On Nov. 11, as we honour our war dead, I look about our bleak moral landscape. “Did they sacrifice lives, limbs, careers and relationships for this?” I ask. “Did they die that we might have legalized drug use, access to pornography, euthanasia, needle-exchange programs, free condoms in prison, abortion, sex as recreation, bio-tech reproduction, same-sex everything?”
The long-dead vets who used to gather in my childhood home would be horrified to know that these are the freedoms we prize.
Historian Arnold Toynbee wrote, “History teaches us that when a barbarian race confronts a sleeping culture, the barbarians always win.” It seems the barbarians have already infiltrated our sleeping culture, and been embraced, not confronted.
In A Study of History, Toynbee analyzed the origin, growth, and disintegration of 26 civilizations in world history. He concluded that the failure of a civilization to survive “was the result of its inability to respond to moral and religious challenges, rather than to physical or environmental challenges.”
Historians Will and Ariel Durant also focused on the rise and fall of civilizations. In The Lessons of History, they stated: “The greatest question of our time is … whether man can live without God.” They quoted Joseph de Maistre’s warning: “There is no significant example in history … of a society successfully maintaining moral life without the aid of religion.”
Syndicated columnist and author Georgie Ann Geyer declared in Good News Magazine (June 1997), “Moral societies are the only ones that work … it is impossible to have a moral community or nations without faith in God, because without it everything comes down to ‘me,’ and ‘me’ alone is meaningless.”
Given our modern choices, it is no surprise that religious expression is being stifled. After all, religion teaches that our new “freedoms” are spiritually, physically and socially harmful. The churches repeatedly testify that “the paths of history are strewn with the ruins of empires and nations that ignored God’s principles, especially in the areas of sex, marriage and family.” But we do not want to hear that warning.
Recently, a homilist speaking to a specifically Christian audience said, “We are all called to be prophets, not in the sense of foretelling the future, but in the work of putting the truth before people. From the cradle to the grave, no one is exempted from this call.” In every setting where a Christian goes, there are opportunities to be this kind of prophet, he stressed, in ways that are perfectly suited to each one’s personality and capabilities.
It’s not enough to pray and do nothing, he said. Being a prophet also requires actions, some big, some small, some dramatic, some subtle. One of mine is very small. When we honour the veterans each year, I like to also honour the unborn who have been sacrificed for our pseudo-freedoms. I anchor a poppy to my lapel with a “little feet” pin, a reminder that these little ones also paid with their lives for someone’s “freedom.” False freedom though it is, their sacrifice is somehow linked with those of the veterans. They, too, deserve to be mourned.
Award-winning American columnist Linda Bowles observed (July 24, 2001): “The (North) American culture is journeying through muck and smut, looking for lower ground, not of necessity, but of depravity. Unless we change course, and soon, our destination is either moral anarchy and social chaos, or the surrender of all our freedoms to Big Brother in exchange for his promise to protect us from ourselves.”
Will Durant took the long view. In a lecture broadcast in November 1945, he said, “The best lesson of history is that man is tough; he survives countless crises, as he will survive those that agitate us today … However deeply (he) may seem to have fallen, however great the disaster that appears to have overwhelmed him, he picks himself up, ‘bloody but unbowed,’ still eager, curious, imaginative, resolute, and marches on. Somewhere, somehow, he will build again.”
If we prophets take our calling seriously, we can help to rebuild our civilization now. We may even change the course of history.