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Quo Vadis, America?

May God bless America, though we have abandoned him, and may we all experience a real change of heart this Independence Day.
Quo Vadis, America?

Two tweets about American on this Independence Day. The first is from a drag restaurant in Miami, which is in Florida, a state that has a sane governor and a department of child protective services, from which we should be hearing soon:

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There is our future, America, if we stay on this path.  A trans stripper leading a child down the primrose path is a condensed symbol for the road to hell down which our country is walking. Seems like there’s a new moral and cultural low every day here in a country led by a Democratic president who said that advancing the goals of groomers like the trans stripper above is “the civil rights issue of our time.” It is hard to believe that the Democratic Party as well as the entire ruling class of the USA has been captured by decadence to this degree. But here we are.

Which brings us to the second tweet:

I think the old man speaks for a lot of us. In fact, I know so. Gallup just released a poll showing that Americans’ pride in their country is at unprecedented lows. Excerpts:

The 38% of U.S. adults who say they are “extremely proud” to be American is the lowest in Gallup’s trend, which began in 2001. Still, together with the 27% who are “very proud,” 65% of U.S. adults express pride in the nation. Another 22% say they are “moderately proud,” while 9% are “only a little” and 4% “not at all” proud.

This record-low level of extreme national pride comes at a challenging time in the U.S. as a pandemic-weary public is struggling with the highest U.S. inflation rate in more than four decades.

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To be fair, the numbers are still very, very high compared to the sentiment in, say, Europe, where people have been taught to fear and loathe nationalism ever since World War II. Still:

Before 2015, no less than 55% of U.S. adults said they were extremely proud. The highest readings followed the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when patriotism surged in the U.S.

However, extreme national pride in the U.S. has been trending downward since 2015, falling below the majority level in 2018; it is nearly 20 points lower now than it was a decade ago.

The year 2015 is when wokeness started its conquering march through the institutions. One last clip:

Republicans’ pride in being American has consistently outpaced Democrats’ and independents’ since 2001 and does so today. However, Republicans’ extreme national pride (58%) is now at its lowest point in the trend. Independents’ extreme pride, at 34%, is likewise the lowest on record for the group.

We have become a country ruled in many public and most major private institutions by people who hate its founding ideals, who hate its traditional liberties and moral norms, who hate the race of the majority of people in this country and who wish to stir up racial hatred among us, who hate orthodox forms of the religion of a majority of its people, and who are busy destroying the pillars of national life and cleansing the memories of the next generation so they will forget what America ever was. One party promotes this, and the other party is too cowardly or otherwise disengaged to defend their own country’s traditions. The business class is all in on celebrating decadence. The military-industrial complex and the foreign policy elites want to spread it throughout the West. The light unto the nations has turned itself into the neon filaments of the trans strippers’ neon.

What is it going to take to make America great again? It’s not going to be politics alone. Some Evangelical I follow on Twitter, can’t remember who, tweeted the other day that he changed his view of seminary education when he heard someone say that churches should be preparing people to face persecution. I forget his phrasing, but the point was not about predicting persecution, but rather talking about effective discipleship. Persecution may not come, but we should prepare ourselves to be able to thrive if it did.

I think the principle can be generalized. We have forgotten what it takes to maintain a resilient civilization. You know my line on this, so I’m not going to go into it again. This morning I’m thinking about a paper I just read from a mainstream social scientist I know and trust, predicting an “existential crisis” for our civilization based on the collapse of family formation and sexual dynamics. The paper will be published soon, and I’ll discuss it here when it comes out. His basic claim, citing social science data, and historical comparisons, is that societies that have a large number of young men without mating prospects is a society given over to violent crime and social instability. Nations that have had to deal with this problem in the past have occupied these men with war and colonialism, to channel that energy externally. The social scientist’s point is that the Sexual Revolution is having, and will continue to have, massive downstream effects. Nobody wants to hear that because it goes against the Narrative, but it happens to be demonstrable from the data.

In 2020, I wrote about this phenomenon — that is, of the future of the nation depending on strong families, and how we are busy sabotaging that. Excerpt:

Here’s a fascinating article from New York magazine on the massive gender gap between Trump and Biden supporters. It contains this eye-popping claim, buried deep down:

Neither the societal shift away from traditional gender roles nor the downstream cultural consequences of that shift are anywhere near complete. As Rebecca Traister has incisively argued, the growing prevalence of singledom among America’s rising generation of women is one of the most potent forces in contemporary politics. In 2009, for the first time in history, there were more unmarried women in the United States than married ones. And today, young women in the U.S. aren’t just unprecedentedly single; they also appear to be unprecedentedly uninterested in heterosexuality: According to private polling shared with Intelligencer by Democratic data scientist David Shor, roughly 30 percent of American women under 25 identify as LGBT; for women over 60, that figure is less than 5 percent.

