Sunday, 14 April 2013 12:24 by Admin
Rod Dreher, writing last week in The American Conservative, offers a grim assessment of where our country is headed in his piece "Sex After Christianity." Full text of the article appears in this post. We have numbered the paragraphs for ease in locating the following key ideas, given in near-verbatim paraphrase.
** Gay marriage will make America a far less Christian culture (Para 7). Is sex the linchpin of Christian culture? (Para 15)
** Since at least the 1960s, the West has been re-paganizing around sexual liberation (Para 19).
** Early Christianity was a liberating force in the sexually exploitive Greco-Roman culture, restraining male eros, elevating women, and sacralizing marriage (Para 21).
** Our era, unlike any in history, won't let culture do what it must do: channel individual passions toward communal purposes (Para 24).
** Gay marriage denies the core concept of Christian anthropology, the divinely sanctioned union of man and woman, thus negating the very cosmology from which we derive our modern concept of human rights. What will anchor them in the post-Christian epoch? (Para 30).
** American Christians tend to misunderstand Christianity as merely a moralistic therapeutic adjunct to bourgeois individualism (Para 33).
** American Christians have already lost the culture and could soon lose their religion as well, unless they learn to fight cosmologically (Para 34).
Books cited by Dreher include American Grace by Robert Putnam, Triumph of the Therapeutic by Philip Rieff, Paul Among the People by Sarah Ruden, A Secular Age by Charles Taylor, and Soul Searching by Christian Smith.
Normal 0 false false false false EN-US JA X-NONE
- The American Conservative - http://www.theamericanconservative.com
Sex After Christianity
Posted By Rod Dreher On April 11, 2013 @ 12:00 am In | 121 Comments
1) Twenty years ago, new president Bill Clinton stepped on a political landmine when he tried to fulfill a campaign promise to permit gay soldiers to serve openly. Same-sex marriage barely registered as a political cause; the country was then three years away from the Defense of Marriage Act and four years from comedian Ellen DeGeneres’s prime-time coming out.
2) Then came what historians will one day recall as a cultural revolution. Now we’re entering the endgame of the struggle over gay rights and the meaning of homosexuality. Conservatives have been routed, both in court and increasingly in the court of public opinion. It is commonly believed that the only reason to oppose same-sex marriage is rank bigotry or for religious reasons, neither of which—the argument goes—has any place in determining laws or public standards.
3) The magnitude of the defeat suffered by moral traditionalists will become ever clearer as older Americans pass from the scene. Poll after poll shows that for the young, homosexuality is normal and gay marriage is no big deal—except, of course, if one opposes it, in which case one has the approximate moral status of a segregationist in the late 1960s.
4) All this is, in fact, a much bigger deal than most people on both sides realize, and for a reason that eludes even ardent opponents of gay rights. Back in 1993, a cover story in The Nation identified the gay-rights cause as the summit and keystone of the culture war:
5) All the crosscurrents of present-day liberation struggles are subsumed in the gay struggle. The gay moment is in some ways similar to the moment that other communities have experienced in the nation’s past, but it is also something more, because sexual identity is in crisis throughout the population, and gay people—at once the most conspicuous subjects and objects of the crisis—have been forced to invent a complete cosmology to grasp it. No one says the changes will come easily. But it’s just possible that a small and despised sexual minority will change America forever.
6) They were right, and though the word “cosmology” may strike readers as philosophically grandiose, its use now appears downright prophetic. The struggle for the rights of “a small and despised sexual minority” would not have succeeded if the old Christian cosmology had held: put bluntly, the gay-rights cause has succeeded precisely because the Christian cosmology has dissipated in the mind of the West.
7) Same-sex marriage strikes the decisive blow against the old order. The Nation’s triumphalist rhetoric from two decades ago is not overripe; the radicals appreciated what was at stake far better than did many—especially bourgeois apologists for same-sex marriage as a conservative phenomenon. Gay marriage will indeed change America forever, in ways that are only now becoming visible. For better or for worse, it will make ours a far less Christian culture. It already is doing exactly that.
