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An Age Of Reformation

Sometimes it seems to me that identity politics and the collapse of the political center are pushing us all towards a prison-gang mentality, in the sense that you may not want to join up with the gangsters of your own tribe (white, black, Latino), but you do to protect yourself from the attacks of the other tribes.

Do I want to align with the Trump Republicans? Most assuredly I do not. Yet rising  militancy on the left — campuses being the vanguard — and the inability of liberal centrists to stand up to it, frightens white, male, heterosexual, religiously conservative me for the future. I look at the Democratic Party and see a party that regards people like me as American kulaks [1], as the class enemy to be crushed for the sake of justice and the final defeat of “white supremacy.” Yes, I’m being deliberately hyperbolic here, but that’s their basic approach. They may couch it in all kinds of arguments designed to conceal what they’re doing, but they are only deceiving themselves; it is clear to the rest of us what’s going on.

To be fair, I can easily imagine liberals today making the same kind of judgment with regard to the Democrats. They may not like the way it is moving towards identity politics, but they may feel that they have no choice but to vote Democratic to protect themselves from whatever the Trumpified Republican Party may seek to do.

This is how we get the politics of the prison gang, and a society that reflects them. Don’t believe me? Ask yourself: where are the restraints that would keep left and right from moving toward the extremes? Read Michael Brendan Dougherty’s unsettling National Review piece about slippery slopes. [2] It’s an astute analysis of where the logic of our current conflicts is taking us. It begins like this:

For conservatives who pay attention, the slippery slope isn’t a logical fallacy, but a way of life. In our gloomy predictions, we regularly understate how far society will begin kicking us down the slope once we start sliding. It would’ve been unthinkable for even the most pessimistic anti-divorce activist of half a century ago to predict that the majority of American children would be born illegitimately within a few decades. Anti-euthanasia activists never dared suggest that the Dutch would be so depraved as to begin drugging children into their graves merely because they reported depression. When Vermont was considering legislation providing for civil unions for same-sex couples, not even the sweatiest, most paranoid snake-handler imagined that florists would be financially ruined by the government for refusing to serve customers whose nuptials violated their religious scruples. Yet here we are.

And now, a few weeks after conservatives were laughed at for predicting that the desire to take down Confederate memorials would eventually turn into the desire to take down memorials to the Founding Fathers, it has happened again. The leaders of Christ Church, an Episcopal congregation in Alexandria, Va., have decided to remove two plaques honoring previous Robert E. Lee and George Washington, who both once worshiped there.

My Law of Merited Impossibility — “It will never happen, and when it does, you bigots will deserve it” — defines the slippery-slope process as a rhetorical scam by the left. At some point, you realize that you’re being had. There is no excuse now for conservatives to believe that the process will stop of its own accord, on the assumption that the left wants to be fair and balanced. Because the center has not held, the extremes won’t be held back.

I believe that at least some of the old-fashioned liberals who would normally stand up to this stuff are not doing so because they know it’s in their political interest not to do so — same as Republican establishmentarians who embraced Trump, however distastefully. But it’s also the case that power is draining away from them. You see it more clearly today on the right, but it’s coming soon on the left too. They’re going to end up repudiating Clintonism (and Obamaism) as thoroughly as the Republican base repudiated Bushism.


We are seeing a Reformation of American politics, and with it, the American imagination. As MBD writes in his piece, we are about to see a very public, and very ugly, demonization of the Founding Fathers, which is to say, America’s founding myth. The standard line about the Founders is that they were imperfect men — yes, some held slaves — but what they accomplished by creating a strong liberal democracy was far, far more important. That some held slaves, or at least permitted slaves to be held in the new democracy, is their tragedy, and must not be forgotten. But it must be understood within the context of their times, and the limits of the human imagination bound by custom and culture. And their accomplishments, despite their failings, must be understood as a milestone on the road to greater liberty. MBD writes:

Previously, civil-rights activists such as King reconciled white America’s devotion to the nation’s founding and their own ambition to living as equals under the law by casting the Declaration and other artifacts of the Founding as a “promissory note” whose liberties need to be justly extended to all human beings in America. And many today say that we can honor the Founders because, unlike the the Confederates, the principles they enshrined in our Founding documents could be used against the injustice of slavery and white supremacy.

