Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Neo-Barbarianism


I'm noticing a rapidly increasing coarsening of our culture. Maybe it's just my imagination, but I'm sure that in the circles I travel in, the subculture of young people is becoming more and more barbaric, less literate, and ignorant of the most basic tenets of politeness and decorum.

Of course, cell phones have a lot to do with the increase of savage behavior. We recently took Lion Boy to an IMAX movie, and the lady nest to me could not go 30 seconds without texting on her "crackberry." It was annoying, especially given that her phone lit up, and we're all wearing 3D glasses that made use of peripheral vision. I thought about saying something, but decided not to - for in most cases, protesting someone's rudeness these days will either elicit a bombastic streak of cursing or a slack-jawed look of a cow chewing cud - that is, unless they decide to pull out a gun and just shoot everyone.

It's bad enough that people are so rude, but what is worse is that they are genuinely ignorant of their rudeness.

There was a time when men watched their language in front of certain groups of people: children, the religious, the elderly, and especially women. But of course, nowadays women want to be men, so they often outdo the guys in such lowest common denominator vulgarity as spitting, profanity, flatulence, and violence. This has led the guys to make no behavioral distinction between the sexes - which has in turn led to no behavioral distinctions between locker-rooms and cathedrals.

The neo-barbarianism is especially evident at funerals and weddings - where people who never set foot on sacred space suddenly show up in churches, sometimes on drugs or alcohol, sometimes with cell phones and video games, often clad in what they seem to think is appropriate attire for the house of God. And once again, it's bad enough that people act and dress the way they do, but the worst part is that they have no clue that this is inappropriate. It's not even rebellion - it's just ignorance. It is as though the younger generation has been raised by wolves. In fact, it's more like they have been raised by geraniums - at least wolves aren't stupid.

It should be self-evident that if your nipples are barely covered by your top, it's probably not something you should wear in church - even for a wedding. But women routinely expose their midriffs, thighs, and lower backs (especially to show off the "tramp stamp"), as well as the expensive work they had done on their, er, upper pectoral regions. And no man should ever have to be told not to wear a ball cap in the holy sanctuary, or a tee shirt advertizing his favorite hard liquor or strip club.

Some of my students are genuinely dumbfounded, and have never even heard that men are to remove their hats indoors, looking at me dubiously as though I'm trying to play a joke on them by giving them this piece of information.

This lowest common denominator knows no bounds.

While we were visiting St. Joseph's Abbey for a retreat, there happened to be a wedding at the chapel. St. Joseph's is a living monastic community of Benedictine monks. It is common to see fathers and brothers clad in black friar's habits walking around the grounds. It is also a Roman Catholic seminary, so there are a lot of men studying for the priesthood. There are also nuns who work there from time to time as well. The "chapel" is really a large magnificent stone church with soaring towers, bedecked with icons, a huge pipe organ, and choir stalls for the monks who sing the liturgy of the hours from dusk to dawn.

However, on this day, the peaceful and contemplative atmosphere was contrasted by "top-heavy" women dressed like prostitutes wobbling and staggering around in high heels and driving cars bearing rude bumper stickers. Even bumper stickers promoting good causes feel the need to be crude nowadays, as one car parked at the abbey had a sticker promoting breast cancer research that said: "Save the ta-tas." Stay classy, ladies.

Occasionally, I will be in public in clerical attire, and someone will accidentally let a minor profanity slip out. The person will see my collar, become embarrassed, and apologize profusely. I'm finding less and less of this - and it almost never happens among young people. In fact, I find young people make no distinctions between public and private conversation, or in whose presence they are speaking.

We have a local convenience store that I often run to in the evening to buy milk. Leo likes to come along to "help" me and to go on a "guy outing" with daddy. I'm often amazed at what little restraint people have, as well as seemingly no shame.

Tonight is a case in point. Two young men were in the store as I was paying for a gallon of milk. I'm wearing my clerical collar, with my four year old in tow, and paying the female clerk. The two guys were not only peppering their loud conversation with various versions of the grammatically versatile yet hackneyed f-word (while standing right next to Leo), they were also explaining explicit physical details of their sex lives. Great.

What amazed me more than this trifecta of using such language in front of the clergy, a small child, and a woman, was the absolute ease with which these men spoke, the complete lack of shame or embarrassment in the least to be speaking this way. I half expected them to start picking nits off of each other and eating them. "Decline and Fall" came to mind during this tableau. The theory of evolution was disproved in the blink of an eye.

And, of course, churches are under increasing pressure to adapt to the "youth culture" as a way to be seen as "relevant" and to secure a "market share" among the ever-important demographic of young people. And this fits in nicely with the push among many LCMS bureaucrats to jam the "emergent" paradigm down the throats of our congregations and pastors. I heard recently from a reliable eyewitness about a "church" within our fellowship that has a layman "preaching" at the services, and he will sometimes use profanity in his "sermons." Yawn.

