Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Say Goodbye to America

Alice C. Linsley

America's moral decline issues from two developments in Western Civilization: moral relativism and absolutism of Self. Many have uncritically accepted both, unaware of the dangers these pose to generations of Americans.

Consider the nature of orienteering. Two platoons, separated by hundreds of miles, receive orders to advance to the same position. To accomplish this they must share the same point of reference. Relativism permits many different points of reference so that even those who want to join forces cannot do so because they are unable to find their common destination.

Consider a gathering of philosophers. They meet to discuss the nature of Truth and there is an audience. Each philosopher presents a different position relative to Truth. Each position is compelling and reasonably argued. The people in the audience enjoy this exhibition of intellectual powers. However there is no consensus on Truth. The effect of the meeting is general confusion and a hardening of opposing positions, making united action almost impossible.

The second cultural development that contributes to our decline is absolutism of Self. Consider again the gathering of philosophers and their audience. The philosophers are not concerned with the big questions, such as the origins and design of the universe or the nature of Truth. Instead each presents their position relative to our national obession of Self. One presents an argument for the validity of self-interest. The next, with the press cameras flashing, presents an argument for being selfish. Not to be outdone, the next presents an argument for hedonism (he has a bunch of followers in the audience!) Finally, the last philosopher presents an argument for debauchery.

Sound far fetched? One need only to watch American television to realize that hedonism verging on debauchery is the regular diet of many Americans. A student of history recognizes that this signals the decline and collapse of a civilization. When all values are relative, honesty and personal integrity are diminished and easily set aside by those who seek political gain. When Self is the central value, duty and responsibility, which by definition concern the common good, become meaningless.

The social effect of moral relativism and absolutism of Self is indecision. We are like people standing around a vehicle that has sputtered and died. We scratch our heads and wonder what to do, while forces within our borders speed by on the wheels of moral consensus.

The challenge facing Americans today is to regain our moral compass by embracing the biblical notion of a sovereign God to whom all humanity is ultimately responsible. America's next President must be a person of solid character who understands and accepts this responsibility. Good leadership is not simply a matter of training, experience and education. It is the consequence of God's grace constraining our sinful natures. The drafters of the U.S. Constitution never lost sight of this and provided institutional constraints to limit the damage we can do to one another through abuse of power.

Unless Americans regain the ability to know north from south and east from west, right from wrong and good from evil; unless our leaders can take responsibility as if standing before God, we can say "goodbye" to America as we have known her.


Rick Lobs said...

Alice - clear thinking. Sometimes I hate to think of the America my grandchildren will inherit. Perhaps grandfathers in every age say that. I hope that's it.

But, I digress -- good work.


Bronwen said...

What happened to the idea of separation between church and state? I agree that America is a self obsessed country but creating a Christian God centered governement/leader is not going to change that. And how are the millions of people who live in this country who are not christians going to feel about being excluded from the conversation. I think this essay is very interesting and I am going to think more about it.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Ellie, asking our leaders to act as if they "stand before God" is not an idea unique to Christianity. Asking them to built consensus on the basis of what is good and right in the eyes of all religions isn't giving the nod to Christianity as the established Faith for Americans.

No world religions consider unprovoked violent aggression right. None regards killing unborn children as good. None holds that homosex is divinely ordered. The list could get long, but these examples should suffice.

TLF+ said...

Great and an amazing amount expressed with economy of words!

The Founders wanted to protect minorities from raw majority oppression, but they also wrote of the dangers of "faction" - small elites imposing things on the majority.

Our Constitutional system, as you point out, works from a Christian assumption about fallen humanity. Rather than try to make perfect people (a secularist illusion), the Constitution, used rightly, frustrates the excesses of sinful people, be they members of a majority or minority.

The LGBT agenda and other "factional" use of courts and bureaucrats to enact law is ruinous of our Constitutional system.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Conversation on this topic continues here: