Russell ShawThe Culture War Turns Violent

Spray-painted graffiti outside Life Choices, a pro-life pregnancy center in Longmont, Colorado. Spray-painted graffiti outside Life Choices, a pro-life pregnancy center in Longmont, Colorado./ Courtesy of Longmont Public Safety

America’s culture war has turned violent. The violence has always been there of course, just below the surface, but lately it has erupted into full, frightening view.

I’m not speaking just now of mass killings like the massacres in Uvalde and Buffalo. Those atrocities are not culture war blips but monstrous acts of premeditated evil performed by apparently deranged individuals on a scale that places them in a category best described as demonic. 

What I mean here, though, are comparatively mundane gestures of semi-rational, hate-filled viciousness springing from ideological roots—things like the firebombing of pregnancy centers and prolife offices and the desecration of churches, carried out, it appears, by culture warriors of the left furious at finding themselves no longer as dominant as they once considered themselves.

A bizarre manifesto issued by a group calling itself  Jane’s Revenge expresses this mentality. Threatening to destroy “the infrastructure of the enslavers” and declaring it “easy and fun…to attack,” this weird screed announces, “We answer to no one but ourselves.” Maybe Jane’s Revenge doesn’t. But it is easy to see here a world view that cuts across issues and institutional lines and infects a number of groups and individuals at both ends of the ideological spectrum. 

Reinforced by repetitive indoctrination via ultra-violent movies, ultra-violent TV shows, and ultra-violent video games, this way of thinking points to a frightening conclusion: When push comes to shove, violence is the preeminent way—indeed, the preferred way—of resolving conflicts. And powerfully supporting this predisposition to violence is the “gun idolatry” that conservative commentator David French calls “a form of gun fetish that’s fundamentally aggressive, grotesquely irresponsible, and potentially destabilizing to American democracy.”

It’s no coincidence that the fresh upsurge of culture war violence began amid speculation that the Supreme Court would overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision by which the court imposed abortion on demand on the nation. After all, the single most powerful influence for decades in fomenting violence as a problem solver has been the easy availability of abortion that Roe made possible. Now that the court has finally rid us of that ghastly decision, there is reason to fear even more violence—egged on this time by the howls of pro-abortion politicians and media. 

In 2020 abortions in the U.S. totaled a mind-numbing 930,000. In the course of that year more than one pregnancy in five was terminated by abortion. These are horrifying numbers in a nation whose Founders declared that America was grounded first of all in the God-given right to life as the necessary precondition of liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

A group of religious and prolife leaders, noting the Biden administration’s “relative silence” in the face of attacks on churches, pregnancy resource centers, and prolife organizations,  has called on the Justice Department for stepped up investigation, prosecution, and prevention of these crimes. In a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland and Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke they condemned the wave of violence as “a manifest injustice that requires prompt, comprehensive and public response.”

Vigorous law enforcement really is needed, and the Biden administration’s fondness for abortion is no excuse for dragging its feet in protecting the rights—and the lives—of people who seek protection for the unborn. But in the end the upsurge of culture war violence has a solution that lies beyond the reach of the FBI and federal courts. Here Jesus’ words are probably applicable: “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting” (Mark 9.29).

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