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culture warWe finally find ourselves past the point of no return concerning a virtuous republic. We have been vanquished by the moral and intellectual errors following the demise of authentic theology and philosophy, whose peak was in the high Middle Ages. The skein of moral and intellectual confusion spanning the centuries has become a Gordian knot of perplexing perversion. All man’s efforts to disentangle the inevitable mess are doomed to fail. The sexual revolution is what necessarily follows the generations of progressive secularism inflamed by Bacon’s dictum to “conquer nature by applied science.” If man is going to make his own heaven on Earth, he must control all the variables of the experiment, including the fate of the family. The family is the building block of civilization and the key component of all societies. The sexual revolution is the technological means by which to destroy the family and thereby artificially shift power from the family to the state. The Supreme Court ruling of June 26, 2015, is merely the rotten fruit from a bitter harvest whose fields have been cultivated thus for generations.

Those of us who are Christians face tough times ahead as we strive to live out our lives conforming to Christ’s twin commandments to love God and neighbor. David Brooks, writing in The New York Times, offers us some advice on how to proceed with the culture wars. He suggests that we have lost the war pertaining to the issues of the sexual revolution: sodomy, abortion, sex outside of marriage, etc. Claiming that he stands to the left of faithful Christians on social issues, Mr. Brooks says, “I would just ask them to consider a change in course. Consider putting aside … a culture war that has alienated large parts of three generations from any consideration of religion or belief. Put aside an effort that has been a communications disaster, reducing a rich, complex and beautiful faith into a public obsession with sex. Put aside a culture war that, at least over the near term, you are destined to lose.”

Mr. Brooks goes onto suggest that we instead ought to focus on going out into communities to make them better places. He recommends that “social conservatives could be the people who help reweave the sinews of society.” He advises that we “build community institutions in places where they are sparse.” While he admits that he doesn’t expect social conservatives to change their positions on sex, he avers that “the sexual revolution will not be undone anytime soon.” He concludes that the “more practical struggle is to repair a society rendered atomized, unforgiving and inhospitable.” Though Mr. Brooks tries to couch his plea in a kind of spirituality, he is speaking here of utilitarian ends, doing what might work instead of attempting to meet an ideal that seems impossible.

By all appearances the culture wars concerning the sexual revolution are indeed lost, but this is wrong judgement; God doesn’t judge by appearances, and Christians must not either.

Mr. Brooks’ advice is deeply misguided, but attractively so by its appeal to practicality, pathos and pride. His culture-war plan is not for Christians but for those wishing to obtain the peace of the world and human respect. The truths of Christ alienate souls steeped in vice. The saints also offended people by their holy witness, but their actions were properly understood to be grounded in love. It is not the fault of the saints that most people are turned off by the truths of the faith, yet it is still their duty to speak the truth with love. To abandon Christ’s call to witness to the fullness of truth because disordered souls are feeling alienated is un-Christian. Christians can give no thought as to whether or not the Gospel message is a “communications disaster.” Christ’s own words about eating his flesh and drinking his blood were a communications disaster that alienated nearly everyone who had ever known Him, and He was abandoned by all but those very closest to Him.

UnknownMr. Brooks’ advice reflects the propaganda endlessly repeated by the enemies of the Church–that all our talk about sexual morality concerning the rightly-ordered family has reduced the Church from “a rich, complex and beautiful faith into a public obsession with sex.” This ironic inversion is inexcusable. It is those obsessed with sex who accuse souls who speak of sexual ethics of being obsessed with sex. Our point about sexual morality is that to be obsessed with sex acts, particularity outside of marriage, is the embodiment of the culture of death signaled by the abortion holocaust and the rising tide of suicide and euthanasia. The attempt to normalize sex acts outside of marriage that are unnatural and damaging to human bodies and souls are in full swing, and our children need us now more than ever. The Church is concerned with rightly-ordered morality because “we are here,” as Monsignor Ronald Knox put it, “to colonize heaven, not make things better on Earth.” This is in no way an obsession with sex; rather, it is a reflection of a proper understanding of the nature and importance of the marital act according to God’s plan of Salvation. It is foundational to the Christian worldview.

Finally, Mr. Brooks suggests that we abandon our witness to the truth about the rotten fruit of the sexual revolution because it is a battle we are “destined to lose.” This disordered line of reasoning appeals to the world, but not to the Church. The war has been won by Christ; our duty here is not to win the war but to win as many souls for Christ as we can while we battle against “evil spirits prowling around the world seeking the ruination of souls.” There is only one way to do this, and that is the way of the Cross. We don’t look for outward signs of success. By all appearances, Christ had lost the battle as he lay dying on the Cross. The world mocked and taunted him. We Christians are not afraid of losing battles but of lacking courage for the good fight.

