and should be very significant in the years ahead.
Of course, persecution under Roman rule shaped the early Christian Church, and persecution by Catholics shaped Protestantism for hundreds of years (the Prots struck back when Catholics immigrated to America in the first part of this century) as well. For all those scholarly inclined, I've included some "persecution links" to better illustrate the role of persecution in shaping Christian belief.
Fox's Book of MartyrsBoy, this one is a classic. It's not the illustrated version, though.