Amid the Ruins



“Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” (Mark 13:2)

It isn’t the best of times, that’s certain, but I fear it is not the worst of times either, for, I fear, things are very likely to get a lot worse. It seems to me that the utter fools who guide the affairs of this nation are charting a course into what they imagine is a bright future of millennial bliss; the trouble is that they are so foolish, so completely deluded, that they cannot recognize the difference between Paradise and the Great Tribulation. Not only do they think they are following the right road signs; but once they get to hell, they will continue to think it is heaven. They are like poor Kafka whose policy was to keep going full speed ahead even and especially when one discovers he has taken the wrong path. For instance, though the Affordable Care Act was promised to drive down premiums and deductibles and to leave no one uninsured, the results are already manifesting as the exact opposite. A sane person might pause and gain his bearings, then realize things have gone terribly wrong. The sane thing would be to cut one’s losses and to turn back, retrace one’s steps, then make a new start. But this our idiot rulers cannot bring themselves to do. Perhaps they just are too proud to admit they made, or could make, a mistake.

There is violence in the streets, and it is a game to the perpetrators. And since the assailants are African-American, the mainstream media claims it is all an urban legend. None of it ever happened, because none of it ever could have happened. For everyone knows that African Americans do not commit crimes. Or at least Whites lack the right to say they do. That would be racist! As anomic black youth target Jews for assault in the “Knock Out Game,” Political Correctness is clubbing America itself.

Similarly, it is in bad taste, downright “insensitive,” to blame Islamofascism on Muslims. Hell, no! To say that would be “profiling.” There is no Islamofascism, only Islamophobia. Neville Chamberlain has returned under the alias of John Kerry. Though the fanatical Iranian mullahs continue to vilify Israel and to vow to wipe her off the map, our government views Israel as the villain.

The Communist Core Curriculum seeks to replace the drug-induced stupor of our youth with propaganda-induced stupor, softening them up, like dreaming humans in the womb-pods of The Matrix.

Our culture is so morally blind, so delusional, that it thinks it best to take the guns away from law-abiding citizens so they cannot commit the “crime” of self-defense against the assaults of the perversely romanticized savages and predators that run amok in our “liberal” society.

There are plenty of people who blame our social disintegration on the exclusion of religion (except for Islam, of course) from public life. If we all got back to the Bible and to Christian (i.e., Victorian) morality, everything would be just peachy. If we had prayer and Bible reading in the schools, everything would be okay. Our trouble, these people tell us, is that our ethics have no transcendental standard or basis. It is all subjective and self-serving. In one sense, this diagnosis is palpably and tragically absurd. The belief in a divine objectivity of morality founded on the will of the Creator is simply what Francis A. Schaeffer used to call (even as he was committing it) an “upper-story leap.” One feels things would be better with a divine moral compass, so one pretends to have one. It is like me thinking it would solve my problems if I struck it rich and then writing a bunch of rubber checks on a shopping spree. Thinking you need something doesn’t mean you have it.

But in another sense, these believers are quite correct: our disintegration as a country and as a civilization is the natural issue of the loss of a religious center. Peter L. Berger’s classic work The Sacred Canopy spells it out. Traditional societies possessed a worldview and value system anchored in a common, inherited mythology of creation. The social and moral order, actually established by the forgotten human founders, were ascribed to the gods, who were believed to enforce their laws and to render their mores unchallengeable. The myths, beliefs, values, traditions, and laws were like bricks forming a great dome or canopy. The keystone was the myth and ritual, the religion. Without that keystone, that universal rationale, the canopy would collapse. The result would be cultural confusion, anomie, and dissolution.

Such a sacred canopy presupposed a unanimity of behavior and belief. Oh sure, there would be anomalous individuals, crooks, schemers, traitors, like old Korihor in the Book of Mormon. But such a weirdo knew he would be in big trouble once his shenanigans were discovered, so he might think twice. The system reckoned with the possibility that such an oddball would manage to remain undetected, but it had an answer for that, too: the promise that God or the gods would see what you did in secret and make sure you received karmic justice. But if the system crashed, everyone became an oddball, a bunch of ricocheting and colliding billiard balls.

The system might crash because of a conquest by an alien people with superior power. The old gods were defeated, the old ways trampled upon. In such cases people repair to the Stockholm Syndrome. “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” Any order must be better than no order. “Better Red than dead.” I believe our system is in the process of crashing. The government Leviathan seeks to control all aspects of national, even personal, life, using its velvet-covered brass knuckles (e.g., the IRS, the NSA) to smash down dissent and opposition. The government spouts ass-covering, self-serving propaganda, round-the-clock disinformation to keep its enemy, its own citizens, in the dark and off balance. Surveys show that most Americans do not feel they can trust one another. Political Correctness bullies and shames speech it does not like, shaming Conservatives while seeking to lift the stigma of shame from parasitic government dependence and shattered, fatherless families.

Liberals champion their own self-righteousness, meanwhile embracing the unscrupulous, amoral power tactics of Saul Alinsky. In the name of pious reverence for the sacredness of all human life, they hold candle light vigils for convicted mass murders and rapists, while stuffing the abortion clinic dumpsters with tiny, innocent human bodies. It is not only cold-blooded hypocrisy of the worst sort, that of actual deceptive pretense, it is also a classic case of Slave Morality: the mutual agreement to abdicate and abolish moral responsibility. If the child rapist and the serial killer cannot be held guilty for what they do, how can anyone blame me for my mere peccadilloes? You scratch my white-striped back, and I’ll scratch yours.