One of Mr. Brooks’ biggest errors is in saying that moral and material poverty go hand in hand; they do not. One precedes the other, and the other follows as fruit from a tree. Material poverty follows spiritual poverty. As Christians, it is foolish to give material wealth where spiritual poverty thrives. Mr. Brooks suggests that we enter communities and help build them up. It sounds good, but this is impossible. A family either thrives or falls from within. It is an artifact of socialism to believe that outside influences can lift families out of moral poverty or even material poverty in anything but an artificial and temporary way. It is foolhardy to believe that we could abandon the foundational principles of sexual morality that undergird the well-formed family and provide a kind of meaningful support to families who do not choose virtue for themselves. It is just this misguided thinking that has gotten us Americans to this dismal point in the first place. We Christians must never abandon the Gospel message grounded in the notions of the rightly-ordered family.

Mr. Brooks’ plan is one for secular humanists, not for Christians. To retreat from the battlefield would be soul-death to Christians and would constitute playing into the hands of the devil. When Christ Himself was hated by the world, he didn’t run away and hide but went boldly to confront what was wrong with society. John the Baptist didn’t shy away from pointing out the sins of the king, even though it cost him his head. It is a spiritual work of mercy to admonish the sinner, and sometimes it requires the accompaniment of righteous anger, as demonstrated by Jesus Himself when he drove the money changers from the temple.

In the end, Mr. Brooks’ suggestions will do more to exacerbate the culture wars than to shift the tide in our favor. His suggestions to compromise represent a shift in focus from first principles to second things. As C.S. Lewis reminds us, in undertaking such a misguided course of action, we would probably see measurable gains in those second things we go after at first, but in the end we would lose both the second things for which we strive and the first things we abandoned at the suggestion of a man aiming for the peace of the world. As Christians we must not shift our focus from the Creator to the created things. Our combat is spiritual, not political or material.

KneelingAtTheCrossChristians are not meant to be worker bees trying to build up society by good works, but to be soldiers for Christ by proclaiming the Gospel message by their habits of being, with the end being the conversion of souls.

Mr. Brooks’ call to action is appealing, but it is unwittingly sympathetic to the aims of the enemy. Christians must reject his suggestions wholesale while we continue to speak truthfully about sexual ethics as a matter of divine and natural justice. There is no compromise for Christians. Mr. Brooks would have us abandon the narrow path of virtue for the wide and easy path of comfort. Sorry, Mr. Brooks, a Christian cannot do that.

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Published: Jul 3, 2015
Author
Steven Jonathan Rummelsburg
Steven Jonathan Rummelsburg is a Senior Contributor at The Imaginative Conservative. A convert to Catholicism, he is a catechist, a school teacher, and a writer and speaker on matters of faith, culture, and education. He holds a degree in History from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Steven is a member of the Teacher Advisory Board and writer of curriculum at the Sophia Institute for Teachers, a contributor to the Integrated Catholic Life, Crisis Magazine, The Civilized Reader, The Standard Bearers, Catholic Exchange, and a founding member of the Brinklings Literary Club.
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22 replies to this post
  1. Well of course, David Brooks’ own vague, bourgeios apologetics for conservatism is also what sowed these fields. He is fired…

    Now there is only one way out: conservatives must revoke the free hand given to the boardrooms of giant corporations. As people across the spectrum from George Will to Roger Scruton to Ralph Nader proscribe, the neoliberal beast is too overgrown for us to stay in the enclosed in right vs. left compartments from the 1980’s. Now we have true leftists more concerned for morality than ever, regardless of being stuck on equalities and atheism they do want: traditional culture, including motherhood and life and humanism. They want localism and asceticism to save the earth. They are our brothers and sisters except in fashion and faith. Surely we can (and must) convert them!

    P.S. Praise God for this: the Pope has commissioned Naomi Klein on the environment!

  2. Once every citizen accepts the illusion of sexual freedom (always in conformity with official State policy and practice, of course), he or she can leave everything else up to the State.

  3. Sadly I think the rot is irreversible, we have become completely alienated from our history, such a country is already lost. The politics have become a force for coercion, mismanagement, and control, the culture a total sewer. As individuals we must seek our own culture, remember and honor what we had.

