Age of Consent: The Rise of Relativism and The Corruption of Popular Culture
Robert H. Knight
"A Jewish fable relates that a man stood at the gates of Sodom and cried out against sin. He implored men to repent and change their ways. As things got progressively worse, he continued to cry out his warning. When it looked absolutely hopeless, a passerby asked him why he still bothered. He answered, 'I used to cry out so that men would change their ways. Now I cry out so that they won't change me!'"
Robert H. Knight, director of the Concerned Women for America's Culture and Family Institute, stands at America's gates and uses his new book, The Age of Consent: The Rise of Relativism and the Corruption of Popular Culture, as his warning cry. But Knight makes it clear that all hope is not lost.
"Sometimes the best way to differentiate the good from the bad is to stare directly into the face of evil," Knight writes. "Relativism is increasingly being exposed as a malevolence that wears a mask of benign tolerance. People are getting tired of not only evil but all the excuses that are made on its behalf."
The Age of Consent offers a social critique in the spirit of Allan Bloom's 1988 classic, The Closing of the American Mind, a work Knight both cites and criticizes. Like Bloom, Knight places the root of many of society's woes on a lack of absolute truth.
"Relativism," he says, "is the cultivation of ignorance; the gateway to nihilism; a false view of reality constructed by know-nothings for know-nothings; an extremely efficient vehicle for evil, whose existence it denies."
This attitude has become prevalent in many high-profile areas of American culture, including government, education, art, and entertainment - all of which heavily influence society. Knight comes down hard on each of these areas with enough directness to offend pretty much everybody. From rock music and television to schools and the legal system, Knight holds little back in demonstrating his discontent with popular culture.
He pulls examples from each area of concern, including many that are quite shocking. Some of the references are a bit dated -- the book was written in 1998 -- but the topics at hand are still certainly relevant (and perhaps even more so) for today.
Not even the faith community can escape without accountability.
Knight notes that "churches are trading in their mission of eternal salvation for more stylish pursuits, spending their inherited legitimacy on dubious causes such as passing out condoms to save the sexual revolution. The religious trappings remain, but the soul has taken flight from many trendy congregations."
With such an unapologetic assault on so many elements of society's new value system, Knight does not seek to win over the minds of those who don't accept his premise. This is not primarily a work to persuade skeptics of the need to reform culture, as evidenced by the less-than-tactful way Knight highlights places where elite groups have succumb to postmodernism and atheism. Yet at a time when the Ten Commandments must be carted out of an Alabama courthouse, lest those who refuse to abide by them be offended, perhaps subtlety will no longer cut it.
"As the cultural envelope keeps getting pushed directly into the face of the average American, we keep hearing that the real problem is...the average American," Knight writes. "A culture that confuses relativism for healthy skepticism will erase the important distinctions that help keep us a free people. Without these distinctions, based on traditional morality, it has become easy to substitute coercion for compassion, to mistake hedonism for the quest for knowledge, and to undermine the cause -- and guarantors -- of human freedom."
While not essential reading, The Age of Consent is worthwhile as a call to arms for those who recognize the multifaceted attack on traditional values that is emanating in American society. These of course come in the shape of skirmishes over the Ten Commandments and other Christian paraphernalia, efforts to redefine the family structure, and the continued glorification of debauchery on the big and small screens. The list goes on, but, as Knight effectively demonstrates, all of these elements stem from the trading of faith and tradition for individualism and relative values.
Travis McSherley, a former intern at the Heritage Foundation, graduated in 2003 from Anderson University (IN) with a degree in journalism. He does web design in his free time; you can check out his personal website to learn more.
Read this article on the Townhall.com website. Reprinted with permission of the author.