How to Win the Culture War —Transcription
|Table of Contents||Audio Reference|
|1. We Are at War||02:44|
|2. Knowing Our Enemy||21:55|
|3. The Weapon||33:01|
1. We Are at War
To win any war and any kind of war, I think the three most necessary things we must know are:
- that we are at war;
- who our enemy is; and
- what weapons or strategies can defeat him.
We cannot win a war: first, if we are blissfully sewing peace banners on the battlefield; or second, if we are too busy fighting civil wars against our allies; or, third, if we are using the wrong weapons. For instance, we must fight fire with water—not fire.
So this talk is a very basic, elementary three-point checklist to be sure we all know this minimum at least.
I assume you wouldn’t be coming to a talk entitled “How to Win the Culture War” if you thought all was well. If you are surprised to be told that our entire civilization is in crisis, I welcome you back from your nice vacation on the moon.
Many minds do seem moonstruck, puttering happily around the Titanic, blandly arranging the deck chairs—especially the intellectuals, who are supposed to have their eyes more open, not less. But in fact, they are often the bland leading the bland. I have verified over and over again the principle that there is only one thing needed for you to believe any of the 100 most absurd ideas possible for any human being to conceive: You must have a Ph.D.
For instance, take Time magazine—please do. Henry Thoreau said, “Read not the times, read the eternities.” Two Aprils ago, their lead article was devoted to the question, “Why is everything getting better?” Why is life so good in America today? Why does everyone feel so satisfied and optimistic about the quality of life in the future? I read the article very carefully and found that not once did they even question their assumption. They just wondered, “Why?” And you thought Enlightenment optimist and the dogma of progress [were] dead?
It turned out upon reading the article that every single aspect of life they mentioned, every reason why everything was getting better and better, was economic. People have more money. Period. End of discussion. Except the poor, of course, who are poorer. But they don’t count because they don’t write Time. They don’t even read it.
I suspect that Time is merely Playboy with clothes on. For one kind of playboy, the world is one great bit whorehouse. For another, it’s one great big piggy bank. For both kinds of playboy, things are getting better and better. Just ask the 75 percent of Americans who love Bill Clinton, the perfect synthesis of the two.
They love him for the same reasons the Germans loved Hitler at first when they elected him: economic efficiency. Autobahns and Volkswagens. Jobs and housing. Hitler wrought the greatest economic miracle of the century in the 30s. What else matters as long as the emperor gives you bread and circuses? People are pigs, not saints, after all. They love slops more than honor.
I think sexual pigginess and economic pigginess are natural twins, for lust and greed are almost interchangeable. In fact, our society sometimes doesn’t seem to know the difference between sex and money. It treats sex like money and treats money like sex. It treats sex like money because it treats it as a medium of exchange, and it treats money like sex because it expects its money to get pregnant and reproduce all the time. So we need some very elementary sex education.
There is, however, an irrefutable refutation of the “pig philosophy”; the simple, statistical fact that suicide—the most in-your-face index of unhappiness—is directly, not indirectly, proportionate to wealth. The richer you are and the richer your country is, the more likely it is that you will find life so good that you will choose to blow your brains out. (Perhaps that is the culmination of open-mindedness.)
Suicide among pre-adults has increased 5000 percent since the happy days of the 50s. If suicide, especially of the coming generation, is not an index of crisis, I don’t know what is.
Just about everybody except the “deep” thinkers know[s] that we are in deep doo-doo. The students know it but not the teachers—the mind-molders, especially in the media. Everybody in the hospital except the doctors knows that we are dying. Night is falling. Mother Teresa said simply, “When a mother can kill her baby, what is left of civilization to save?” What Chuck Colson has labeled a “new dark age” is looming; a darkness that christened itself The Enlightenment at its birth three centuries ago. And this brave new world has proved to be only a cowardly old dream.
We are able to see this now, at the century of genocides closed—the century that was christened “The Christian Century” at its birth by the founders of a magazine devoutly devoted to false prophecy.
