Journalists (and clergy) fail to note that Schlafly won a political battle, but lost larger war

You know that feeling you get when you are trying to think of a name -- a person or an institution, perhaps -- but you just can't get it to pop into focus? The hard drive in your mind spins and spins and you can see hints at the data you're seeking, but not the real thing.

Trust me, this happens more when you pass 60 years of age.

It's even more disconcerting when this happens while you are on the air doing radio or a podcast, as I was again earlier this week chatting with "Crossroads" host Todd Wilken. (Click here to tune that in.) We were talking about the late Phyllis Schlafly and the fact that she was the rare moral and cultural conservative who won a major political -- repeat "political" -- battle in the public square. However, she lost her larger war with the most powerful principalities and powers in our land. As I wrote in my earlier post:

... She won her battle against the ERA, but lost the much larger war with Hollywood, trends in public education and the all-powerful worldview of shopping malls from coast to coast.
Of course, Schlafly's other major accomplishment in life was helping create a large space for religious and cultural conservatives inside the big tent of the modern Republican Party. In many ways, she was -- as a wealthy Catholic woman who was Phi Beta Kappa in college and later earned a law degree -- a unique rebel against the GOP Country Club establishment that found many of her causes embarrassing (and still does).
This is one place where I thought the mainstream obits missed an opportunity to probe a bit deeper. No one is surprised that the left hated this woman.

Now, I was trying to think of a young, popular, post-feminist figure in American pop culture who stands for the whole concept that being "hot," "edgy" and even "nasty" is a sign of empowerment, if not enlightenment, for girls.

In other words, I was trying to think of Taylor Swift. Since I am old, what came out -- as you'll hear in the podcast -- was a reference to Madonna. Talk about embarrassing.

Looking back, it is interesting to reevaluate Schlafly's dire warnings about the advent of unisex bathrooms and showers, same-sex marriage, gender-selection abortion, future attacks on religious liberty and even a military draft that includes young women.

No matter what you think of her, it's hard to argue that Schlafly was wrong on most of those issues. At the same time, it's also hard to argue that her defeat of the ERA wasn't, in many ways, a hollow victory.

The key is that, in the end, American politics is downstream from culture (and education). How much clout to cultural conservatives have when it comes to shaping the doctrines taught by Hollywood, big business and the law schools at Harvard and Yale? Leaders of conservative religious and educational institutions need to wrestle with that fact. Meanwhile, the country-club Republicans will continue to roll with the tide.

Consider this passage from a Religion News Service commentary by Jennifer A. Marshall of the Heritage Foundation.

... Schlafly rallied women against the feminist campaign, arguing that the ERA would disregard real differences between men and women and negatively impact women and families. ...
Pilloried at the time, Schlafly has now proved prescient. The “E” in ERA didn’t stand for equality before the law as historically understood in the United States. Rather, it meant equality as enforced sameness, disregarding sex differences in contexts where they are relevant and legitimate.
She predicted this would lead to same-sex marriage, unisex bathrooms and women being drafted into the military, among other outcomes. What Schlafly managed to stop in the form of a constitutional amendment, liberals have sought through other means -- including the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision that redefined marriage; the Obama administration’s contested directive on transgender access to school bathrooms, showers and locker rooms; and a bill passed by the Senate requiring women to register for the draft.

What major forces in American culture are missing in that passage?

Journalists, trust me when I say that there are stories in almost every suburban zip code linked to these facts. Just go to a local megachurch and look around. What do you see and what do you not see?

Enjoy the podcast.

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