David Shor is one of the best data people the Democratic Party people has. Take this seriously.

Has anything like this ever happened to any society, ever? Three out of ten women under the age of 25 consider themselves to be gay , bisexual, or transgender. Five percent, sure. Maybe even eight percent. But thirty? Will they always think that? Maybe not, but these are their prime childbearing years.  The US fertility rate is at a 35-year low, and there’s no reason to think it will rise. Some critics blame structural difficulties in the US economy that make it harder for women to choose to have children, but European nations make it vastly easier for mothers, and still cannot get their fertility rates above replacement.

What’s behind this is primarily cultural. We have become an anti-natalist society. And further, we have become a society that no longer values the natural family. We see everywhere disintegration. Yesterday, on the Al Mohler podcast, I talked about going to a conservative Evangelical college a few years back, and hearing from professors there that they feared most of their students would never be able to form stable families, because so many of them had never seen what that’s like.

And now we have 30 percent of Gen Z women claiming to be sexually uninterested in men. There is nothing remotely normal about that number. It is a sign of a deeply decadent culture — that is, a culture that lacks the wherewithal to survive. The most important thing that a generation can do is produce the next generation. No families, no children, no future.

In 1947, Carle C. Zimmerman, then the head of Harvard’s sociology department, wrote a book called Family And Civilization. He was not a religious man; he was only interested in the cultural values that allowed civilizations to thrive, and those that caused civilizations to collapse. His general thesis is that family systems determine the strength and resilience of a civilization. Zimmerman wrote:

There is little left now within the family or the moral code to hold this family together. Mankind has consumed not only the crop, but the seed for the next planting as well. Whatever may be our Pollyanna inclination, this fact cannot be avoided. Under any assumptions, the implications will be far reaching for the future not only of the family but of our civilization as well. The question is no longer a moral one; it is social. It is no longer familistic; it is cultural. The very continuation of our culture seems to be inextricably associated with this nihilism in family behavior.

And:

The only thing that seems certain is that we are again in one of those periods of family decay in which civilization is suffering internally from the lack of a basic belief in the forces which make it work. The problem has existed before. The basic nature of this illness has been diagnosed before. After some centuries, the necessary remedy has been applied. What will be done now is a matter of conjecture. We may do a better job than was done before; we may do a worse one.

He wrote this in 1947. Zimmerman missed the Baby Boom coming, but otherwise, he was right on target.

Earlier this year, David Brooks wrote a big piece for The Atlantic in which he observed that we are living through the most rapid change in the structure of the family in human history. In the piece, Brooks writes:

Eli Finkel, a psychologist and marriage scholar at Northwestern University, has argued that since the 1960s, the dominant family culture has been the “self-expressive marriage.” “Americans,” he has written, “now look to marriage increasingly for self-discovery, self-esteem and personal growth.” Marriage, according to the sociologists Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas, “is no longer primarily about childbearing and childrearing. Now marriage is primarily about adult fulfillment.”

Sex is also primarily about individual fulfillment — and maybe solely about individual fulfillment. Young people today see no connection between sex, family, and a greater purpose. I wrote about this more or less in a 2013 essay, “Sex After Christianity,” that remains one of the most read pieces I’ve ever published here at TAC. In his book, the sociologist Zimmerman, in listing the signs of a dying civilization, mentions a decline in family formation and a rise in homosexuality. Again, he was not a religious man, but his social science convictions led him to conclude that from studying the historical records of ancient Greece and Rome.

It’s far too simplistic to say “homosexuality brought down Rome.” Homosexuality didn’t mean the same thing in those societies that it means in ours. More importantly, the idea is that the greater tolerance for and acceptance of homosexuality was an indicator of the collapse of the shared belief that forming families to produce the next generation was the most important purpose of the civilization, and that a culture’s structures and norms should be constructed to support that mission

In other words, the acceptance of homosexuality, and now of transgenderism, is more of an effect of radical individualism than a cause. This is why, back in 2005, I recognized that because we conservatives had lost the culture war around sex and sexuality, we were rapidly going to lose the culture war over gay marriage and all the rest. I got a lot of criticism from my allies on the religious right for my alleged “defeatism”. I didn’t enjoy being right about this, but I saw that opposition to normalizing same-sex marriage was thin, because IF marriage is primarily about adult fulfillment (and not childrearing), THEN there is no strong reason to oppose same-sex marriage. Similarly, IF sex is not rooted in transcendent values, and is therefore seen as about nothing more than adult fulfillment, THEN there is no strong reason to stigmatize any sexual practice, aside from consent (which entails age).