It is my contention that this way of honoring the Founders will soon begin to seem dishonest to liberals. It will be seen as a concession to a recalcitrant prejudice and a political reality that is rapidly disappearing, the same way civil unions for same-sex couples are now seen.

I think he’s right about that. Iconoclastic liberals intoxicated by identity politics and the achievement of what they consider to be “social justice” are playing with dynamite. If they begin to deconstruct the Founding as illegitimate, and treat its Enlightenment-era ideals of universal human dignity as fraudulent façades for white supremacy, then they will call up demons that they cannot control (as Trump is doing, in his own way), and in this post-Christian era, will eliminate the last possible thing that could unite us as a country.

You think it can’t happen? It not only can happen, I predict it’s going to happen. A lot of us on the right thought Donald Trump’s campaign for the GOP nomination was doomed, and that it would be just a matter of time before he blew himself up. Then, when the general election campaign started with him as the nominee, we lamented that the awful Hillary Clinton was going to be the next president, because Trump would blow himself up. Then, we waited for President Trump to self-immolate through some combination of belligerency and incompetence.

None of it happened. The American people today — at least a large number of them — no longer hold the standards they once did. Trump is not the cause of this, but a symptom. If the Mueller investigation ends up finding strong evidence of criminal wrongdoing by the president, then the GOP Congress will be put to the test. If it refuses to impeach and convict him, the institution will lose all moral credibility, as will the Republican Party. But if it does impeach and convict, then tens of millions of Americans will regard it as a soft coup d’état. The process will have been constitutional, but they too might come to see the basis for the American order — the Constitution itself — as nothing but a façade to justify rule by corrupt elites.

And then what? Dangerous times we live in.

Whatever happens, can there be any doubt that we live in an Age of Reformation, one in which the old ways of understanding the world and our place in it are collapsing? This is the world into which I speak in my book The Benedict Option, [3] though I focus on the decline into collapse of Christianity in the West. So very many Christians cannot imagine that its happening, but the numbers do not lie, nor does the analysis of how little what passes for Christianity today has to do with Christianity as it has been historically understood, even by the leaders of the Reformation.

Do you really believe that liberal democracy and the rights it guarantees are going to stand strong absent the Christian ethos out of which it was born? Enlightenment-era universalism is nothing but a secularization of Christian universalism. If the claim that “all men are created equal” has no religious sanction, then why should anybody believe it? Ultimately the monstrous injustice of American slavery was defeated by an essentially religious crusade — as was the monstrous injustice of Jim Crow (remember, the Civil Rights movement was led by black pastors).

It is difficult, even impossible, to predict where this new Reformation is going to take us. (And note well that I use the term not only to refer to religious Reformation, but political too.) Sarah Pulliam Bailey’s important story from Brazil, about how the prosperity gospel is transforming that country’s religious and political landscape, is must reading.  [4] Look:

Brazil, which has the most Catholics of any country in the world, is undergoing religious debates similar to those sparked in 1517 by a fiery German preacher named Martin Luther — over church riches and corruption, political power, and the proper way to read the Bible. By 2030, Catholics, now the religious majority in Brazil, are projected to become a religious minority.

Can you imagine that? In less than 20 years, Catholics will be a minority in the world’s most populous Catholic country. Lest Protestants rejoice, read the story: Pentecostalist prosperity preachers are also decimating mainstream Evangelicalism there. And Brazilian culture is primed for it:

Now even with a popular pope, the church is desperately trying to keep young people like 28-year-old Marina Silva, who is unemployed, from leaving the faith. The prosperity gospel’s promise of riches, however, is just one front in the competition.

Sipping orange juice in a Sao Paulo cafe before her next job interview, Silva explained that Brazilians are known for picking and choosing from different traditions in everything from food to art and music.

“We don’t have strict characteristics,” she said. “We mix things together to make them good. We are not like good little lambs.”

The US has a much different culture than Brazil, but we share the sense that we can pick and choose what to believe, because the choosing individual is sovereign. That is, we no longer have the sense that our beliefs have to cohere logically. They just have to feel right to us. Thus, prosperity-gospel Pentecostalism displacing Catholicism, a religious tradition grounded in authority, order, and the past, as well as traditional forms of Protestantism, and exalting demagogic preachers.

