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  • Our Society’s Common Values

    by David R. Carlin Jr.

    If a society is going to hold together and not fall apart, it needs a values consensus; that is, a system of values that almost everybody in the society agrees with. It is not necessary that everybody’s behavior actually conform to these values. There will, of course, be a certain amount — perhaps even a large amount — of behavioral deviance from these accepted values. The important thing is that they be accepted — even by the deviant person, who will feel a degree of guilt or shame when he behaves in the “wrong” way. Imagine, for instance, a society in which chastity is one of the great values. Fornication and adultery and sodomy will not be rare in such a society, but your average fornicator, adulterer, and sodomite will feel guilty when he deviates from his society’s great value of chastity.

    The United States once had a tremendous disagreement about basic values. One part of the country felt that slavery and secession were morally permissible, even admirable, while another part of the country felt just the opposite. As a result the nation came undone — quite literally – and it was put back together only at the cost of a colossal civil war. Can that, or anything resembling that, happen again as a result of our current “culture war” in which there is great disagreement between cultural/moral conservatives and cultural/moral liberals?

    A moment ago I mentioned a hypothetical society in which chastity is a great value. The United States was once such a society, back in the days when it was de facto a Christian nation. Among the things almost everyone agreed on was that unmarried persons should abstain from sex, that homosexual conduct was unnatural or perverted, that abortion was a terrible crime, etc. But those days, as everybody knows, are long gone, and it’s unlikely they’ll return.

    The United States is no longer a Christian country. Of course, most Americans, if asked by the Gallup Poll, would say they are members of one of the many variants or permutations of the Christian religion. But those who reject Christianity, not in the name of some alternative religion but in the name of no religion at all, while a numerical minority, are culturally very powerful. They tend to dominate the “command posts” of American culture, i.e., the national press, the entertainment industry, and America’s leading colleges and universities. Besides, many of those who claim to be Christian are little more than nominally Christian. They are “liberal” or “modern” Christians, adhering to a set of religious beliefs and values that bear only a slight resemblance to Christianity — whether Catholic or Orthodox or Protestant — as it was understood until rather recent times. Liberal/modern Christianity is a bizarre blending of Christianity with anti-Christian secularism, a blend worthy of a Monty Python skit. What can be more hilarious than a “Christian” church that ordains openly homosexual men and women as priests and bishops?


    If the United States is no longer a Christian society, and is therefore no longer able to have a consensus morality based on Christian values, where does this leave us? Is it possible for us to find an alternative agreed-upon system of values? Or are we doomed to something resembling a second civil war?

    I think not, for we Americans have a new consensus morality that has emerged. It can be summed up in four principles:
    • Do not harm others — “harm” being defined as damage to health (including mental/emotional health) or wealth.
    • You are free to do whatever you like — provided, of course, that in doing so you don’t harm others.
    • You must tolerate the behavior of others who do what they like while not harming others.
    • Pursue wealth both for yourself personally and for society as a whole.
    There is, of course, room for disagreement as to how to achieve these values. We agree on primary or basic principles, although we commonly disagree about secondary principles. Disagreements about primary principles can tear a society apart, plunging it into civil war or something very like a civil war. Not so when it comes to disagreements about secondary principles. Disagreements of this kind are normal in all societies, and they don’t threaten the fundamental cohesion of those societies.

    People can differ, for instance, on the best ways to pursue personal and national wealth or health, and they can disagree as to whether or not same-sex marriage involves harm to another — all the while agreeing on the abstract principles of “wealth is good,” “health is good,” “do no harm to others,” and so on. And thus political fights about the degree to which government should be involved in the economy are not fights about a basic principle. Both sides agree on the primary principle — “wealth is good.” All they disagree about is a secondary principle: Should we promote wealth in a bigger-government way or in a smaller-government way? The same is true with regard to the primary principle “health is good.” Our fights are about nothing more than secondary principles: Should we have this health-care system or that? Should we act on the premise that climate change is man-made or not? Likewise with same-sex marriage. Everybody agrees that personal liberty is good, that tolerance is good, and that we must not harm others; these are basic principles. What we disagree on is the secondary question of whether same-sex marriage will or will not harm society.

    I don’t say that a value consensus like this is ideal. In fact, I think it is far from ideal. It is a hedonistic-materialistic set of values — a set of values based, as Plato would have said, on the lowest part of our human nature. Eventually, I fear, it will destroy us.
     

