In a technologically advanced society,
America has become even more materialistic as it struggles to
emphasize the importance of the individuals. This is not a good
thing to get used to. What's the blame for this change? The hard
fact is that it was not something done to us; it is something we
have done to ourselves. Thoughtful people have pointed to
materialism, a too permissive society. There is truth in almost
all these accounts. In my view, our real crisis is spiritual, and
corruption of the heart.
The ancients called our problem acedia, an aversion to spiritual things and an undue concern for the external and the worldly. Acedia also is the seventh capital sin, sloth, but it does not mean mere laziness. The slothful heart is steeped in the worldly and carnal, hates the spiritual and wants to be free of its demands. What concerns me most about America's future is the probability of seeing America, with all its great strength and beauty the freedom, gradually subside into decay through default and be defeated not by the communist movement but from within, from weariness, boredom, cynicism, greed and in the end helplessness before its great problems.
I realize this is a tough indictment. If my diagnosis is wrong, then why, amid our economic prosperity and military security, do almost seventy percent of the public say we are off track? I submit that only when we turn to the right things, enduring, noble, spiritual things, will life get better.
During the last decade of the 20th century, there is a disturbing reluctance to talk seriously about matters spiritual and religious. We have become used to not talking about the things that matter most. One will often hear that religious faith is a private matter. Whatever your faith, or even if you have none at all, it is a fact that when millions of people stop believing in God, enormous public consequences follow. The presumption may go like this, if God does not exist, everything is permissible. We are now seeing "everything."
What can be done? For one, we must again connect public policies to our deepest beliefs. Right not we say one thing and do another.
We say we want law and order, but we allow violent criminals to return to the streets.
We say we want to stop illegitimacy, but we subsidize behavior that leads to it.
We say we want to discourage teenage sex, but educators across America treat teenagers as if they
were young animals in heart, and are more eager to dispense condoms than moral guidance.
We say we want more families to stay together, but we make divorce easier to attain.
We say we want a color blind society, but we continue to count people by race and skin pigment.
Furthermore, America desperately needs to recover the purpose of education, which is to provide for the intellectual and moral education of the young. Plato made the point that good education makes good men, and good men act nobly.
Until a quarter century or so ago, this time honored belief virtually went unchallenged. Having departed from it, we are no reaping the whirlwind. We say desire more civility and responsibility from our children, but many schools refuse to teach right and wrong. So we talk about "skills facilitation," "self-esteem" and being "comfortable with ourselves."
Most important, we must return religion to its proper place. Religion provides us with moral bearings, and the solution to our chief problem of spiritual impoverishment depends on spiritual renewal. The surrendering of strong beliefs, in our private and public lives, has demoralized society.
Today, much of society ridicules and mocks those who are serious about their faith. America's only respectable form of bigotry is bigotry against religious people. The only season for hatred of religion is that is forces us to confront matters many would prefer to ignore.
In our time, we have seen America make enormous gains, a standard of living unimagined 50 years ago, with extraordinary advances in medicine, science, and technology. Life expectancy has increased by more than 20 years in the past seven decades. Opportunity has been extended to those who were once denied it. Of course, America prevailed in our "long, twilight struggle" against communism.
Today, we must carry on a new struggle for the country we love. We must push hard against an age that is pushing hard against us. If we have full employment and greater economic growth, if we have cities of gold but our children have not learned how to talk in goodness justice and mercy, then the American experiment, no matter how gilded, will have failed.
Do not surrender. Get involved. Get spiritual renewal back into America!
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