Monday, December 03, 2012

Words of hope from Michael Medved


I first started paying attention to Michael Medved in seminary. I was dating a woman who had been Medved's wife's best friend (got that?) while growing up, and I naturally started browsing articles under his byline which I would likely have bypassed before.

Soon I was a major fan. Medved is not only ferociously intelligent, but has an almost uncanny eye for what's really going on in American culture. A orthodox Jew, he is an eloquent defender of public Christmas (not "holiday") trees, and a passionate advocate of the notion that Christianity and its influence on our culture is a good thing, not a bad one.

Sandy and I have long since gone our separate ways, but I've remained a Medved fan. He and I, after all, have a great deal in common. We both worked full-time for the McGovern campaign in 1972, and both cast our first presidential votes for that gentle, decent, but disasterously naive South Dakota Democrat. Medved's first Republican vote came sixteen years before mine; his went to Ronald Reagan, and mine to George H.W. Bush in his re-election campaign. But we both meet Irving Kristol's original definition of a word which has been invested with all manner ridiculous and pejorative meaning by Leftists, Paulites, and other heathen: neo-conservatives. We are, as Kristol put it, "liberals who have been mugged by reality."

I expressed in my first couple of posts after the recent election my profound pessimism about the future of America. The nation re-elected a failed president on the basis of a fundamentally dishonest and libelous campaign. Two states legalized same-sex "marriage-" implicitly defining sexual monogamy out of their state's legal expectation for married couples and extending the legal possibility of "marriage" to a group with historic difficulties maintaining stable relationships even where "marriage" is a legal option for them- and at a moment at which the institution of marriage itself is in crisis. Our nation has reacted to the AIDS crisis by raising anal intercourse- a practice which always leads to physical injury and tears in the mucosa enabling HIV, Hepatitis C and other infectious organisms ready access to the bloodstream- to the level of legal equality with the act by which the race is propagated. Births to unwed mothers continue to close in on 50% at the very moment when promiscuity is becoming more and more the norm- and, not surprisingly, women and children are plunged in increasing numbers into poverty. People inanely blame the growth of the "underclass" and the economic gap between the richest Americans and everyone else on corporate greed, but it is a sign of our society's increasing decadence that nobody seems to consider the role played by sexual incontinence and unwed motherhood. And abortion as a method of birth control- still an unpopular practice even in 21st Century America- is simply not discussed; instead, the practice is excluded from the public forum by simply being treated as a sub-set of the allegedy constitutional "woman's right to choose."

On abortion, same-sex "marriage," and a range of other topics, conservatives have let themselves be intimidated into failing to press a fact-based, closely reasoned rebuttal to the Leftist pieties fed us by the media. I frankly do not see the social Right developing either the savvy or the character to argue the case for restricting abortion rights and retaining the traditional definition of marriage on public policy grounds, rather than citing Scripture to what is increasingly becoming a nation of pagans.

It's a sign of how closely our society is circling the drain that we are so unwilling to give up our fun that we refuse to see that the causes of our problems are so often hiding in plain sight,. In Pogo's words, "We have met the enemy- and he is us." We just refuse to recognize him as the enemy, and go searching for scapegoats instead.

Barack Obama's re-election means that however many of the potentially four vacancies on the nine-member U.S. Supreme Court may arise in the next four years will be filled by his appointments, virtually eliminating any possibility for the repeal or revision of Roe v. Wade or Cruzan v. Director, and ensuring that same sex "marriage" will eventually become a "constitutional right." This will happen by the same slight of hand through which the nation's foundational document has been distorted in recent years by justices who, by treating it as a "living document," have effectively rendered the Constitution a dead letter, enshrining their own persons in its place as a literally "living constitution." Our nation continues its march into mindless utilitarianism and post-modernism; "truth" is coming to mean more and more "whatever advances my own interests." The political parties continue to behave like spoiled brats while the nation totters on the edge of a "fiscal cliff" which represents, at the very least, the certainty of a new recession.

Perhaps in some ways the worst news of all is what the demographics of the last election show.  Social conservatives are increasingly white, and we live in a nation which is increasingly otherwise. We have managed to alienate the fastest-growing ethnic group in America, and a natural ally: the Hispanics.  The Republican party is a party of the old and while, facing an electorate that is younger and less white than it has ever been.

As a society, we are an increasingly materialistic, secular, and utilitarian people with less and less use for, or concern about, the transcendent. Church attendance is dropping, and the religious communities which are growing in size have a strong tendency to be either ephemeral fringe-groups or "megachurches" with confuse worship with entertainment  and what the congregation needs to hear from what it wants to hear. We as a culture are hemorrhaging integrity and substance from every pore, and transfusing ourselves with strychnine-laced sugar water.  And when we gather on Sunday morning to replenish our spiritual resources, what we get is more karaoke than kerygma. Biblical and theologian ignorance even among believers is at a level that would have been unimaginable a generation ago, and dialog with unbelievers has been rendered nearly impossible by a level of ignorance about the Christian tradition which results among the increasing number of unbelievers in a notion of the Faith and its adherants so caricatured and bizarre as to be unrecognizable.

It's almost enough to make us hope the Mayans wre right.

But in the darkness, Medved offers a word of hope:

Few of those who are single, irreligious, and economically challenged before age 30 will stay that way as they progress through middle age and beyond.,,,Not even the most incurably optimistic conservative could expect that all youthful leftists would make the liberating journey from darkness to light, from callow adolescence to responsible maturity, and join the enlightened armies of the right. But even a relatively small portion—say, 10 percent—managing to follow that well-worn path would push most elections in a Republican direction in a future nation where the percentage of the young remains steady or slightly shrinks, and the numbers of the old vastly and consequentially expand.

As America's youthful electorate grows older, Medved points out, more of them will have the experience of actually having to help pay for entitlements rather than merely being on the receiving end of student loans and other such programs. And Winston Churchill's admittedly rather pointed bon mot still retains its cogency: "Anyone who isn’t a liberal by age 20 has no heart. Anyone who isn’t a conservative by age 40 has no brain."

We grow, as the Yiddish proverb says, "too soon old and too late smart." But we do tend to grow wiser as we grow older. I fear that the present moment has the feel of a watershed about it. I remain skeptical as to whether the culture war can yet be won, and the culture itself saved from total immersion in the mindless, anarchic libertarianism that fails to recognize that while there are indeed some things which, as Jefferson put it, "neither break my leg nor pick my pocket," there are fewer things we do which have no repercussions for others than we might think, and that social mores do more in the long run to protect our freedom than to limit it.

But Medved provides us with a ray of sunshine in the darkness, and a bit of hope as we carry on the struggle we must continue to wage, not because it is going to win (politically, anyway) but because it is right.

Leave it to this very smart and very decent orthodox Jew to remind us all that where God is concerned, the path to victory always involves the cross, and that Good Friday is a necessary prerequisite for Easter.

HT: Real Clear Politics

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