The End of an Era

June 1987

Just about everyone, from Right to Left, agrees that over the last eight months we've witnessed the rather sudden, and likely irreversible, demise of both the Reagan presidency and the recent conservative era. This historic moment provokes certain reflections.

During the early and mid-1980s, as the Reagan "revolution" seemed to sweep all before it, we at the NOR were persistently urged to abandon our independent stance and throw in with the wave of the future. We didn't. As a result, we lost hundreds, maybe thousands of subscribers, and our ads were "banned" from certain conservative periodicals. Admittedly, at times we felt like pariahs, but then the NOR has always been allergic to ideological stampedes.

The Reaganite celebration of America was immensely attractive to conservative Catholics and "born-again" Protestants, people for whom we obviously have an affinity. In a sense, the Reagan phenomenon was the amazing, if chimerical, resurrection of so-called small-town values: hard work, pride, and piety. Anyone who has seen Hoosiers - a movie that captures the fundamental goodness and decency of heartland America in the 1950s - must have a vivid sense of what we Americans have lost with the march of urbanization, industrialization, and secularization across our land, and why so many God-fearing citizens looked to Reagan as a kind of magician, someone who could, against all odds, bring back that goodness, that decency.

But it was not to be. Nor, it must be admitted (with melancholy, not glee), can it be. At least not in these times. Without a profound and society-wide religious revival, the restoration of Christian values to America will be perceived as "imposing values" on scores of millions of the unwilling, and accordingly will be fought tooth and nail. This is not to counsel defeatism - especially where the lives of preborn babies are being extinguished, and the issue is life, not doctrine - but rather to say that before the cultural harvest can be reaped, more seeds must be planted (or, more accurately, replanted). Understandably, the Christian heart yearns to live in a society of piety and virtue. But Christendom is no more. For some reason, God no longer affords Christians the luxury of living in a Christian commonwealth. Why not? Was it because of the way the Church grew fat and corrupt during the Middle Ages? Because of our anti-Semitism? Because of the way violence and war ran rampant in Christian Europe? Because of the way we quarreled with one another during Reformation times and beyond? Because of the way we excused vast, and often cruel, disparities of wealth and power? Who knows?

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