Modern societies like ours are wonderfully pluralistic. But that comes at a price. There is no more a common faith to keep in place a set of common values. We enjoy a heady mixture of cross-fertilizing religious and nonreligious and antireligious opinions. And we have been able to manage this creative chaos for generations by the expedient of a little invention called Civil Religion. What we did in effect was to acknowledge that the increasingly religiously diverse American population, in order to stick together, needed to adopt a second religion, one that wouldn’t be called a religion but would perform the same functions as the original Christian faith once shared by almost all Americans. This would be the “religion” of Patriotism, of what we now call “American Exceptionalism.” Corresponding to the Church Fathers we would have the Founding Fathers. For a Bible we would have, of course, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Our holy days would include the Nativity, namely July 4, and saints’ days like Washington’s and Lincoln’s Birthdays. Lincoln became the Christ-figure, Washington the Moses who led us to freedom against the tyranny of George III, the modern-day Pharaoh. Instead of (or alongside of) the Cross would be the American flag. Patriotism presupposes a transcendent commitment to country and countrymen. We all stand for American values and virtues. Patriotism, Civil Religion, was the substitute religion uniting us. And it was great: you could be a good American, and a good believer in America and in Americanism, whether you were a Shintoist or a Shi’ite, a Buddhist or a Baptist, an atheist or an agnostic.

This last was especially important to me because, though I affirm the smorgasbord of American religions (= world religions), I have studied them enough so that I can no longer honestly believe in the doctrines of any of them. But Civil Religion did not present that problem for me. I could believe in that.

Give me that old Civil Religion,
Give me that old Civil Religion,
Give me that old Civil Religion,
It’s good enough for me.

It was good for Colonel Ingersoll,
It was good for Colonel Ingersoll,
It was good for Colonel Ingersoll,
And it’s good enough for me!

But one day I heard an atheist campus activist saying how she was planning a classroom presentation about how atheism is inconsistent with patriotism of any kind. She had apparently come to believe that any form of devotion to something outside her individual life would constitute degrading worship. I knew she had discovered the polite secret of Civil Religion: that it was a religion. And as such, she and her compatriots felt, patriotism is incompatible with the autonomy of the atheist.

I do not share that particular objection to religion. If allegiance is deserved I am happy to provide it. But since the Sixties, more and more Americans have ceased to believe that America does deserve honor and respect. Many have imbibed the propaganda that America ought to be spelled with a “K,” implying it is like Nazi Germany. Indian-slaughtering, African-enslaving Americans are supposed to be the root of all evil. We deserved 911. And, as our penance, we must take a back seat, politically and economically, to more “righteous” forces like economy-paralyzing Socialism, Jew-hating Islamofascism, and anti-humanist eco-lunatics. I regard these America-hating Leftists as victims of neurotic self-hatred and survivor guilt. Like Father Paneloux in Camus’s The Plague, they feel they must share the world’s misery or else be held (or hold themselves) responsible for it. The only way to evade blame is to join the blamers.

Such people frequently label themselves “World Citizens,” which mainly seems to denote that they have lost any sense of special pride in their own country. They have apostatized from Civil Religion, and so society drifts apart like puzzle pieces cast into a flowing river that may carry them anywhere, and to no common destination. So-called World Citizens might appear to have a real point: if everyone could transfer their loyalty, their patriotism, to a higher focus, that of humanity as a whole, wouldn’t that be a nobler ideal than that of nationalistic patriotism? But it’s a fool’s game, and it dreams of a fool’s paradise, as it entails gaining peace by the expedient of surrender, the single and non-negotiable demand made by our adversaries. “Well, if that’s what it takes…!” And thus are many quite happy enough to sacrifice the freedom they once enjoyed and made their totem.

While some like to think they are lifting their gaze to a loftier perspective of World Citizenship, others are lowering theirs to a dangerous myopia, unable to see farther than their noses, or, perhaps more accurately, their mirrors. I am thinking of the constant griping of various ethnic, political, religious, and anti-religious factions who want things their own way, and to hell with everyone else. Public workers union members simply do not care that money is drying up; like children, they indulge in magical thinking, insisting on getting ever more money and benefits, even though the very extravagance of their demands are what bankrupted their cities in the first place. American Indians (apparently not many of them) are somehow offended that sports teams call themselves the Braves, the Redskins, etc. Maybe they have a point. The teams took these names because American Indians were models of bravery and virility. But these Politically Correct carpers are making the Indians models of whining and self-pity. Do you want your team named for whiners?

I can’t use the word “Christmas” because some non-Christian (uh, like me?) might hear it and be “offended”? Katy Perry can’t wear a Japanese kimono because she’s not Japanese? That makes her a colonialist exploiter of Japanese culture? Used to be you couldn’t insult an ethnic tradition, and rightly so; but now you can’t even like or praise their tradition! They’ve got the copyright, apparently.

And don’t get me started on Muslim advocates of Shariah law in America. Time to retire the old motto E Pluribus Unum, “out of many, one.” Anybody know the Latin for “out of one, many”?

The sacred canopy is shattered. The bricks have fallen in an avalanche. Religion has fragmented (itself a positive development. “Let a hundred flowers bloom!”). Patriotism has fallen, those who still espouse it having been reduced to the proportions of a Hasidic sect, not enough to provide the basis for a healthy commonwealth. I am now thinking this is what it looks like when a civilization starts to go down. I hope everyone will still be enjoying their self-righteous bickering and their jaded cynicism when someone, maybe Islamists, come a-knockin’. Maybe it is they who will pick up the pieces. They certainly possess more purpose and guts than we do. Too bad they’re insane savages. And if you read that and get your nose out of joint, eager to shout “Islamophobia!” You’re just making my point for me, you poor, pathetic fool.

So says Zarathustra.

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