THE CULTURAL CONTEXT OF TOLERANCE AND DIVERSITY
THE COUNTER CULTURE OF THE 1960S
“The ceremony of innocence is drowned in the lack of all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity . . . and what rough beast, its hour has come around at last.” (W.B. Keats, The Second Coming, 1919)
Keats’ plight is brilliantly traced by Bork from (1) radical egalitarianism and radical individualism [the equating of outcome with opportunities in light of post modern victimology]. (2) the drastic reduction of limits of self-gratification. (3) Weakening of the mind. (4) The role of the Supreme Court as an agent of postmodern relativism. (5) The trouble with religion is expressed in the first, fourth and fourteenth amendments. (6) The assault of radical feminism on American institutions, especially the family. (7) Freedom to kill the unborn for convenience by abortion on demand (over 4,000 per day and over 35 million since Roe/Wade) and euthanasia. Bork says, “Thirty years ago Clinton’s behaviour would have been absolutely disqualifying. Since the 1992 election, we are running the course known euphemistically as “the character issue”, yet none of this appears to affect Clinton’s popularity.” (See especially Oz Guiness’s work, Character Counts (Baker, 1999)
In this milieu, public decisions are grounded in statistical polling (you can prove almost anything by statistics), depending on what questions are asked and to whom the answer will be politically tolerant. Truth is not determined by polls but in our culture there is no “True Truth” so the only remaining source for mediating between radically disparate alternatives--remains in the hands of the statisticians. The above are cultural indicators deriving from the intellectual and cultural foundations that have developed from the 1960s.
“A nation’s moral life is the foundation of its culture.”
(Robert Bork, Slouching Towards Gomorrah (NY: Regan Books, 1996)
The Post Modern Counter Culture of the 60s is the first period in human history where there were no received norms for adjudicating between alternatives--Nietzsche was right! There was seemingly a moral agenda, but it was without norms. In fact, they deny that there are norms other than culturally conditioned ones, which is ethical relativism. The “Sociology of Knowledge Thesis” dominates our postmodern agenda. This thesis claims that all reality is socially structured; therefore it is culturally, linguistically, and epistemologically conditioned. (See Peter Berger’s The Social Construction of Reality and my essay “The Social Construction of Reality.”) We live in a cultural maze that accepts the eleventh commandment, “Don’t Get Caught” (from the book by Jeffrey Archer (Harper/Collins, 1999).
Some vital controlling factors in the development of the Counter Culture are: (1) The developments from Linguistic Analysis to Logical Positivism, also Existentialism and Phenomenology, based in Russell and Whitehead’s Principia, turned into reduction of language to logic to mathematics. (2) Goedel’s Theorem was the death knell to autonomous mathematics. The developments in science and probability calculus since Einstein, Mach, Plank Heisenberg, et.al. refuted scientism/positivism, which claimed that the Scientific Method alone could yield “True Truth” and new knowledge.
From Kant and Nietzsche forward there has been a systematic destruction of moral terms. From Kant’s constructivism morality was removed from the God of Judaeo Christian moral norms. We live in a state of moral schizophrenia. Many post moderns live the courage of their own convictions and moral categories to condemn their opponents. The lecture circuit marketing of post modern rhetoricians espouse multiculturalism, political correctness, gender equality, homophobia, environmental degradation, and affirmative action, all the while ignoring the fact that they have systematically destroyed the basis for judging such behaviour--right or wrong!
