Thursday, July 27, 2017


Something Josh Barro recently wrote in a “Business Insider” essay struck a raw nerve with me - “Except on abortion, where public opinion remains about evenly divided, conservatives have implicitly admitted that they have lost certain parts of the cultural war.” He’s probably right. Most Conservatives can see that our culture is changing at what appears to be breakneck speed. 

As I observe the changes, the question for me as a Conservative is no longer “How do I/we stop this?” We’re well past that stage. 

Once in a while in conversations with friends I allude to the old slippery slope, which instantly makes me the target for their loving scorn. “This isn’t the slippery slope, Phil. It’s progress.” The conversation usually ends there, with me stubbornly clinging to my thoughts of humanity at the highest point of the roller coaster, poised to take the plunge straight down into the abyss.

The signs of change are becoming more and more pronounced. A case like Charlie Gard, where the State apparatus has supplanted parental rights, has become legally acceptable. At what point will society decide this arrangement is also morally acceptable? Will it become normative?

It wasn’t too long ago that euthanasia was almost impossible to imagine. Now, it’s becoming increasingly tolerable, even to the point where involuntary euthanasia is being practiced (NCBI/NIH abstract “The Illusion of Safeguards” – 6/2012). Polite discussions about what to do with unwanted or unhealthy children are now taking place, thanks to the work of ethicists like Princeton’s Peter Singer and evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne, both of whom advance the grisly idea that killing a child is a morally sound decision. Coyne recently put it this way in a blog posting dated July 13th: “This change in views about euthanasia and assisted suicide is the result of the tide of increasing morality in the world.” 

Not to be outdone, Gary Comstock, a philosophy professor at North Carolina State University, wrote about the painful death of his newborn son. After reflecting on his agonizing experience, he decided “that the repugnant has become reasonable. The unthinkable has become the right, the good. Painlessly. Quickly. With the assistance of a trained physician….You should have killed your baby.”

How far into the abyss have we plunged? Just this morning I read a piece in the Palm Beach Post about some teenage boys in Florida who mocked and filmed Jamel Dunn, a 32 year old disabled man, as he drowned. The more Dunn pleaded for help, the more they mocked. “Get out the water, you gonna die” one teen can be heard shouting. Another yelled to the man “ain’t nobody fixing to help you, you dumb (expletive).”

According to Florida law, the teens hadn’t done anything wrong. There may be a statute they violated by not reporting a death, but mocking a dying man and making a video of his ordeal isn’t illegal. Is it immoral? It probably is now, but will we get to the point where even things like this will become morally acceptable?

I just finished reading Rod Dreher’s “The Benedict Option – A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation.” The book is in part a tome and in part an indictment of the modern Christian Church. Dreher bores in right away, arguing that the Church, which should be a counterforce to secularism, has become “content to be the chaplaincy to a consumerist culture that was fast losing a sense of what it meant to be Christian.”

Dreher argues that Christians have some very important decisions to make. As a baseline, he cites the work of Scottish philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre, who saw that “the time was coming when men and women of virtue would understand that continued full participation in mainstream society was not possible for those who wanted to live a life of traditional virtue.”
Dreher then argues, quite persuasively, that Christians need to pull away from the rest of society? He calls it the “Benedict Option.”

I think he may be right.

We Conservative Christians need to understand we have lost the culture wars. The question for us is no longer how to stop the wheels of the machine, but rather it is now a question of how those who choose to can live a meaningful, Christian life in such an environment.

The signs of the times all point to one thing. The Christian pilgrimage for many right now is difficult. Our input is neither valued nor wanted. The path is narrow; the light seems dim. Yet, in spite of the difficulties, we need to press on, in our own way. As W.H. Auden put it in his short poem “Atlantis,” we must:

“Stagger onward rejoicing
And even then if, perhaps
Having actually got
To the last col, you collapse”

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