We’ve also had some true prophets who have warned us. Kirkegaard, 150 years ago, in The Present Age. And Spengler almost 100 years ago in The Decline of the West. And G. K. Chesterton, who wrote 75 years ago that, “The next great heresy is going to be simply an attack on morality, and especially on sexual morality. And the madness of tomorrow will come not from Moscow but from Manhattan.” And Aldous Huxley, 65 years ago, in Brave New World. And C. S. Lewis, 55 years ago, in The Abolition of Man. And David Reisman, 45 years ago, in The Lonely Crowd. And Alexander Solzhenitsyn, 20 years ago, in his Harvard commencement address. And John Paul the Great, the greatest man of the worst century in history, who had even more chutzpah that Ronald Reagan (who dared to call them the “evil empire”) by calling us the “culture of death.” That’s our culture—and his, including Italy, which now has the lowest birth rate in the entire world; and Poland, which now wants to share in the rest of the West’s great abortion holocaust.
If the God of Life does not respond to this culture of death with judgment, then God is not God. If God does not honor the blood of the hundreds of millions of innocent victims of this culture of death, then the God of the Bible, the God of Abraham, the God of Israel, the God of the prophets, the God of orphans and widows, the Defender of the defenseless, is a man-made myth, a fairy tale, a comfortable ideal as substantial as a dream.
“But,” you may object, “Is not the God of the Bible also forgiving?” He is. But the unrepentant refuse forgiveness. Forgiveness, being a gift of grace, must be freely given and freely received. How can it be received by a moral relativist who denies that there is anything to forgive? (Except unforgiving-ness. Nothing to judge but judgmentalism. Nothing lacking but self-esteem.) How can a Pharisee or a pop psychologist be saved?
But, you may object, is not the God of the Bible compassionate? He is. But He is not compassionate to Moloch and Baal and Ashtaroth and to the Canaanites who do their work, who cause their children to pass through the fire. Perhaps your god is compassionate to the work of human sacrifice—the god of your demands, the god of your religious preference—but not the God of the Bible. Read the book. Look at the data.
But is not the God of the Bible revealed most fully and finally in the New Testament rather than in the Old? In sweet and gentle Jesus rather than wrathful and warlike Jehovah? The opposition is heretical. It is the old Gnostic–Manichean–Marcionite heresy, as immortal as the demons who inspired it. Our data refuted; our live data, which is divine data and talking data. Thus His name is the “Word” of God. This data refuted the heretical hypothesis in question when He said, “I and the Father are one.”
The opposition between nice Jesus and nasty Jehovah denies the very essence of Christianity—Christ’s identity as the Son of God. For let’s remember our biology as well as our theology. Like father, like son. That Christ is no more the Son of that God than Barney is the son of Hitler.
Will the real Jesus please stand up? He does so gladly. The gospels are pop-up books; open their pages and he leaps out. Let’s dare to look at our data. Let’s see what sweet and gentle Jesus actually said about the sins of the Canaanites, about the culture of death.
Many centuries ago, those Canaanites used to perform their liturgies of human sacrifice, their infanticidal devotions to the devil, in the Valley of Gehenna, or Ge Hinnom, just outside Jerusalem. It was a vast abortuary, like our culture. When the people of God entered the Promised Land, the Prince of Peace commanded them to kill the supernatural cancer of the Canaanites. Even after that was done, the Jews dared not live in that valley or even set foot there. They used it to burn their garbage. So the devil’s promised land became God’s garbage dump. And the fires never went out, day or night. (No matches, remember.)
Now, sweet and gentle Jesus chose this place, Gehenna, as his His image for hell. And he told many of the leaders of His chosen people that they were headed there and that they were leading many others there with them. He said to them, “Truly, truly I say to you: The IRS agents and White House interns go into the Kingdom of God before you.” That’s the modern dynamic equivalence translation. He said, “Whoever causes one of these little ones [that] believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” That is our data. That is the real Jesus. And that is the Jesus who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. I do not think he has started manufacturing Styrofoam millstones.
But, is not God a lover rather than a warrior? No, God is a lover who is a warrior. The question fails to understand what love is, what the Love that God is is. Love is at war with hate and betrayal and selfishness and all Love’s enemies. Love fights; ask any parent.