“The question is not why modern secularists oppose classical morality; it is on what grounds they defend any morality.” (Philip Yancey, “Nietzsche Was Right” Christianity Online, pp. 1-13; 02.04.98, 10/http://www.Christianity.net/p.1) Post Modernism is unprecedented in human history in rejecting all external moral sources altogether. Only very recently have serious thinkers entertained the notion of un-morality; that there is no such thing as morality. This trend started with Kant’s constructivism; prefigured by Nietzsche, proposed by Dostoevsky and brilliantly analyzed by C.S. Lewis in The Abolition of Man. The attack and near demise of “external moral norms” has come to fruition. “Evolutionary Psychology” is the advanced guard of this phenomenon, the neurophysical revolution, which is the shaping force of the Counter Culture of the 1960s. If man’s brain (mind) is reduced to a low-grade computer, then man is a machine and not a transcendent self. The last two centuries have attempted to reduce man to a machine or an animal (a la Darwin) and then to a low-grade computer. The essence of post modernism is the rejection of “The Self.” Therefore, any rational discussion of morality is reduced to rhetoric. This phenomenon practices a blatant contradiction following the style of Jean Paul Sartre, the high priest of the European counter culture.
Our Rip Van Winkle-like response to the vast and often complex cultural indicators must be unacceptable to Christians. The Fleetwood Mac song that became the anthem of the 1992 presidential campaign for Bill Clinton and Al Gore says a lot about the generation that came of age in the sixties. Bill Clinton ran a campaign theme of “Change.” As with all change, there must be something that changes. Many of the generation have slept through the revolution (e.g. traced by Cal Thomas, The Things That Matter Most (Harper/Zondervan, 1991; and William J. Bennett’s, The Devaluing of America: The Fight for Our Culture and Children (Summit Books/Harper, 1992).
Diversity and Difference in Our Hate Culture
The split over Clinton’s impeachment has its origins in the 1960s. Clinton is a member of Generation X, and so are the political shaping gurus of the Democratic Party. The split between Republicans and Democrats stems from the social order. The fundamental disagreement is over the philosophy of Constitutional Law and morals. Clearly our postmodern culture war derives from lack of agreement upon ethical guidelines. When “Truth” and “ethical judgments” are decided by polls we are sliding into a moral Gomorrah. When poll results take over the last thirty years of cultural debate they show the proportion of people saying they think their fellow citizens generally are as honest and moral as they used to be has fallen significantly. Without access to True Truth or moral norms, what would be the meaning of any honesty or moral claim? Pollster, Dan Yanklovich, writes “the transformation in values from the mid 60s to the late 70s confronts us with one of the sharpest discontinuities in our cultural history. In that period’s radical extension of individualism . . . from the political domain to personal lifestyles,” he notes, “the concepts of social community, respectability and sexual morality were devalued in favour of expression and pleasure seeking. In this milieu Bill Clinton was moving through his twenties at Georgetown University, Oxford and Yale, rejecting military service, and experimenting with marijuana.
The stamp of that period remained on Clinton in at least two areas--the evasiveness that characterized his dealings with the treat of military service, and the permissiveness he allowed in his sexual life. The legal arguments about standards of impeachment and removal of a president, or a partisan battle between Republicans and Democrats, but also an unresolved debate about fundamental values--World Views in conflict! The ultimate chaos is grounded not in tolerated diversity but in fundamentally contradictory evaluation schemes (see my post modern comparison between Narrative Displacement, Paradigmatic Revolution and Legitimization Schema).
Our culture of the 1990s in many ways takes a very low “expectation of politicians and government.” But George Sorenson, Director of The Center for Political Leadership and Participation of the University of Maryland, points out that “participation has been deteriorating since the 60s and it makes it hard for any person to lead, no matter how committed.” Michael Sandel, Director of the Harvard Institute of Policy Studies, says the consequences go farther. “We are witnessing a policy of scandal, sensation, and spectacle that has turned the president into another figure in the celebrity culture. The majesty and dignity of the presidency have been stripped away, but paradoxically that hasn’t destroyed the popularity of this president.”
As citizens, we have become just spectators, even voyeurs. . . We told the pollsters we want the whole issue to be over and yet we can’t bring ourselves to change the channel. . . It reflects a cynicism beyond mistrust. It reflects a view that government really doesn’t matter, except as it provides occasional spectacular entertainment. It is not good news for democracy.”