This is what you get when the ship becomes unmoored and begins to drift out to sea. In the US, we are certainly unmoored from our shared religious tradition, and now we are becoming unmoored from our shared political tradition. And we are catechized by a culture that valorizes emotion and radical individualism.

In this Age of Reformation, where are the restraints, aside from brute force? Where is the will to defend and reform, not destroy, the ancien régime? “The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity.” [5] Even we liberals and conservatives who do not want to accept the passionate intensity of the destroyers in our own camps may find that we have no choice, not if we want to protect ourselves. At some point, though, we are going to reach a point where we can go no further, and we have to risk all that we have to save our honor, and to stand for justice against brutality of either the left or the right. It will be much more difficult, of course, to refuse to collaborate with our own side. This is why we have to resist the prison-gang mentality taking over our politics.

The day of testing, my liberal and conservative friends, may be closer than we think. The rate of change is accelerating past the ability of anybody to control or even to understand. The energies released by the Protestant Reformation did immense damage before a new order grew out of the destruction of the old. Even the Reformers themselves could not have foreseen what they were unleashing. So it is today, I believe, with regard to our politics as well as our religion.

A storm is coming. Prepare the arks. [3] The US, and the West, will eventually come to rest on solid ground again, but nobody can know yet what that will look like. The best we can do is to see to it that we and the things we value the most will survive the perilous journey.

118 Comments (Open | Close)

118 Comments To "An Age Of Reformation"

#1 Comment By Jefferson Smith On November 2, 2017 @ 11:01 pm


Your error, I think, is in believing that people will voluntarily give up that advantage, rather than pressing it in the absence of anything beyond a mere and therefore puny “social compact.”

And yet, as I pointed out, you yourself probably know plenty of people — basically all your friends, I would hope — who don’t always press their own advantage, but instead make a habit of factoring in the needs of others and the greater good. (If that’s not your normal experience, well, that’s too bad — you’re hanging out with the wrong crowd, then.)

#2 Comment By Celery On November 3, 2017 @ 1:53 am


Hit the nail on the head. How we respond to the Internet is different than how we respond to real life. It does increase anxiety because there is no counterbalance. And the hysterical tone you find on the Internet gets higher and higher, constantly increasing the anxiety. An antidote is just as you describe: get off the Internet. When Internet political fear overtakes someone, they should only be allowed to interact politically in real life. Get involved in community politics and feel the control that still exists. That will put things back in perspective.

What we need to fear is Internet fear itself. I predict it will become an acknowledged medical condition.

#3 Comment By Brian in Brooklyn On November 3, 2017 @ 3:19 am


> I apologize if mine was over-broad.

That is most kind. Thank you. It was probably a case of my being hyper-aware when I read your post. I try to maintain Buddhist equanimity, but sometimes I am rankled despite my efforts.

> While I don’t necessarily understand the objection of, say a baker to making a cake for a gay wedding, I also don’t think that baker should be persecuted out of the public square.

I am not sure that asking a baker or any business to comply with the laws of their society is persecution, but in the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop, I think that the matter will be settled in favor of the baker on the basis of compelled speech (though it could go the other way—which I think unlikely). An interesting collection of articles from both sides here:


> But we can’t even hold a discussion about the subject, transitioning, rights and responsibilities along the way, society’s obligations, education and so forth without activists calling everyone who doesn’t immediately agree with them “hateful bigots”.

I think the problem is that two conversations are trying to occur simultaneously. The first is whether transgender people exist along the human continuum with people who are cisgender, straight, gay, tall, short, etc. Is transgender a valid state of personhood or not? If it is not, then what I would call second-level discussions about the flourishing of transgender folk and their obligations to society and society’s reciprocal obligations to them (among other topics) cannot occur. The situation is akin that wonderful tall tale about Queen Victoria and lesbians: if transgender people do not exist, then they cannot be discussed.

> It is impossible under such circumstances to have a reasoned discussion and debate about how we (as a society) preserve the rights of the many and the rights of the few.

Agreed. But there first has to be agreement that transgender people exist and possess rights before we can discuss how those rights interact and intersect with the rights of others.

> … I recognize that Christians in particular have treated LGBT people abominably for a long time.

Yes, but it is also past. But my attitude may be because I try not to attach. I accept the fact that coming out as a teenager in the late 1970s limited my career options and what I was able to accomplish in my life. That said, I know many queers who were very damaged by the oppression they experienced at the hands of Christians and did not make it through as intact as I am.