Yuppie love, like puppy love, may be merely compassion [in] the fashionable world today, but father-love and mother-love is war. God is love indeed, but what kind of love? Back to our data. Does Scripture call Him “God the puppy” or “God the yuppie” or is it “God the Father”? In fact, every page of this Book bristles with spear-points, from Genesis 3 through Revelation 20. The road from paradise lost to paradise regained is soaked in blood. At the very center of the story is a cross, a symbol of conflict if there ever was one. The theme of spiritual warfare is never absent in Scripture and never absent in the life and writings of a single saint. But it is almost never present in the religious education of my students at BC. “BC,” by the way, stands for “Barely Catholic.”
Whenever I speak of this, they are stunned and silent, as if they have suddenly entered another world. They have. They have gone through the wardrobe to meet the lion and the witch. Past the warm fuzzies—the fur coats of psychology disguised as religion—into the cold snows of Narnia, where the white witch is the lord of this world and Aslan is not a tame lion but a warrior. A world where they meet Christ the King, not Christ the kitten. Welcome back from the moon, kids.
Who doesn’t know we’re at war? Who doesn’t know that the barbarians are at the gates? No, inside the gates, writing the scripts of the TV shows and movies and public school textbooks and juridical decisions. Only the ones in the lunar bubble of academia or the lunar bubble of establishment religious education programs, with their unprofitable prophets who cry, “Peace, peace” when there is no peace; the ones who compose those dreary, drippy little liberal lullabies we endure as contemporary hymns.
The drug dealers know we’re at war. The prostitutes know we’re at war. The beggars in Calcutta know we’re at war. The Polish grandmothers know we’re at war. The Cubans know we’re at war. The Native Americans knew we were at war—until we gave them firewater and then gambling casinos to dull their dangerously awake minds.
Where is this culture of death coming from? Here. America is the center of the culture of death. America is the world’s one and only cultural superpower. If I haven’t shocked you yet, I will now. Do you know what pious Muslims call us? The Great Satan. (Impious Muslims call us that, too, but that makes no difference. We are what we are.) And do you know what I call them? I call them right.
But America has the most just and more moral and most wise and most Biblical historical and constitutional foundation in the world. Yes. Just like ancient Israel. And America is one of the most religious countries in the world. Yes, just like ancient Israel. And the Church is big and rich and free in America. Yes, just like ancient Israel.
And if God still loves His church in America, he will soon make it small and poor and persecuted just as He did to ancient Israel—so that He can keep it alive by pruning it. If He loves us, He will cut the dead wood away. And we will bleed. And the blood of the martyrs will be the seed of the Church again and a second spring will come and new buds—but not without blood. It never happens without blood, without sacrifice, without suffering. Christ’s work, if it is really Christ’s work and not a comfortable counterfeit, never happens without the cross. Whatever happens without the cross may be good work, but it is not Christ’s work. For Christ’s work is bloody. Christ’s work is a blood transfusion. That is how salvation happens.
And if we put gloves on our hands to avoid the splinters from His cross, if we practice safe spiritual sex, spiritual contraception, then His kingdom will not come and His work will not be done. And our world will die.
I don’t mean merely that Western civilization will die; that’s a piece of trivia. I mean eternal souls will die—billions of Ramones and Vladimirs and Tiffanys and Bridgets will go to hell. That’s what’s at stake in this war. Not just whether America will become a banana republic or whether we’ll forget Shakespeare or even whether some nuclear terrorist will incinerate half of humanity, but rather whether our children and our children’s children will see God forever. That’s what’s at stake in Hollywood vs. America. That’s why we must wake up and smell the corpses, the rotting souls, the dying children.
Knowing we are at war at all times, but especially in such times as these, is the first prerequisite for winning it.
The second prerequisite is knowing our enemy. Who is our enemy?
For almost half a millennium, Protestants and Catholics have thought of each other as the problem and have addressed the problem by consigning their bodies to graves on battlefield[s] and their souls to hell.
Gradually, the light dawned. Protestants and Catholics are not enemies; they are separated brethren who are fighting together against the same enemy. Who is that enemy?
For almost two millennia, Christians thought it was the Jews and did such Christ-less things to our Fathers in the Faith that we made it almost impossible for the Jews to see their God—the true God—in us.
