Volume > Issue > The Conservative Surrender in the Culture Wars

The Conservative Surrender in the Culture Wars


By Tom Bethell | September 2014
Tom Bethell, a Contributing Editor of the NOR, is the author, most recently, of Eric Hoffer: The Longshoreman Philosopher (Hoover Institution Press, 2012).

In 1992 conservative commentator Irving Kristol observed that “[the culture wars] are over, and the Left has won.” The reception of Robert Reilly’s new book, Making Gay Okay: How Rationalizing Homosexual Behavior Is Changing Everything (Ignatius Press), underscores that judgment. We would expect liberal publications to ignore Reilly’s book. And they have. But conservative journals have followed suit. Various magazines, including The Weekly Standard, edited by Irving’s son William Kristol, have ignored Reilly’s book. National Review, edited by Richard Lowry, and its online version, NRO, refused to review it. The same goes for The American Spectator, edited by R. Emmett Tyrrell.

Making Gay Okay has received a number of favorable reviews, almost all from conservative religious sources. Robert Royal endorsed it at The Catholic Thing website; Austin Ruse, Christopher Manion, and Fr. C.J. McCloskey have published favorable reviews. Fr. James V. Schall praised the book at the Catholic World Report website. In fact, the book seems to have done fairly well, reaching the 700s on the Amazon bestseller list (better than being in the millions!). It also rose to no. 1 in Amazon’s “Gay & Lesbian History” category — which Reilly told me he finds “hilarious.”

But the book’s reception also signals a surrender by many secular conservatives in the “culture wars.” This phrase seems to have been popularized by Pat Buchanan, who said in a 1992 speech at the Republican National Convention that “there is a religious war going on in our country for the soul of America. It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we will one day be as was the Cold War itself.”

Published this April, Making Gay Okay asks why Americans are expected to consider homosexual acts as morally acceptable, and why so many have touted the Supreme Court’s acceptance of same-sex “marriage” as a valid form of matrimony. Until a decade ago, such developments were unheard of in the history of Western (or any other) civilization. Reilly reckons that homosexuals constitute two to three percent of the U.S. population.

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