Last week Professor David Carlin penned a piece for The Catholic Thing entitled What Do We Agree On? In this interesting piece Professor Carlin outlines very quickly how our country had a ‘glue’ in a manner of speaking that held us together as a people; starting with Puritanism, moving then to Protestantism and finally to Judeo-Christian ethics which bound the wider society together. Although there were small communities of people who did not fall into the mold and the glue, they were at least such a minority that they tended not to matter and largely, I contend, obedient to our laws and social norms.
This last Judeo-Christian ethic began to unravel with the court case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka in the 50’s which led eventually to the case of Engel v. Vitale which symbolically ended with a decision that thew our ‘informal national religion’ out of school. The Our Father and references to God in school or public began its exodus from the life of our present society.
We have now come to our present society that has no discernible ethic which might act as a ‘glue for society’ and Jacques Maritain’s idea that perhaps the natural law would suffice as this glue, has never materialized.
It seems that the glue is no glue at all today but might rather be seen as oil which is slippery and cannot bind itself together in any coherent way. And Professor Carlin fears that the ethic we have is now commercial; all about making money and the ‘wrongness of commercial fraud’ etc.
But that is where I depart company with Carlin. For I fear that the overarching ‘ethos’ is not a particular freedom but a progressive movement toward a type of total, autonomous secular freedom where we are all free to be whatever and whoever we want to be regardless of faith, morals or even rational thought. Sadly this largely American phenomenon has traveled around the globe and I find that the New Globalist ethic is largely of this new freedom; or should we call it a free-for-all.
The one thing that the old glues had in common was that they were largely built upon principles that were objectively True and that people could readily adhere to; if not religiously, at least in a moral or an intellectual sense.
If I were to make a distinction concerning truth and lies it might go something like this:
Truth is that which is worthy of self sacrifice for it is filled with the virtues of faith, hope and charity. Therefore, truth gives you something worth dying for.
A lie, on the other hand, has only one purpose; self-indulgence. But self-indulgence and lies can only make of death the ultimate self-indulgent act of escape; for a life without purpose is life’s greatest misery. Therefore, a lie is something that is not worth living for.
But what happens when lies are substituted for an objective Truth and these are used as the underpinning of a civilization? To me it seems the only outcome is total anarchy; where individualism runs amok, children kill each other and themselves, drugs are rampant and every form of perversion viewed as an acceptable human freedom that should be protected by law. And this slippery road not only leads a society to the lake of fire but also to its demise.
Without a great evangelizer who can reinstate the moral restraints of our past and encourage us to bind ourselves willingly to (at the very least) a Judeo-Christian ethic then civilization is doomed to more unrest and upheaval than we even have at present. It may be the disintegration of the nation state as we have known it.
All it takes is time for all of those born at a time when morals and reason were taken for granted to finally pass out of this world. I fear for our children and their children but then man usually finds a way to rebuild even after the most catastrophic events that history can throw his way. I suppose there is still a ray of hope left. I only do not know where exactly it will come from or how it will manifest itself.