The issues entail much more that political positioning, otherwise why would Republicans and Democrats come out so differently? There have been a myriad of “trials of the century”, e.g., Charles Darrow and William Jennings Bryan squared off in the Scopes Monkey Trial; O.J. Simpson, flanked by F. Lee Bailey and Johnnie Cochran and Charles Manson convicted in the 1969 murder of actress Sharon Tate. Yes, we have heard before that this is (has been) the trial of the century. But in each case the conflict was over truth, moral norms and responsibility and justice. In this last prime court case the issues of truth, moral/legal norms, and justice played no significant part. In each case we can trace the narrative displacements of the issues involved. “It all depends on what you mean by “is.” Of course, most cultural analysis is little more than description, not explanation.
Will we read and/or hear in time the challenge of William Bennett’s The Death of Outrage, and his classic Book of Virtues and The Moral Compass or Guroian, Tending the Heart of Virtue. These must not be dismissed by the media spin masters as expressing “conservative ignorance and superstitious prejudice.” Stories awaken a child’s moral imagination. A mind is a terrible thing to lose. We must not allow the “spin masters” to shape our children’s hearts and minds. Children are born with moral constitution, so declares Guroian. But surely it is widely known that multicultural relativism is the cause of atrophy of Christian moral sensitivity. This educational syndrome actually destroys children’s “natural” passion for moral clarity. Let’s take a trek down the “road less travelled.”
For example, Pinocchio (not the Disney version) is a wooden puppet that was able to become a “real boy” by overcoming his proclivity for lying and self indulgence. Our wooden hearts can know moral regeneration. In the Wizard of Oz, the lion had no courage, the scarecrow had no brain and the tin man had no heart. Do we have to go down the yellow brick road to Oz to see the wizard in order to replace these limitations? The biblical answer is No! Look again at the Velveteen Rabbit, who was a threadbare toy rabbit that longs to be real. The way to become real, he learns, is to be loved. Here is perhaps a story that reflects the Christian truth that God’s love brings us to spiritual life, but the hidden life is not revealed until He comes for us in His glory. Hans Christian Anderson’s tale of The Little Mermaid longs to see the sun, a metaphor for heaven, which she sees only through the grassy waters dimly. If she is loved by a human being she will be allowed to live forever in the kingdom of heaven. Children, choose your characters wisely! “So don’t leave the job to the experts,” whose agenda often includes liberal fads that deny moral absolutes and denigration of Christianity. Dig into classic stories that fire the imagination and move the will. There is a reason that Jesus taught in parables; for, as Bill Bennett notes, “moral stories are much more powerful than moral philosophy.” (Charles Colson in his magazine Perspective, “Jubilee Extra” Feb. 1999, p. 8) Start early and stay late. Man can’t shape the moral fibre of youth too early or too often, for someone else will shape his or her moral structure. Christian parents must be God’s “watchman” and be ready to challenge the multiculturalists with “tough questions.” The insidious trend toward multiculturalism, even at the elementary school level, is too often shaped by Hollywood, especially Disney’s Left Wing agenda. Are all cultures really morally equal? Our postmodern culture has a “moral agenda” but they are the first generation to do so while denying the very possibility of having a moral rudder. The children of the last decade of the 20th century have been shaped by Kohlberg, Spock and Skinner’s “operant conditioning.” Read again for the first time the brilliant guide of Viglin Guroian’s Tending the Heart of Virtue, How Classic Stories Awaken a Child’s Moral Imagination. Surely, this is a problem for God. Our response must be simple enough to be widely understood and powerful enough to change the hearts of our young heritage. Surely Max Lucado’s message at the President’s Prayer Breakfast in February 1999, is a case in point. When he finished his brief message from John 13, “Washing the Disciples’ Feet”, he sat down in a storm as he presented The Towel as a centre of resolution of Washington’s moral maze of political "one-upmanship." What was at stake in Washington, DC February 12, 1999 was truth and integrity, not partisan lying and verbal razzle-dazzle. There was no justice. Today Kenneth Starr’s integrity is all but destroyed by too many protectors of immorality. There is no such thing as private morality with no public consequences!
