A particularly horrific home invasion in Montreal on Dec. 28 involved one of the victims, the 89-year-old homeowner, being tied up and tortured by having boiling water thrown on him when he told the predators there was no money in the apartment.

Hey, is it just me, or is the level of brutality in such crimes ratcheting up at an alarming rate each year, and when did the term “home invasion” enter the popular lexicon anyway? What can account for the increasing incidence of depravity in our society? I think it can be attributed largely to a synergy of four social factors.

First is the decline of the traditional family. More and more children are being born to unmarried mothers and brought up in home environments without functional male role models, which is bad enough for girl children, but utterly poisonous for boys. Seventy per cent of institutionalized juvenile offenders in the U.S. come from fatherless homes. More than 40 per cent of children now spend substantial proportions of their childhood in single parent homes, compared with just five per cent of kids who lived only with their mothers in 1960. As former U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once observed, “A community that allows a large number of young men to grow up in broken families, dominated by women, never acquiring any stable relationship to male authority … that community asks for, and gets, chaos.”

Second is the decline of the community. In our individualistic “what’s in it for me?” culture, where family ties are typically loose, and people tend to be highly mobile and only shallowly rooted in whatever geographic milieu they ephemerally circulate in, “community” becomes at best an abstract ideal rather than an experienced reality. Consequently, many people are essentially alienated from those they live among. Well adjusted, ethically competent persons can function adequately in such circumstances, but social alienation exacerbates the lack of compassion and empathy in the dysfunctional personality, minimizing the social cost of engaging in crimes of predation, and dulling inhibitions to cruelty and depravity.

A third factor is a festering sense of thwarted entitlement nurtured in people from disadvantaged backgrounds by the strange bedfellows of leftist ideological rhetoric and commercial consumerism. Socialist demagogues inculcate the notion that relative material deprivation and inequality are pernicious forms of injustice, while advertising incites material dissatisfaction – as George Orwell sagely observed: “a stick rattling in a bucket of swill.” This, combined with frequent drug or alcohol dependency in the criminal underclass, sets the stage for rationalization of anger and aggression against those perceived as privileged and affluent, like the elderly residents of an upscale neighbourhood who were the targets of the home invasion cited at the beginning of this article.

And fourth, perhaps most significant of all in that it symbiotically relates to the other categories of societal distemper discussed above, is our culture’s abandonment of religious affirmation. With the wholesale loss of faith in, and fear of, God, by most members of our society, a personal sense of moral accountability has been lost to many. Political correctness and secular humanist ideologies are ineffective substitutes for the Ten Commandments and healthy belief in eternal damnation for unrepentant sinners.

The ideology of liberal humanism, which dominates our cultural ethos nowadays, denies, excuses, and scapegoats human evil, and sneers at the authority of God, leaving us ever more defenceless against the essential reality of the human condition, which has not changed at all since humanity’s fall from grace. “If there is no God,” Dostoyevsky wrote, “then everything is permitted.” In their refusal to acknowledge the sovereignty of God, liberal humanists have removed the ground for declaring any behaviour categorically wrong. Certainly there are many things liberals contend are wrong and socially unacceptable, but they have no more profound authority than mere opinion with which to justify their arbitrary moral codes.

Religious faith was a key bulwark supporting traditional family values and sexual mores. The church was the central focus of community in Christian culture, and the Christian ethic of personal unworthiness and gratitude for eternal salvation through grace, were potent antidotes to leftist assertions of entitlement and capitalist feel-good consumer materialism.

The remedy for social depravity as exemplified by the boiling-water-chucking Montreal home invaders will not be found in increased law enforcement and longer prison terms, and certainly not in the leftist “self-esteem” and “human-rights” twaddle that’s shoveled at kids in schools these days. The real cure will only be manifested in recovery of traditional family values, bonafide community, less emphasis on materialism, and reaffirmation of the Christian paradigms that built this society, and without which it will not be able to resist an ever-accelerating descent into demoralization.