How are we to respond to the full-blown assault on our culture?
No civilisation is perfect, but some are clearly better than others. For all its faults Western civilisation has been well worth championing, and it is now under full-scale attack by activists who seem to be utterly clueless or reckless about the alternatives they are proposing.
The idea that a political ideology – godless communism – that has resulted in the deliberate deaths of over 100 million people somehow is to be preferred to what we now have demonstrates the paucity of the left’s mental and moral abilities, and its complete ignorance of history.
These folks who are denouncing the West while singing the praises of socialism and Marxism really should just put their money where their mouth is – they should all get one-way tickets to socialist paradises and utopias like North Korea or Venezuela or Communist China. If they think these places are so far superior to what we find in the West, then they should go there and stop complaining about where they now live.
The war on the West has been going on for a long time now, whether via Marxist external revolution or Cultural Marxist internal evolution. The goal is the same: to eliminate the ‘decadent’ West and replace it with some Marxist state of sweetness and light.
For decades now radical lefties have been chanting “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Western Civ has got to go!” And they are in large measure succeeding. Whether it is the cancel culture, or wokedom, or the election of folks from the most radically leftist Democrat Party in American history, or the use of a health crisis to empower even more all-powerful Statism, the West certainly is in a bad way.
Indeed, for an entire year now I have been warning about how so many responses to the Rona in the West have resulted in the most unprecedented clampdowns on individual liberties and basic human rights in peacetime history. Tie all this in with things like the Great Reset, and you have the perfect storm brewing. See more on that here in this new article: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2021/03/27/the-not-so-great-reset/
What we now find happening in so much of the West is this: Perpetual crises. Perpetual panic. Perpetual fear. Perpetual agitation. Perpetual lockdowns. Perpetual police states. Far too many rulers and politicians are quite happy to stay on this path toward complete control and power. And incredibly the masses seem to be perfectly happy with all this.
Thankfully not everyone is. Some folks have been warning about this as best they can. Let me highlight several recent books on the particular matter of dealing with the virus. In the US Douglas Axe, William Briggs and Jay Richards wrote an important primer on this called The Price of Panic: How the Tyranny of Experts Turned a Pandemic into a Catastrophe (Regnery).
And here in Australia Perth law professor Augusto Zimmermann has assembled a team of experts to discuss just how far way too many states have gone in using these crises as a grab for ever more power and ever more control over their populations: Fundamental Rights in the Age of COVID-19.
Some of us who have been around for a while certainly despair over what we are witnessing. And some of us – myself included – are now fully regretful of once being on the wrong side of history. As a wild and rebellious youth, I was one of those radical leftists who hated the West and who did all I could to see it destroyed.
Obviously, my conversion to Christianity at the age of 18 put an end to that radicalism, and now I look back wondering how I could have been so blind. And now I am trying to undo all the harm I and others have caused. And I am indeed saddened by everything I am now seeing all around me.
All that I hold near and dear – things such as faith, family and freedom – are fully under attack by the militants, and I am witnessing the West slowly but surely being obliterated and erased by the radicals. It pains me greatly to see this happening. So much of what I love is now under direct and fierce attack.
Sure, as a Christian I realise that at the end of the day cultures will come and go, nations will rise and fall, and societies will only thrive temporarily. As C. S. Lewis said about the dignity of the individual as made in the image of God:
“There are no ‘ordinary’ people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.”
But even knowing that nations and cultures are not permanent, it still should grieve us greatly to see that which is for the most part so very good being obliterated by its enemies. We should weep over this war on our culture. Francis Schaeffer captured this great sense of concern when he said the following in his 1969 book, Death in the City:
Do not take this lightly! It is a horrible thing for a man like myself to look back and see my country and my culture go down the drain in my own lifetime. It is a horrible thing that forty years ago you could move across this country and almost everyone, even non-Christians, would have known what the gospel was. A horrible thing that thirty to forty years ago our culture was built on the Christian consensus and now we are in an absolute minority.
I know as a Christian that God is in control of human history, and he will see his good purposes triumph, even when it seems like evil is everywhere gaining the upper hand. As I have written before, we need to rely on two vital volumes: the Bible and the book of history: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2021/03/06/2-absolute-must-read-books/
We have seen God do great things in the past, and he continues to act and work out his purposes. I like what I just read today in a fairly new volume by Gene Edward Veith entitled Post-Christian (Crossway, 2020). His tenth chapter is on “Rebuilding Civilization” and some of what he says there is worth running with:
If Western Civilization, as influenced by Christianity, is collapsing, we should take heart in realizing that it has happened before. Rome had been a great empire, bringing the rule of law, classical civilization, and—once the empire converted—the Christian faith throughout Europe, Asia Minor, and northern Africa. But in the fifth century, Rome fell apart, and when the last emperor was deposed in 476, centuries of anarchy unfolded, with barbarians burning libraries and pillaging cities. These centuries were the so-called Dark Ages (not to be confused with the Middle Ages).
But even though there was no emperor, no senate, no legions, no magistrates, and no courts, the church remained. Through all the predations of the barbarians, the church kept functioning. Moreover, the church kept learning alive and preserved the elements of Western civilization for future generations. Monasteries were surrounded with great walls to protect against the barbarians, but behind those walls, monks were busy making hand copies of the Bible, the writings of the church fathers, and – significantly – the masterpieces of classical antiquity, even those by pagan authors.
But the Dark Ages eventually ended. How? The church converted the barbarians! Four centuries after the fall of Rome, Charlemagne – the Christian king of the Franks – both conquered and evangelized the remaining pagans. He revived the title of emperor and united much of Europe. He marks the beginning of the Middle Ages, a time when Christianity once again became culturally influential, founding the first universities, bringing back a Christianized classicism, and inspiring the arts and the sciences.
Yes quite right. Or as G. K. Chesterton famously put it: “At least five times the Faith has to all appearances gone to the dogs. In each of these five cases, it was the dog that died.” Or as he also rightly stated: “Christianity has died many times and risen again; for it had a God who knew the way out of the grave.”
So yes, a new Dark Ages is indeed now upon us. A new paganism has arisen. A new barbarism is all around us. We need to take this seriously. So the question is: which way forward? How do we respond to these incredibly dark times that we find ourselves in? When folks ask me – as they always do after I give a talk on these issues – if I see any hope for the future, my reply is always the same:
‘In the short-term things are NOT looking good – things will almost certainly get worse before they get better. But – if the Lord should tarry – we may well see things turn around in the long-term. Just as it took centuries for the early Christians to win over paganism and darkness, in the West today it may well take just as long.’
But as always, we have a job to do. Our calling to be salt and light has NOT changed. Regardless of how post-Christian and anti-Christian things are becoming here in the West, we keep on keeping on. We ‘occupy till he comes’ as Jesus put it in a parable.
We all have work to do. As civilisation around us continues to crumble – both from outside enemies and inside apathy and indifference – we must keep standing up for what is right and what is true. That means above all else standing up for the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ, along with all the other tremendous social goods that biblical Christianity offers us.
(Australians can obtain the Zimmermann volume here: https://www.connorcourtpublishing.com.au/Fundamental-Rights-in-the-Age-of-COVID-19–Edited-by-Augusto-Zimmermann-Joshua-Forrester-_p_414.html )