At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

No sooner had the word of the Sandy Hook Elementary School slaughter in Newtown,Connecticut broke than the search for “root causes” was well under way.  Not unexpectedly, topping the list was the “root cause” par excellence, the alleged lack of “gun control.”

Unsurprisingly, none of the following “root causes” made the cut.

For nearly forty years, abortion has been the law of our land.  Forget for the moment whether the aborted is a “person,” “child,” or “fetus,” or whether or not it has a “right to life.”  What no one can deny is that it is its mother’s posterity, her begotten.  It is her child.

But in allowing mothers, of all people, to destroy their own children, can anyone doubt that we make minced meat of the idea that children, being the most vulnerable among us, are to be protected at all costs? 

Maybe it is exactly because the abortion culture had taken its toll upon mass murderer Adam Lanza’s psyche that he had no regard for innocent children.

Capital punishment, or, more precisely, the infrequency with which it is implemented, may also explain Lanza’s murderous actions. 

Far from undermining the sanctity of human life, there is no other institution that affirms it more resoundingly than that of the death penalty.  Inasmuch as the latter expunges from the midst of the living those who would commit such unthinkable crimes as that of which Adam Lanza is guilty, capital punishment is the clearest expression of a people’s regard for the life and well being of its members. 

However, the death penalty is rarely exercised with any measure of regularity where it remains on the books, and in places like Connecticut particularly, it is scarcely exercised at all.  Since 1976, only one person had been executed in the state, and earlier this year,Connecticut repealed the ultimate punishment.

The sanctity of human life is thus eroded further.  Lanza may have gotten the memo.

Manza’s race and gender could have played a huge role in accounting for his rampage.  Consider that Manza was a young white man, that is, a member of just that group, and only that group, that is derided and mistreated as a matter of policy. 

From “affirmative action” to massive Third World immigration, from media depictions of white men as either ignoramuses or crazed “racists” to the incessant barrage of giddy proclamations of an ever diminishing white America, the assault on white men is comprehensive.   

Is it impossible to believe that a young white man like Manza, who has been exposed to this systematic abuse his entire life, may not have been consumed with both self-hatred and rage?  For that matter, may not this cultural animus toward whites have figured in Manza’s choice to leave a trail (judging from news photos) of mostly white bodies?

Then there is the matter of Manza’s ethnicity.  “Manza” is an Italian surname, and Italians and Italian-Americans are routinely portrayed as Mafioso and other violent thugs in the popular media. 

Maybe Manza incorporated this image into his own self-understanding.  Maybe this is why he chose to go on a shooting spree.

Almost as unrelenting as their campaign against white men is that which the Politically Correct storm troopers have prosecuted against religion.

Traditional Christian theism has been mocked and ridiculed while atheism has been promoted as “cool” and “hip.”  But, as hardened atheists from Friedrich Nietzsche to Jean Paul Sartre have noted, if there is no God then there is no objective morality: man is free—condemned to be free, Sartre insisted—to create his own values.  In fact, he has no option but to create his values, for there are no values otherwise.

Is it inconceivable to think that this message just may have crept into Lanza’s consciousness over the span of his life?

Now for the punch line: I don’t for a moment believe that any of the foregoing “root causes” are in the least relevant to Adam Lanza’s decision to gun down 20 little kids and six adults.  Yet they have at least as much as to do with it as does the lack of “gun control” on which scores of leftists rushed to hang this abomination.

Lanza was an evil man responsible for perpetrating an evil deed.  As long as there are evil people in the world, evil will be with us.

Maybe it is to the “root causes” of why our generation fails to come to terms with this timeless fact that we need to turn our attention.






As of the time of this writing, just hours after the shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, 27 people are dead.

Courtesy of mass murderer Adam Lanza, twenty children between the ages of five and ten are forever gone from this world. 

For the victims and their loved ones, we are helpless to do anything but pray.  But while our hearts break, we should see to it to prevent our heads from doing the same.

Thus far, we are not off to a good start.  Well, at least some of us aren’t.

As is typically the case, the ever perceptive writer Ilana Mercer is an exception to this rule. The legions of commentators who haven’t wasted a moment to grace the country’s airwaves with their sage analyses of the Newtown rampage Ilana refers to as a bunch of “self-serving tele-experts, twits of psychology and psychiatry” whose obsession with “diagnosing” the purveyors of evil in our midst results, and can only result, in the denial of evil itself.

Ilana’s verdict is blunt and decisive: “Adam Lanza,” she declares, is “evil, not ill.”

