Let’s pull back the curtain and have a good look at the Wizard; that is, if we still have eyes to see.
Not too many decades ago, there was a solid American consensus that faithfulness in marriage, complementary masculinity and femininity, belief in a benevolent God, and bearing/raising children were good things.
No one needs to be told that things are different now, and many are convinced that the changes are for the better.
So how did this occur?
These changes didn’t occur organically; that is, by a broad-based evolution in Americans’ perspective. Rather, this transformation was directed by a subculture with a vested interest. Like the Jacobins in the late 18th century, a self-interested subculture used legitimate concerns about women’s rights and abuses of minority rights to spearhead its agenda. Thus, the objective of this subculture was not justice but utter transformation of the culture; like a house with electrical problems in several rooms, we didn’t re-wire the problem rooms, we bulldozed the house.
Using the educational system, the media, and the entertainment industry, this subculture set about convincing Americans that its agenda was normative, and that traditional beliefs about faith and morality were primitive and repressive.
The elements of this subculture’s agenda?
Convincing Americans that faith in a benevolent Creator is irrational and unscientific, or diverting Americans from the God of Scripture to an amalgamation of every god and New Age formula, thus a god who doesn’t stand for anything except self-fulfillment and “social progress” (whatever the subculture defines this to mean), dogmatic environmentalism, and tolerance for those things the subculture values (but not for those things it opposes). The outcome was the abandonment of objective truth and its replacement with beliefs that are, as George Weigel puts it, “malleable and subject to human willfulness”.
Converting Americans to faux-reason and faux-science, with popular consensus substituting for evidence. By most objective metrics, the environment in America is vastly improved compared to 25/50/100 years, but most Americans hold the opposite view because popular consensus overwhelms evidence. Another example: empirical evidence proves that one-man, one-woman faithful marriages foster responsible adults, whereas the abandonment of traditional families produces dysfunctional, even savage societies, so why does the consensus insist that the traditional family is no better than single-parent homes, or any number of transient adults?
Using the “religion” of psychology to convince Americans to give in to their urges and to consider faithfulness and self-discipline within marriage as unhealthy, repressive brakes on self-fulfillment. With this transformation, intimacy is no longer a uniquely transcendent experience but merely sex as recreation.
Replacing masculinity and femininity with androgyny, dissolving the difference between men and women, thereby eroding the uniqueness of man and woman: women boxers, men wearing makeup, transgender men-women. If we are interchangeable, then any combination of people is equivalent to any other. How out-of-place John Wayne and Grace Kelly would be in this confused culture.
Convincing Americans that having children is not unequivocally good by insisting that children are an impediment to self-fulfillment and sexual gratification, and detrimental to the environment (often a code-word for self-interested fear of competition for the world’s resources). Destroying a six-month old fetus is legal; killing a goose is a prosecutable offense. Ambivalence about the value of children erodes generosity and compassion, replacing these human virtues with a utilitarian calculus.
The acceptance of abortion and homosexual relationships depend on these foundational principles, once confined to a small subculture, but now broadly supported by Americans.
Has the substitution of pop-spirituality for authentic religion, consensus over evidence, sex as recreation, androgyny, and ambivalence about children made America more generous and joyful?
Virtuous freedom, both virtue and freedom, is a demanding path, but we can see for ourselves where the shortcuts advocated by this subculture have led: to coarseness, diversity in externals but conformity in thinking, savagery, gratifying urges over reason, dependency on the state, and lost children—unborn and born.
Pope Francis is charting the response to this anarchic agenda. The Church opposes dehumanizing ideologies but, more importantly, it proposes the Gospel, the fruits of which are joy instead of stimulation, compassion instead of tolerance, solidarity instead of radical autonomy, beauty instead of coarseness, and generosity instead of grasping materialism.
Josemaria Escriva said, “A secret, an open secret: these world crises are crises of saints.” Francis of Assisi, Miguel Pro, and Edith Stein weren’t naïve, nor did they retreat from the world, knowing all-too-well the dangers they faced.
The most sublime reasoning won’t reverse these dangerous innovations, nor will retreating within walled sanctuaries with people who believe as we do, nor will angry rants about the culture. There is no other answer than for the Church to radically live the Gospel, to engage society with vigor and hope, and, thereby, re-convert the world.