Today, many Christians think it is the Muslims. But they are often more loyal to their half-Christ than we are to our whole Christ, and live more godly lives following their fallible scriptures and their fallible prophet than we do following our infallible Scriptures and our infallible Prophet. If you compare the stability of the family and the safety of children among Muslims and among Christians in today’s world; or if you compare the rate of abortion, divorce, adultery, and sodomy among Muslims and Christians in today’s world; and if you dare to apply to this data the principles announced by the prophets in our own Scriptures when they say repeatedly that God blesses those who obey His law and punishes those who do not, then I think you will know why Islam is growing faster that Christianity today. [Ed. note: These remarks were delivered in 1998.]
Faithful Muslims serve under the same general God, though through a different and more primitive communications network. And the same, I think, is true of the Mormons and the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Quakers.
So who are our enemies? Many of us think our enemies are the liberals, but for one thing, that term is almost meaninglessly flexible, and for another, it’s a political term not a religious one. Whatever is good or bad about any of the forms of political liberalism, it is neither the cause nor the cure of the spiritual cancer that makes this culture war a spiritual one—a matter of life or death. Eternal life or death, not economic or political life or death. Whether Jack and Jill go up the hill to heaven or down the hill to hell will not be decided by whether government welfare checks increase or decrease.
Our enemies are not even the anti-Christian bigots who want to kill us, whether they are Chinese communist totalitarians who imprison and persecute Christians or Sudanese Muslim terrorists who enslave and murder Christians. They are not our enemies; they are our patients. They are the ones we are trying to save. We are Christ’s nurses. Some of the patients think the nurses are their enemies, but the nurses must know better. Our word for them is, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Our enemies are not even the canker worm within our own culture—the media of the culture of death, the Larry Flynts and Ted Turners and Howard Sterns and Time-Warners and Disneys. They, too, are victims, though they too are our patients—thought they hate the hospital and go running around poisoning other patients. But the poisoners are our patients, too, for whoever poisons was first poisoned himself.
This is true also of gay and lesbian activists and feminist witches and abortionists. If we are the cells in Christ’s Body, we do what he did to these people. We go into their gutters and pick up the spiritually dying and kiss those who spit at us and even shed our blood for them, if necessary. If we do not all physically go into the gutters as Mother Teresa did, we go into the spiritual gutters, for we go where the need is. If we do not physically give our blood, yet we give our life in giving our time. For life is time—“life-time.” Our time is our life’s blood. (Please don’t have children unless you understand that.)
Our enemies are not the heretics within the Church—the cafeteria Christians, the a la carte Christians, the I-did-it-my-way Christians. They are also our patients, though they are quislings. They are the deceived. They are the victims of our enemy—not our enemy.
Our enemies are not the theologians in some so-called Christian theology departments who have sold their souls for 30 pieces of scholarship and prefer the plaudits of their peers to the praise of their God.
Not even the Christophobes who wear spiritual condoms for fear Christ will make their souls and the souls of their students pregnant with His alarmingly active Life. Not even the liars who deny their students elementary truth in labeling—the robber teachers who rob their students of the Living Christ. They, too, are our patients. And we, too, do what they do—though unwillingly—in each of our sins.
Our enemy is not even the few really wicked ministers and pastors and priests and bishops and rabbis, the abusive babysitters who corrupt Christ’s little ones whom they swore to protect and merit Christ’s Millstone-of-the-Month Award. They, too, are victims in need of healing.
Who, then, is our enemy? Surely you must know the two answers. All the saints throughout the Church’s history have given the same two answers. For these answers come from the same two sources, from the Word or God on paper and the Word of God on wood—from every page of the New Testament and from Christ. They are the reasons He went to the cross.
Yet they are not well known. In fact, the first answer is almost never mentioned today outside so-called fundamentalist circles. Not once in my life can I recall ever hearing a sermon on it from a Protestant or a Catholic pulpit.
Our enemies are demons. Fallen angels. Evil spirits.
Our secular culture believes that anyone who believes this is at least an uneducated, narrow-minded bigot and probably mentally deranged. It follows logically, therefore, that Jesus Christ is an uneducated, narrow-minded bigot and mentally deranged.
