I would suggest that the reality before us in the “Christian” West is far more like the reality of pagan Rome than we have heretofore thought. Christianity has long been in dramatic decline in the West, and a great many moral attitudes we took for granted publicly even fifty or a hundred years ago were no longer even then rooted in any sort of significant Christian belief or commitment. Instead, public and outward cultural morality were largely a shell—often a mere hypocrisy—a vestigial growth left over from a distant Christian past. These outward morals, often enshrined in law, no longer had any significant basis in the spiritual and moral understanding of the people as a whole.
Thus, when divorce, contraception, sterilization, abortion, pornography, homosexual behavior and other evils began to spread so rapidly during the twentieth century, it was not because we were losing by razor-thin margins the ability to restrain the political trickery of a few, but because the shell of propriety had fallen under its own weight, with virtually nothing at all to sustain it from within. Suddenly, almost overnight, we were thrown into thepublic position of our more distant forefathers, a position exactly like the private position which we so often failed to recognize in those days: The position of a relatively insignificant group of deeply committed Christians in the midst of an overwhelmingly pagan culture. And even where statistics suggested we ought to have more influence, this was a culture in which the organs of power, influence and fashion were already controlled almost exclusively by the dominant pagan element.
It is primarily the consequence of a long history of Western secularization that there is still so much Christian talk mixed in with the paganism of our larger culture. After all, for the culture to go so far wrong, a great many Christians over long generations had to give up the substance of their religious commitment while retaining only its deceptive shadow. Christian ideals had to be reinterpreted in a non-spiritual way before they could be abandoned wholesale. But we are now seeing—or at least we ought to be able to see—the tremendous tide of paganism which has risen all around us, the monumental power of it in our political and social and cultural institutions (and often, alas, even in many religious institutions)—a power and control which reduces the possibility of effective political action to something so close to zero as makes no difference at all.
Personally, I do not see this as cause for alarm, just as I do not see it as anything new. I think, rather, that we are just beginning to see our situation as it really is, after a generation and more of intense confusion over the signs of the times. This misreading of the signs has unfortunately caused us to waste enormous amounts of energy fighting not so much for Christ as for political outcomes which cannot be sustained without Christ. This does not mean that we must despair, though we are very likely in for a rough time. Nor does it mean, obviously, that we are absolved from voting morally. But it does mean that we ought to expend our greatest energies elsewhere, in widespread efforts to strengthen the Church, to develop our own Christian subculture complete with vibrant intermediary institutions, to evangelize our neighbors, and to offer practical service to any and all who, increasingly ill-served by a bureaucratic pagan State, may turn to us in their need.
Politics won't bring us the transformative change this country needs. It's becoming clearer and clearer now.
Question is... what are we doing about it?
What are you doing about it?