Friday, August 20, 2010

The Hole in the Ground and the Mosque

"A civilization is not always in reality richer and stronger in times when it bears the most visible marks of so being. We are rather apt to find that when it is most dazzling and outward seeming, its decadence has already begun...we must remember all the great Roman monuments whose remains survive to our day on a large scale belong to the third and fourth and fifth century of the Christian era- to the centuries of decadence and disillusionment. As the empire weakens, and ages, its monuments become more and more elaborate and colossal."

-Guglielmo Ferrero, Ancient Rome and Modern America 1914

Like the Roman Empire and other civilizations, America raised colossal monuments better know as skyscrapers. As Ferrero said, the greatest material and cultural achievements usually come about when the moral decay of a people has set in. For America, great buildings such as the Empire State building, the Twin Towers and the Sears Tower- each having bragging rights of being the tallest building in the world at one time -were built between 1930's and the 1970's. These "man made mountains" were symbols of economic progress. And yet, at the end of this forty year period, the cultural revolution and its new moral code was well under way.

Today there is exists a big hole in ground in lower Manhattan where the Twin Towers once stood. Nine years have passed since its collapse. The resolve to build bigger and better Twin Towers suffers from paralysis. Indeed, this lack of resolve is but the symptom of a nation infected with moral decay. The zenith of great achievements, it would seem, has been reached and now we are entering the post-American era.

The imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who is spearheading an Islamic center and mosque at ground zero, has shown more fervor for the Muslim cause than New Yorkers have in their resolve to build a memorial for the 3,000 people who have perished on September 11th, 2001. Indicative of the moral decline of a nation is the lack of determination to survive and the absence of resiliency in overcoming setbacks. The hole is still there- no monument, no building. The hole says a great deal about America's morale.

As to Ferrero's quote (above), moral decadence is obviously not the cause of architectural or industrial achievements. Nevertheless, it is the unintended consequence of a nation's prosperity. When a nation enjoys prosperity for any length of time, materialism and complacency are sure to follow. Those venerable ideals, virtues and sacrifice which forged the way towards an advanced civilization not only fade from public consciousness, but they become an object of derision among the upper and ruling classes of society. Public reverence for God, the respect for the marital bond, the high esteem for children and observance of chastity among the young are just a few of the social bulwarks that weaken when a civilization or nation suffers decline. In the absence of these values, patriotism does not fare well and the will to survive as a nation grows weaker. Old Testament Israel, ancient Greece, and the Roman Empire are just a few examples we can look to for this history lesson.

The national debate over whether or not a mosque should be built near ground zero is good for America. This debate will hopefully lead to a re-examination of our priorities. I'm afraid that the moral revolution of the 1960's brought with it misplaced ideals that are foreign to America's founding. Tolerance, diversity, and equality, for instance, have been marketed and pushed to such an extreme that they literally imperil America's longevity as a great nation. To the extent these ideals are understood in a Christian context, will be the extent to which America will lengthen her days.

Part II on the next blog