to Win the Culture War: A Christian Battle Plan for a Society in
by Peter Kreeft, InterVarsity Press, $11.00, 120 pages, paperback
won't ruin your experience of reading this terrific new book by
Peter Kreeft if I give away his answer of how we will win the culture
war. It won't ruin it, because the answer is hard. We will win the
war through saints who live the faith.
that's where the hard point comes in. We're supposed to be
the saints, or the saints-in-the-making, or those striving after
sanctity. But are we? Are we willing to pay the price, to accept
that "condition of complete simplicity/Costing not less than/Everything,"
as T. S. Eliot put it?
cites a "wonderful and terrifying" passage from William
Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life. "If you will
look into your own heart in utter honesty, you must admit that there
is one and only one reason why you are not, even now, as saintly
as the primitive Christians: you do not wholly want to be."
we stand convicted — of a personal failing; and failing also to
be the leaven in Western Culture that Catholics must be.
says his new book is "loud and crude, and I'm not sorry. For
it is written on a battlefield, in the heat of battle. It is written
for soldiers or potential soldiers, enlistees. It is therefore not
a carefully researched, beautifully nuanced, politely academic argument.
It is not a sweet violin; it is an ugly blaring trumpet. On a battlefield,
a trumpet works better than a violin." Salutary sentiments
all — for they underline other reasons why Christians are weak in
the world. Common human failings undo us: prissiness, a failure
to make common cause with the imperfect, and a lamentable human
trope of preferring to be the critic (a form of egocentric individualism)
rather than the partisan or the producer or the actor.
book is brilliantly shot through with wit and insight. Consider
this: "America does not know the difference between sex and
money. It treats sex like money because it treats sex as a medium
of exchange, and it treats money like sex because it expects its
money to get pregnant and reproduce."
is also a clever reporter, tracking down a speech of Satan's that
puts the Devil on the record on all sorts of issues, highlighting
his strategy for conquering the world. Among Satan's choice observations
is one on the "Feminists" who "demand ordination
to the priesthood — guess why? For u2018empowerment.' I kid you not.
That's what they say. I wonder when they'll start demanding martyrdom
the bankruptcy of "liberal" Christianity ever been better
captured than this?
consider this peroration of Satan's, which could likely be repeated
in slightly different form as the personal credo of most of your
neighbors: "the very essence of hell's philosophy [is] absolute
relativism. This was the philosophy behind my original glorious
rebellion against the Enemy, when I refused to let him define
reality or truth or goodness for me."
is the friend of self-actualization, personal empowerment, and self-esteem.
In fact, there are probably seminars on how to be more like him
at your local church.
has found man's weak point: sex. As he says, "They don't deny
objective truth when it comes to sticks and stones…. They don't
defend rape or pillage or slavery or oppression or theft or nuclear
war or embezzlement or racism — or even smoking! But they defend
divorce and fornication and masturbation and contraception and abortion
and sodomy and bestiality and bisexuality and cross-dressing. u2018Anything
goes' is their morality if and only if it has anything to do with
sex." As Kreeft himself points out, sex has become the focal
point of Western culture's dominant alternative religion to authentic
Christianity. That's why Chesterton predicted that the "madness
of tomorrow is not in Moscow but in Manhattan."
book is short — delightfully short, enlightening and entertaining.
And it is a call to action — one that America's Catholic bishops
should read with particular care. Without addressing them directly,
Kreeft nevertheless puts his finger on the fundamental misunderstanding
about God that has led far too many bishops, as God's shepherds
on earth, to so gruesomely fail their flocks.
is a lover, not a warrior, right? No, God is a lover who is a warrior.
The question fails to understand what love is — what the love that
God is, is. Love is at war with hate and betrayal and selfishness
and all love's enemies. Love fights. Ask any parent. Yuppie love,
like puppy love, may be merely u2018compassion,' but mother love and
father love is war."
need more warriors with bishops' mitres and clerical collars. But
the war is not for them alone. It is time to arm ourselves for the
battle — for this is our war, and Peter Kreeft has done us the tremendous
service of showing us how we can — and how we will — win it.
W. Crocker III [send him
mail] is the author of the newly published Triumph:
The Power and the Glory of the Catholic Church, A 2,000-Year History
(Random House). His
prize-winning novel, The
Old Limey, has just been reissued in paperback.