A Defense of "Culture Wars:" A Call for Counterrevolution
ABSTRACT: Providing a diagnosis of the problem, Kreeft targets some of the "flash
points" or battlefields in the moral war now raging and then states some essential
principles of a solution: the moral basics without which we cannot survive, the
principles now being abandoned that we must recover.
What is the problem?
The problem is to "fight the good fight".
Fight? What fight? Are we at war?
Yes, we are at war. And if you aren't aware of that yet, the most important task this
chapter can do for you is to alert you to that fact.
The enemy is not people. The enemy is not humans, but dehumanization: the spectacular and unmistakable social, cultural, and above all moral decline and decay that our society has been suffering for decades.
A generation ago, the five most bothersome problems complained about in
polled American high schools were:
- disrespect for property
- laziness; not doing homework
- talking and not paying attention in class
- throwing spitballs
- leaving doors and windows open
Does this sound like another world? It is. The same poll was retaken a few
years ago. The five leading problems in those same high schools now are:
- fear of violent death; guns and knives in school
- getting pregnant
The streets are not safe. The schools are not safe. The society is not safe. Not safe
physically and not safe morally.
Societies have survived with very bad political systems and very bad economies, but
not without strong families. Families are to society what cells are to a body. The family
is the only place most of us learn life's single most important lesson: unselfish love
and lifelong commitment.
The following statements about morality would be enthusiastically embraced by Moses, Solomon, Jesus, Muhammad, Socrates, Confucius, Ghandi, and Buddha, as well as by George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln.
- Morality is necessary for society to survive. The alternative is barbarism,
decadence, and chaos.
- Morality is not sectarian (religiously) or partisan (politically). It is both
universally known and universally binding. We all know in our hearts what good and evil
are, and we are all responsible for living the way we know we ought to live.
- Morality is natural, or based on human nature. There is a "Natural (moral) Law".
Morality is discovered, like stars, not invented, like games. It is not man-made,
arbitrary, and changeable. Its laws are intrinsic to human nature, as the laws of hygiene
are to the nature of the body or the laws of physics are to the nature of matter.
- Morality is liberating, not repressive. For it is a set of directions given for the
purpose of making our human nature flourish and helping us to reach our full potential. A
law like "don't drink poison" is not repressive to your health. Poison is.
- Morality takes effort. Like love, morality is work, not feeling. It is a fight
against the forces of evil in all of us. Today it has become a fight against forces in
- Morality gives meaning and purpose and direction to life. It is a road map. Without a
map, we wander aimlessly, hopelessly.
- Morality gives human beings dignity. Its basis is the intrinsic value of the human
person. It commands us to love people and use things, not use people and love things.
People are ends, things are means.
- Morality is reasonable. It is not blind but intelligent. It perceives a real
difference between good and bad actions and lifestyles. It "discriminates".
(Discrimination between people as good or bad may be foolish, but discrimination between
acts as good or bad is simply moral sanity.) We are a nation born in a struggle for
freedom, so we continue to value personal freedom very highly, and rightly so. But we
cannot have freedom without truth. A surgeon cannot free you from a disease without light
to operate by, accurate X rays, and a knowledge of anatomy. Moral skepticism is the death
- Morality is not simply about "freedoms" and "rights" but about duties and
responsibilities. Victor Frankl says the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast should be
completed by a Statue of Responsibility on the West.
- Morality is not legalistic. Its essence is not a set of rules but a vision of the
good life and the good person; not only laws but also character. No set of rules will
work without personal virtues. Morality is about how we can be real heroes. It's about
how to avoid flunking Life despite getting A's in all your courses.
Peter Kreeft has written extensively (over 25 books) in the areas of Christian
apologetics. He teaches at Boston College in Boston, Massachusetts. Peter Kreeft is on
the Advisory Board of the Catholic Educator's Resource Center.
Read the entire article on the
Catholic Educator's Resource Center (CERC) website
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