2024-06-23 1:41 AM

Editor’s Column: Not Christian Not Patriot & Marymount’s Fail

Two stories juxtaposed in last weekend’s Washington Post profoundly illustrate what’s wrong with our American culture that so sorely needs fixing.

On one page, a banner headline above a feature story read, “‘Christian Patriots’ Are Leaving Liberal States for Idaho,” and on the accompanying page, a smaller headline that read, “Marymount Votes to Cut Many Liberal Arts Majors.”

Aside from the fact the word, “liberal,” appears in both headlines, the import of their being appearing together, though undoubtedly not on purpose by the editors, is extremely telling about the nation’s state of affairs.

With regard to the first story, does it need to be emphasized that the people being discussed are neither “Christian” nor “patriots?” 

It is perhaps admirable that in our “live and let live” culture, we generally chose not to criticize anyone’s religion, although at this current stop along our dystopian express, some exceptions are happily now being made for circumstances when religion is equated with bigotry and hate. Folks generally don’t appreciate how recent this development is, though.

People not that long ago thought that it was OK to sympathize with Archie Bunker of the once-popular TV sitcom, “All in the Family.” But since our recent president Trump, in particular, such hatefulness is no longer so quaint, as it was for those apologists who felt the Bunker personality was an acceptable foil against which to pitch more humane options.

Trust me, for those of us who had to live with an Archie Bunker, there was and is no redeeming value to having to watch him spit hatred all over the TV waves, especially when it was accompanied with canned audience laughter. The same went for the main character in the Sopranos series. Why do we feel it is important to cow-tow or to sympathize with such pigs, even in the name of promoting a kinder option?

In fact, as the Murdaugh murder trial in South Carolina illustrates, the essence of cruelty and oppression in our culture goes back, in its essence, to the entitlement older males are provided to oppress their spouses, their children and, by extension, their slaves, employees or just about anyone else under their control.

The father allegedly felt entitled to kill his wife and son, whether that specific claim came out in the trial or not. That’s the way society is ordered.

One of the better expressions of that is the true story by Tobias Wolff, now a teacher at Stanford, in his 1993 memoir and its successful movie adaption of “This Boy’s Life.” In the film, a stepfather, played by Robert DeNiro, asserts his anger and entitlement over his wife (Ellen Barkin) and young teen son (Leo DeCaprio), almost killing him.

He could have died right there in the rural northwest had the mother not stopped the murder and had not a young gay friend played a critical role assisting him academically to get out of there for college.

I contend that, in the Old Testament, the angelic intervention against Abraham to stop the exercise of his felt need to kill his own son, Isaac, was originally intended as a crucial turning point in the affirmation of the most important values for all subsequent Abrahamic cultures (Christianity, Judaism and Islam), even though its critical, seminal role has been effectively buried.

One must not sacrifice one’s own children to advance one’s personal ends. The composer Benjamin Britten wrote this into his “War Requiem,” lamenting how wars owe their origin, and the millions of young mostly men who were slaughtered as a result, to the sin of disobeying God’s edict to Abraham.

It’s this critical nature of our Abrahamic culture which what we call “liberal arts” to greater or lesser degrees of effectiveness, have had the unique ability to address.

So, for Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia, to vote to cut out almost all of its liberal arts majors is another sign that our society is falling under the sway of the most brutal kinds of anti-Christian, anti-patriotic bile that so-called “Christian nationalists” represent.

Majors are being eliminated in English, history, mathematics, philosophy, secondary education, sociology and theology, following the lead of another religiously-affiliated school, St. Mary’s University in Minneapolis, that is doing the same.

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