And she is right.

Clarity precludes confusion, but talk of Lanza that simultaneously oscillates between references to his “mental health” and references to the “evil” of his deeds—and this includes virtually all such talk to date—is nothing if not confused, both morally and intellectually.

The language of “evil,” like that of “good,” is the language of morality.  The language of “mental health” and “sickness,” on the other hand, is the idiom of science (whether pseudo-science or not is beside the point).  It is just as incoherent to conscript a scientific idiom in the service of rendering moral judgments as it would be meaningless to describe the law of gravity as unethical.

If Lanza is—or was—“sick,” then he is as much deserving of our compassion as is a child born with leukemia. 

So, point one: lest we know this elementary difference between evil and illness, we will render ourselves incapable of making pronouncements concerning either.

Moral thought runs into another snag, though, when we insist upon describing episodes like today’s shooting as a “tragedy.”  The language of tragedy, unlike that of “sickness,” does indeed belong to moral discourse.  But it does not belong to a description of the events of the sort that unfolded inNewtown.

A tsunami that decimates a human population is a tragedy.  However, Adam Lanza is not the author of a tragedy. He is an abominable punk—a “waste of sperm,” my late father would have said—who is responsible for an outrage. 

Edmund Burke had famously said that the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.  The good men (and women) of our generation who wish to confront evil can start by responding to it by recognizing it for the outrage that it is.




What must conservatives do to win the future?  This is the question with which many on the right have been grappling since Barack Obama won his reelection.

First and foremost, they must recognize that they are not conservatives.  Rather, they are neoconservatives. 

The differences between conservatism and neoconservatism are fundamental.

Conservatives believe that, in reality, human rationality has none of the competence that utopian ideologues of one sort or another insist upon ascribing to it. As Burke said: “We are afraid to put men to live and trade each on his own private stock of reason,” for “this stock in each man is small [.]”  Rather than fall back upon their own meager intellectual resources, individuals should turn toward tradition, the distilled wisdom of a thousand generations.  They “would do better,” Burke said, “to avail themselves of the general bank and capital of nations and of ages [.]”

Because of the intractable limitations on individual reason and the all-importance of tradition to the cultivation of intellectual and moral virtue, conservatives hold that liberty requires a wide diffusion of authority and power.  Translation: that government works best that works—and can only work—least.

Those who are truly conservative support a truly limited government.

The ideas of reason, morality, and government endorsed by neoconservatives, however, are diametrically the opposite of those affirmed by conservatives.

In proclaiming along with Jefferson that all human beings are possessed of “self-evident” rights, and in insisting that America is the only country in all of human history to have been grounded in this “proposition” alone, neoconservatives reveal their commitment to the same Enlightenment vision of reason and morality against which Burke and legions of other conservatives have been waging war for centuries.  This is also the same vision that has underwritten all manner of destructive utopian schemes, from communism abroad to the Welfare State here at home.

And it is the same abstract, one-size-fits-all models of reason and morality that informs the neoconservative’s foreign policy of “interventionism.”

Next, Republicans must grasp that neoconservatism is wildly unpopular with most Americans, a point that should’ve been driven home in spades with the massive electoral defeats that the neoconservative party suffered in 2006 and 2008.  That an ever smaller percentage of self-described Republicans have been showing up at the polls in the last two presidential elections confirms that even its own members have been growing disenchanted with it.

Neoconservatism is but a lighter version of leftism.  Hence, Democrats reject it because their own party offers the real deal, and the more conservative and liberty-minded reject it as well because it is a version of leftism.

Third, it is time for those of us who really want to clean house within the party to start naming names. 

For example, Rush Limbaugh is both entertaining and sharp, and there is no doubt that he has done no small measure of good in combating Democrats.  Yet Rush seldom identifies by name those Republicans with whom he disagrees. He prefers instead to refer to them by way of the generic, “the Republican Party establishment,” or maybe “RINO’s.”  And what is true for Rush is triply true in the case of Sean Hannity, who it would seem is more concerned with not burning bridges with the cast of GOP characters who he regularly trots out as guests on his television and radio programs.

But this unwillingness on the part of Rush and Sean to name names is a big problem.  This is why their names must be named. 

Recall, along with such captains of neoconservative talk radio (doesn’t have quite the same feel as “conservative talk radio,” does it?) like Michael Medved, Laura Ingraham, Mike Gallagher, and a whole lot of others, Rush and Sean were particularly close to George W. Bush.  Yet until the election of Barack Obama, Bush II had the distinction of presiding over an expansion of the federal government the likes of which eclipsed even that on display during Lyndon B. Johnson’s “Great Society.”