> I do not want that to continue or be perpetuated, any more than I want people to be forced at the point of a gun or court order to change their beliefs.

I do not want people to change their beliefs either. But I also do not want people to believe that their beliefs can be used as an automatic basis for a right of personal nullification regarding any rules and regulations of society that they believe to be wrong.


>… I’ll offer you what I’ve heard from LGBT activists first: those who fit Elijah’s category description want justice for the crimes committed against them — something I support with all my heart — and in nearly the same breath aver that they don’t care if the actual criminals are punished, so long as someone pays for the crimes.

To me that is wrong. I have not experienced that often from the people I have worked and advocated with. In fact, the vast majority of queer government and elected officials I have worked with over the years make it a point of pride that people do not pay, but rather that all are given equal treatment (the cycle of abuse has to be halted). Sometimes it is joked that they care more for their non-queer constituents than they do for their queer ones.

> They carry emotional scars that horrify me, long after (for some of them) their physical scars have faded.

As I responded to Elijah above, I was luckier than most, but I know many scarred queers and am awed by their resiliency and courage.

> I see the rampant Political Correctness stories from college campuses, I talk to public school parents in my region about zero-tolerance policies and their arbitrariness (this from parents who are in complete support of the goals of those policies), and I know for a fact that the bullying experienced by LGBT people has happened to Christians. It’s few and far between so far. It’s smoke and I’m looking for the fire.

I think part of the answer lies in what Rod posts about Christian values being secularized by the Enlightenment. They are good values, but they were not secularized immediately—it has been a long process. And as people took an increasingly capacious view of freedom, it was no longer enough to be free within the cage/design the creator god had fashioned, but the desire arose to be free of the plan as well. But the cage provided boundaries and definition (as flawed as they were) and without it desire and desire satisfaction took their place.

Another consequential move was transitioning the notion of the soul to that of the individual. Under the old system, people believed in a soul and that was that. But the newfangled notion of the individual needed proof and as usual humans fell to (as the Buddha taught) the embrace of desires and their satisfaction: I gratify, therefore I am. Humans even developed a whole social mechanism—capitalism—to help the process along.

We see the results today—hyper-individualism is rampant as people work ever more frantically to maintain the illusion of a self (it became harder to do so as time progressed). But there are indications that people in the West may be starting to move from trying to maintain the fiction of self to understanding the interconnectedness of existence (what Thich Nhat Hanh calls interbeing) and that causing no harm/alleviating suffering might be a better path.

Of course, everything is in a jumble since people are trying simultaneously a) to maintain the existence of the self (which needs continual gratification and expression) and b) restraining that same self in an effort not to harm others. It will only be when self and other are collapsed into a single state of interbeing (when the cage and the occupant are understood as coterminous) that things will improve.

I found a small flicker of hope in the Pew Research Center’s survey on Americans’ feelings of warmth toward various religions. The youngest cohort—18 to 29—were warmest to Buddhism at 66 degrees. Maybe Pope Benedict was right when he said (back when he was a cardinal) that in this century Buddhism would replace Marxism as the main enemy of the Catholic Church. I was always amused at the thought of a bunch of lamas threating the enormity of the church, but maybe I was wrong. Pew Survey here:


#4 Comment By Rob G On November 3, 2017 @ 7:00 am

~~One problem with “the transcendent” is that it’s not clear whether that term means to invoke the supernatural or not; it’s also a term that figures in some secular philosophies. So without some further definition, it doesn’t necessarily tell us whether we’re talking about values or principles needing some kind of religious grounding. The term “God” is unambiguously religious.~~

My point was that a belief in theism does not require a “Divine Command” theory of morality. There’s no point talking about the other stuff until you clear the air of that notion.

#5 Comment By Elijah On November 3, 2017 @ 7:53 am

“…(gay men and their dogs–now there is a thread).”

Possibly the best chance we have of finding common ground – we bred and showed dogs for 25 years. My dogs mean the world to me.

#6 Comment By Elijah On November 3, 2017 @ 7:58 am

“Your error, I think, is in believing that people will voluntarily give up that advantage, rather than pressing it in the absence of anything beyond a mere and therefore puny “social compact.””