8) When they were writing the widely acclaimed 2010 book American Grace, a comprehensive study of contemporary religious belief and practice, political scientists Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell noticed two inverse trend lines in social-science measures, both starting around 1990.
9) They found that young Americans coming into adulthood at that time began to accept homosexuality as morally licit in larger numbers. They also observed that younger Americans began more and more to fall away from organized religion. The evangelical boom of the 1970s and 1980s stopped, and if not for a tsunami of Hispanic immigration the U.S. Catholic church would be losing adherents at the same rate as the long-dwindling Protestant mainline.
graphic by Michael Hogue
10) Over time, the data showed, attitudes on moral issues proved to be strong predictors of religious engagement. In particular, the more liberal one was on homosexuality, the less likely one was to claim religious affiliation. It’s not that younger Americans were becoming atheists. Rather, most of them identify as “spiritual, but not religious.” Combined with atheists and agnostics, these “Nones”—the term is Putnam’s and Campbell’s—comprise the nation’s fastest-growing faith demographic.
11) Indeed, according to a 2012 Pew Research Center study, the Nones comprise one out of three Americans under 30. This is not simply a matter of young people doing what young people tend to do: keep church at arm’s length until they settle down. Pew’s Greg Smith told NPR that this generation is more religiously unaffiliated than any on record. Putnam—the Harvard scholar best known for his best-selling civic culture study Bowling Alone—has said that there’s no reason to think they will return to church in significant numbers as they age.
12) Putnam and Campbell were careful to say in American Grace that correlation is not causation, but they did point out that as gay activism moved toward center stage in American political life—around the time of The Nation’s cover story—the vivid public role many Christian leaders took in opposing gay rights alienated young Americans from organized religion.
13) In a dinner conversation not long after the publication of American Grace, Putnam told me that Christian churches would have to liberalize on sexual teaching if they hoped to retain the loyalty of younger generations. This seems at first like a reasonable conclusion, but the experience of America’s liberal denominations belies that prescription. Mainline Protestant churches, which have been far more accepting of homosexuality and sexual liberation in general, have continued their stark membership decline.
14) It seems that when people decide that historically normative Christianity is wrong about sex, they typically don’t find a church that endorses their liberal views. They quit going to church altogether.
15) This raises a critically important question: is sex the linchpin of Christian cultural order? Is it really the case that to cast off Christian teaching on sex and sexuality is to remove the factor that gives—or gave—Christianity its power as a social force?
16) Though he might not have put it quite that way, the eminent sociologist Philip Rieff would probably have said yes. Rieff’s landmark 1966 book The Triumph Of the Therapeutic analyzes what he calls the “deconversion” of the West from Christianity. Nearly everyone recognizes that this process has been underway since the Enlightenment, but Rieff showed that it had reached a more advanced stage than most people—least of all Christians—recognized.
17) Rieff, who died in 2006, was an unbeliever, but he understood that religion is the key to understanding any culture. For Rieff, the essence of any and every culture can be identified by what it forbids. Each imposes a series of moral demands on its members, for the sake of serving communal purposes, and helps them cope with these demands. A culture requires a cultus—a sense of sacred order, a cosmology that roots these moral demands within a metaphysical framework.
18) You don’t behave this way and not that way because it’s good for you; you do so because this moral vision is encoded in the nature of reality. This is the basis of natural-law theory, which has been at the heart of contemporary secular arguments against same-sex marriage (and which have persuaded no one).
19) Rieff, writing in the 1960s, identified the sexual revolution—though he did not use that term—as a leading indicator of Christianity’s death as a culturally determinative force. In classical Christian culture, he wrote, “the rejection of sexual individualism” was “very near the center of the symbolic that has not held.” He meant that renouncing the sexual autonomy and sensuality of pagan culture was at the core of Christian culture—a culture that, crucially, did not merely renounce but redirected the erotic instinct. That the West was rapidly re-paganizing around sensuality and sexual liberation was a powerful sign of Christianity’s demise.
