Cultural Decline

William_Bouguereau_-_The First Mourning

A Time to Kill

In the 1996 crime drama film A Time to Kill, a ten-year-old black girl named Tonya is violently raped by two white supremacists. She survives and the men are arrested, but before an all-white jury they will likely walk free. So Tonya’s father, Carl Lee Hailey (Samuel L. Jackson), takes the law into his own [...]

Despair in the Face of Cultural Decline

In the last months, particularly after the Supreme Court decision on homosexual marriage in late June, I’ve noticed a pronounced malaise in many of my friends and family. For some, this looks awfully close to despair, for others a scornful anger, with a kind of dazed escapism haunting yet others hoping they are in a [...]

Reform and Renewal Starts with Us

Let's get straight to the point. We no longer live in a culturally Christian state. We do not live in a robust pagan state, such as Rome was during the Pax Romana. We live in a sickly sub-pagan state, or metastate, a monstrous thing, all-meddlesome, all-ambitious. The natural virtues are scorned. Temperance is for prigs, [...]

What Prospects for Thought?

Last month I suggested that a one-sided emphasis on will and power over transcendent realities has meant less and worse thought. That problem applies especially to public life, but man is social, so it spills over to private life as well. To respond to the situation, I proposed a renewed emphasis on institutions, like family and church, [...]

Imagining a Family Friendly Political Order

Like boiling frogs, we may be forgiven for failing to notice an all pervasive atmospheric change; forgiven but not spared. Whether we can look it in the eye or not, we have entered the era Pope Benedict XVI described as the mustard seed church. Our stature and influence are gone and the world has become [...]

How to Identify a Healthy Culture

How should we judge the health of a culture? We might do it by pointing to its greatest virtues. The Greek city states between 500 and 300 B.C., though they were not especially densely populated, gave the west the architectural “language” it still employs for everything from grand hotels to private homes. The colonial house, [...]

Shamelessness in Public and Private Life

We often hear that there is no sense of shame anymore. For decades, that has been evident about sexual matters. Sexual behaviors, even perversions, which were once not only unmentioned but even unthinkable are now in the mainstream. Not only this, but opposing thinking—such as the value of chastity and sound sexual ethics—is held to [...]

Physician-Assisted Suicide and Spiritual Suicide

On the morning of Friday, February 6, 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the law against assisted suicide was unconstitutional. Canada now joins a small, elite group of madly progressive countries in abandoning the most fundamental principle in all of nature. All living things, from an ameba to a human being seek to [...]

Pro-life Legislation is Not Enough

There is no way to end abortion short of changing the way we love and live. Without addressing abortion as a corruption of how we love, the greatest legal victory is a sand castle on a beach before the tide comes in. The tide will win no matter how large the sand castle, or how [...]

Normality is Not Hatred

Very recently the view that homosexuality is entirely normal has become not only widespread but compulsory in secular public discussion. Leaders of thought tell us the change has been part of a general deepening of moral insight and improvement in the art of living. The older outlook oppressed millions out of fear, bigotry, and ignorance. [...]

When Textbooks Upheld the Ideals of Our Ancestors

I am musing upon a fine book written by a teacher and prolific author, Leroy Armstrong. He is introducing the reader to the life and the work of John Greenleaf Whittier, the old Quaker poet who was once one of the most beloved writers in America. He directs our attention to “Snow-Bound,” which he says [...]

How Christians Can Rebuild Our Culture

Editor’s note: The following essay is adapted from an address delivered August 6 at the Archdiocese of Toronto’s “Faith in the Public Square” symposium. In the beginning, Genesis tells us, “the earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep” (Gen 1:2). Creation begins in chaos. On each day of [...]

You Can’t Have a Culture of Life if You Have No Culture at All

It should be obvious to anyone who thinks about it for a moment that it is always far easier to destroy than to create.  One bomb or wrecking ball can shatter in an instant the cathedral that it took human hands and minds fifty years to build. What is true of buildings is true of [...]

When Grace was a Staple of Popular Entertainment

I haven't watched more than two episodes of any contemporary television series in twenty years, but I do watch baseball and football and so I get a fair barrage of commercials advertising what is supposed to be funny or “edgy” or seriously dramatic and so forth. My wife likes to watch home decorating shows and [...]

How to Accentuate the Positive

In recent decades the Church has tried more than ever to accentuate the positive. As a result, she talks less about rules and prohibitions than in the past. Those things are important, the thought seems to be, but they exist for a purpose, and the positive teachings tell us what the purpose is. After all, [...]

Why Do We Read Good Books?

Not long ago, one of my older essays was published in these pages to counterbalance, and to caution against, the unqualified praise of Flannery O’Connor’s fictional stories. As I expected, a great many O’Connor enthusiasts took exception to my critique. But amidst the ensuing disparagement, the common confusions, and the rebuttals of arguments never made, [...]

The Beatles and the Dawning of a New Age

On its 50th anniversary, A Hard Days Night has been released in a newly restored digital version to universal critical acclaim. A precious cinematic artifact of social history, even a catalyst of cultural change, the first Beatles movie is now looked upon as more than just a piece of filmmaking, with its four heroes praised [...]

Breaking Mad

Many Americans are just getting out of rehab for their addiction to AMC’s taut modern-western crime-drama, Breaking Bad. The expression “breaking bad” is street slang meaning to break loose from the established traces and give in to wildness and wickedness. The series told the tragic, traumatic tale of Walter White, an unassuming high-school chemistry teacher [...]

How to Evangelize Without Saying a Word

St. Francis of Assisi is said to have once instructed his followers to “preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words.” Underlying this statement is the idea that the Christian message is made more credible and powerful when integrated within the flow of our everyday actions. It is one thing to say [...]

Know Your Enemy

A few weeks ago, as readers of Crisis are well aware, Cardinal Ludwig Mueller delivered to the American nuns who head the Leadership Conference of Women Religious the most glorious day they've enjoyed in twenty years. He noticed them. He called them out for heresy, for praising groups who had “moved beyond Jesus,” for honoring [...]

Where Is the Virtue?

A sentinel watches upon the battlements. The air is raw and cold, and it seems to have penetrated to his knees and ankles and the shoulder upon which he rests his rifle. But he paces his rounds, hour after long hour. He peers into the little glooming light showing in the east. He turns again [...]

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