“No Man’s Land”: The Place of Latter-day Saints in the Culture War

The scarred and forbidding middle ground between two warring armies is an apt metaphor for the position of Latter-day Saints in contemporary cultural conflicts. The use of “warfare” as a metaphor for these conflicts was popularized by James Davison Hunter several years ago in his book Culture Wars. According to Hunter, current cultural conflicts stem less from denominational differences than from “political and social hostility rooted in different systems of moral understanding.” On one side are the “orthodox”: cultural traditionalists who are committed to “an external, definable, and transcendent authority,” who represent an “unchangeable measure of value [that] tells us what is good, what is true, how we should live, and who we are.” On the other side are “progressives”: cultural liberals with a libertarian social agenda defined by “a spirit of rationalism and subjectivism.” Their first instinct is not to affirm traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs, like the traditionalists, but to reinterpret them “according to the prevailing assumptions of contemporary life.”

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