20) It is nearly impossible for contemporary Americans to grasp why sex was a central concern of early Christianity. Sarah Ruden, the Yale-trained classics translator, explains the culture into which Christianity appeared in her 2010 book Paul Among The People. Ruden contends that it’s profoundly ignorant to think of the Apostle Paul as a dour proto-Puritan descending upon happy-go-lucky pagan hippies, ordering them to stop having fun.
21) In fact, Paul’s teachings on sexual purity and marriage were adopted as liberating in the pornographic, sexually exploitive Greco-Roman culture of the time—exploitive especially of slaves and women, whose value to pagan males lay chiefly in their ability to produce children and provide sexual pleasure. Christianity, as articulated by Paul, worked a cultural revolution, restraining and channeling male eros, elevating the status of both women and of the human body, and infusing marriage—and marital sexuality—with love.
22) Christian marriage, Ruden writes, was “as different from anything before or since as the command to turn the other cheek.” The point is not that Christianity was only, or primarily, about redefining and revaluing sexuality, but that within a Christian anthropology sex takes on a new and different meaning, one that mandated a radical change of behavior and cultural norms. In Christianity, what people do with their sexuality cannot be separated from what the human person is.
23) It would be absurd to claim that Christian civilization ever achieved a golden age of social harmony and sexual bliss. It is easy to find eras in Christian history when church authorities were obsessed with sexual purity. But as Rieff recognizes, Christianity did establish a way to harness the sexual instinct, embed it within a community, and direct it in positive ways.
24) What makes our own era different from the past, says Rieff, is that we have ceased to believe in the Christian cultural framework, yet we have made it impossible to believe in any other that does what culture must do: restrain individual passions and channel them creatively toward communal purposes.
25) Rather, in the modern era, we have inverted the role of culture. Instead of teaching us what we must deprive ourselves of to be civilized, we have a society that tells us we find meaning and purpose in releasing ourselves from the old prohibitions.
26) How this came to be is a complicated story involving the rise of humanism, the advent of the Enlightenment, and the coming of modernity. As philosopher Charles Taylor writes in his magisterial religious and cultural history A Secular Age, “The entire ethical stance of moderns supposes and follows on from the death of God (and of course, of the meaningful cosmos).” To be modern is to believe in one’s individual desires as the locus of authority and self-definition.
27) Gradually the West lost the sense that Christianity had much to do with civilizational order, Taylor writes. In the 20th century, casting off restrictive Christian ideals about sexuality became increasingly identified with health. By the 1960s, the conviction that sexual expression was healthy and good—the more of it, the better—and that sexual desire was intrinsic to one’s personal identity culminated in the sexual revolution, the animating spirit of which held that freedom and authenticity were to be found not in sexual withholding (the Christian view) but in sexual expression and assertion. That is how the modern American claims his freedom.
28) To Rieff, ours is a particular kind of “revolutionary epoch” because the revolution cannot by its nature be institutionalized. Because it denies the possibility of communal knowledge of binding truths transcending the individual, the revolution cannot establish a stable social order. As Rieff characterizes it, “The answer to all questions of ‘what for’ is ‘more’.”
29) Our post-Christian culture, then, is an “anti-culture.” We are compelled by the logic of modernity and the myth of individual freedom to continue tearing away the last vestiges of the old order, convinced that true happiness and harmony will be ours once all limits have been nullified.
30) Gay marriage signifies the final triumph of the Sexual Revolution and the dethroning of Christianity because it denies the core concept of Christian anthropology. In classical Christian teaching, the divinely sanctioned union of male and female is an icon of the relationship of Christ to His church and ultimately of God to His creation. This is why gay marriage negates Christian cosmology, from which we derive our modern concept of human rights and other fundamental goods of modernity. Whether we can keep them in the post-Christian epoch remains to be seen.