Speaking only for myself, given the choice, I will time and time again choose my own self-aggrandizement. It’s part of what convinced me to become a Christian – seeing myself for who I really was (e.g. a sinner). I think kgasmart is quite right.

#7 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On November 3, 2017 @ 8:37 am


The economic system that L’Ouverture imposed on the former slaves of Haiti is probably better analogized to serfdom than to slavery. It wasn’t something that would please our 21st century standards of freedom, but it definitely wasn’t slavery either.

#8 Comment By Elijah On November 3, 2017 @ 9:28 am

“I’ve seen a number of reports of studies suggesting that atheists are actually better at training their kids to act morally than the religious, but I suspect those studies are poorly done and misrepresented.”

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this turned out to be true. The question is by what standard does the atheist measure good or evil? I’ve heard everything from the “common good” (begs the question to “human flourishing” (hose flourishing?). None seem especially compelling.

#9 Comment By Franklin Evans On November 3, 2017 @ 10:19 am


That was erudite and quite clear. I have a passable familiarity with Buddhism, and I believe I understand your usages and context. Thank you very much, by the way, for the Pew survey link. I must look in a mirror and whine about the absence in the survey of me and my siblings-in-faith — Pagans and Heathens — while reminding myself that we are just too few in numbers to be a measurable cohort. 😀

We both are, it should be remembered, limited to our anecdotal evidence and experiences. I have a wider awareness, but that scope is also limited because my information is at best second-hand. I am surrounded by LGBT and fellow spiritual travelers who have strong personal integrity. I can face any one of them down in disagreement, pull no punches, be as blunt as possible, and know that mutual trust prevails. They return the “favor”, to be sure. In that light, I must acknowledge that Philadelphia has come a very long way from ACT UP protesters flinging excrement at police officers, and bids well to be one of (if not the) best places for LGBTQ people to live and thrive. I have the personal pleasure to be affiliated with their two main non-governmental institutions — William Way Community Center, and Mazzoni Center. Our city government is fully engaged. I can temporarily turn a blind eye to politics as usual and feel pride in my city.

#10 Comment By kgasmart On November 3, 2017 @ 12:23 pm

Spoken like somebody who has never met an atheist or even an agnostic (or all the ones they met were strict objectivists). Turns out people who have no belief in God have no trouble behaving morally.

Actually, I consider myself to be an agnostic. And again, define “moral” – or let me put it in question form:

In terms of Rod’s other post, incest – who is it, do you think, most in favor of “normalizing” incest or other forms of “sexual expression” (if you will) previously considered to be out of bounds?

Is it, primarily, people who believe in the sublime – or those who don’t?

Indeed, isn’t that kind of the point of athiesm or agnosticism – I don’t believe in God, therefore I don’t believe in God’s word, therefore I’m free to act in the manner I believe appropriate.

Man’s rules, not God’s rules.

And we say, man’s rules are good enough; “just be cool to one another” seems to be the mantra, or something like it. Give to charity! Work with kids! All good.

But as I’ve said repeatedly in this thread, where man makes the rules, man can – arbitrarily, if he’s in a position of leadership where others will follow him – change them. “Tweak” them to serve not the community’s needs, but his own – which, in all cases, will be spun as necessary for the community, i.e. “We must cleanse the national body politic of the pestilence that is the (insert scapegoat minority here).”

Do you see? Religion has given us plenty of bloodshed over the millennia, but the most murderous regimes in history – Hitler, Stalin, Mao – were nonreligious, in the sense that (to steal the wording from Wikipedia) they could not permit “an autonomous establishment (the church) whose legitimacy did not spring from the government.”

And you see the continuity here – agnostic and athiestic liberalism holds government as a manifestation of the will of the people, and as such, it’s an intrinsically moral force (except, of course, when Republicans are in power…).

And that’s how you get from “Hey I’m not religious but I have morals” to a society that defines for itself what “moral” is, and includes some things that have long been considered to be manifestly immoral – if not inhuman.

#11 Comment By Jefferson Smith On November 3, 2017 @ 1:48 pm

My point was that a belief in theism does not require a “Divine Command” theory of morality.

Great, but the issue upthread (and raised in the original post) was whether belief in human rights and the premises of liberal democracy require a “Divine Command” theory. For reasons I listed earlier, I doubt that they do, and therefore I also don’t see why they would need a theism that’s even less morally specific than divine commands.

