The following is adapted from a speech delivered on April 21, 2015, at Hillsdale College’s Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship in Washington, D.C.
The dust is clearing from the Twitter and Facebook battlefields, the people of Indiana are out from under the white-hot glare of the national media, and both sides are taking stock. Who won the Battle of Indiana? Who lost? What’s next for religious liberty in America?
While conservative pessimists looked at Indiana, watched its politicians immediately compromise, and saw defeat, a closer look shows something else: a cultural stalemate. Nobody truly won in Indiana. From the grassroots to the intellectual elite, conservatives are girding themselves for the long war, and a long war it will be.
Four truths are emerging: First, the battle is not between gay rights and religious liberty—although religious liberty is certainly at stake—but between the sexual revolution and Christianity itself. This means that Christians are faced not with allegedly “minor” or “insignificant” theological changes to gain leftist acceptance, but with wholesale changes to the historical doctrines of the church.
Second, not a single orthodox denomination is making or even contemplating such changes. This means that tens of millions of Americans will remain—indefinitely—opposed to the continued expansion of the sexual revolution.
Third, rather than going quietly, cultural conservatism is showing increasing strength at the grassroots—opposing leftist campaigns at the ground level, bypassing politics to support those most embattled by radical hate campaigns.
And fourth, the conservative grassroots and conservative public intellectuals are united—from Ross Douthat at his lonely perch at the New York Times to the pages of National Review and the Weekly Standard, from First Things to the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, there is no wavering among America’s most influential conservative writers and thinkers.
In short, if the cultural Left is hoping to dominate the culture—and feels strong in its coastal bastions—it is overreaching, extending beyond the limits of its power. It is exposing itself to embarrassing cultural defeats and succeeding mainly in hardening conservative resolve. In the fight over religious freedom, the Left will not prevail.