31) It also remains to be seen whether we can keep Christianity without accepting Christian chastity. Sociologist Christian Smith’s research on what he has termed “moralistic therapeutic deism”—the feelgood, pseudo-Christianity that has supplanted the normative version of the faith in contemporary America—suggests that the task will be extremely difficult.
32) Conservative Christians have lost the fight over gay marriage and, as we have seen, did so decades before anyone even thought same-sex marriage was a possibility. Gay-marriage proponents succeeded so quickly because they showed the public that what they were fighting for was consonant with what most post-1960s Americans already believed about the meaning of sex and marriage. The question Western Christians face now is whether or not they are going to lose Christianity altogether in this new dispensation.
33) Too many of them think that same-sex marriage is merely a question of sexual ethics. They fail to see that gay marriage, and the concomitant collapse of marriage among poor and working-class heterosexuals, makes perfect sense given the autonomous individualism sacralized by modernity and embraced by contemporary culture—indeed, by many who call themselves Christians. They don’t grasp that Christianity, properly understood, is not a moralistic therapeutic adjunct to bourgeois individualism—a common response among American Christians, one denounced by Rieff in 2005 as “simply pathetic”—but is radically opposed to the cultural order (or disorder) that reigns today.
34) They are fighting the culture war moralistically, not cosmologically. They have not only lost the culture, but unless they understand the nature of the fight and change their strategy to fight cosmologically, within a few generations they may also lose their religion.
35) “The death of a culture begins when its normative institutions fail to communicate ideals in ways that remain inwardly compelling,” Rieff writes. By that standard, Christianity in America, if not American spirituality, is in mortal danger. The future is not foreordained: Taylor shares much of Rieff’s historical analysis but is more hopeful about the potential for renewal. Still, if the faith does not recover, the historical autopsy will conclude that gay marriage was not a cause but a symptom, the sign that revealed the patient’s terminal condition.
Rod Dreher blogs at www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher .
(CCU Student) One of the touchiest, most tip-toed-around issues today is the choice of abstinence until marriage. As the world becomes more tolerant and even encouraging of promiscuous behavior, many Christians are hard-pressed to remain strong in their stand of remaining pure until their wedding night. And then beyond that, there is the challenge to stay faithful throughout their marriage.
The issue is often overlooked, though, because of the possible embarrassment that may arise when parents give “the talk” to their children. So, instead, teenagers receive the secular world’s “YOLO” message (You Only Live Once) to live life to the fullest and do everything you can to have a good time. It is so critical that the road of increased teen pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases and emotionally scarred lives not be traveled anymore.
Secular society has numbed people to the severity of infidelity. Through movies, television and music, the world laughs, jokes and nonchalantly comments about casual sex. The lives of real, ordinary people are transformed as they adopt the pattern portrayed on TV that sex is no big deal, has no consequences, whether physical, emotional, or relational, and is normal and fine to do outside a healthy marriage setting.
First of all, sex is a big deal. God created it to be the most intimate union any two people can have, and it was made to be between a husband and wife. To shrug off its importance is to discredit God’s workmanship.
To say there are no after-effects from sex outside of marriage is one of the most offensive lies culture has conjured. It questions our intelligence because there are going to be consequences. The obvious physical results of sex outside of marriage are unexpected pregnancy and STDs.
The emotional and relational consequences are often overlooked because they’re not as in the open as the physical effects. However, they are what drive people to keep looking for approval in all the wrong places and to continue in their promiscuous behavior. The regret, hurt, pain, embarrassment and entire range of emotions can be overbearing. The soiled reputation and lost relationships are also felt heavily by the victim.
God is strict in His word about the right time and setting for physical intimacy. Hebrews 13:4: “He knows the hurts it can cause if the act is taken out of its purposed place.” Yet God is always full of love, forgiveness, and compassion, and always offers the chance for redemption.
Christians need to make the teaching of sexual integrity a priority in their life. C.A.T.S. (Concerned about Teenage Sexuality) is a program in my hometown of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, bringing this message to middle and high schoolers. By being in a peer-to-peer mentoring group, teens are at ease when someone their age walks into their health-ed class to talk about sexual integrity.
