The preeminent school of self-sacrificial love is the natural family, consisting of children born of the nuptial fidelity of their biological parents. The school of self-governing virtue is a healthy and well-formed moral conscience. A society will conduce to the wellbeing of its inhabitants to the degree that these two schools are recognized as indispensable, respected, and supported. Today both these keys to human dignity and happiness are under assault from ideological forces domestic and foreign. If these assaults succeed – and they each have reason to be confident of success– our society will descend into an anarchy that will be but prelude to a totalitarian attempt to restore order and the dissolution of our civilization. This is the fate of any attempt to build a post-Christian political order. Pre-Christian societies often flourished despite the despair hidden at their core, but a society as exposed to the Christian revelation as ours has been cannot return to that state of cultural childhood. “Those who do not gather with me will scatter” said Jesus. “Without me you can do nothing.” These words are not spoken to strangers. They are spoken to those who had encountered Christ. Those who have not had such an encounter and those cultures that have not had such an encounter might muddle through and “gather” in ways that are both predictable and pitiable. They might be able to do more than nothing without Christ, for Christ and the revelation he came to bring will not have upended the social mechanisms for gathering themselves into a comity and doing the routine work of a civilization. But we and our descendants have forfeited our ability to return to the melancholy routine of a pre-Christian order. We are too Christ haunted. Even those who despise Christianity and those who shrug indifferently are Christ haunted in ways that make their aspiration for a post-Christian order a fool’s errand.
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