Most of our religious culture is simply embarrassed at this idea, therefore it is embarrassed at Christ. For He is the One who gave us this answer: “Do not fear those who can kill the body and then [have] no power over you. I will tell you whom to fear: Fear him who has power to destroy both body and soul in hell.” That is Satan, of course, not God, who work is to save souls, not to destroy them. Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, Simon, Satan hath desired to have you that he might sift you as wheat.” And Peter learned the lesson and passed it on to us in his first epistle: “Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil as a roaring lion walketh about seeking whom he may devour. Whom resist, steadfast in the faith.”
Paul, too, knew that we are not contending against flesh and blood but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
Pope Leo XIII saw this truth. He received a vision of the coming 20th century—a vision that history has proved terrifyingly true. He saw Satan at the beginning of time allowed one century to do his worst work in, and Satan chose the 20th. This Pope Leo, with the name and the heart of a lion, was so overcome by the terror of this vision that he fell into a swoon like a Victorian lady. When he revived, he composed a prayer for the whole Church to use throughout this century of spiritual warfare:
St. Michael, archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against t5he wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who roam through the world seeking the ruin of souls.
This prayer was known by every Catholic and prayed after every Mass—until the 60s. Exactly when Leo’s Church was struck with the incomparably swift disaster, which we have not yet named, but which future historians must: The disaster that has taken away half of our priests, three-quarters of our nuns, and nine-tenths of our children’s theological knowledge by turning the Faith of Our Fathers into the doubts of our dissenters in a miraculous reversal of Christ’s first miracle at Cana, turning the wine of the gospel into the water of psychobabble. An anti-miracle by the anti-Christ.
The restoration of the Church, and thus the world, might well begin with the restoration of the Lion’s prayer and the Lion’s vision. Because this is the vision of all the saints, all the apostles, and Our Lord Himself—the vision of a real Satan, a real hell, and a real spiritual warfare.
I said there were two enemies. The second is even more horrible than the first. There is one nightmare even more terrifying than being chased by the devil, even caught by the devil, even tortured by the devil. That is the nightmare of becoming a devil. The horror outside your soul is terrible enough, but not as terrible as the horror inside your soul. The horror inside the soul, of course, is sin. Another word, which, if any dare to speak it today, elicits embarrassment from Christian and condemnation from the secularist, who condemns only condemnation, judges only judgmentalism, and believes the only sin is believing in sin.
All sin is the devil’s work, though he usually uses the flesh and the world as his instruments. Sin means doing the devil’s work, tearing and damaging God’s work. And we do this. That’s the only reason why the devil can do his awful work in our world. God won’t allow him to do it without our free consent.
And that’s the deepest reason why the Church is weak and why the world is dying. Because we are not saints.
And that gives us our third necessary thing to know—the weapon that will win the war and defeat our enemy. All is takes is saints.
Can you imagine what 12 more Mother Teresas or 12 more John Wesleys would do for this poor old world? Can you imagine what would happen if just 12 people in this room did it? Gave Christ 100 percent of their hearts with 100 percent of their hearts 100 percent of the time and held back nothing, absolutely nothing?
No, you can’t imagine it—any more than anyone could have imagined how 12 nice Jewish boys could conquer the Roman Empire.
You can’t imagine it, but you can do it. You can become a saint. Absolutely no one and nothing can stop you. It’s your free choice.
Here is one of the most wonderful and terrifying sentences I have ever read, from William Law’s Serious Call, “If you will look into your own heart in utter honesty, you must admit that there is one and only one reason why you are not even now a saint. You do not wholly want to be.”
That insight is terrifying because it is an indictment, but it is wonderful and hopeful because it is also an offer, an open door. Each of us can become a saint. We really can. We really can. I say it three times, because I think we do not really believe that deep down. For if we did, how could we endure being anything less?
What holds us back? Fear of paying the price. What is the price? The answer is simple. T. S. Eliot gave it when he defined Christianity as “a condition of complete simplicity (costing not less than everything).” The price is everything—100 percent. Martyrdom, if required, and probably a worse martyrdom than the quick noose or stake, the martyrdom of dying daily, dying every minute for the rest of your life. Dying to all your desires and plans—including your plans about how to become a saint.