Sex is sacred and precious and needs to remain in the context for which it was originally created. Although the world says it’s normal, fun and right to do what you want when you want to, the Lord challenges us to have self-control.
By having patience for His plan to work out in our lives, we’ll be ultimately blessed. Romans 12:2 sums up how we are to live: “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing and perfect will of God.”
Kelli Klaus is a Colorado Christian University freshman from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and was a student delegate at Western Conservative Summit 2012. She wrote this for her hometown paper, The Gazette, where it appeared on Sept. 16.
('76 Contributor) I’ve been asked to comment on the theater massacre. I think there is just one cause; a crazy shooter with God only knows what, going through his brain. Unfortunately discussions will go far and wide from this obvious fact and range from gun control to societal issues. So here are my thoughts. I think societal issues led up to this massacre. I’m not going to spend much time on gun control other than to say I am firmly for our second amendment, no exceptions. I blame our obsession with political correctness, the destruction of the family and the lack of God in our society.I read a child’s quote where he asked God, why do you allow all this violence in our schools? God replied, I’m not allowed in schools. Just substitute the public square for schools and you have America in 2012. A godless society is a society without a moral compass. And then there’s political correctness; you can’t speak the truth…plain and simple. You want some truth? Natalie Holloway would be alive today if her friends were responsible and didn’t allow her to go off with a stranger. The massacre at Columbine probably wouldn’t have happened if Harris and Klebold’s parents had done their job and gone down into their rooms to see what they were doing. You want more truth? How about we’re going to find out real soon how mentally disturbed the theater shooter was. His mother reportedly said “that sounds like my son” when contacted by police. Could this be another case of parenting decisions gone wrong? Time will only tell how the role of kids’ rights and medical records privacy rules might have changed the outcome.
At the conclusion of the Washington Week trip I am left physically exhausted though intellectually and civically energized! Led by Professor Schaller, Dr. Krannawitter, and Dean Saxby, students visited think tanks, memorials, monuments, historical battlefields, renowned authors, museums, both chambers of Congress, the Becket Fund, and other influential D.C. individuals. We learned about foreign policy, education, our founding, the civil war and the ideas that led to the conflict, political persuasion, and many more issues facing our generation. [More]
Wednesday night, Washington, D.C. – American Enterprise Institute & Heritage Foundation scholars, media members, writers, donors, Congressmen gather along with 20 CCU Washington Week students & faculty. The occasion; Arthur Brooks, president of AEI, is speaking about his new book, “The Road to Freedom”. The lecture focused on the battle between conservatives & liberals in the public square. Brooks explained that as president of AEI it is clear that the truth and statistical backing rests within the conservative ideas and policies. Despite this, the left is winning the battle. Brooks believes this quandary is caused by the failure of conservatives to make a strong moral argument for our beliefs and our ignorance of the neuropsychological proof that moral arguments affect human brains in a way far more powerful than solely logical arguments.
To illustrate the failure of strictly logical arguments versus a moral case Brooks tells a joke – ‘Three friends go out golfing; a psychologist, a priest and a free market economist. They find themselves playing behind two incredibly slow golfers. These golfers are painfully slow and are ruining the friends’ day at the golf course. After several holes of impatiently waiting behind these two men who are shooting upwards of 12 strokes per hole, the three ask the caddy to allow them to play through. The caddy replies “you guys are free to play through, but I want you all to be aware of how rude you’ve been… Remember the fire at the schoolhouse last year, and the two firemen who lost their sight while rescuing 13 children from the blaze? Well that’s them and this weekly golf game is their most coveted source of fun since losing their vision, and you three have been heckling them this entire time.” The psychologist replies, “Wow, here I’ve devoted my life to trying to help people and I just learned a valuable lesson today.” The priest says “Oh my, I have a contrite heart and I have been humbled by these two great men.” The free-market economist pauses for a moment, and then says, “It would be more efficient if they were to play at night!”’(Paraphrase Quote)
Clearly the economist in this joke has made a factual and relevant argument, but he has completely failed to address the moral reality of this situation and thus ignored an integral element of human nature. This anecdote masterfully illustrates the climate of political discourse between the right & left today. Brooks went on to show that the right is not devoid of moral substance. Rather he showed that every claim has moral implications, and that we must reach towards those implications in our argumentation in order to reach others with the truth where it so often is overlooked.
