More recently, Notre Dame historian George Marsden ”” a self-described “Augustinian Christian” and so something close to an evangelical, whatever that still means ”” has argued in his book “The Twilight of the American Enlightenment” that religious traditionalists and secularist liberals can avoid a great deal of acrimony by defenestrating the midcentury idea of a “neutral” public sphere and instead adopting what he and others have termed “principled pluralism.” More recently still, in his new book “The Fractured Republic,” the scholar and journalist Yuval Levin, a Jewish social conservative, has counseled both religious conservatives and secularist liberals that they can repair our dysfunctional politics by comprehending the implications of this one essential truth: that American society is no longer the consolidated unit it once was but a diffuse assortment of subcultures.
True, many religious social conservatives still think it’s their duty to take America back, their disposition expressed in the fierce eloquence of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.). But many do not. Many have finally given up on the whole idea of a culture war or are willing to admit they lost it. They are determined only to remain who they are and to live as amiably and productively as they can in a culture that doesn’t look like them and doesn’t belong to them.
In time, this shift in outlook may bring about a more peaceable public sphere. But that will depend on others ”” especially the adherents of an ascendant social progressivism ”” declining to take full advantage of their newfound cultural dominance. I see few signs of that, but I am hopeful all the same.