I came across a striking observation in Os Guinness's The Case for Civility. He cites sociologist Peter Berger as commenting that "America is paradoxically viewed in many parts of the world as a nation of 'Puritans and pornographers.'" Compared to secularized countries like France or other European nations, America seems to be overly religious and moralistic. On the other hand, in the eyes of the Middle East and many traditional cultures, America is hopelessly decadent and immoral. Some see us as sexually repressed, and others see us as sexually obsessed. Both perspectives are probably simultaneously true!
This reminds me of something I heard John Stott say some years back about the human paradox - we are created in God's image and thus have tremendous value, worth and capacity, yet we are thoroughly fallen and corrupt at the same time. Sometimes Christians err on one side or the other, either saying that we are basically pretty good or that we are completely worthless. Stott would have us hold the two in tension and not overemphasize either our value or our depravity. As Luther put it, we are simul justus et peccator - simultaneously saint and sinner. That's not just abstract theological truth. It corresponds pretty well with reality and lived experience.
So it's not merely that American society is divided between different tribes, that some are Puritans and others are pornographers and that these camps are locked in a culture war against each other. No, the truth is more significant than that. It's more that each of us is a mix of Puritan and pornographer. Created in God's image, we really do yearn for holiness and transcendence. And as fallen people, we also all too easily gravitate toward temptation and sin. As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn put it, "the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being."