My time in D.C. with the CCU and Centennial Institute Washington Week clan began with not the greatest of surprises – after driving 1,670 miles from Denver my car’s fuel pump failed just twenty miles short of our destination. Sparing you further details of the dilemma; I had a very interesting discussion with the driver of the tow truck, Kevin. Kevin made it very clear that he backed Obama for re-election. After unsuccessfully prying into his reasoning for such a stance, I began to lose hope for the discussion. Then Kevin introduced the idea of term limits for Congress. Kevin was highly in favor of a possible limit of service on the Hill for both chambers. This proposition is not foreign at CCU, Centennial Institute, or conservative dialogue in general, and provided a needed common ground between Kevin and myself on our short ride to the garage. This conversation would not be the last time that term limits would be raised during this trip.
On Friday, former Colorado Congressman and Senator, Hank Brown led CCU students on a tour of the Capitol. Senator Brown has extensive knowledge of the Capitol’s art, history, and symbolism. As a former Senator, Hank Brown provided CCU students a nearly unlimited access tour of both chambers. One very special place we found ourselves in was the House Appropriations Committee room. In this room, a portion of the fresco is composed of a painting of the Roman Senator and leader Cincinnatus being called from his plough to defend Rome. Senator Brown told us the significance of this lies not in the fact the Cincinnatus heard the call of duty and went to save Rome, but that he returned to his farm and denied the dictatorship of Rome after completing his service. This historical event was repeated in the life and service of George Washington. Both men loved their country, they left their home to serve and defend but returned when their service was no longer required, turning down dictatorial power.
These two men, Washington more commonly, are cited by those who argue for a Congressional term limit. We have seen a handful of men go to congress and serve valiantly at their posts as Senators of Congressman then return to their homes and occupations, imploring others to do the same. But are these self-imposing term limiters to be compared to Cincinnatus and Washington? To know this we must know the enemy in all three cases. In Cincinnatus’s time the enemy was the attacking Aequi forces. During Washington the threat was the British Empire. But today the greatest fight in front of a conservative congressman or woman is the fight to stop & reverse government growth and defend constitutional government. And while universally imposed term limits would theoretically aid that pursuit, Conservatives are not raising the memory of Cincinnatus or Washington when they leave the government in the hands of the entrenched spenders while patting themselves on the back for showing restraint. I applaud the honorable service of these Senators and Representatives, though I feel this is one area where leading by example hurts our cause. These strong conservative members should fight to the end of the battle; until term limits are instated, then leave their posts with dignity.
What we generally take for granted as "the world around us," the great John Bunyan described figuratively as a colorful, raucous, irresistible riot of carnal commerce called Vanity Fair. The whole thing, he warned, is set up to turn us from the love and rewards of God - yet in Bunyan's telling, every pilgrim journeying toward God is obligated to go there. One must push through, resist capture, break out and with divine help at last leave Vanity Fair behind. This appears, of course, in The Pilgrim's Progress, a Christian classic of the 1600s. Culturally literate people will recognize two latter-day echoes from Vanity Fair. Already by the 1800s, when Thackeray titled a novel after it, the fair had lost any explicit spiritual connotation, though it retained a keen moral edge.
Today, another two centuries on, as the fair's name has been revived in one of the smartest of all smart media voices, the moral edge is gone as well, leaving only a self-satisfied air of the in-crowd that all do what is right in their own eyes and contrary opinion be damned.
