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Lessons to be learned from the culture wars

America has been enmeshed in a culture war for at least a century, although until quite recently most people seem to have been blissfully unaware of the fact. However, as the author and social critic Lee Harris put it: “Over the past 100 years or so many of our most cherished customs and traditions have been called to the bar of reason, ruthlessly interrogated and cross examined by the intellectual elite and found wanting.”

Quietly, unobtrusively, but utterly implacably, they have been reconstructing America to their own liking. One of the most useful tools for advancing their cause has been “political correctness.”

In a polite society such as ours, charges of “racism,” “sexism,” and the like effectively suppress the discussion, not to mention criticism, of policies aimed at overthrowing the principles upon which our republic was founded. Nobody wants to risk being labelled a bigot.

As a consequence, almost imperceptibly the America we see today has become a place that would be quite unrecognisable to our grandparents and great–grandparents.

Not least, traditional educational methods have been tossed out. “The sage on the stage” has been tossed out in favor of the “guide on the side.” Children, they say, don’t need to be taught. We simply have to awaken their natural thirst for learning …

Nowhere have the effects of the culture war been more keenly felt than in the realm of religion. Only 40 years ago, only the boldest—or most foolhardy—of American politicians would have failed to list the Bible as the book that had most profoundly influenced their lives. Today only the boldest—or most foolhardy—of politicians would dare suggest that children might benefit from gaining a nodding acquaintanceship with the Bible at school.

Many of our self–anointed intellectual elite, of course, see a belief in God as hopelessly primitive and embarrassingly superstitious. In Europe—a place many of America’s intellectuals fawningly turn to for approval—the embarrassment is so acute, the continent’s enormous historic debt to Christianity was deliberately omitted from the proposed European Community constitution.

But protecting children from the baleful influence of Holy Scripture has a downside. The Bible—as the writings of the Founding Fathers attest—was our republic’s most important foundational document. Pretending this is not so deprives coming generations of the ability to grasp the founders’ vision and, thus, manage the republic they bequeathed us.

Actually, the disastrous effects of this policy are readily apparent—and not only in our inner cities, but in our legislatures, work places, and corporate boardrooms. Like the myths of the ancient world, antique virtues such as honesty, integrity, and loyalty are increasingly dismissed as “quaint and amusing, but of no real relevance to our lives.”

This might be all very well were it not that a large body of people, unencumbered by the concerns of our intellectual elite, have launched an entirely different type of cultural war. They find American customs, traditions, and intellectual pretensions so utterly hateful they are bound and determined to wipe the United States off the face of the earth.

Divine revelation or not, the Bible contains much practical advice for people in our position—not the least of which is the fifth commandment: “Honour thy father and thy mother that thy days may be long in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.”

This is a chilling warning that nations perish when their populations no longer cherish and respect the traditions, customs, and beliefs upon which they were founded. History is littered with ample examples of this—ancient Israel, Judah, the Greek city states, Rome, Byzantium, France circa 1939, to name but half a dozen. Europe is clearly faltering under the Islamic challenge. For America the question is: “Are we prepared to learn from history—or repeat it?” GPH✠

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