  4. “Now there is only one way out: conservatives must revoke the free hand given to the boardrooms of giant corporations. ”

    I’m sorry, but I don’t agree with this at all. I generally agree with the article above, but I am reading it on my Toshiba laptop (large corporation) while listening to music on an Apple iPhone (another large corporation). Pretty soon I will head out to the grocery store in my Honda Civic (yet another corporation, foreign even!). This business bashing by some conservatives just seems silly, and a distraction from the real problems. It wasn’t business that gave us legalized abortion, radical feminism, and a sexual morality that resembles a Roman orgy but rather left wing ideologues and intellectuals who thought that their brains and academic theories were superior to a 3,000 year old Judeo-Christian moral tradition.

  5. In Brooks’s mind, it’s better to provide band-aids rather than showing people how to avoid injury. Instead of encouraging sexual abstinence and the formation of two-parent families, Brooks would support providing birthday presents to children whose father isn’t there to provide such presents.

    That’s a doomed agenda.

  6. Well, from the mournful wail of the chorus in the Trojan Women to the last excoriation of the unfortunate Brooks, it was a well-written carol.

    Conservatism is not dead. It is not even ailing. Conservatism is alive and well. Those Radical Right nihilistic ideologues and cynical Corporate-Military State opportunists are ,however, in a bad way.

    Conservatism is alive and well because its lack of ideology does not depend on conformity to some stupid rationalization, or the advocacy of any particular political programe. In its pursuit of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful, conservatism seeks to conserve the best, reform the worst, first committing all to God. It is a matter of proceeding with prudence and measured thought, not shouting mindless slogans or enforcing submission to bumper-sticker politics.

    But, give Our Mister Brooks a break. My observations of self-proclaimed Public Intellectuals is they are more comfortable with polemic than strenuous thought. He is trying to admit (perhaps) his previous course was not up to par?

  7. I think that we need to remove the preaching of the Gospel from talk about any kind of war including a culture one. Whereas the preaching of the Gospel is about winning people over and about God persuading people to believe, war is about one group of people conquering and ruling over other groups. So the two don’t go hand-in-hand.

    If we strived for culture coexistence rather than wanting to fight a culture war, we might better discern those who are opposing us because of the message of the Gospel from those who are opposing our attempts to rule over them. At the same time, culture coexistence implies no retreating from preaching the Gospel. Rather, it presupposes it.

  8. “If we strived for culture coexistence”

    You don’t coexist with evil. Christ DID say “Love your enemy”, but at no time did He ever compromise with Satan or the demons. He also made it abundantly clear that some day would come a Judgment Day, when no mercy would be shown to the evil and they would be cast down into the pits of Hell.

    • Eric,
      You do when you are charged with carrying out the Great Commission. You preach the Gospel, you don’t use the sword to make them believe. And while preaching the Gospel, you remember the parable of the 2 men praying.

      • “you don’t use the sword to make them believe. ”

        Except no one is proposing any such thing. This is a typical left wing tactic, to attribute malice to anyone they disagree with.

        • Eric,
          Those who call on society to enforce Scriptural commands are using the sword to make people believe. Here the sword isn’t a literal weapon but a metaphor for the power government has.

          • “Those who call on society to enforce Scriptural commands ”

            If you’re going to accuse people of this, it would help to give some specific examples. And it’s not as if the left wing doesn’t want to use government to enforce doctrines of its own.

          • Eric,
            The most pertinent one are those who oppose the legalization of same-sex marriage because of what the Scriptures say.

            In the past, we had Blue-laws the criminalization of homosexuality. When our nation was starting you had the persecution of people from different denominations. Remember that 9 of the 13 colonies started with state churches.

  9. Christ came to bring the sword, we are all called to the spiritual war, it is called spiritual combat, ‘coexist’ is the leftest ideology of spiritual anarchy and embodies the peace of the world which is at stark odds with Christ’s command to pick up the cross and follow Him. We are not at liberty to decide to forgo the combat, that is for the weak souled and soft minded- leave it to the nominalists to change the name of a thing so they can bury their heads in the sand. To ignore evil components of certain cultures so we “can all get along” is to put our immortal souls in great danger- what terrible advice, sacrifice eternal beatitude for temporary and false peace.

    • Steve,
      Carrying out the Great Commission and evangelizing are in no way ignoring evil or burying our heads in the sand. But coexisting says that we are not going to ‘lord it over’ others as the Gentiles do (Luke 22:25). Otherwise, what you describe here is a dog-eat-dog world where Christianity either rules or is marginalized.

      From a democracy point of view, why should others guard our equality when we seek to dominate others in society? At what point does their objection to us become based on our intolerance rather than on the message of the Gospel?