No president in our history, until Obama, presided over as much spending as did Bush the junior.

Still, Rush, Sean, and their colleagues said scarcely a word (regardless of what they now say they said).  Instead, they used their resources to defend Bush against his critics on the left.

A final point: self-proclaimed “conservatives” need to muster the will to sniff out the carnival barkers in their midst. There is no shortage of such showmen in every medium of the so-called “alternative media”—from Fox News and talk radio to websites and blogs—mercenaries who have hitched their stars to “the conservative movement” for no other reasons than fame, money, and power, the sources of motivation that have driven men from all walks of life from time immemorial. 

That November 6, 2012 was able to occur may be all of the proof we need that there are more such people in the “conservative media” than we care to realize.  






A group that refers to itself as the “Arkansas Society of Freethinkers” is not in the Christmas spirit.  When it caught wind of the fact that Little Rock’s Terry Elementary School had arranged for its students to attend a stage performance of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” at a local church, it began to eye the school up for a lawsuit.

Inasmuch as one of its key characters quotes the Gospel of Luke, “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” you see, has an explicitly religious theme. 

That there is no such “separation” clause in the United States Constitution has long been established.  Yet this episode is telling not because it reveals the atheist’s ignorance of the Constitution.  Rather, it is telling insofar as it reveals his ignorance of his cultural inheritance.

The great Catholic writer, Hilaire Belloc, had famously declared that “the faith is Europe and Europe is the faith.”  We can paraphrase him by saying just as assuredly that Christianity is the West and the West is Christianity.

It is true that the Western mind is indebted to classical, pre-Christian Greek and Roman sources, but even here, it is primarily to Christian men of learning to whom we owe thanks for resurrecting and restoring to European civilization the lost riches of antiquity.

For the last two millennia there has been no aspect of Western existence that hasn’t borne upon it the indelible impress of the Christian religion.

Take science.  That it is the Western world within which the sciences first emerged and where they continue to flourish is no coincidence.  Prior to the rise of Judaism (from which Christianity spun off), and outside of the Christian West to this day, time is conceived cyclically, not linearly.  But it is our linear conception of time that inspires the scientist’s faith in the possibility of achieving progress within his craft.

There are still other distinctively Christian concepts from which science has taken flight. 

That the universe has been created by an all-good God and that this God has entrusted its care to the custody of human beings render it impossible for those who’ve been influenced by these beliefs to deny the reality of the world, as do Hindus and Buddhists, or to assume an attitude of indifference toward it, as did the Stoics.  These Christian beliefs make it impossible to proclaim, with Plato and his disciples, that matter is somehow debased and, thus, unworthy of investigation.  They make it impossible to deny the rationality of the world and, hence, the knowledge to be gotten from it.

The very (scientific) enterprise at which the scientist makes his living would have been unthinkable in the absence of the religious faith that he now ignores, and—far too frequently—disdains.  Furthermore, he continues to erect his monuments upon the back of the Christian faith, for the supposition that nature is knowable and worth studying makes sense only within a larger Christian context.  Once it has been plucked from that framework, however, then it is about as meaningful as a piece of a puzzle without the puzzle to which it belongs.

And what is true of the ideas underlying science are no less true of those of our morality.

The famed Russian novelist Dostoyevsky had said that if there is no God, then all things are possible.  Dostoyevsky was a Christian.  Yet some honest atheists—like the existentialist philosopher, Jean Paul Sartre—have admitted that he was correct. 

“Indeed,” Sartre wrote, it is precisely because “everything is permissible if God does not exist” that existentialist atheists like himself find life “very distressing [.]”  Since there is no God, “all possibility of finding values in a heaven of ideas disappears along with Him [.]”  There are “no values or commands” that “legitimize our conduct,” there is “no excuse behind us, nor justification before us,” for “we are alone….”

If Christianity is to go the way of the dinosaur, so too must natural law, natural rights, human rights, the Good, the True, and the Beautiful, and each and every one of our traditional moral ideals go this route, for without the theological gestalt supplied by Christianity, these ideals are reduced to arbitrary human inventions.

This Christmas season, let the “free thinkers” among us recognize that nothing that we take for granted—including our thought—is free.  The price we pay for the goods we value is civilization, and for this civilization of ours we owe an eternal debt of gratitude to the very religion that too many of our “free thinkers” are intent upon destroying.