Magazine article The New American

Saving Christian Civilization: Three Authors from Different Religious Backgrounds Point out Some of the Problems and Solutions to Christianity Losing the Culture War

Magazine article The New American

Saving Christian Civilization: Three Authors from Different Religious Backgrounds Point out Some of the Problems and Solutions to Christianity Losing the Culture War

Article excerpt

Out of the Ashes--Rebuilding American Culture, by Anthony Esolen, Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing, 2017, 203 pages, hardcover.

Empires of Dirt--Secularism, Radical Islam, and the Mere Christendom Alternative, by Douglas Wilson, Moscow, Idaho: Canon Press, 2016, 276 pages, paperback.

The Benedict Option--A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation, by Rod Dreher, New York: Sentinel, 2017, 262 pages, hardcover.

The present state of Western civilization is in such an appalling condition that those men and women who fear for the future of our 2,500-yearold patrimony may find themselves torn between a sense of sorrow or bitter anger, and a measure of gallows humor. The decline of the West is somewhat like the weather, it would seem: Everyone complains about it, but no one does anything about it. However, the three authors of the works reviewed here are proposing that it is far past time to "do something about it," and they have set forth their analyses of this plight and their counsel for present and future action in ways that reflect a cogent Christian worldview. Much of the analysis offered by each of the three authors will resonate with readers of The New American, and the readership that is being drawn to their argumentation demonstrates that a growing number of Americans are becoming consciously aware of the dangers confronting our civilization, and are ready for assistance in better understanding what needs to be done to rebuild the West.

In Out of the Ashes--Rebuilding American Culture, Dr. Anthony Esolen writes from the perspective of a Roman Catholic academic. Esolen's assessment of the decline of our culture is that modern Americans have largely abandoned belief in the Triune God for a faith in a Leviathan State, and have thus neglected almost every aspect of historic Christian culture. The author summarizes the decline in a wide range of areas: from schools that no longer teach, to families that have been torn asunder, to cities and towns that are no longer living communities but now are merely places to sleep or shop, to churches that have been almost abandoned. Esolen's assessment is relentlessly true.

Esolen's role as a literature professor is of great service to his task; his text often draws on the classical literature of our civilization, ranging from Milton and Dante to the Greek and Latin philosophers of antiquity. Because he recognizes that an assault on the existence of "truth" is an important part of the overall war against the West, Esolen understands the subversion of language that the enemies of our civilization employ, and he declares that a refusal to submit to using the language of the enemy is an important occasion for resistance:

   I believe now that the "higher cant"
   is too dangerous even for small talk,
   because we will inevitably end up
   thinking in its terms. Words like
   democracy, diversity, equality, inclusivity,
   marginalization, misogyny,
   racism, sexism, homophobia,
   imperialism, colonialism, progressivism,
   autonomy, and many others
   my readers might name are simply
   terms of political force and have
   no real meaning anymore. Some
   of them never had any meaning to
   begin with. Do not wash your food
   in chlorine. Do not sprinkle your
   thoughts with poison....

   You have to be educated into cant;
   it is a kind of stupidity that passes
   the capacity of unaided Nature to
   confer.

Because the corruption of language is at the core of the anti-Western ideology, an important act of resistance is found in a repudiation of the terminology of "social justice" and "political correctness." The "higher cant" is the language of ideology, and in Esolen one hears a faithful echo of earlier conservatives such as Russell Kirk, who recognized ideology to be a fearful foe of the faith, and a dehumanizing means of enslaving men. In Esolen's words: "Now we can see how inhuman it is to project history onto the flat template of political action or political ideology. …

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