F.R. Duplantier reporting Behind The Headlines

Week of:
October 14, 2001
Religion & Patriotism Are "In" Again



F.R. Duplantier

by: F.R. Duplantier

"America's age of innocence has been shattered."

"Americans have been catapulted into a new wilderness where unforeseen and unforeseeable hazards and difficulties will add new stress to their lives," observes John Howard of the Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society. "The American nation is suddenly a major player in cruel and seemingly insoluble international tensions. . . ."

Howard recalls that our forebears, the early American pioneers, "had no illusions about the dangers they faced and ordeals they must endure. They knew they faced a life of toil and hardship," he asserts, "but they were fortified for these rigors by their determination to procure a better life for themselves and their families, by a solid sense of community and mutual support with their neighbors, and . . . by a religious faith which provided the fortitude to stand up to whatever came their way."

Howard complains that the "New Morality" introduced in the 1960s "has been tearing down and replacing the accumulated wisdom of Western Civilization. The cherished ideals and standards of proper behavior were, it was said, outmoded nuisances that had to go. Previously," he notes, "just as Americans would learn the language as an automatic part of growing up, they also learned how to behave responsibly, living by standards of right and wrong woven into the culture and taken for granted by the citizens. Now those standards have been so thoroughly trashed that many, many Americans live their lives deciding for themselves how to live and behave, oblivious to any sense of community responsibility."

Howard argues that this transformation of our culture "reflects the twilight of Christianity that has descended on America. The individual of deep religious faith begins with a fundamental subordination of his desires to what the deity requires of him," he asserts. "For that individual, the subordination of his preferences to the well-being of the family and the community is a natural and readily acceptable aspect of living." Howard sees "in the period following the September 11th devastation an opportunity, as well as a need, for people to rethink the purposes of their lives. . . ."

Gene Edward Veith concurs. In a recent issue of World Magazine, Veith laments that America's elite "lack all conviction. They are skeptical about everything," he charges, "cultivating an amused, detached irony instead of any kind of commitment. They are agnostic, dismissive of every kind of moral authority, self-indulgent, and self-absorbed. Truth is relative, say our educators. There are no absolutes, say our ethicists. Religion, ideals, and civilization are frauds. Life is meaningless. We just need to have a good time before we die."

That was before "the planes crashed into the centers of American culture," Veith emphasizes. The numbers of those who find life "meaningless" now, who still reject "objective right and wrong," have dwindled. "National leaders are quoting the Bible and calling for prayer," he reports. "Flags are coming out of the closet." Veith concedes that "some professors and their followers are spouting the old bromides about the evil of America and how the terrorists are the true victims, but," he rejoices, "they and their whole ideology now sound ridiculous."