In this post I lay out why I believe American society will split into two distinct factions. The differences between the two camps are fundamental and those differences will necessitate some sort of political separation. Perhaps the necessary separation can be achieved by returning to a federal system where nearly everything is handled at the state level. In any case, be aware that the current situation is unstable.
One nation, two systems
In 1997, the British lease of Hong Kong ended, and the People’s Republic of China (AKA Communist China) assumed control of the territory. The plan was for Hong Kong to operate under its own legal framework, including universal sufferage, an independant judiciary and a free market economy. This was to allow the residents of Hong Kong to maintain the way of life to which they had become accustomed under British rule, despite the fact that the Chinese Communists violently refused to allow any similar freedoms for the other billion plus people they rule.
This plan was styled “one nation, two systems” when proposed by Deng Xiaoping in the 1980’s. The PRC has worked to foster a common loyalty among all Chinese around the world based on shared ethnicity and national heritage. They hope that the shared national identity will do the work of holding the “two systems” together, despite radical differences between them. You see, it was acknowledged by both the People’s Repblic of China and the United Kingdom that the lifestyle enjoyed by residents of Hong Kong under British rule was not possible under the system of government at work in mainland China. Thus, before the handing over control of Hong Kong, the British secured this commitment from the PRC:
“The current social and economic systems in Hong Kong will remain unchanged, and so will the life-style. Rights and freedoms, including those of the person, of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of travel, of movement, of correspondence, of strike, of choice of occupation, of academic research and of religious belief will be ensured by law in [Hong Kong]. Private property, ownership of enterprises, legitimate right of inheritance and foreign investment will be protected by law.” – Sino-British Joint Declaration, 1984
There was always reason to be nervous about the future of the “one nation, two systems” plan. Would the PRC really allow Hong Kong to maintain its freedom and autonomy? This might lead to unrest within mainland China. If Hong Kong can be free, why not Beijing? And if they are truly one nation, why operate under two distinct systems? And yet, to unite them under one system would mean a revolutionary change in way of life.
A house divided
The United States has grappled with exactly these kinds of questions before. Abraham Lincoln famously said that the divide between slave states and free could not continue indefinitely.
“A house divided against itself, cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.”
The difference between a society where all men are free and one in which some are held as slaves was thought to be too extreme to be combined inside a single country. The difference in lifestyle between the free states and the slave states was enough to threaten the union. If it didn’t disolve the union, it must dissolve one society or the other, one way of life or the other.
Thankfully, the USA did not become a society of race-based, chattel slavery.
A new society emerges
In 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States handed down its opinion of the Obergefell case. In this landmark decision, the court declared that the right to marry was too fundamental to be restricted to only opposite-sex couples. It was also considered too important a matter for states to be allowed to differ.
According to the court, “marriage is a keystone of the Nation’s social order.”
In this dismal and obscene decision, the Supreme Court held that:
“The Fourteenth Amendment requires States to recognize same-sex marriages validly performed out of State. Since same-sex couples may now exercise the fundamental right to marry in all States, there is no lawful basis for a State to refuse to recognize a lawful same-sex marriage performed in another State on the ground of its same-sex character.”
The danger of a divided house was used as justification for mandating same-sex marriage be recognized in every state. It was considered simply intolerable that there would be two different systems, to distinct societies, separated by their treatment of same-sex couples.
Oddly enough, it was just 12 years before the Obergefell decision that the Supreme Court had overruled the federal Defense Of Marriage Act, in United States v. Windsor. Since one state had decided to recognize same-sex marriages, the court claimed the Federal Government was forced to recognize them also.
So in just a dozen years, the court ruled that any one state had the power to overturn the Federal Government’s position on marriage, and also ruled that the new National position overruled all the other states that had continued to reject same-sex marriage. For a time the states were split on the question, but differing systems of marriage survived little more than a dozen years.
Something was clearly in the water. Something other than states’ rights. Something other than Federal authority. Something other than the text of the constitution or legal precedent or the express will of the people. No matter which direction the aforementioned principles pointed, the movement of our legal system was inexorably toward same-sex marriage. There was a greater principle at work that broke through one barrier then another.
I submit to you that the principle at work was that a new society had been born, a new way of life had taken hold, and in that new society it was inconceivable to forbid same-sex marriage.
Not in Kansas anymore
Now some of us didn’t realize we were living in that society. We weren’t born there, and we never immigrated. Just how did it come to be that same-sex marriage was on the must-have list of the country we had known all our lives? It was like the ground shifted under our feet.