    The views expressed by the authors and editorial staff are not necessarily the views of
    Sophia Institute, Holy Spirit College, or the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts.

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    • Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick

      Not only is a minimalist consensus not ideal, it won’t do us any good at all.

      The American People were once more-or-less Christian. They have been converted from Christianity to post-Christianity–which is a far, far worse state than pre-Christianity or paganism.

      There are now approximately fifty million women and fifty million men walking around free in American society who have killed their own children. How much hope do these people have in their hearts? How much reason do they have to go on living? How likely are they to have the wisdom and virtue to choose noble, honest people to govern the country?

      The election of hordes of baby-killing (and thus violent, dishonest, corrupt, wicked, vile) people to public offices at every level gives the answer.

      Our society “worked” without imposing Christianity or even Christian patterns of living on absolutely everyone. This “worked” because Christians were the vast majority.

      But government has supplied women with the wherewithal to bear children without husbands. Government has supplied warehouses for these children (known as “schools”) and meals for them. These warehouses train them in collectivism and nihilism, and provide urban gangs a convenient venue in which to recruit members from an endless supply of fatherless boys. Government provides protectionist policies (called “The War on Drugs”) to jack up the prices of all sorts of substances, providing the gangs with untold billions of dollars. Where will the armed, vicious “soldiers” be found to compose the “domestic national security force” that is supposed to be as large, as powerful, and as well-funded as the military? One guess. Is money flowing to the gangs from the gigantic slush fund known as the “stimulus package”? One guess.

      The federal government and many of the state governments have been at war with the people for decades. They are still winning.

    • Mena

      ” Among the things almost everyone agreed on was that unmarried persons should abstain from sex, that homosexual conduct was unnatural or perverted, that abortion was a terrible crime, etc. But those days, as everybody knows, are long gone, and it’s unlikely they’ll return.”

      Those days are long gone *only among liberal Democrats,* who constitute under 30 percent of Americans. But note: all of those traditional views (and the others you mention) are alive and thriving in the Red States.

      CONCLUSION: The Red States are the future of America and the West. Therefore, if Catholics focus their efforts on networking the Red State leaders, governments, businesses, and faith communities, Catholicism saves the West. No question about it. The Red States are the only hope for traditional values. The blue states are doomed to commit moral and economic suicide for the next generation, under the leadership of “enlightened progressives.” Let them do it while we build the future in The Red State territory.

    • Austin

      The Victorian morality that governed our culture up until the 1950′s had its flaws to be sure, the hypocricy and self righteousness could be sickening, but it served a purpose. Things like fornication, homosexual acts, etc. were looked down on, regarded as shameful. They still existed to be sure, you cannot stamp out human nature, but the prevailing Victorian morality, even if not written into law, still kept these things to a minimum. I think that people understood that if these things were allowed to rise above a certain level, a tipping point if you will, society would be plunged into a sort of moral chaos. A society cannot remain a viable society with a 70% out of wedlock birth rate, which is what you have in the ghetto now.

      Human nature must be tamed, it must be held in check to a degree or the result is social chaos. Our ancestos understood this, and while they were less than perfect, sometimes doing cruel things, like shunning unwed mothers, they understood that if you have too many unwed mothers, too much overt homosexuality, etc, you are headed for disaster.

      I think that a society can survive and move forward, provided these unwise behaviors are kept at a certain low level. Once you reach critical mass in fornication, abortion, overt homosexuality, etc., society will go downhill fast.

      Morality exists for two reasons: first for its’ own sake, because it is the right thing to do. Second, because it is the glue that holds our society together. Without it, we are headed down the road of social chaos. Thus one can make a practical case for morality, as well as a theological case.

    • R.S.Newark

      Eventually we will have no values…we will have nothing.

    • Mena

      “Morality exists for two reasons: first for its’ own sake, because it is the right thing to do. Second, because it is the glue that holds our society together. Without it, we are headed down the road of social chaos. Thus one can make a practical case for morality, as well as a theological case.”

      Correct. But the current crisis is a battle between institutions. Therefore, we cannot defeat hedonists in territories where they have a lock on all the institutions of power, such as in the Blue States. The “progressives” are hell bent on economic and moral suicide, and we must remove from them and let them self-destruct until they collapse while we build the future from the Red States.

      Catholics must mobilize our causes and resources to build up the Red States, network them together informally through coalitions/partnerships/alliances, and achieve the goal of becoming the center of American future progress.

