11: The Two Faces of America
I wrote this newsletter from the solitude of a mountain–top retreat overlooking San Jose, Costa Rica. There, while teaching five hundred local pastors, I was spared the conflicts, unrest, moral posturing, and pure meanness of American social and political life. I escaped the barrage of images of American soldiers relishing sexual and masochistic mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners. Upbeat, President Bush reassured us that such behavior is not the true face of America–but which face is true? Vicious antagonism is surely not “politics as usual.” Fissures so deep in the body politic indicate that we are engaged in a deep struggle for America’s soul.
truthXchange does not endorse any political party. However, when I write on important issues these days it is difficult to avoid sounding partisan because spirituality is taking political form. Here are some suggested reasons for this trend:
- Materialistic Marxism and secularism have retreated everywhere, and the world is becoming more religious;
- Fewer people call themselves “secularists.” Public figures now flaunt their spiritual choices and achievements;
- The political divide has a measurably religious aspect. USA Today’s front page headline screams: “Churchgoing closely tied to voting patterns.” The article speaks of the “religion gap” that divides the parties: a large majority of Republicans attends church while a large majority of non–churchgoers votes Democrat. A religious position tends to identify a political affinity;
- The overtly “religious” character of contemporary political life is due to a recent change in religious belief. Up till the Sixties, life was defined at its most basic level according to a Judeo–Christian worldview. An unquestioned moral consensus based on biblical principles held the culture together. But the Sixties Cultural Revolution introduced a modernized version of pagan pantheism that claims equal rights in political, cultural and moral affairs. Gay marriage is but one example.
To sum up, with the loss of consensus, religion has become overtly political. The Moral Majority has become two conflicting moralities, and it is not at all clear who has the majority. Which face is the true moral face of America? What morality, pagan or biblical, will dominate in the years ahead?
The “new morality” has seized the popular culture. Though I do not have television and choose my movies carefully, I get a glance at television in hotel rooms and on flights–from Costa Rica, for example. I am amazed how pornographic even general entertainment has become. Madonna’s new show features lesbian sex, yet opposes the war in Iraq on moral grounds! Apparently, 40% of pastors indulge in pornography and teens spend hours video–taping themselves committing the most heinous of acts. Immorality is unashamedly public and overtly political. In Beloit, Wisconsin, strip club owners ask patrons to turn their eyes from the stage long enough to fill out a voter registration form with a view to voting against President Bush. ”We must…ensure that Bush and his ultra–conservative administration are removed from the White House,” wrote an organizer in a letter to 4,000 club owners. ”If we are to survive, “we must act now.” Some California police officers were making love (in their patrol cars), not war (on crime). Two hundred California teachers were recently accused of cheating–by helping their students pass exams!
One Christian young woman entered a training program at Disney World. At this icon of Americana clean fun, she discovered that alcohol, drugs, and sexual activity were a routine in the apartment complex where students were lodged. One afternoon at Disney, which has become one of America’s most gay–friendly corporation, the young woman was met by two gay men, who taunted her faith, dropped their pants and mimed a sex act. America looks more and more like degenerate Rome.
The insatiable appetite of the last “liberated” generation of lust–driven sado–masochists inevitably leads toward the behavior of some of our young soldiers in Iraq. Moral outrage by the liberal left against Abu Ghraib is a stunning example of hypocrisy, since for forty years these same liberals have demanded the liberalization of sexual and personal morals, and the right to commit the unutterable violence of pro–choice abortion. The outrageous behavior of our young soldiers is only a reflection of our culture at home.
America is two–faced. Two views of morality vie for her soul, and the outcome is quite uncertain. We Christians could run for the hills of Costa Rica, but we will do better to prepare instead an “answer for the faith within us,” even if it eventually costs us our social acceptability, our educational status, our job security or even our lives. This is truthXchange’s mission. Thank you for standing with us.