Or rather, not dying to your desires but dying to the you in your desires. I think this sounds much more mystical than it is. It is simply giving God a blank check. It is simply islam, complete submission. Fiat. Mary’s thing. Look at what it did 2000 years ago when she did it; it brought God down from heaven and thus saved the world.
It was meant to continue. If we do that Mary thing, that islam, and only if we do that, then all our apostolates will work—our preaching and teaching and writing and catechizing and mission-ing and fathering and mothering and studying and nursing and business-ing and pastoring and priesting—everything.
Last year, an American Catholic bishop asked one of the priests of his diocese for recommendations for ways to increase vocations to the priesthood. The priest replied in his report, “The best way to attract men in this diocese to the priesthood, Your Excellency, would be your canonization.”
Why not yours?
But how? We always want to know how. Give me a method, a technology, a means to this end. What does that question mean, “How can I become a saint?” Or “Give me a means to the end of sanctity.” It means, “Give me something that is easier than sanctity, which will cause sanctity. So that if I do this something or attain this something, then this something will be the middle term, the link between me and sanctity.”
No. There is none. No prayers, no meditations, no 12-steps programs, no yogas, no psychological techniques, no techniques at all. There can be no button to push for sanctity, any more than for love. For sanctity is simply love: loving God with all your soul and mind and strength.
How do you love? You just do it. A cause cannot produce an effect greater than itself. And nothing in the world is greater than sanctity, nothing greater than love. Therefore, no cause, no human cause, can produce sanctity. There can never be any technology for sanctity.
Of course, God is its cause. Grace is its cause. The Holy Spirit is its cause. “Oh well, why doesn’t God cause it then? If sanctity isn’t a do-it-yourself thing but an only-God-can-do-it thing, then why doesn’t God make me a saint? If only grace can do it, why doesn’t He give me that grace?”
Because you don’t want it. If you wanted it, He’d give it. He promised that: “All who seek find.” It’s back to “just say yes.” It’s infinitely simpler than we think, and that’s why it’s hard. The hard word in the formula “just say yes” is the word “just.”
We are comfortable with Christ and theology or Christ and psychology or Christ and America or Christ and the Republican Party or Christ and the Democratic Party or Christ and phonics or Christ and dieting. But just plain Christ, all Christ, Christ drunk straight, not mixed, we find far too dangerous for our tastes.
Aslan is not a tame lion. Just say yes to Him? You never know what he’d do with you!
I conclude with a claim to infallibility. I give you two infallible prognoses: One, if you we do not use this weapon, we will not win this war. Two, if we do use this weapon, we will win this war. Or more subtly, insofar as we use this weapon, we will win this war, and insofar as we do not, we will not.
We can win, because we wield here the world’s most unconquerable weapon, the strongest force in the universe. To translate it from the abstract to the concrete, the weapon is Christ’s Blood. Not Christ without blood, not merely a beautiful ideal. And not blood without Christ, not a merely human sacrifice and martyrdom, but Christ’s Blood.
Back when there were more communists in Russia than in American universities, Archbishop Fulton Sheen used to say that the difference between Russia and America was that Russia was the cross without Christ, and America was Christ without the cross.
Neither will win. Neither will work. Neither sacrifice without love nor love without sacrifice. But the Blood of Christ will work. For that blood flows from His Sacred Heart, and the heart of that Heart is agape, divine love. That is why it will work—because love never gives up.
And that is why we will never give up and why we will win. Why we whose food is this Blood are invincible.
The hard-nosed, successful, secular lawyer Gerry Spence writes: “A small boy and a bully meet. When the small boy is knocked down, he gets up and attacks again, over and over, until at last he will win. For nothing in the world is as fearsome as a bloody, battered opponent who will never surrender.” Never.
Winston Churchill delivered the shortest and most memorable commencement speech of all time at his alma mater during World War II: “Never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never give up.” That’s all.
We will win the war, because no matter how many times we fall down, no matter how many times we fail at being saints, no matter how many times we fail at love, we will never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never give up.
For more keys to success, see Kreeft's book:
How to Win the Culture War