#12 Comment By Elijah On November 3, 2017 @ 2:00 pm

@ Brian – thanks for an excellent and gracious response.

#13 Comment By Brian in Brooklyn On November 3, 2017 @ 2:22 pm


Dog is fine–just a neurotic gay pet parent. He is a min pin (husband’s choice) and he is loved and doted upon, e.g., vacations always include him.


I too noticed that Pagans and Heathens were omitted. Still much work to be done. Fortunately, we have lifetimes.

#14 Comment By mrscracker On November 3, 2017 @ 3:33 pm

Thanks again for your comments.I guess gradually phasing out slavery is similar to serfdom. In either case it’s involuntary servitude.
It’s still a problem for some children in Haiti today:


#15 Comment By Thomas Hobbes On November 4, 2017 @ 1:53 am

kgasmart says:

Actually, I consider myself to be an agnostic. And again, define “moral” – or let me put it in question form:

In terms of Rod’s other post, incest – who is it, do you think, most in favor of “normalizing” incest or other forms of “sexual expression” (if you will) previously considered to be out of bounds?

Is it, primarily, people who believe in the sublime – or those who don’t?

Indeed, isn’t that kind of the point of athiesm or agnosticism – I don’t believe in God, therefore I don’t believe in God’s word, therefore I’m free to act in the manner I believe appropriate.

Now I am confused. You don’t have faith in God and you are arguing that lack of faith leads to amorality. Is this belief based on autobiographical experience?

The point of atheism or agnosticism is not to be free to act how one pleases. The point of atheism or agnosticism is that you do not have faith that God exists (or have faith that God does not exist). One has not found any of the arguments of the faithful they’ve heard to be compelling. The causes for the lack of faith can be many. It’s true sometimes people lose faith because they see their church act against the morals they’ve been raised to believe, but faith or lack there of is rarely something that can be chosen in such a consciously Machiavellian manner as you describe.

As too the incest question, I doubt faith in the sublime has much to do with it either way. People who have a desire to have sex with family members are the ones who desire normalizing incest. Conservatives (in personality not political affiliation) are less likely to want to normalize incest because they have a stronger belief in authority and sanctity independent of their belief in a higher power.

All societies define what morality is for themselves. God might hand down morality to us from time to time, but even the institutions of God on earth like to fiddle with what is right and what is wrong. Early Christians and modern cults had/have radical ideas for how morality needs modification and the Catholic Church and Protestant Churches have certainly made some changes over the years. It is the disposition of individuals (and their desires), not their religiosity that determines their openness to changes in morality. There is probably a correlation between a conservative disposition and religiosity though, I should look into that at some point.

#16 Comment By Gern On November 4, 2017 @ 10:05 am

This is a great article. I have been reading much about the Reformation the last two weeks. The ideas of “identity” sprouted from the Reformation. In the end, I believe the way that humans are depraved and in their lives they make tragic decisions and I mean all humans. We can ‘t escape it. Our nation is caught up right now trying to create the ideal human being leader in their minds and are not finding any. Our forefathers were depraved and we find our George H.W. Bush is depraved. Sometime soon, the western countries will come to terms with this depravity and new ideas will sprout. It is fine with me that the sins of our founders, and the sins of Hollywoood, and the sins of George HW Bush, and the sins of the Catholic church are exposed. I think the exposure is good and it will bring about honest discussions about the frailties of humans and the truth of this will be reconciled. Hopefully it gets reconciled with a rebirth of Christianity.

#17 Comment By Rob G On November 4, 2017 @ 12:26 pm

~~~Great, but the issue upthread (and raised in the original post) was whether belief in human rights and the premises of liberal democracy require a “Divine Command” theory.~~~

Where is that in the original post? I don’t see it.

“For reasons I listed earlier, I doubt that they do, and therefore I also don’t see why they would need a theism that’s even less morally specific than divine commands.”

See Nietzsche and Dostoevsky.

#18 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On November 7, 2017 @ 8:06 pm

Our forefathers were depraved and we find our George H.W. Bush is depraved. Sometime soon, the western countries will come to terms with this depravity and new ideas will sprout.

You and the infantile disorders running amok on college campuses seem to have a great deal in common.