And now, having sliced through all the muscle, we are carving into the bone. IF freedom means the right to change your gender to satisfy individual desire, THEN society must be taught that sex is malleable, and “transition” must be normalized and celebrated.

This is how you get abominations like the trans stripper corrupting the child, whose horrible parents took her to the drag show.

Look, I know that as a man who woke up one morning in April to find out that his wife had filed for divorce, I am implicated in the collapse of family. I have to own that. It rips my heart out, but this is the reality I am living today. And it doesn’t make anything I say above less true. It just means that it’s very hard to escape this trauma, even if you are a Nice Conservative Family Values Christian™.

The English writer Mary Harrington last year wrote a provocative essay about “how Satanism conquered America.” Her point is not some religious-right ooga-booga claim (though you know how much I love that kind of things). Rather, her point is that Lucifer was the original radical individualist, the figure who insisted that he didn’t have to live by any laws that weren’t self-chosen. She wrote:

But if devilish imagery mostly feels a bit cringe, the Devil himself has gone mainstream. If being deliberately anti-Christian pour épater la bourgeoisie feels exhausted, for the new, post-Christian bourgeoisie Satan now reads like the good guy. And in the hands of this class, the Devil’s proverbial pride, self-regard and refusal to yield isn’t just celebrated — it’s on its way to becoming the established religion of the United States of America.

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Fast forward another century on, and it’s not such a big step from thinking God’s grace gives you the freedom to do what you want, to dispensing with the God bit. The occultist Aleister Crowley (1875-1947) pursued a doctrine of individual will unconstrained by law or stuffy morality. He called himself “The Beast 666”, experimented with sex and drugs and in 1923 was expelled from Sicily after an associate died in mysterious circumstances, reportedly after drinking the blood of a sacrificed cat.

We tend to think of such deliberately shocking behaviour as the essence of “Satanism”. But Crowley’s core legacy was stripping the last remnants of Christianity from antinomian rebellion. His most famous dictum, written in The Book of the Law (1909), was: “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.”

He wasn’t the only one. Already in 1882, Friedrich Nietszche declared God dead and the human will to power as the only real source of good. In America, meanwhile, the individualist celebration of mankind became ever less Christian. Though she disavowed him later, the American writer Ayn Rand (1905-1982), called Nietzsche her “favourite philosopher” in the 1930s. Rand’s doctrine, Objectivism, argues selfishness is both noble and good: “It’s the hardest thing in the world – to do what we want,” argues one character in Rand’s 1943 The Fountainhead, “And it takes the greatest kind of courage”.

Both Crowley and Rand pursued the liberation of individual will from taboo, custom, law and even (as practitioners of ceremonial magic hoped) reality itself. These influences fused again in 1966 California, with Anton LaVey’s Church of Satan. Lavey drew on both Rand and Crowley to reject all collectivist constraints on individual behaviour and emphasise the primacy of individual desire. “There is a beast in man,” he declared, “that should be exercised, not exorcised.”

And:

Milton saw Satan’s refusal to submit to any law (however ambivalently) as the sin of pride. Now, in our post-Christian world of self-actualisation, pride is no longer a sin. Rather, it’s a vital part of becoming fully yourself. As body modification micro-celebrity Farrah Flawless put it: “I do not believe in God, I don’t worship the Devil, but yes I am a Satanist which means I am my own god. I worship myself’.

Indeed, it’s so far from being a sin that sacralised self-worship now has an annual religious festival. This new, increasingly pseudo-religious summer event, simply known as “Pride Month”, may have started out as a twentieth-century campaign for gay and lesbian equality. But what began as a justified and (at root deeply Christian) campaign for equal treatment for gay and lesbian people has long since morphed into a corporate-sponsored celebration of individualism that today horrifies many gay and lesbian people.

Pinterest, the internet’s motherlode of self-help platitudes, succinctly summed up the new faith in an official post this year. As a religious holiday, Pride isn’t about gay rights; it’s where we “celebrate identity and self-expression in all its forms”. Inasmuch as Milton’s ambivalence about rebellion lives on, it’s in the now-traditional argument about whether there are any forms of individual desire still off-limits for proud celebration.

The next wall to fall will be against pedophilia. The groomers like that trans stripper above are already working, in collaboration with bad parents, to sexualize the imaginations of children.

I’ve written before about how painful it is as an America to travel to Central European countries and see the Pride flag flying from American embassies. Majorities in countries likeWe are exporting  Poland and Hungary see this as America displaying contempt for them. And they’re correct. From Politico last week:

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), another member of the delegation, was in Lithuania earlier this week to accept an award from its parliament, which is currently considering legislation to legalize same-sex civil unions.