So far down the long road - the wrong road, John Bunyan would say, and I agree with him - has the civilization once as Christendom traveled. But look now, with this context having been established, at John Bunyan's word-picture of Vanity Fair, and ask yourself if it doesn't well describe the tangle of economics and politics and aspirations and distractions and obsessions and indulgences and spectacles that occupy 99% of the attention of most of us, even we who think ourselves good, serious, pious, upright folk: At this fair are all such merchandise sold as houses, lands, trades, places, honors, preferments, titles, countries, kingdoms, lusts, pleasures; and delights of all sorts, as harlots, wives, husbands, children, masters, servants, lives, blood, bodies, souls, silver, gold, pearls, precious stones, and what not. And moreover, at this fair there is at all times to be seen jugglings, cheats, games, plays, fools, apes, knaves, and rogues, and that of every kind. Here are to be seen, too, and that for nothing, thefts, murders, adulteries, false-swearers, and that of a blood-red color.
Bunyan begins his account of Vanity Fair with a line from Ecclesiastes 11:8, "All that cometh is vanity." We say to ourselves: Really? All? The Preacher, we have to conclude, meant exactly that; and so did John Bunyan.
(CCU Faculty) Thursday upon arriving on the CU Boulder campus, where I moonlight from CCU history professor job, I had a hard time finding a parking place to teach my 3pm Western Civilization class. Earlier that day I had received several emails from some of my Boulder students telling me that they would be missing class due to an event in the quad. What that was, I now learned.
On my way to class I passed through the quad and saw several thousand students (as well as many homeless folks and others who didn’t seem to belong there). They were all in small circles of four to five people, and every circle was passing around marijuana cigarettes. I almost felt high myself as I tried to make it across the quad to my class. Half the class never showed up; they were enjoying the activity out on the lawn.
My lecture that day was Calvinism, Puritanism and the Protestant Ethic, how these values made America great, but that we were now unfortunately losing them here in America. How appropriate! As I spoke of living a responsible and sober life, studying hard to be a success, becoming an upstanding member of the community, and of one day becoming a good spouse and parent, my students automatically juxtaposed the activities outside our classroom where the other half of the class was spending their time. I told them that I felt I was preaching to the choir, but promised them all extra credit for their faithful attendance, choosing to learn about responsibility, instead of blowing smoke in the quad.
As conservatives, unlike the left with its belief that material causation is all, we know that ideas have consequences. To gird for the battle of ideas, I recommend not only Richard Weaver's 1948 classic by that title, but also Benjamin Wiker's excellent companion volumes, Ten Books That Screwed Up the World (2008) and Ten Books Every Conservative Must Read (2010).
Centennial Institute brought Wiker to Denver for three lectures this week. He lit up the room every time - first with CCU students, then with donors and trustees, then with faculty and staff.
The titles on his bad list, actually 15 in all, include The Prince by Macchiavelli, Discourse on Method by Descartes, Leviathan by Hobbes, Inequality Among Men by Rousseau, Communist Manifesto by Marx and Engels, Utilitarianism by Mill, Descent of Man by Darwin, Beyond Good and Evil by Nietzsche, State and Revolution by Lenin, Pivot of Civilization by Sanger, Mein Kampf by Hitler, Future of an Illusion by Freud, Coming of Age in Samoa by Mead, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male by Kinsey, and The Feminine Mystique by Friedan.
On Ben Wiker's good list are another 15, though he terms the last one an impostor. They include The Politics by Aristotle, Orthodoxy by Chesterton, New Science of Politics by Voegelin, Abolition of Man by Lewis, Reflections on the Revolution in France by Burke, Democracy in America by Tocqueville, the Federalist Papers, the Anti-Federalist Papers, Servile State by Belloc, Road to Serfdom by Hayek, The Tempest by Shakespeare, Sense and Sensibility by Austen, Lord of the Rings by Tolkien, the Jerusalem Bible, and (coincidentally timed with the new movie just out) Atlas Shrugged by Rand.
