May 2002By Thomas Ellis
Crowd Culture: An Examination of the American Way of Life. By Bernard Iddings Bell. Preface by Cicero Bruce. ISI Books. 125 pages. $19.95.
Crowd Culture is a collection of essays in which Bell diagnoses the underlying ailments of American society. Decadence in entertainment, the failure of schools to educate, and a Christianity gone fuzzy these are issues on the mind of anyone with a cultural conscience. Ah, but they are nothing new. Bells essays first appeared in 1952. Reading them today, we discover his amazing ability to perceive the symptoms of decline. His essay on schools is brutally prophetic; already in the 1950s he saw the sowing of the seeds of the rotten fruit of modern education. Bell saw, too, that the poisonous sugarcoating of doctrine and ethics had already begun in the Christian churches and warned of the high price we would pay for the new confection.
Amidst this decline, however, Bell calls for an uprising of rebels who would buck the current trend and bring us back to our senses. He also calls for the return of truly liberal education the only education capable of liberating man from the shackles of crowd culture.
The Right to Life: The Eastern Orthodox Christian Perspective on Abortion. By Dumitri Macaila. Regina Orthodox Press. 193 pages. $19.95.
Whether one approaches abortion from a religious, medical, or philosophical angle, this book is a thoroughly documented wealth of information on the subject. Macaila begins with pre-Christian times and cultures, where in some cases the fetus was deemed more valuable than the pregnant mother, and in other cases it was considered mandatory to terminate the life of a handicapped newborn. He briefly lays out the historical and current positions of Protestantism, Orthodoxy, and Catholicism. Macaila also presents non-Christian perspectives, including the enigmatic Buddhist position, which views abortion as necessary, but which also demands that mourning and prayers be offered to and for the aborted child. There is, in addition, an analysis of Roe v. Wade as well as a scathing, documented exposé of Planned Parenthood and its foundress Margaret Sanger.
Much to its credit, this book does not sidestep the so-called hard cases of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest, nor is it silent on the population dilemma. Macaila meets these issues head-on and provides honest answers.
Building a Healthy Culture: Strategies for an American Renaissance. Edited by Don Eberly. Eerdmans. 543 pages. $35.
This compilation of 34 essays by an impressive list of contributors is must reading for anyone interested in todays culture wars. The collection comes to us in three parts. First, there are the essays arguing for the necessity of a healthy culture for the success of not only the American Experiment, but for the fulfillment of democracy itself. Democracys freedoms are only sustainable through the responsibilities they carry with them. Culture is the nursery in which this responsibility is either nurtured or starved.
The second set of essays presents models, drawn from history, to aid in a cultural transformation. The historical tools include, but are not limited to, communitarianism, oasis strategies, and subsidiarity. The third section, subdivided into Mass Social Movements and Professions and Elite Fields, presents various renewal strategies. Many of the essays in the first subset deal with various aspects of sexuality. Others include issues such as faith-based charity organizations, television, and fashion. The second subset takes up the media, science, art, academia, and the humanities.
While one might disagree with some of the strategies for a cultural renewal presented in this work, one cannot read them without seeing the need of coherent and courageous strategies to fix what has obviously run amuck.