by Paul Craig Roberts: Western
Civilization Has Shed Its Values
a time of traditions. If you have found time in the rush before
Christmas to decorate a tree, you are sharing in a relatively new
tradition. Although the Christmas tree has ancient roots, at the
beginning of the 20th century only 1 in 5 American families put
up a tree. It was 1920 before the Christmas tree became the hallmark
of the season. Calvin Coolidge was the first President to light
a national Christmas tree on the White House lawn.
Gifts are another
shared custom. This tradition comes from the wise men or three kings
who brought gifts to baby Jesus. When I was a kid, gifts were more
modest than they are now, but even then people were complaining
about the commercialization of Christmas. We have grown accustomed
to the commercialization. Christmas sales are the backbone of many
businesses. Gift giving causes us to remember others and to take
time from our harried lives to give them thought.
and gifts of Christmas are one of our connections to a Christian
culture that has held Western civilization together for 2,000 years.
In our culture
the individual counts. This permits an individual person to put
his or her foot down, to take a stand on principle, to become a
reformer and to take on injustice.
of the individual is unique to Western civilization. It has made
the individual citizen equal in rights to all other citizens, protected
from tyrannical government by the rule of law and free speech. These
achievements are the products of centuries of struggle, but they
all flow from the teaching that God so values the individual's soul
that he sent his son to die so we might live. By so elevating the
individual, Christianity gave him a voice.
those with power had a voice. But in Western civilization people
with integrity have a voice. So do people with a sense of justice,
of honor, of duty, of fair play. Reformers can reform, investors
can invest, and entrepreneurs can create commercial enterprises,
new products and new occupations.
was a land of opportunity. The United States attracted immigrants
who shared our values and reflected them in their own lives. Our
culture was absorbed by a diverse people who became one.
In recent decades
we have begun losing sight of the historic achievement that empowered
the individual. The religious, legal and political roots of this
great achievement are no longer reverently taught in high schools,
colleges and universities. The voices that reach us through the
millennia and connect us to our culture are being silenced by “political
correctness.” Prayer has been driven from schools and Christian
religious symbols from public life. Diversity is becoming the consuming
value and is dismantling the culture.
There is plenty
of room for cultural diversity in the world, but not within a single
country. A Tower of Babel has no culture. A person cannot be a Christian
one day, a pagan the next and a Muslim the day after. A hodgepodge
of cultural and religious values provides no basis for law — except
the raw power of the pre-Christian past.
Americans have a huge stake in Christianity. Whether or not we are
individually believers in Christ, we are beneficiaries of the moral
doctrine that has curbed power and protected the weak. Power is
the horse ridden by evil. In the 20th century the horse was ridden
hard. One hundred million people were exterminated by National Socialists
in Germany and by Soviet and Chinese communists simply because they
were members of a race or class that had been demonized by intellectuals
and political authority.
is secularized and cut free of civilizing traditions is not limited
by moral and religious scruples. V.I. Lenin made this clear when
he defined the meaning of his dictatorship as “unlimited power,
resting directly on force, not limited by anything.”
emphasis on the worth of the individual makes such power as Lenin
claimed unthinkable. Be we religious or be we not, our celebration
of Christ's birthday celebrates a religion that made us masters
of our souls and of our political life on Earth. Such a religion
as this is worth holding on to even by atheists.
Craig Roberts [send
him mail], a
former Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury and former associate
editor of the Wall Street Journal, has been reporting shocking cases
of prosecutorial abuse for two decades. A new edition of his book,
Tyranny of Good Intentions,
co-authored with Lawrence Stratton, a documented account of how
Americans lost the protection of law, has been released by Random