National Catholic Register


A Realist's View of the Culture War

BY Ellen Wilson Fielding

June 21-27, 1998 Issue | Posted 6/21/98 at 2:00 PM


Peter Kreeft's trademark tough-minded approach to “How to Win the Culture War” appears in the June issue of Crisis magazine.

Kreeft wastes little time countering those who insist that every day in every way things are getting better and better. To those who can't get past materialistic definitions of happiness, he points out “the statistical fact that suicide, the most in-your-face index of unhappiness, is directly proportionate to wealth. The richer you are, the richer your family is, and the richer your country is, the more likely it is that you will find life so good that you will choose to blow your brains out.”

America, as Pope John Paul himself has pointed out, is a major producer and exporter of “the culture of death,” and our just God will not, in his mercy, rescue us from the consequences of our acts: “But is not God forgiving?

He is, but the unrepentant refuse forgiveness. How can forgiveness be received by a moral relativist who denies that there is anything to forgive except a lack of self-esteem, nothing to judge, but ‘judgmentalism?’ How can a Pharisee or a pop psychologist be saved?

But is not God compassionate?

He is not compassionate to Moloch and Baal and Ashtaroth…. Perhaps your God is — the God of your dreams, the God of your ‘religious preference’ — but not the God revealed in the Bible.”

To those who have an image of Jesus as a “nice” God, Kreeft counters that “God is a lover who is a warrior…. Love is at war with hate, betrayal, selfishness, and all love's enemies. Love fights.”

“Ask any parent. Yuppie-love, like puppy-love, may be merely ‘compassion’ … but father-love and mother-love are war.”

God is our father, and his fatherly love toward us will be experienced as painful when he is urging us away from wrongdoing.

“If God still loves his Church in America, he will soon make it small and poor and persecuted, as he did to ancient Israel, so that he can keep it alive. If he loves us, he will prune us, and we will bleed, and the blood of the martyrs will be the seed of the Church again.”

The stakes in the culture war are enormous, because they involve the eternal fate of human souls.

“That's what's at stake in this war: not just whether America will become a banana republic, or whether we'll forget Shakespeare, or even whether some nuclear terrorist will incinerate half of humanity, but whether our children and our children's children will see God forever.”

We may think we know who our enemies in the culture war are, but here Kreeft upsets our expectations of waging war with the heretic and the unbeliever. Our enemies are not Protestants or Jews or Muslims (“who are often more loyal to their half-Christ than we are to our whole Christ”); not liberals (for “spiritual wars are not decided by whether welfare checks increase or decrease”). Our enemies are not even our persecutors, for “our persecutors are our patients…. The patients think the nurses are their enemies, but the nurses know better.”

“All the saints and popes throughout the Church's history” teach us that we have two real enemies. The first is the devil; Our Lord and all his faithful followers have assured us that there is “a real Hell, a real Satan, and real spiritual warfare.”

The second enemy, Kreeft reminds us, is found inside every one of us, and that is sin. “[T]here is one nightmare even more terrible than being chased and caught and tortured by the devil. That is the nightmare of becoming a devil.”

The only way we can successfully combat our culture of death, Kreeft concludes, is by becoming saints.

“A bishop asked one of the priests of his diocese for recommendations on ways to increase vocations. The priest replied: The best way to attract men in this diocese to the priesthood, your excellency, would be your canonization.”

“Why not yours?”

Ellen Wilson Fielding writes from Davidsonville, Maryland.