It must be hard being David Brooks; the man lives in a permanent identity crisis. He's Jewish, and about as socially liberal as a pundit can be and still qualify as a "conservative" in the contemporary news media, yet regularly carries water for, nay, yearns on behalf of, aches even for the pains of, the shrinking Christian Right. Can't be easy.
In his most recent New York Times column, "The Next Culture War" (June 30), Brooks is obsessed as usual with demographic trends he misreads like an Etruscan squinting at sheep entrails. The dwindling conservative Christian share of the polity--and some unfortunate recent Supreme Court decisions--set Brooks to thinking how he might help his comrades.
He sets the stage by reminding Christians of their steady withering.
Christianity is in decline in the United States. The share of Americans who describe themselves as Christians and attend church is dropping. Evangelical voters make up a smaller share of the electorate. Members of the millennial generation are detaching themselves from religious institutions in droves.
His explanation for the decline is to be found, without a hint of irony, in "values." Both the lack of irony, where honest analysis screams for it, and the focus on values, are, as the sorry readers of his columns know, par for the Brooksian course.
Christianity's gravest setbacks are in the realm of values. American culture is shifting away from orthodox Christian positions on homosexuality, premarital sex, contraception, out-of-wedlock childbearing, divorce and a range of other social issues.
It's those damn Sixties again, with women's and gay lib movements, war protesters, the Pill and breakdown of the nuclear family. Brooks cannot imagine there was ever anything wrong with the "values" themselves, or that the decline of Christianity stems directly from (not just young) people's revulsion at conservative Christian cruelty, mendacity and hypocrisy. Brooks ignores pedophile priests and mega church pastors on the down-low. No mention of the Duggars or their spiritual advisor. No consideration of the higher divorce and teenage pregnancy rates, deeper poverty, lousier public education, or more entrenched racism in states where conservative Christians hold political and cultural power.