In 2015, many, perhaps most Americans were not living as if homosexuality was equivalent to heterosexuality. But some were, and they had been doing it for quite some time. As it turns out the ones that were living that way were over-represented in the nation’s courts. In the years leading up to Oberfegell, many states passed measures through referendum or through the state legislatures that upheld the traditional view of marriage. Those laws were struck down by courts without a shred of legal justification. The real justification was social. The society those judges had lived in for decades, the schools in which they were educated, and the culture in which they were steeped embraced homosexuality with very little reservation.
When the society changes dramatically, and especially when it changes its view of what is morally acceptable, the government must accommodate the new morality. Or crush it. That’s what makes Hong Kong’s freedom so tenuous. If the moral worldview of Hong Kong spreads to mainland China, the Communist Party will be ruined. If Communist rule spreads to Hong Kong, the worldview that prevails in Hong Kong will be ruined, crushed under a new, tyrannical way of life.
A house divided again
If you haven’t noticed, American society hasn’t stopped changing since Obergefell. Rather than stabilizing, the cultural and social changes have accelerated. Once again, these accelerating changes are happening with or without the approval of millions of Americans. What kind of changes are we talking about?
* Further normalization of LGBT+ nonsense
* The sexualization of children
* Economic socialism
* So-called “Social justice”
* The #MeToo movement — “Believe the woman”
* Dissolution of the family
* Fair Trade, and similar movements
* Open borders
* Legalization of marijuana
Every one of these issues is primarily a moral question. The moral revolution is underway. If it takes hold – no, let’s be more clear, when and where it takes hold, the people will insist that the systems that govern society change to reflect the new morality.
It looks as though the moral revolutionaries recently believed they had turned the corner, that their way of life had achieved dominance. They have acted as though there is nothing holding them back, nothing remains except to sweep away the last vestiges of the old morality. I’m not sure that analysis is sound, but they seem to believe it. I’m also not sure what gave them such high confidence in dominating the culture. The triumphalism seemed to settle in during Obama’s second term, which is also when the Obergefell decision came down.
But things have also diverged. After Obama came Trump. With the Trump phenomenon we have seen that there are many millions of people who are not ready to go quietly in the new frontiers of the moral revolution. (This is not to say the Trump is leading any sort of moral resurgence, but many of his supporters intend it to be a moral resurgence and have demonstrated a willingness to fight the revolutionaries.)
Perhaps nothing highlights the divergence better than recent developments concerning abortion. Some states are moving to place greater restrictions on abortion than have ever been in place since Roe v. Wade, and yet other states are moving the opposite direction and even flirting with infanticide after birth.
So we have pro-abortion and anti-abortion movements taking place simultaneously. What gives rise to these opposite and contrary political movements? Opposite and contrary understandings of morality. These conflicting moral viewpoints are lived out through, as well as informed by, very different ways of life.
The state of New York recently liberalized abortion to permit killing healthy babies up to the moment of birth, provided a “a health care professional determines the health or life of the mother is at risk.” At the same time, New York has banned declawing cats. The same people who have such a highly refined moral sense that they can not bear to permit someone to declaw a cat have no problem living with professional baby killers in their midst.
What comes next?
There is no single system that can accommodate both the old morality and the new one. There’s no middle ground between a live baby and a dead baby. There is no sensible compromise between letting drag queens read stories to little kids and protecting children from sexual abuse. The new morality shows no signs of moderating and the old morality is showing some very real signs of life.
So what happens next? Either one view of morality wipes out the other, or the people who hold these contrary views will increasingly demand to be governed by separate systems. Whether America’s national identity is sufficiently strong enough and flexible enough to permit the existence of two very different systems, I don’t know. My judgment is that the differences between the new morality and the old morality are greater than the differences that used to exist between slave states and free states.
I fully expect large portions of America, including professing Christians, to be entirely carried away with the new morality. Too few people have recognized that it is a sweeping new morality. Too few have realized it is thoroughly contrary to Christian morality. Too few have realized the effect that their day to day decisions have on which path they will ultimately choose.
I hope that a large number of my fellow Christians will resist the new morality. I hope they will do more than simply stick with the old morality, and instead allow Christ to speak from the pages of scripture and reform our moral viewpoint and manner of life. I hope that as we do this, God will give us a freedom we have not earned, freedom to practice our faith in public, freedom to educate our children, earn our livings, and order our lives as Christ requires. I pray we will be free from the dictates of the new morality.
Rom 12:18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.