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You know when people say that the problems we have now aren't any worse than they used to be; and that it's just that no one talked about them? That really bothers me, because it simply isn't true. Although this line has been told so many times we accept it as fact, society has changed in the past 40 years, and in most respects, not for the better.
I suppose the upside to getting older is that I actually remember how things used to be. (Of course, if I keep getting older long enough, that may not remain the case!) As a child, I lived in a world of married couples, almost all of whom had children. Men were providers and women were homemakers. Gender roles were limiting, but if you stuck to your guns, you could find a way to do what you loved even if it didn't quite "fit" the mold. Most people attended some kind of religious services, but everybody believed in God. Society had a basic and shared understanding of what was right and wrong. But there was also a shared pride in the greatness of American ingenuity and freedom. We all believed that the Judeo-Christian heritage had made our nation possible. We saw ourselves as the land of opportunity, the world's last and best hope, a place where hard work and persistence would pay off. There was, to be sure, discomfort about racial differences, even about some cultural differences. And, too, there was frustration with some of what seemed to be institutional inequity between the sexes. But we believed that we were bigger than the problems we had, both as individuals and as a nation. All we had to do was be true to the values that made us what we were: faith, freedom, virtue, and an unwavering commitment to the dignity of the human person.
Somewhere in the midst of trying to fix what was wrong, a great many of us began to think that the best way to do that was to wipe the slate clean and start over. That is, people decided that in order to build something better, they had to first tear down everything that was already there.
The result was a whole lot of chaos, and even more false advertising. Undermining its own foundations, the prevailing wisdom (if you can call it that), pushed us all towards the goal of creating a society that would be post-modern, post-literate, post-racial, post-gender, post-marital, and especially post-Christian. In the course of the past 40 years or so, we've pretty much reached what we set out to attain. The tragedy is that the destination wasn't all we thought it would be. And, in the process of trying to correct what may have been wrong, we lost even the vaguest notion of how to tell whether or not something is right.
As we set sail on a sea of relativism, we voyaged so far away from all that the ages had placed in our hands, that we were no longer able to find port, or even see land. In the end, perhaps we've discovered that our world is, in fact, flat. And if it is flat, that is because we have made it so. If we were honest enough, we'd admit that drifting beyond the horizons of civilization has been a collective falling off the edge of our own humanity. Ultimately, becoming a society that is post-everything-it-used-to-be is destructive to society itself.
It seems to me that a lot of us are starting to wake up and look in the mirror. Many aren't so happy with what they now see. Post-gender has given us role confusion and the poor exchange of complementarity for interchangeability. Post-marital has given us not only divorce, but children being raised in single parent settings by design. It has also resulted in whole generations of adults who avoid anything that looks like a lifetime commitment. Post-literate has given us a culture lacking in accountability and precision. Post-modern has made learning from history improbable, if not impossible. Post-racial hasn't brought us more unity, but more polarization. Post-Christian has resulted in the decay of virtue, and the unwillingness to undertake anything that might require self-sacrifice in even the smallest degree.
Fortunately, no matter how far we run from what God made us to be, we can't run away from God himself. There is no post-divinity available to us, at least not on this side of eternity. Moreover, in the fullness of that divinity lies hidden all that we have lost, and most of all the humanity to guard it in ourselves and for one another.
Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a wife and mother of eight children, and a disciple of the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales. She is an inspirational author, speaker, musician and serves as an Associate Children's Editor at Pauline Books and Media.