The pervasive problem of radical progressivism has led to a modern decline in true tolerance of differing opinions in American society. Now is a time for conservatives to defend their beliefs and engage in civil discourse, no matter how impossible these feats may seem.
Christian author Billy Hallowell recently spoke with Conservative Review about the modern effort to abolish free speech and his unique approach to combatting it.
According to Hallowell, the battle of ideas takes place in three major realms: the media, the entertainment industry, and higher education. Because these spheres are dominated by a liberal progressive worldview, conservatives and Christians are often tempted to disengage.
“There really is a progressive privilege in the media, in Hollywood, and in universities where these people get to enjoy having their views heralded and held up and continuously spouted out by the people in those arenas. Whereas conservatives and Christians don't enjoy that privilege,” Hallowell told CR.
In his latest book, “Fault Line: How a Seismic Shift in Culture is Threatening Free Speech and Shaping the Next Generation,” Hallowell argues that these ostracized groups should fight the temptation to forfeit the cultural battle.
He explained that the premise of “Fault Line” is completely different from Rod Dreher’s forthcoming book, “The Benedict Option,” which suggests that Christians ought to stop trying to dominate the public sphere and instead focus on cultivating strong families, churches, and local communities. By contrast, Hallowell calls on conservative Christians to actively engage with the most hostile arenas of society.
“I think we really need to be engaged,” he explained. “We need to figure out what can we do as individuals to actually be a part of fixing this problem. We know the problem exists. We know there's bias in each of these areas. What can we be doing?”
“We can't all be journalists. We can't all be actors or producers,” Hallowell said. “But we can have a voice and be present, and I think too many of us as conservatives and/or Christians have pulled back because we have felt like these areas are not favorable to us — ‘they don't treat us well; our perspectives aren't shown.’ The only way to really engage the culture is to be present.”
According to Hallowell, the biggest threat facing Americans today is widespread complacency, which he defines as “taking at face value everything that we're hearing,” whether it’s in the news, the classroom, or the movies we watch.
In one sense, moral decline is a prominent and rather normal element of the human narrative. But Hallowell believes that our current crisis has unique features that help to explain its potency and ubiquity.
We are living in an age of information, where the average American spends more time in front of a screen than almost anything else. Because of this, the left-leaning media and entertainment industry have easy, perpetual access to a wide audience.
“The information that is coming to us is coming at such a rapid rate now that it's impossible to avoid it,” Hallowell said.
He explained that the “triangular dominance” of media, Hollywood, and universities has contributed to a common language and a worldview vehemently opposed to questioning of any kind. Conservatives cannot afford to disengage, he said, because “free speech is what's on the chopping block here.”
“When we're leaving perspectives out — when we're not having full representation of what people really believe being represented in those cultural and educational arenas — that's a big problem,” Hallowell said. “And it puts free speech in a really dangerous place.”
In the aftermath of a contentious presidential election that ruined relationships and tore families apart, Hallowell believes that the call for civil discourse is more relevant than ever.
“This past election has, in so many ways, damaged the ability of people to think rationally and calmly about what's going on,” he said.
According to Hallowell, a key contributor to this problem is a general ignorance of true conservatism and true Christianity. The only way to mend the divide, he claims, is to accurately represent and defend these values publicly. It is, in a sense, an act of mercy toward our enemies.
Carly Hoilman is a Correspondent for Conservative Review. You can follow her on Twitter @CarlyHoilman.