Your turn now: Which books don't belong where Wiker put them, and why? Which books would you add to the all-time bad list and all-time good list? Or on a more personal level, what are some titles that you would nominate as particularly magificent - or awful - because of what they have meant in your own life?
Let the games begin.
Benjamin Wiker at Colorado Christian University on April 15 lauding Jane Austen or excoriating Jean Jacques Rousseau; I forget which.
(CCU Student) Recently, I was able to attend the first public showing of “I Am”, a documentary film directed, conceived and funded by Tom Shadyac. Mr. Shadyac was able to fund his film through his enormous success in directing blockbuster comedies such as; “Ace Ventura”, “The Nutty Professor” and “Bruce Almighty”. The screening was shown at Denver University (free to all Colorado students) complete with a Q/A session with Tom Shadyac himself.
What made a successful director choose such different and dangerous production? After a serious concussion, leading to severe bouts of depression and detachment, Tom Shadyac has decided to pursue a different type of film. “I Am” is attempting to answer two questions, “What is wrong with our world? What can we do to fix it?” In solving these mysteries Shadyac employs the wisdom of scientists, academics and historians. The result is a documentary spliced with beautiful scenery, inspiring scientific research, apolitical & political arguments and quotes of Jesus Christ and Gandhi lumped together.
The danger of this film comes from the base concept which Shadyac subscribes to… ‘We are perfectible; if every person just gets on board with an idea we can end humanities struggles and pains.’ As a Christian this concept is very dangerous. I understand that we are fallen beings. We are destined to fail. But does this mean any attempt to improve the world is to be rejected? No. We are to do the best that we can on this earth with the understanding that any good we do, of our own creation, is not impermeable. The only lasting deeds are those that are of Christ.
What I fear of Shadyac’s mantra is that it more proficiently steers people away from Christ’s redemption than calls to immorality and depravity. “I Am” and it’s ideologies fit perfectly in our world. If one were to full heartedly subscribe to Shadyac’s progressive call to action, one will never be discouraged by the continued imperfections of the world do to sin, rather one will blame them on the fact that not everyone “gets it” as they do.
Now to be fair, Shadyac is very sober and has a greater understanding of the world than much of his future audience, who will undoubtedly embrace his movie as the new ultimate blueprint for humanity. Shadyac is very introspective, and his movement does focus on individual deeds, resistant of government intervention. However, having gone to the screening, I was able to witness how quickly the audience at Denver University brushed over that point and persisted in asking how they could start getting everyone else to do this, and how to change everyone else, not for a moment assessing their own righteousness.
The company Shadyac employs in his pursuit of a perfect world is also worth noting. Noam Chomsky, a true source of wisdom in this film; a man who claimed that Communist leader Mao did not really mean to kill any of the 76+ million Chinese that died under his reign.(Rummel) Shadyac also turns to Howard Zinn, a documented communist. Zinn, despite being widely discredited and having stated in his celebrated book that,
“if you have any kind of a social aim, if you think history should serve society in some way; should serve the progress of the human race; should serve justice in some way, then it requires that you make your selection on the basis of what you think will advance causes of humanity”
Howard Zinn is shown in this movie as a Historian who knows best. Shadyac rounds off his ‘unbiased’ political perspective with the liberal/progressive talk show host, Thom Hartmann.
The world is not what God intended for it to be. Instead of a place for Him to walk with man, sin has corrupted all of the earth. To ignore the inherent nature of our sin and envision a utopian way of human existence void of God is quite reckless. An attempt to create a “heaven on earth” by ignoring our nature of sin is a clear subtraction from the glory and salvation that we all need so desperately. “I Am” makes a nearly convincing proposal for actually obtaining that utopia. That is what makes this film the most dangerous fill of the year.
** Zinn, A People's History of the United States, p. 646
** Rummel, R.J. "DEATH BY GOVERNMENT: GENOCIDE AND MASS MURDER." University of Hawaii. 1994. Web. 09 Feb. 2011. <http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/NOTE1.HTM>