If “man” is totally genetically and environmentally determined then any discussion of right and wrong behaviour or thought is nonsense. G. K. Chesterton’s words are still vital. “There is no meaning on anything if the universe has not a centre of significance and an authority that is the author of our rights.” The irony of the “politically correct” movement is that it defends women’s rights to abortion, minorities, etc., and often positions itself as an enemy of The Church, when the historical fact makes clear that the Church has contributed the very underpinnings that make such a movement possible. Christianity brought an end to slavery and its crusading also fuelled the labor movement, women’s suffrage, human rights campaigns and civil rights. According to Robert Bellah, “There has not been a major issue in the history of the United States on which religious bodies did not speak out publicly and vociferously.” Social concerns since the 19th century were based on the embryonic forming of Darwinism. (Note that Dewey’s educational revolution is a clear expression of Darwinian “Survival of the Fittest.”) Evolutionary psychology proposes that we learn our morality from “nature,” and if our only rights are those we create for ourselves, why should not the strong exercise their “natural rights” over the weak? Why is it adjudged to be wrong to rape a woman, abuse a child, destroy the environment, and discriminate against homosexuals, while there is no “higher authority” to which to appeal to make their judgments. In our post modern multicultural American society we prefer to settle major issues on utilitarian or pragmatic grounds. If there is no moral norm, i.e., authority somewhere other than the genetically environmentally strong, we will always be vulnerable to dangerous swings of moral consensus and why not? If there is no “reason” then there is ‘no reason.’ Charles Darwin long ago asserted that “a man who has no assured and ever present belief in the existence of a personal God or of a future existence without retribution or reward, can have for his rule of life, as far as I can see, only to follow those impulses and instincts which are the strongest or which seem to him the best ones.” (Value clarification in Goals 2000 education is grounded in Darwin’s biological theory of evolution; Dewey’s Pragmatism and Functionalism revolution and his theory of education derive directly from Darwin.)
The locus of morality from an external to an internal source traces back to the Romantic Movement and its new celebration of the individual. In his essay, “Self Reliance,” Ralph Waldo Emerson proclaimed that everyone should “trust thyself,” and that “divinity resides in every person. No law can be sacred to me but that of my nature.”
Rousseau, a grandfather of Romanticism, had followed the dictates of his consciousness by abandoning five infants born to an illiterate servant mistress. From the Bible forward, the West has always perceived “the good” as an external code, neither yours nor mine. Though one could choose to break the code, it remained an external code and beyond the reach of any individual. With Romanticism the code moved inside so to become radically subjective. The individual self began writing his or her own moral norm. Nearly two centuries after the following of Romanticism, we are witnessing the consequences of the unmooring of the moral code.
Moral schizophrenia expresses itself when moral mooring is destroyed. Bill Moyers asked Joseph Campbell (The Power of Myth author) what results when a society no longer embraces a religion or powerful mythology. “What we’ve got going in our hands . . . read the New York Times” he replied.
Albert Camus (The Fall) wrote, “Can one be a saint if God does not exist? That is the one concrete problem I know of today.” When California adopted a sex education program, the ACLU sent this official memorandum: “The ACLU regrets to inform you of our opposition to SB 2394 concerning sex education in public schools. It is our position that teaching that monogamous, heterosexual intercourse within marriage as a traditional American value is an unconstitutional establishment of religious doctrine in public schools. . . . We believe SB 2394 violates the First Amendment.”
Our trek through our moral maze must conclude with our original concern: the issue is not why post moderns reject classical Judaeo-Christian moral norms, but how can post modernism deny the existence of true truth yet vigorously espouse moral norms, disposing of unwanted children. Why are pro-life advocates subject to abuse and/or prosecution? If there is no external norm, why is it wrong to oppose all politically correct agendas?
Critics of Christianity correctly point out that the Church often provided an unreliable carrier of moral values. The Church indeed made mistakes--launching crusades, censuring scientists, burning witches, trading slaves and supporting tyrannical regimes. When human beings take upon themselves the Luciferian chore of redefining morality untethered to any transcendent source, all hell breaks loose.
