Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

Core strength.  It’s said to be key to physical fitness. And according to Jason Scott Jones and John Zmirak — authors of The Race to Save Our Century: Five Core Principles to Promote Peace, Freedom and the Culture of Life (Crossroad Publishing, 2014)it’s also the key to the health of nations. Core principles, they contend, are what provides society the discernment for distinguishing between the paths of good and evil.

From the brutal violence in the Middle East to an erosion in agreed-upon unifying values at home, Jones (a filmmaker and human rights activist) and Zmirak (a college teacher and political commentator who writes for Intercollegiate Review) see a fading of guiding principles as the root cause of the threats to peace and liberty that darkened the first half of the 20th century and threaten to do even worse (due to technology) in the 21st. Those threats, according to the authors, include:

  • Racism and nationalism—from American eugenics and the Armenian Genocide to Hitler’s Holocaust and the butcheries of Al Qaeda and ISIS.
  • Militarism and “total war”—from starvation blockades to the Blitzkrieg; from Dresden to drone strikes and contemporary terrorism.
  • Utopian collectivism—from Lenin, Stalin and Mao to Pol Pot, Kim Jong Un and Hugo Chavez.
  • Radical individualism—from Hobbes’s Leviathan to Ayn Rand’s self-worshiping heroes who made way for the Culture of Death.
  •  Utilitarian hedonism—from forced population control to euthanasia of the handicapped.

I recently had the opportunity to ask John Zmirak about the core principles he and Jones are identifying.


JWK: Your subtitle of your book is “Five Core Principles to Promote Peace, Freedom and a culture of life.” Can you briefly tell me what they are?

JOHN ZMIRAK: Sure. The principles we uncovered by studying the horrors of modern history, and pondering how to stop total war, genocide, and totalitarianism arising all over again, were these:
a.    The sanctity of life and the dignity of the human person as an image of God. No exceptions.
b.    The reality of a higher law that stands in judgment of all merely national laws, such as Germany’s law after 1933, or America’s segregation laws, or Roe v. Wade.
c.    The need for small, decentralized government that doesn’t try to replace or control free institutions, such as churches and the family.
d.    The value of a free, humane economy (with a safety net) centered on private property as the bulwark of the family.
e.    The crucial role of solidarity, a decent concern for the rights of every human being on earth, including civilians in enemy countries and workers in foreign sweatshops.

JWK: Have we, as a society, moved away from the very concept of core principles? Have we, in general, become more concerned with which group than what principle is at stake when confronted with controversies?

JZ: Identity politics are a tragic side effect of man’s fallen nature. They amount to group narcissism, masquerading behind noble-sounding slogans. Far too many Americans think first and foremost of how a policy will affect their pocketbooks and their self-esteem, instead of looking to fundamental human rights and the Common Good. We are trying with this book to establish a common ground of political decency, which people from the Left and Right, religious or secular, can agree on—then move forward to argue honestly about the smartest, fairest ways to do our national business.

JWK: Looking at the genocide going on in the Middle East, are we are on a path toward repeating and even exceeding deaths from mass murders and wars of the previous century?

JZ: The moment that terrorist groups get hold of nuclear or biological weapons, all bets are off. The casualties will be astronomical, the retribution will be appalling, and you can kiss your constitutional and civil liberties goodbye. Unless we embrace higher values that will hold us back from overreacting, the next 9/11 we experience will goad Americans to a ruthlessness that will recall the bombings of Dresden and Hiroshima. Remember that last time mainstream magazine editors were pondering whether or not to “Nuke Mecca.”

JWK: What role does popular culture play in fanning both the “utopian collectivism” and “radical individualism” you see as sowing discord at home and around the world? And how can it play a positive role in the future?

JZ: Popular culture encourages the worst elements of both ideologies, while tossing out the grains of truth. So people are encouraged to “follow their bliss” and reject “stale conventions” of good behavior, to maximize their individual freedom. But then when their lives become a bleeding mess, they expect Big Government to provide for them and protect them from the consequences. So you end up with libertarians on welfare, blogging about the evils of the Nanny State. Radical individualism helps demolish the family and churches, which leaves the federal government as the only safety net for isolated, supposedly “independent” citizens.

JWK: Does it really matter whether Democrats or Republicans control government? Is there a difference between them?

JZ: There is not enough of a difference for my taste. Republicans need to renounce crony capitalism, global interventionism, and middle-class welfare programs. They need to see how big business uses big government to agglomerate power, and return to the Founders’ vision of a free people with a free economy, who view the government as the very LAST resort when every possible private initiative fails to solve a problem. We’re a long way from that vision, in either party.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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