Is Our Culture Dead?

There was a time when people in certain occupations were assumed to be educated, and educated people could be presumed to know certain things. There was, in other words, a common culture. That era wasn’t so long ago; I actually lived through it. But I am afraid it may be gone.

Exhibit A: A reporter for National Public Radio–a prestige media outlet, ostensibly–had no concept of basic Christian theology:

An NPR report on Good Friday described Easter inaccurately and, in doing so, practically begged Christians to renew charges that the media is biased against them.

“Easter — the day celebrating the idea that Jesus did not die and go to hell or purgatory or anywhere like that, but rather arose into heaven — is on Sunday,” read an article on NPR’s website.

The Apostles’ Creed is recited in Christian churches all around the world every Sunday. I don’t think it goes back quite to the time of the apostles, but pretty close. It says, in part:

[I believe] in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell; on the third day He arose again from the dead.

A reporter shouldn’t write about Easter without having the faintest idea of what it is all about, and someone who thinks Jesus “did not die” has no business writing about Christianity. My point, of course, is not that reporters need to be Christians, but rather that the basics of Christianity are fundamental to our culture and should be understood by anyone who holds himself out as educated and undertakes to write on the subject.

Exhibit B: Ancient Greece and Rome are the other major contributors to Western civilization, along with the Judeo-Christian tradition, and the Iliad is essential to our understanding of Greek civilization. There was a time when reporters knew something about ancient history and literature, but those days are gone at the New York Times Book Review–again, perhaps not coincidentally, an allegedly high-quality outlet:

From the corrections column in this morning’s New York Times Book Review:

The Long View column on March 18 misstated the circumstances surrounding the Trojan horse in Greek legend. It was the Trojans who allowed the horse within the gates; it was not the Greeks, whose soldiers were inside the horse.

And if you click through to the original article and look at the version of the correction that appears there, you’ll see that they’re trying to rename it “the Greek horse.” Good luck with that, guys.

Interestingly, the correction has been revised. The current version reads:

An earlier version of this essay referred to the Greeks letting the Trojan horse within the gates. It was the Trojans, not the Greeks, who let the Greek, not the Trojan, horse enter.

So the Times Book Review complains that “Trojan horse” is a misnomer, too confusing for it to handle.

It is worth noting that the corrected column is by Jon Meacham, “a Pulitzer Prize-winning presidential historian, … the author of The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels, to be published in May.” A Pulitzer Prize-winning historian who doesn’t know that the Trojan horse was the means by which the Greeks destroyed the city of Troy. You might wonder about the context in which a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian displayed such extraordinary ignorance. Surprise: it was a denunciation of President Trump.

A tweet-driven tumult was, as usual, roiling Washington. Surly and defiant, President Trump was ensconced in the White House, lashing out like King Lear with a cellphone.

And so on. One wonders: are all liberals ignorant? Or only the ones who write for National Public Radio, the New York Times, etc.?

If the presumed guardians of Western civilization were defending it, I would be more sanguine about its survival. Which brings us to Exhibit C: Pope Francis, an ill-informed leftist who unfortunately was elevated to the Papacy, gave an interview to a far-left news outlet in which he allegedly denied the reality of Hell:

“There is no hell,” Pope Francis was quoted as saying in an interview published this week with La Repubblica founder Eugenio Scalfari — an atheist friend of the pontiff. “There is the disappearance of sinful souls.”

Francis’s reply answered the kind of question asked by many coming up in the faith: “What about bad souls? Where are they punished?”

In the article titled “It is an honor to be called a revolutionary,” the pope is quoted as saying: “They are not punished, those who repent obtain the forgiveness of God and enter the rank of souls who contemplate him, but those who do not repent and cannot therefore be forgiven disappear.”

Hell is philosophically and theologically important, because it is Hell that makes it irrational to be evil. Without Hell, monsters like Josef Stalin, Mao Tse-Tung, Ted Bundy, Fidel Castro, Vladimir Lenin, Charles Manson and Adolf Hitler would have the last laugh. They got away with mass murder and paid no penalty. Eternal oblivion? A painless coda to a lifetime of homicidal bliss.

The Vatican put out a statement claiming that Francis was not quoted accurately, but to me, at least, it seemed half-hearted. Given everything else we know about Francis’s “revolutionary” views, the statements attributed to him by his friend Eugenio Scalfari are all too plausible. Michael Ramirez comments. Click to enlarge:

Our common culture, the foundation of Western civilization, is under attack. Those who should be defending it in most cases are not. But more fatal in the long run is that our inheritance of millennia, Western culture, is being forgotten, lost in a rising tide of ignorance.

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