Durbin recalled telling members of Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda’s staff that “these are values that are important to America, that even the Supreme Court, nine people in the United States, shouldn’t suggest otherwise … They don’t reflect public opinion.”

“It is not just an American decision. We have led the world in many respects, not exclusively, in expansion of the rights of women,” Durbin added. “And I think this [ruling] really raises a question as to our commitment in the future.”

This is a senior Democrat telling foreigners that returning abortion to the realm of democratic debate is a mistake — this, despite the fact that nearly every European country has more conservative abortion laws than American under Roe. In Lithuania, for example, abortion is forbidden after twelve weeks, but can be permitted for medical reasons up to 22 weeks — but not after that. Our Democratic Party leadership is overseas evangelizing other nations for the family-killing policies of radical abortion deregulation and LGBT normalization. The United States of America uses its unparalleled state, economic (through private corporations) and cultural power to export the diseases that are killing us.

A Hungarian political scientist told me recently that the most current polling data show that the Hungarian people, who are famously pessimistic, are more confident and optimistic about their country than Americans are right now. I told my son that this is what it felt like to be an American in the late 1970s.

We know what happened next. I hope history will give us a new Reagan, one who is right for our time, as Ronald Reagan was right for his. But we cannot expect a politician to save us, not when our institutions are so corrupt — either actively corrupt or demoralized into passivity. My friend Tish Harrison Warren is more to the left than I am, but I completely agree with her column today saying that conservative Christians should consider economic solidarity as a culture war issue. And I guess because I am in Budapest on this sweltering July morning on the Danube, I am obliged to tell you that Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been there for some time on this issue. He sees social conservatism and economic populism as a winning program — and so do voters, who have elected him four times in a row.

This is the winning program for Republicans. You can’t have one without the other, though. And, as Orban once said, a politician is limited in what he can do. A politician can change material factors, but he cannot give people meaning. This is something that comes from families, from churches, from schools, and from cultural institutions. Unless we Americans are able and willing to renew ourselves, looking to a political savior is a dangerous illusion.

I love my country, but we are in sorry shape. May God raise up men and women who have had enough of living by the lies that the ruling class wants us to affirm, and by the deep lie shared by most of us: that true freedom is the right to do whatever we like.

Maybe Heidegger, the atheist philosopher, was right in his posthumously published interview in Der Spiegel, 1966: that the problems of modern Western civilization are so immense that “only a god can save us.” I believe it. What we are seeing now, so clear that it can no longer be denied, is that we Americans will serve either Lucifer, or God. There is no middle ground. And, to borrow from Solzhenitsyn, the line between Lucifer and God does not pass between political parties, races, classes, churches, or anything like that; that line passes down the middle of every human heart.

May God bless America, though we have turned our back on Him. There is still time to return to our Father’s house before He allows us to get what we have chosen. But repentance requires first having a realistic assessment of how far we have fallen. I wish you a pleasant Fourth of July — my son Matt and I will be raising a glass to our country later tonight — but I also wish for us all some real metanoia.

UPDATE: Russia’s got a million problems, but it looks like it is choosing to defend itself from the anti-family ideology that has captured the West:

Russian lawmakers are considering a new law targeting “LGBT propaganda.” It would provide for fines of up to $160,000 for promoting non-traditional sexual relations. The draft legislation was submitted to Russia’s State Duma on Tuesday and is currently being reviewed by the state-building and legislation committee.

It proposes to amend an existing administrative law, which restricts information promoting, what are regarded as, non-traditional sexual relations among minors. The new law would pronounce parts of the old legislation obsolete and impose administrative responsibility for LGBT messaging in genera

An explanatory note attached to the document notes that “family, motherhood and childhood in their traditional understanding, which comes from our ancestors, are the values that ensure the continuous change of generations, act as a condition for the preservation and development of a multinational people, and therefore need special state protections.”

The bill would introduce fines for propaganda aimed at “forming non-traditional sexual attitudes, the attractiveness of non-traditional sexual relations, a distorted idea of the social equivalence of traditional and non-traditional sexual relations, and the imposition of information about non-traditional sexual relations, causing interest in such relations.”

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The bill’s authors note that, while one of the key principles of a democratic state is the reasonable protection of the rights of minorities, “at the same time, the threats arising from the imposition of foreign standards that break the generally accepted way of life in the field of family and marriage begs the question about a need to protect the culture of the majority, including by introducing additional legal regulation.”

It is also noted that the draft legislation does not prohibit or condemn non-traditional sexual values or public discussions on the topic in a “neutral context,” and does not intend to infringe on personal freedoms and people’s rights to determine their sexual orientation and express themselves in a legal manner.

No Drag Queen Story Hour in Russia. Now do pornography.

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