  10. Curt, your words are tragic because they do not correspond to the conversation here- These are not democratic considerations, they are not scientific (weights and measures) they are not about equality- there is nothing equal about leftist ideology and Christ’s Gospel message- no Catholic would want socialist ideologues to safeguard “our equality” for there is none to safeguard. Catholics are intolerant of false and evil things, this is a good intolerance – it is an act of charity that I am pointing out one of the errors in your thinking, even though it may hurt your feelings- the coexist ideology you espouse is a joke to authentic Catholics, because we love all human souls and rightfully eschew vicious and sinful behavior, while your brethren celebrating the “normalization” of sodomy are intolerant of faithful people and intolerant of us because we do not support their sin. We do not and cannot encourage others to damage themselves and their communities and if they hate us for it and wish harm on us, we expect that. Your talk of tolerance is misplaced for there are none less tolerant than leftists and homosexualists. To be intolerant of sin Curt is not lording anything over anyone- your words are irresponsible. And you said to Eric that we are not to use the sword to make others believe, no one here would say such a ridiculous thing. We are to use the sword to divide human souls from evil notions in the spiritual combat, leftists and homosexualists are using any means they can access to damage those with whom they disagree.

    • Steve,
      Can I ask what is it about carrying out the Great Commission and evangelizing that indicates one doesn’t love sinners unless one is voting for legislation that tries to control the personal behaviors of nonChristians in society? Doesn’t carrying out the Great Commission and evangelizing rebuke sin and show love for the sinner. And when after disciplining a member of the Church for sexual sin, Paul says (I Cor 5:12-13):

      ‘What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”’

      what is he saying about how we should try to control the personal sins of unbelievers in society? Or when, as was cited in my first note, Jesus warns us not to be like the Gentiles by ‘lording it over’ others, how does that fit in here?

      So we disagree on whether one should take a libertarian or moralistic approach to same-sex marriage in society. To declare that those who merely carry out the Great Commission and evangelize neither love sinners nor try to rebuke sin doesn’t seem to be justified by the Scriptures or experience.

      In addition, what I wrote at the end of my first comment still must be addressed. That when we strive for cultural coexistence, we can better distinguish those who are objecting to our message from those who oppose our attempts to control them.

      One final point, when opposing evil, we must remember Romans 2:1. For that Scripture follows the Paul’s passage on homosexuality and other sins. And it provides a very important message to us who tempted to rush to judgment. We should cite historical precedent for the moralistic approach. Martin Luther told German society and its Princes that they must punish the Jews for their unbelief or be complicit in their sin of unbelief. We should note both his suggestions and what history followed his pronouncements.

      • Mr. Day;

        It is obvious that left wing ideology is much more important to you than actual Christian faith. Your posts are full of left wing cant while almost completely devoid of any genuine Christian love.

        • Eric,
          Can you identify the quotes from what I have commented on for this article that is left wing?

          For example, when I stress reliance on the Great Commission and evangelism, is that Left Wing? When I refer to Jesus’ warning about not being like the Gentile who lord it over others, is that Left wing? When I cite Romans 2:1 and its warning about us judging others, is that Left wing? Is referring to the parable of the2 men praying left wing? And when I quoted Paul from I Cor 5: 12-13, was that Left wing?

          Is talking about the need for consistency in democracy left Wing? Is warning that if we show intolerance, unbelievers might object to that intolerance than to the preaching of the Gospel left wing?

          Certainly stating that we should strive to culturally coexist rather than dominate can be considered by some to be Left wing? But look at the Scriptural reasons as well as the reference to democracy. What reasoning am I employing that is left wing?

          Eric, is it possible for religiously conservative Christians to disagree on how those from the LGBT community should be treated in society so that some might reasonably take a libertarian approach while others a moralistic approach? After all, regarding society, doesn’t I Cor 5:12-13 indicate that Paul took a libertarian approach.

          Now, let’s ask your side some questions. Is treating those from the LGBT community has hostile enemies a sign of love? Is wanting the LGBT community to be stigmatized and marginalized in society a sign of love? Is treating those from the LGBT community as being less than us a sign of love?

          Can we peacefully coexist with sinners in society or is it understood by those from the LGBT community that when we try to get society to punish those from the LGBT community for their sexual orientation, that that is a sign of love?

  11. “The most pertinent one are those who oppose the legalization of same-sex marriage because of what the Scriptures say.”

    Actually, you could oppose it on the basis that it is unnatural (which it is) without making reference to religion at all.

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