      If we mobilize around the Red States and build up our pro-life, pro-industry, pro-family, pro-law enforcement ideals, we will win this culture war for the next 100 years. We must abandon the deep Blue states and blue institutions of our nation and go into “Red Zone” areas where we can build a new core of America that determines the future of the whole.

    • Austin

      Mena, I understand what you are saying, but given the intrusive power of the Federal Government and the interconnection of our society, how can we separate the Red States from Blue States? How can we stop paying taxes to the Federal Government, which is controlled to a large degree by the people who oppose us?

      I live in Maryland, a blue state. I work here, own a home here, and to some degree, I am stuck here. I might be happier in North Carolia, but here I am.

      California, called by some “Granola Land” due to the flakes, fruits and nuts that seem to predominate there [prtty funny but somewhat true], also has a lot of “normal” people. Do we write them off? Also, California, for all the “Granola” out there did reject gay marriage in a referendum.

      The South attempted to seceed in 1861 for the wrong reasons, and it didn’t work. I doubt that it will work now either and for the right reasons this time.

    • Mena

      Austin,

      A well-networked Red State zone can do whatever it wants. Period. It can admit the federal legislation it wants, and it can politely refuse the *immoral federal legislation* it does not, as even the Manhattan Declaration cites as a Christian duty.

      We would not be separating Red from Blue in a political sense. No formal secession. No gun shots. Just the Red States networking closely and doing what they feel is in their best interests of their people and territories, as is their usual business. Goodbye to “the intrusive power of the Federal Government” to whatever extent the Red States want.

      Next, you are right that the Federal Government is “controlled to a large degree by the people who oppose us.” That is precisely why we must network the Red States informally and make that the de facto preeminent power.

      You live in Maryland, so you are in permanent exile. You have no power, no influence, and no ability to affect real change. You are fully disenfranchised. But simply move to Virginia or North Carolina or Indiana or Texas, and suddenly you are a Highly Influential Decision Maker creating a long-range future for a decent people and society. You have the instant ability to build the society you want, and to network with like-minded state societies. Get 15-20 states doing that together, and presto, the Christian West wins the day through that preeminent people and power.

      As to borderline states like California, their “normal people” will need to make a decision: either regain control of their dying state or move next door to Idaho, Montana, Utah, and Arizona to build the society they want, in concert with the “Red State Alliance.” (By the way, California defeated gay marriage precisely and only because it was temporarily *well networked* by the National Organization for Marriage and a few other top-level groups in the way I am proposing. This type of networking can become standardized in “Red States” and even some “Purple” ones.)

      This is a networking solution that is guaranteed to work. It uses time-tested organizing tactics (alliances, partnerships, and coalitions) among top-level sectors (Red State governors, business leaders, Faith Community leaders) in strategic areas where conservative power is able to find full expression.

      No secession. No shots fired. No formal constitutional change. Just dedicated Catholics networking the strategic territories where they currently have the capacity to act and lead and build the society they want.

    • Austin

      Mena, I like wht you say, but…”politely refuse the immoral federal legislation…” Well, I doubt that this would work. The Federal Government has forgotten about the 10th Amendment and has run roughshod over the rights of the states, counties, private organizations, you name it.

      The concept of state’s rights got a bad name from segregation, however, the concept should still hold water. The Federal Government has gotten involved in hundreds of things that it has no business being involved in. Liberals are the primary culprits here, but so called conservatives, such as George W Bush have done it too (“No Child left Behind” etc).

      It may be too late to ry to direct power back to the states, such is the momentum of the usurpation of states rights by the Federal Government, not to mention the attitude of the current occupant of the White House.

      Your ideas might actually work, on a limited scale, with enough grassroots support and perhaps some adoption by the GOP. Good luck with getting the GOP on board though. Most of the Republicans in Congress seem to be Democrats in Republican drag.

    • Mena

      Austin said: The Federal Government has forgotten about the 10th Amendment and has run roughshod over the rights of the states, counties, private organizations, you name it.

      Mena: The Federal Government’s ability to impose becomes radically limited (perhaps even totally powerless) when you have a well-networked set of states following a common collective agenda for governance, faith, family, and business. The “red state alliance” determines its own future and agenda and can’t really be opposed or stopped.

      Austin: The concept of state’s rights got a bad name from segregation

      Mena: That’s irrelevant. A “bad name” among liberal elites has no power to stop a large self-determining network comprised of Red State governments, business leaders, faith communities, and family leaders.

