America has lost its moral center, what sociologist of religion Peter L. Berger once called its “sacred canopy.” This is the culture’s understanding of public morality, once defined in the United States by a Judeo-Christian consensus. It’s what gives the culture purpose, direction, meaning, and hope.
As Judeo-Christian values are jettisoned one after another, nothing other than a rejection of absolutes is being put in their place, or in other words, nothing substantive or objective at all. No moorings. No port in the storm. No guiding light and certainly no metanarrative that defines the culture.
This has been happening since at least the rise of the counterculture revolution in the 1960s. “Make love, not war.” “Sex, drugs, and rock and roll.” “Don’t trust anyone over 30.” While some of the changes since the 1960s have been good, like the rise and effective adoption of the Civil Rights Movement, other aspects of the cultural march to “Everyone doing what’s right in their own eyes” has been anything but good.
Add to the counterculture the rise of Postmodernity with its penchant for “freedom from” rather than “freedom to” across the spectrum of the academy and culture, wholly embraced by America’s opinion elites, and you have a recipe for moral relativism run amok.
Sexual freedom inevitably meant more pregnancies, and for women to be truly “in control of their own bodies,” well, then one must have abortion, which was legalized in Roe vs Wade (1973), to be followed inexorably by the spate of abortion-on-demand bills passing state legislatures in the last couple of years. The drug culture has kept expanding until now we have problems not only with illegal, super-charged narcotics like heroine, methamphetamine or crystal meth, and crack cocaine but problems with prescription drugs like opioids as well. Gay Rights plowed the field for what now is LGBTQ+ and a never-ending redefinition of humanity as long as it rejects “the binary” and thus continues to emphasize invented privacy rights at the expense of social order. Meanwhile, divorce and fatherless homes, sexual abuse and violence take a toll on each generation. To make an understatement, women struggle with sexual harassment and minorities with racism.
With this loss of center our sense of purpose, our ability to agree on right/wrong are gone, as is increasingly our national identity as a people, which we’re watching as centrifugal forces now vie to spin American culture into chaos. There’s no “unum” in E Pluribus Unum.
One of the heartening things in the wake of the tragic police killing of George Floyd May 25, 2020, is the peaceful protests we’ve seen in support of rightful change. One of the disheartening things we’ve seen in the wake of this tipping point is the lawlessness, anarchy, vandalism, violence, larceny, and general demands of a new “woke” culture that self-righteously seeks to silence or shame all who might disagree. Sadly, the latter in its vicious steam-rolling approach has almost overwhelmed the former.
This disintegration of order and democratic process has been painful to watch. And there’s not much hope of a brighter tomorrow because the many voices do not agree on even the most basic values. We have no sense of a unity to which we can aspire. It’s all now about power, a zero-sum calculus to gore the other side’s ox.
This is not an easy piece to write. It feels hopeless, and yet I am not hopeless because I believe in our Sovereign God. I believe in the timeless verities upon which this country was founded, and I believe for all our fits and faults we still offer much that our children and the world need. But our beacon at the moment is severely obscured.
God grant that we rediscover the importance of centering moral values before centrifugal forces pull us apart.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2020
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