Sins Against Relativism

The war over values in America has been officially declared. The first shot was fired by Dan Quayle, in his now-infamous Murphy Brown speech. That brought all the old soldiers out in full uniform. The media and cultural elites pounced on his remark about the value of intact families, and over the next several weeks his comments were dissected, analyzed, categorized, and caricatured. Now Dan Quayle has fired a second shot--with much the same response. It was in a recent speech to the Southern Baptist Convention. His first volley was to uphold the validity of moral standards. Principles like "Love thy neighbor" and "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you"--these aren't just narrow-minded dogmas, Quayle said. They are "the consensus of humanity about what makes for a good life and a good society." Quayle's second volley was to uphold the family. He described it as a "sacred institution entrusted with the world's most important work." Contrary to what the cultural elite says, Quayle argued, the family is not just "an arbitrary arrangement of people who decide to live under the same roof." All lifestyles are not equal. Well, that was too much. In the eyes of the cultural elite, Dan Quayle had just escalated the war over values to a higher level. Once again, they brought out the big guns. Newsweek's Meg Greenfield sniffed that Quayle's talk about the family was destructive "zealotry," a sure sign of "moral obtuseness." A reporter asked indignantly what right Quayle has to try to define what makes a family. On a Washington talk show Quayle was accused of pandering to a radical right minority. The frantic reaction to what Quayle is saying reveals a deep cultural divide in America today between mainstream Americans and the cultural elite. A divide that runs especially deep in matters regarding the family. A recent issue of Newsweek magazine illustrates what I mean in a remarkable story. David Blankenhorn of the Institute for American Values has constructed a sort of Rorschach test on attitudes toward the family. The test consists of a photograph of a classic American family from the 1950s having a barbecue on the beach. When Blankenhorn shows the photo to ordinary people, as he tells it, they look wistful and say things like, That's the kind of family I want. But when he shows the same photo to members of the media and academic elite, they laugh. They say things like That's what I've been fighting against all my life. What a revealing statement. The elites who talk this way don't just reject the traditional family and its values, they're actively fighting it. Friends, it's an out-and-out declaration of war. It reminds me of a recent march against abortion sponsored by the New York Archdiocese. A pro-abortion activist told a reporter, the marchers have "no right to interfere and drag the church into this." That's the underlying attitude of the elites: that traditionalists have "no right" to bring their views into the public arena. The very people who demand tolerance for their own views are extremely intolerant of others. The truth is that the banner of tolerance is often used to promote one set of views and fight against another--as camouflage in the culture war.


Chuck Colson


  • Facebook Icon in Gold
  • Twitter Icon in Gold
  • LinkedIn Icon in Gold

Sign up for the Daily Commentary