Increasingly the schizophrenia of personal morality is being projected into society at large. All that remains in our multicultural moral maze is expressed in Neo Tolerance. If there is neither true truth or transcendental moral norms, then we must tolerate all alternative/contradictory moral decisions or be judged in the court of post modernism to be intolerant, which is one of two remaining sins in our culture: (1) Sins of objectivity and (2) Intolerance (see my “Worshipping in the Temple of Post Modern Tolerance”).
After Kant’s Copernican Revolution comes epistemological and cultural relativism. The end result of this journey finds expression in postmodern multiculturalism, where the gospel of Social Construction of all reality is preached. From Modernism (separation of Facts and Values) and Post Modernism (relativism of even facts), we pass through the valley of Positivism, Historicism, Marxism, Existentialism, Phenomology and Pragmatism.
From the Kantian revolution we culturally move from preoccupation with Epistemology to Hermeneutics, i.e., from concern about True Truth to Relevance to the reader, listener or observer. The Kantian road leads every perimeter of reality into the relativism of social construction. Every language and every culture is its sole source of truth and relevance. The Irrationalism expressed in Existentialism, Phenomenology, Post Modern anti-science movement and Revisionist History finds expression in the philosophy of education of the National Association of Education. The twin sins in our postmodern culture are the claim of objectivity and the claim of true truth! Our cultural chaos has been in the womb for sometime. The biblical worldview was challenged by classical Greek humanism, then the synthetic medieval worldview from the Council of Nicea to Augustine’s trinitarianism, to Medieval Scholasticism expressed in the Thomistic synthesis. The Post-Synthesis Worldview was recovered by the Reformation, from the Renaissance to the Age of Naturalism. Into the milieu enters the preoccupation with epistemology. The confrontation between biblical epistemology (Revelation) and Greek Epistemology: the influence of Plato and Aristotle became the interpretive foundations of all Christian thought. The Medieval and Reformational epistemologies: Augustine, Aquinas and the Reformers. The blade of rationalism and empiricism fell across the Christian community.
The decades of the 30s and 40s provided some of the most brilliant social criticism that we have yet seen. The counter culture of Generation X seen in the 60s was born at a time of radical cultural change. The following provides some indicators of this change.
We are living between Western agony and ecstasy at our turning point toward the 21st century. The past fifty years have existed within the social context of potential war, not between East and West, but an internal conflict within Western culture. The two rivals were “Western Christian civilization”, namely the naturalistic, capitalistic, nominally Christian USA and materialistic, atheistic Marxism. These two opponents could have destroyed the world before the new millennium. For almost fifty years the West operated in a self-inflicted delirium. In this milieu Oswald Spengler (1886-1936) provided a brilliant critical analysis.
Spengler’s prophecy of the collapse of the West was partly fulfilled in the disaster of Hitler’s holocaust. The German death camps were signs of cultural crises. Germany was perhaps the most brilliant culture since the Greeks and the home of The Reformation; yet Hitler’s manifesto, Mein Kamp, also brought our collapse. Yet, our sovereign Lord prevailed. Sorokin was a brilliant Russian cultural analyst, but his criticism did not prevail. Another Russian prophet, Solzenitzin, declared that “man has forgotten God.” By the 1960s heralds of The Death of God fulfilled Nietzsche’s prediction. God was no longer the interpretative center of the universe, the human social structure and our daily lives (see my paper, “Seven Deaths: the Death of God, Death of Man, Death of True Truth, Death of Culture, Death of Language, Death of Science and the Death of History in our post modern culture”).
The major difference between Sorokin and Spengler’s cultural analysis was that both men saw patterns of regularity in history, but, unlike Spengler, he did not see the history of civilization as paralleling the lifecycle of organism. Yet similar developments are not inevitable. The future of any particular society is not predetermined.
The radical shift between modern and postmodern cultural analysis is the denial of metanarrative organizing center, which has precipitated our multicultural postmodern maze. The radical cultural shifts can be called an agony (e.g. the Chinese symbols for the word crisis has one symbol for danger and one for opportunity, thus a crisis is a dangerous opportunity), thus our multicultural crisis is a dangerous opportunity.
