“We're at war,” one frustrated Californian wrote to her local paper. “Not with another country, not with terrible diseases and plagues, not with ruthless dictators. We are at war with ourselves.” Red, blue, purple – America is a tangle of ideologies all pulling in different directions. These days, as the debates rage on, the map no longer seems to show state lines – but ideological battle lines.
It's not as if Americans have always seen eye to eye on every issue. But the days of even general consensus seem lost. Things that we used to take for granted – values like common decency and civility – are suddenly rare. Issues that were once uncontested – the value of a fully born human life – are suddenly grounds for fierce debate. In the states, the see-saw battles are even more pronounced.
In Illinois, New York, and Rhode Island, locals have watched leaders fight to make newborn killing legal – while Missouri, North Carolina, and Arkansas try to stop doctors from dismembering babies in the womb. In one state, legal infanticide is a street party. In another, it's a cause for community mourning. And it's not just abortion. On education, sexuality, gender identity, immigration, and counseling, the gulfs are growing.
But how people think about the issues is just one part of the divide. As noted in the Harvard Political Review, “According to Pew Research, there are no issues that are widely considered top priorities by both Democrats and Republicans today. The average partisan gap between the parties' rankings of priority issues in 2019 is 19 points, representing a 36 percent increase over the last two decades.” As reported by Pew, “[E]ven as recently as 2014, the top priorities of Democrats and Republicans were much more aligned than they are today.”
There are profound differences in how the two sides view the world today. Not since slavery has there been such a stark contrast between the ideologies of the states. America survived, but barely. Of course, the silver lining is that things can shift quickly. We've seen entire scripts flip on abortion after the New York law. In a matter of weeks, the number of people calling themselves “pro-life” jumped by 17 points. Change is possible – but it's also up to us.
As William Penn once said, “Governments, like clocks, go from the motion men give them ... and as governments are made and moved by men, so by them they are ruined too ... Let men be good, and the government cannot be bad.”
If we want good government, we need good people in it. We can't have morally strong policies if the character of our leaders is weak. It's time for Americans – and the church in particular – to step up in ways they haven't before. One view is ultimately going to prevail. If we want it to be the view that our founders held, that we “hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” then we have to step forward and advance those core American and biblical values.
We can't put the nation on cruise control or think someone else will take care of it. We have to be engaged – from the school board and city council right up to Congress. Make sure you're supporting solid candidates – or prayerfully consider becoming one. The future of the country depends on it.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.
Editor's Note: This piece was originally published by the Family Research Council.