Saturday, September 09, 2006

Hope is there, just buried deep.

James Dobson sets himself up for disappointment.
As do we all.
It's called hope.
In a recent broadcast of Focus on the Family, he interrupted regularly scheduled programming to bring some pressing social concerns to the listening audience, first and foremost, a South Dakota ballot initiative to essentially overturn the recent from-out-of-the-blue state ban on abortion. The supporters of the initiative are all very democratic and American, I'm sure. After all, they just want the people to decide. Regardless of the motivation, the abortion ban, if polls are to be believed, may well share the fate of the very lives it seeks to protect. Seems the people think the governor and state legislaiture may have overstepped their bounds.
Dr. Dobson stressed the importance of this upcoming vote, urging us to fight on, because we're winning.
He gave the results of a recent study that shows abortion opponents winning the ideological battle over abortion. Some seventy percent of the American public, if polls are to be believed, think abortion is morally wrong.
We're winning this battle, he exulted, crediting advanced ultrasound technology for the ground gained.
Immediately, hope rang hollow.
The benefits of such technology notwithstanding, the victory, so called, is moral, which is another way of saying it is useless.
The reason being, there is no depth to this change of heart.
Americans are exceedingly opiniated on many, many issues, but opinions dwell on the surface, a safe distance above the deep, powerful undertow of conviction and they can be turned by no more than a gentle breeze.
If Americans are stirred to righteous indignation against abortion only by ever-advancing ultrasound technology, if it takes the clearing footage of a kicking, squirming, living fetus nestled inside the womb to sway their minds, then they can be swayed just as easily by the first agenda-driven movie director who takes it in his or her head to do a two-hour documentary featuring a rape victim in South Dakota who hadn't the funds to drive to Fargo to get an abortion.
We live by a moral code that we believe to be cohesive and structurally sound and are affronted when someone points out the contradictions and the weaknesses.
We are an amalgam of every possible belief system that exists. We have traded hateful prejudice for the guilty pleasure of complete acceptance of literally everything. There is a nice benefit to this new acceptance and tolerance. In exchange for accepting the moral shortcomings of others, we can play the intolerance card whenever someone questions our moral faults. With a tradeoff like this, tolerance feels pretty good.
You can be right, as long as the truths you hold are not in opposition to another's truth. This truth held in exclusion of all contradicting ideas becomes arrogance, and loses its place in line. It must then go to the bottom and work its way back up through the levels of truth, recognizing its obligation to be relative and not absolute, apologizing for its presumption all the while.
Truth, in and of itself, holds no direct appeal, unless it is cloaked in something exciting.
There is no demand for truth, unless it is gutsy, gritty, shocking, sizzling, rebellious, revolutionary, charming, disarming . . .
For truth to sell, it better have market appeal.
Unadorned, it will go unnoticed by the modern connoisseur of truths.
C.S. Lewis pried into the post-modern mindset in 1942 with the Screwtape Letters.
His fictional senior demon writes to his hapless nephew, "It sounds as if you supposed that argument was the way to keep him out of the Enemy's clutches. That might have been so if he had lived a few centuries ealier. At that time the humans still knew pretty well when a thing was proved and when it was not; and if it was proved they really believed it. They still connected thinking with doing and were prepared to alter their way of life as the result of a chain of reasoning. But what with the weekly press and other such weapons we have largely altered that. Your man has been accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to have a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside his head. He doesn't think of doctrines as primarily 'true' or 'false', but as 'academic' or 'practical', 'outworn' or 'contemporary', 'conventional' or 'ruthless'. Jargon, not argument, is your best ally in keeping him from the Church. Don't waste time trying to make him think that materialism is true! Make him think it is strong, or stark, or courageous-that it is the philosophy of the future. That's the sort of thing he cares about."
'Nuff said.
The only comfort I find here, and it is a comfort, is that the truth, unadorned and unaffected, will shine all the brighter in this moral fog.