Sorokin identified three distinct phases through which cultures pass: (1) IDEATIONAL, (2) IDEALISTIC and (3) SENSATE. Ideational mentalities see spiritual truth and values as virtually the only truths and values worthy of the name of God; the good is what God’s will is as expressed in scriptural revelation. Idealistic mentality represents a compromise between ideational and sensate, although it inclines more to the ideational but does not treat them as meaningless or non-existent. This view often progresses to material values and attraction of the sensory world. The idealistic mentality tends to develop into sensate forms. Sensate mentality is the exact opposite of the ideational mentality. It seeks to impose the impressive and voluptuous; it encourages self-indulgence and the omnipotent self is the result. European civilization entered its sensate maze in the late 15th century, which coincides with the beginning of the modern period (see Sorokin, Social and Cultural Dynamics, 3 vols. 1937, p. 535; and In Crisis of Our Age (Oxford, 1924, new edition 1992). Following Sorokin, Orwell’s 1984 produced a dire vision of the future with his “war is peace, slavery is freedom and ignorance is strength.” At turning points in the disintegration of culture four symptoms usually appear: (1) Irreconcilable dualism between pride and self-glorification and self contempt and self degradation on the other; (2) A loss of classical formalities in society, combined with a chaotic syncretism which attempts to fuse irreconcilable elements from contradictory elements of a pluralism of cultures in the name of tolerance; (3) Emphasis on size and number without reference to quality; (4) A progressive loss of all creativity.
The late 19th century (e.g. context of Restoration Heritage) and early 20th century were periods of tremendous confidence in human ability and in the irrepressible march of progress. World War II brought America into the industrial age in undreamed proportions. But Western civilization has been in a degenerating mode since Kant’s First Critique and Nietzsche called for Western man to throw off the “slave morality” in order to make way for the coming “ubermensch” (Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra).
The philosopher/historian, Eric Voegelen, describes postmodern culture as being gnostic. Gnosticism is a multi-faced gargoyle. Post Modern Gnosticism seeks knowledge of the transformation of the world. By the end of the 19th century, four fundamental beliefs dominated the intellectual, cultural structure: (1) The ultimate reality of nature; (2) The complete animality of man; (3) The inevitability of progress; (4) The perfectibility of Man. Though modified, these assumptions shape postmodern thought. Our post modern culture is a “market of possibilities” where “anything goes” in our cultural cafeteria, which has penetrated every segment of our post modern culture--media, education, the Church, art, literature, revisionist history, anti science, rejection of “objectivity” and “true truth.”
The popular fashion of praising pluralism, multiculturalism and diversity reveals that culture is in a renewed disintegrating mode. The spiritual adultery in our culture is being expressed as “progressive theology,” which is only classical humanistic “regressive theology.” Neither the terms adultery nor apostasy are politically correct terms. It is not culturally acceptable to preach “Woe to you, postmodern culture!” “Woe to you, Apostate Christendom!” We are experiencing the resurgence of Molech worship.
In the post World War II period, Richard M. Weaver brilliantly locates our malaise. He declares that there is “ground for declaring that modern man has become a moral idiot.” (Ideas Have Consequences (University of Chicago Press, 1948, p. 1) He went on to show that the dissolution of the West is “the product not of biological or other necessity but of unintelligent choice. . .” “For four centuries every man has been not only his own priest but his own professor of ethics and the consequences is an anarchy which threatens even that minimum consensus.”
The great work of the first social critics being the Prophets and then Jesus, fell on deaf ears. And this cultural deafness continues in the work of Gibbon, Spengler, Sorokin, Toynbee, Solzenitsyn, Voegelin and Bork. These unheeded prophets of cultural crisis have been vindicated in our postmodern culture, which has espoused the denial of True Truth, absolutes and objectivity. All that remains from resolution between alternative/contradictory belief systems is via the calculus of probability.
Lincoln Christian Seminary
Lincoln, IL 62656