      Austin: It may be too late to try to direct power back to the states

      Mena: In just five (5) years a designated coalition/task group could fully network the red state governments, business leaders, faith leaders, and family leaders. Remember, we have free unrestrained movement and power to act in those territories; the people and leaders and institutions there want this solution to happen.

      Austin: The current occupant of the White House…

      Mena: …is mostly powerless in the face of a networked Red State territory. The power shifts to the Red State Network as the preeminent “decision maker” for those in the network.

      Austin: Your ideas might actually work, on a limited scale, with enough grassroots support and perhaps some adoption by the GOP.

      Mena: The beauty of this solution is that it doesn’t require the National GOP at all. It does, however, require that the governors of Red States want their states to become “permanently and proudly Red.” Do you suppose Red State Governors want their states to be “more Red”? Yup. It’s the nature of Red States to want to thrive and gain ascendency for their traditional values, families, businesses, and way of life. So, this organizational solution is unstoppable and natural—it works simply by organizing top institutions that are already conservative and active.

    • Rich

      I didn’t know he was writing for IC now? Good for us!

    • VR

      that the underlying premise of all of the above lay be mistaken. You all assume that the Federal Government would not attempt the use of overt force or violence to carry out it’s will. After all, the track record of the feds in upholding the Constitution has not been sterling so far, no matter who is in office.

    • R.C.

      I would like “Mena” to define how he/she is using the term “network” in the posts above. With practical examples for clarity.

      I mean, I can run Cat-5 from one Red State to another if I have enough repeaters, but I don’t think that’s what Mena has in mind….

    • Mena

      “I would like “Mena” to define how he/she is using the term “network” in the posts above. With practical examples for clarity.”

      I definitely don’t mean a Cat-5. I mean a para-state organization. A virtual country that operates behind the scenes of the usual visible structures, yet has its own organizational structure and mission that dominates.

    • Francis Wippel

      I believe it was John Adams who said something along the lines of

    • Mena

      Francis said: “A nation whose citizens can no longer distinguish between right and wrong, and stand for right, is a nation no longer capable of self-government.”

      Mena: This problem is not happening in the Red States, where conservatives are a majority in leadership roles and in the general population.

      The cure for the present social and political demise is to found in the Red States: their people, their governments, their faith communities.

    • Andrew

      I find it funny that an article about values has boiled down to politics.

      To me, every single person is given every single day in which they have an enormous amount of personal authority and power to impact their world around them. If we choose to work 50 hours a week because “wealth is good”, how much of that potential has been sold off. This is what is meant by “Paying to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God”. This is where real decisions are made and the real change will occur, as long as people decide to BE Catholic in an integrated and balanced way. Catholics, following Christ, even if only 1% of the population can be a society changing influence because they see the unlimited potential of Christ acting through them.

      On the topic of “wealth is good”. The effects of wealth extend beyond national borders. How can you say wealth is good if it is at the expense of people in poorer nations or if it creates massive social problems in other areas of the world because of your nation’s reliance on someone else’s resources? Christ’s message was basically that if you have more than you need then you should share it around. This goes for nations just as much as individuals.

    • Francis Wippel

      Francis said: “A nation whose citizens can no longer distinguish between right and wrong, and stand for right, is a nation no longer capable of self-government.”

      Mena: This problem is not happening in the Red States, where conservatives are a majority in leadership roles and in the general population.

      The cure for the present social and political demise is to found in the Red States: their people, their governments, their faith communities.

      I would love to agree with you, but I live in South Carolina, where our sitting Governor (a man that I once thought would make a great President) is under investigation for misuse of state funds as a result of leaving the state for five days so he could go see his mistress in Argentina. This came about after his wife threw him out of their home because she wouldn

    • Andrew

      The other point I’d make about wealth is that it is a boiling frog trap.

      It’s okay if you have a business or skills that shower you with wealth for the same amount of effort but if you have just plain old everyday skills and earning potential the only way to become wealthier is to sacrifice something. You might say, my wife will just take on a 10 hour a week job and that way we can afford to pay $20,000 more for that house we want. The problem is that everyone else is thinking the same thing and before you know it that house is worth $20k more anyway and so she now needs to work 20 hours a week to buy that house.

      When people place no value on what they are sacrificing: family life, community service, Sundays etc. They we all get sucked into a wealth trap and before you know it both parents are working full time jobs plus overtime and putting off having kids just to appear wealthy.

      I say let the wealthy have their castles on the hill so long as the rest of us can pay off our mortgages quickly and then enjoy life with each other.