Don’t miss Ross Douthat’s column in the New York Times (here) in which he comments on a changing social scene. I’ve written before about the confounding fact that college graduates tend to have lasting, stable marriages, while less educated Americans are frequently foundering. (See The Champions of Marriage, particularly.) Douthat notes the odd way this has fit into the convenient summary of culture wars: white-collar social liberals versus blue-collar cultural conservatives. The paradox was that “highly educated Americans live like Ozzie and Harriet despite being cultural liberals, while middle America hews to traditional values but has trouble living up to them.”
Douthat’s reading of the latest data (particularly from The National Marriage Project) suggests that the class divide is changing. The educated elite are growing more religious and more socially conservative, possibly because evangelicals are better educated. (He says they are now among the nation’s best-educated sub-groups. That’s a shock.) Culture wars are becoming a battle between two camps in the elite–” pitting Wheaton and Baylor against Brown and Bard, Redeemer Presbyterian Church against the 92nd Street Y, C. S. Lewis devotees against the Philip Pullman fan club.” (If you think Douthat doesn’t know the turf, consider that string of cultural shibboleths.)
But, he says, the less-educated are being left out of the discussion of what marriage means. For those who never made it through college, marriage is increasingly irrelevant. Evangelicals have moved up, but they have not managed to maintain a moral influence among the middle and lower classes in the way that the Catholic church did in the early twentieth century. (And, I would add, the way the Methodist and Baptist churches did in the 19th century.)
I think he’s right, and that’s a terrific challenge to all evangelicals.