The spate of religious freedom restoration acts (RFRAs) is the latest in a long-history of value conflicts in American history. In my first book on American values, published n 2005, I argued that Americans could transcend their conflicts and find a new path forward. Can we rise above our contradictions?
This week, we’ve discussed whether the political battles over RFRAs are on the right side of history, how many people are opposed to these laws in general but not in specific cases, and how tech leaders are lining up to oppose these laws. We also traveled back in history, with the aid of Lincoln scholar Duncan Newcomer, to see that paradoxical views were common from the earliest days of the republic.
Today, here’s more evidence of paradoxical views, this time when it comes to attitudes about abortion. Almost two of ten (18%) of Americans identify as both pro-life and pro-choice, according to a new Vox poll. Another 21% said “neither” when asked which label they identified with. Millennials are even more likely to identify with both labels, according to a new Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) survey. About 27% say they are BOTH pro-choice and pro-life. Another 22% don’t identify with either label.
Are all these people just confused?
One school of thought argues that each person should have clear, coherent, and consistent values. Perhaps some people do, but for many this denies the reality of their individual experience. It’s common to hold views that are paradoxical. American is rife with tensions between values, which can erupt in social conflict—or energize and animate the American experience.
Next week, we’ll explore some of these tensions, drawing on a new book and project sponsored by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.
Can we transcend our paradoxical views on religious freedom?
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