I keep hearing what Jefferson called in 1820 “an alarm bell in the night.” The bell he heard was over the growing potential for civil war because of the unresolved slavery issue. The bell I hear is for destructive civil strife and the potential for a complete breakdown in our body politic. As I imaged the matter several months ago: America is encamped on the slopes of a giant volcano. We feel and hear the rumbles; in reality, the mountain may blow up.
Hence, what I am hearing is far more than an alarm bell. Our civilization is on the verge of an enormous eruption. How long can a people endure in history when they betray themselves and their own founding? How long can western civilization endure when it disowns the two spiritual forces which engendered our civilization: the Greek discovery of divine reason as the constituent of our common humanity, and the Judaeo-Christian response to the living God? The Enlightenment perverted reason from divine-human mutual participation into a natural possession, a world-immanent power for “changing the world;” and the same self-styled “enlightened intellectuals” threw out the God of Christianity. We are reaping the consequences. Nietzsche’s terrifying vision of a civilization which has murdered God hurling into an empty abyss is coming to pass in our midst.
I may have to dedicate more of my time and energy to diagnosing and writing on the political upheavals in the midst of which we are living. Such is the work of political philosophy: to diagnose the spiritual-political problems, and to serve in some small way in their therapy. As my brother Andy has said repeatedly, “Pearl Harbor is my calling.” My calling is and seems to be the different kind of Pearl Harbor in which we are now living. I cannot ignore it.
That I must use whatever skills I have to analyze, diagnose, and perhaps in some very small way help heal these divisions, is evident to me. Although I do not know this to be the case, it is possible that it is now too late to preserve the United States of America. Political communities come into being and perish. They die either from internal forces ripping them apart, or because they are overcome by a greater power from abroad. The greatest danger threatening us is not terrorism, Russia, or China, but ourselves: we are dissolving from within as a sizable part of our body politic has lost its grounding in divine reality and in common sense (reason). In a word, millions of us are out of control. Without internal order, either we must be controlled by force, or we perish. Control by force is, in effect, political slavery, and nothing that we should allow to come to pass. But if we will not control ourselves, what or who else will control us? This is one of the central themes of millennial political philosophy: control from within (rational self-control), or dominance from without (power, force, or drugs). It was a major concern of our Founding Fathers, who left spiritual-rational formation to families, churches, local communities, not to the government (nor to the newly established Federal government).
A brief note in response to a question one of you raised: It is conceivable that a human being may be self-consciously agnostic, and still be grounded in reality; and one can “believe in God,” and be swirling in illusions. Truth lies at the level of experience, not verbal formulations. Those who do good are grounded in the Good, however it is symbolized or expressed; those who do evil do not have that grounding. Jesus’ words are the measure: “A tree is known by its fruits.” The human responsibility is to engage in the search for truth and to seek to do what is right, and not to think that one has arrived at truth, or is doing right without checking one’s own destructive or lower tendencies. Where there is hatred, violence, ill-will, drug abuse, illusions, and so on, they are not from God, and they are forces tearing us apart. Any adult can see and understand that our American political society has become rife with hatred, violence, drug abuse, mindless entertainment, disordering music, intellectual-mental drugs (ideologies), and godlessness.
In short: What shall we do? What must each of us do to serve God (as we understand Him) and country? How is one to live in the midst of a society that is breaking apart, and seems to be intent upon killing itself? What is your responsibility? What is mine? Asking the right questions is ever a good beginning.