Posted on May 18, 2015 at 8:43 PM
After reading articles such as this one, one must wonder at the speed and degree of the shift in public views about the nature of man. Not only are ideas vigorously promoted that in previous years would have been dismissed as nonsensical, the language used to portray views held widely for centuries has changed to one of derision, and at best mere astonishment that such views could even be held.
Over the span of just a few years, for example, we have seen how attitudes toward abortion changed so quickly that the professional organization dedicated to the successful culmination of the existence of a fetus would now espouse the right to destroy it. How views toward something so blatantly obvious as gender changed toward the belief that it is up for grabs. And how the special status of physicians in our lives could so quickly be turned into an instrument by which to assist us to commit suicide.
Such ideas would once have been dismissed out of hand. Now, instead, we find people struggling to maintain a defense of that which was previously taken for granted. It is nothing but chronological hubris, however, for the promoters of today’s most radical (they would like to say, “progressive”) views to think that they know better. But how do we explain why what we once believed was right?
We must be able to describe how “traditional” beliefs gave the greatest opportunity for each person to thrive–how they contributed to social stability and created a foundation upon which each person could find steady footing, from which to step up into the greatest possible fulfillment. And that to abandon them is to take our foundation and turn it to sand, or even quicksand, into which we all will fall.
We might start by trying to explain how we got here—how views once so widely normative are now rejected, and those once viewed as absurd are becoming normative. If we do this, then we can at least shed light for others on what the dynamics in society are, so that they can understand that those ideas now being promoted as inerrant truth are in fact quite recent concoctions of the creative and untethered mind. Considering that in our times no man holds his audience but for a few moments, here is how I might list to others the major cultural phenomena:
1. The breakdown of family connections, so that the knowledge and acceptance of values are not passed from father and mother (and grandfather and grandmother) to son and daughter, but from media and other cultural influences directly to the child;
2. The subsequent loss of the understanding of the origins and logic behind these values; concurrent with this is the sense that if the values were not deemed critical for parents to pass on to their children, then they must not have credibility;
3. The artificialization of life, in which man is no longer intimately familiar with the physical stages of human existence, nor with the painful consequences of unwise personal choices;
4. The compartmentalization of personal lives, further distancing the person from exposure to the full range of human existence (good, bad, and evil);
5. The dominance of sensuality as the driving motive behind human endeavors;
6. The rise of the imperative of autonomy in all things, with its injunction to separate oneself from outside influences, including previously held beliefs and values.
The most critical specific phenomenon in this societal/cultural shift is both a cause and a consequence—the loss of influence of Christian views toward human existence. Into this void of belief comes a plethora of other beliefs, perhaps most importantly a Philosophy of Whatever, from which one can’t muster an argument against any belief system except that which opposes me from being right in whatever I claim.
This void is not just an accident of history, but a deliberate end state for many. For those pushing the biggest changes in society, Christianity then becomes the major obstacle, and must be silenced by any means possible. This is why state laws explicitly supporting religious freedom are so viciously attacked, regardless of what they actually say. The important thing for their opponents is to disallow the accommodation of expression in words and deeds of Christian views. These attacks are not against Hinduism and Buddhism, after all. It would be most interesting to see how the opponents of the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act would answer the question, “How would you guarantee the right for someone to live out his belief that same-sex marriage is wrong?” The trend seems to be toward no accommodation of such belief whatsoever, moving us toward a tyranny never before seen in America.
For the field of bioethics, the loss of a Christian understanding of the meaning and value of life is most ominous, for human life becomes yet another malleable tool for somebody’s claim of personal self-actualization. Many assert that such freedom to redefine man itself brings opportunity for great fulfillment. But for those of us who may be still attached to their full human identity, there is a real sense that we’re losing portions intrinsic to our being. As Shuman and Volck state in their book, Reclaiming the Body (Baker Publishing Group, 2006), “…if the mind and identity itself can be altered…what part of the disembodied self is making these choices? Apparently there is nothing left to enliven this puppet self but the tiny part of the mind or soul that makes choices.”
Unless we all wish to wither away to this tiny part, we must shine a light on the breakdown in the generational chain of understanding, by showing how we got here. And from there show that preceding generations knew a lot more than the hubristic progressive would admit.