Last week we explored the moral malaise that is suffocating our nation. This week we’ll examine whether we’ve reached the point of no return. We begin with a 2017 Gallup poll that found 81 percent of Americans believe our state of moral values is fair or poor. Social conservatives tend to believe we’re in moral decline, but this poll found 71 percent of social liberals concur.
The Assyrian, Babylonian, and Roman Empires shared a common fate — they inevitably succumbed to influences that led to their demise. Although the forensics of their downfall are complex and varied, the precursor to their decline can be traced to internal decay, itself the result of a moral collapse.
In his 1998 book, “The Death of Outrage,” former Education Secretary William Bennett wrote, “National prosperity is largely dependent on good private character. If lying, sloth, lack of discipline, and personal irresponsibility become commonplace, the national economy grinds down. The breaking up of families means more foster homes and lower high school graduation rates. Just as there are enormous financial benefits to moral health, there are enormous financial costs to moral collapse.”
Historians have documented the trendlines of decline and have defined several stages. They begin with a rejection of God, then proceed to a fracturing of the traditional family, on to the degradation of human life (abortion), thence to base and immoral entertainment, on to violent crime, a declining middle class, and an insolvent government. Then the government itself thrives off of society’s moral decay, growing ever more powerful and autocratic. The final stage is a failure of the people to understand what’s happening due to an incremental debasement of traditional education and moral discipline.
It’s clear that through our acquiescence to evil we have willfully and obtusely checked every box on this list. But where exactly are we on the continuum and can the trend be reversed? Although I’m generally optimistic, I’m also a realist, and I see little or no evidence of a nationwide moral awakening; in fact, quite the opposite. We can blame politicians, but they merely mirror the moral and cultural contours of the nation, because most of them are drawn to the siren song of power.
We’re in an uncharted spiritual desert, sans the historical moral markers that guided our behavior. We abort over a million innocent souls a year, we embrace immoral behavior while wondering why our youth seem lost, and the rules for civic engagement have been fundamentally rewritten in a code that borders on barbarism.
Yet our nation is economically sound, if spiritually bereft, which when coupled with our preeminent military, means there’s little risk of cataclysmic failure. More likely, we and future generations will become acclimated to a morally compromised nation which includes a culturally coarsened landscape reflected in the dark world of our anarchical social media.
In his book, “The End of Christendom” (1980), Malcolm Muggeridge, a Christian convert, wrote: “Civilizations, like every other human creation, wax and wane …there can never be a lasting civilization any more than there can be a lasting spring or lasting happiness. It’s in the nature of man and of all that he constructs to perish, and it must ever be so. The world is full of the debris of past civilizations. … Man is fated to exist in the no man’s land between the perfection he can conceive and the imperfection that characterizes his own nature and everything he does.”
I understand that this column is at once somber and sobering. But it also realistically characterizes the challenges we must face, if this exceptional nation, under God, has any hope of survival.
Philip Mella s a candidate for County Commissioner. He serves on the 4th Judicial District Nominating Commission and is a retired health care administrator with a passion for history, politics and the written word. He served on the Woodland Park City Council for seven years. Email Philip at email@example.com.