The United States is in a period of precipitous decline that threatens the very foundation of the country and its future as a power of any significance. Its moral failings have come from all sides: culturally, economically, religiously, and politically. Because Americans have so willingly given up morality in all aspects of life, it does not seem like the country can stand for much longer. This is not a left-right problem, however, as so many discussions about politics these days portray America’s struggles. The great liberalization of American culture since the 1960’s began what would become the unraveling of American power. Although President Ronald Reagan’s policies during the 1980’s did much to revive the economy and defeat communism, this time period also saw morality leave the economic sphere as well. Finally, within the last decade, America’s religious institutions and political life has moved beyond any notion of the true and good.
Many leftists hail the 1960’s as the time of America’s progression. In a certain sense, they are absolutely correct. For instance, the Civil Rights movement finally came to fruition in 1964: the passage of the Civil Rights Act eliminated de jure segregation and discrimination of African-Americans. Yet this decade also saw the rise of cultural relativism and the abrogation of norms. Radical leftists wanted to abandon the sacred for the secular and began arguing that morality had no place in the public sphere because absolute truth did not exist. Soon our culture, especially on college campuses, began promoting relativism as the only intellectually sound position.
Free market capitalism is the best path to prosperity, as Larry Kudlow likes to say, and he is definitely correct in this assessment. Capitalism as a theory is not inherently immoral. In fact, it is the most moral of all economic systems. It upholds two ideas: first, that people have the right to make contracts between each other free from interference; and second, that property rights are imperative. This means that a person can both own what they produce or buy (property rights) and sell this property to other people without interference (free to make contracts). However, when capitalism is infused with materialism and avarice then complications ensue. Materialism and avarice are what partially led to the recent Great Recession. Large banks could not be satisfied, so they continuously bought up packaged mortgages that were ultimately toxic. Mortgages were toxic because banks had loaned money to people that would not be able to afford the monthly payments, encouraged by the government to do so. It was not capitalism that led to the economic downturn, but materialism masquerading as capitalism.
Religiously, America’s churches no longer hold to the Biblical view of the world. Mainstream Protestantism, as it is called, has foregone any notion of Biblical truth. The Episcopalian Church operates as little more than Greenpeace with liturgy, while the Presbyterian Church USA exists as a meeting place for the Democratic Party. Both churches now allow gay priests or ministers in relationships and will wed homosexual couples. Even if one believes that gay marriage is a Constitutional right protected by the 14th Amendment, the Bible and church tradition are quite clear on sexual ethics. Divorce and sex before marriage are not crimes, but should not be condemned or promoted as a good. Similarly, the church must not go too far by embracing gay marriage as these denominations have.
Do not think that more conservative traditions have not also abandoned Biblical truths. Fundamentalists have focused on politics and social standing instead of on the faithful community, and have only sought conversions rather than enacting the church’s central mission of helping the less fortunate. In my own home town, the most fundamentalist church in Knoxville will not let men come into the church without a suit jacket and women without a skirt. This is not religion. It is the very legalism Christ sought to abrogate.
Finally, despite the warnings of Albert Camus, Americans are allowing politics to become a catechism for life. This was never supposed to be the role of politics in our republic, but Americans have made the government the center of their lives and their communities over time. We have allowed Hobbes’ Leviathan to rise, controlling and penetrating every aspect of our existence. Such devotion to politics and to the government is dehumanizing. Instead of debate we have arguments, instead of reason we only have unfettered passions, and instead of making the public separate from the private we have them acting as one. A person’s identity now forms their politics and vice versa. The private sphere of our life should define us, not public debates on policy. Art, music, film, adventure, books, friends. These are what give life meaning and give us a glimpse in the transcendent. Not politics.
The corruption of America has happened on all fronts. Relativism, materialism, legalism, and other entrenched ideologies break down the social order and national community in some way. Relativism, besides being tautological, is ultimately nihilistic: nothing has any deep meaning. Materialism and avarice make life all about stuff, when true meaning comes from the immaterial. Legalism without love and love without truth makes religion hollow, stale, and trite. And politics should never control every aspect of our lives, because politics is not what makes us human.
Today, our citizenry needs to confront these problems and battle the corruption if we wish for the foundation of our republic to endure and not fall into decadence.