Rise of the New Class

Christians are becoming politically active. They've entered the fray over abortion, sex education, gay rights, school textbooks. And they've noticed an interesting pattern: All these issues seem somehow tied together. The same people-whether Christians or not-always seem to be fighting on the same side. The reason is that the individual issues all stem from a basic set of assumptions about life-a world view. America is being torn between two basic world views, and Christians are part of the battle. Sociologists call it a class war. But it's a class war of a new kind. Traditional classes were based on economics-the land-owners versus the peasants, or the factory-owners versus the proletariat. But the conflict dividing America today is not based on economics. It's a conflict between world views. On one side is the middle class, which once supplied most of our nation's leaders and office-holders, and shaped America's values. Its ethic is Christian, with a strong Protestant work ethic that emphasizes sacrifice, responsibility, and moral restraint. On the other side is what sociologists call the "New Class." In the early part of this century America's elites began to develop a distinct world view. It was secular, liberal, and it celebrated America's growing affluence with an ethic of individualism, self-gratification, and rebellion against authority. In the 1960s for the first time the elite outlook spread to a large segment of middle-class youth. They broke off from their middle-class roots and formed the New Class. The New Class is America's intelligentsia. They don't trade in goods and services but in words and ideas. They're sometimes called the Knowledge Class. They're journalists and anchors on TV news networks. They're the educators who write school curricula. They're the lawyers who work for social causes. They're the public-policy analysts who shape government policy. Newsweek calls them the nation's "brain workers." The first empirical studies of the New Class were conducted by Robert and Linda Lichter and Stanley Rothman. For their book The Media Elite, they interviewed the people who bring us the nightly news. Most leading television journalists and news anchors label themselves politically liberal: 90 percent are pro-abortion; 75 percent believe homosexuality is morally acceptable, and only 8 percent attend religious services regularly. For their next book, Watching America, Lichter and Rothman turned to Hollywood and interviewed the writers and producers of prime-time entertainment. They discovered a remarkable sameness in outlook: 75 percent place themselves on the left politically, 97 percent are pro-abortion, 80 percent believe homosexuality is morally acceptable. Only 7 percent attend any sort of religious service regularly. The same values are held by the New Class everywhere, whether they work in the media, the schools, or the government. Underlying the political conflicts that blare from the headlines is a deeper conflict, between two classes and two world views: the traditional, middle-class world view, with its ethic of responsibility and restraint, versus the New Class world view, exalting individual gratification. It's not a battle over land or economic power. It's a battle for the heart and soul of America.


Chuck Colson


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