And there is also the example of the Christianity 21 conference for "faith in the 21st century" (which, you know, is drastically different than ten years ago when we were still in the ancient 20th century - after all, we use different numbers when we write the years now, so it must be really, really different...) in which a lady ELCA "pastor" (whose portrait is carefully posed to show off her tattooed arms while downplaying her tattooed arms) has included a slang word for the human rectal orifice as part of the title of her presentation. Nice.

I'm sure she thinks this is shocking and edgy. I just find it sad and pathetic. It goes to show you that people don't think believing in the incarnation and resurrection and the sacrificial death of Christ to give us eternal life is radical enough - we have to jazz it up with profanity (ho hum). It also shows the depths to which the discipline of theology has plummeted. The satirical film Idiocracy comes to mind.

[Of course, it should surprise no-one that this conference is oozing in self-importance: "21 of the most important voices for the future of Christianity—21 voices for the 21st century—to speak into our future as people of faith in this age. They represent a diverse array of backgrounds, interests, and passions, and they will provide a wide range of innovative and challenging presentations." Humorously, in their minds, "diversity" means 21 leftist women kvetching against traditionalism. Lordy, I hope beer will be available - that line-up sounds interminable.]

It is especially sad because such profanity is so common as to no longer even elicit a raised eyebrow, but even more so because profanity is, by definition, actually the opposite of sanctity. The sacred and the profane are two mutually exclusive categories (though "profane" in the strictest sense merely means "common" or "ordinary"). If young people are truly looking for authentic holiness, making church dialogue resemble the conversations at a communal urinal trough in a men's room isn't going to win them over in the long run.

And a note for the "edgy" gals: the community urinal trough is nowhere near as exciting as you imagine it to be.

9 comments:

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

I end up seeing this as potential advantage. Yes, your boy Leo is going to grow up seeing a bunch of junk - but he is going to see clearly that there are indeed two paths, the way of the world and the way of Christ. The difference between the two will be obvious.

It isn't that the world has gotten any more wicked, it's that people have lost their sense of shame. Wickedness is more open - and now when we warn of the wickedness of the world, that the world does things differently, we won't be tossed aside as mad prophets. Perhaps, in our life time, we'll finally hear the end of "But this is a Christian Nation".

We've lost many people to the subtle dangers of the world. Thanks be to God that they are becoming less and less subtle!

Pastor Bakker said...

It's the same among the 'erudite' and 'classy' crowd at US (and likely Canadian) universities. Diversity and tolerance are called the supreme virtues, but outside of one exception in three years, 'diversity' at the institution to which my ministry is directed actually bears a closer resemblance to homogeneity. Like this conference.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Eric:

I think you raise some excellent points here. There is a distinction between civilized behavior and Christian behavior insofar as one doesn't need to be Christian to be polite, nor does a culture need to be Christian to have standards of conduct.

The term "Christian nation" is loaded and needs clarification. The U.S. is religiously neutral in the Constitutional sense, though I think it is fair to say that for most of our history, we have been culturally heavily influenced by Christianity - much more than today - as people have become largely biblically illiterate and the culture has drifted away from the Church as a social institution.

There is no doubt that there has been a paradigm shift in the 20th century - especially in the 1960s, and now we're seeing the cultural effects of that generation now being parents and grandparents.

I think one of the largest influences has been feminism. When women were "liberated" one of the things they were "freed" from was chivalry.

Formerly, men showed deference to women, and often women had young children with them. There was a code of honor among believers and non-believers that women and children should be shielded from baseness.

However, men no longer see women as nurturers of children, but rather as peers in the workplace - who mostly behave just as they do. Most women work, and they are hardly even seen with children these days - except if they work as teachers or daycare employees.

So the natural barrier protecting women from baseness has fallen - and therefore children are no longer culturally protected either. It is no longer rare and out of character to hear base talk in front of children, or in some cases, to hear toddlers themselves speaking and gesturing the same way.

Formerly, even non-believers did not want to offend people - so Protestants would not use profanity in front of nuns, or Christians would curb their language in front of, say a rabbi. It was simple decency as much as religious scruples.

But since the "triumph" of feminism, we have all been "liberated" to the lowest common denominator.

And while one doesn't have to be a Christian to be polite and civilized, I do believe the destruction of chivalry is the work of the devil and is aimed at Christianity - as much of this profanity is blasphemous against the Triune God, especially against the Son. The lack of deference to the feminine is also a diabolical attack on the maternity of Mary and of the Church (both of which are tangible expressions of Christ's incarnation, and are repugnant to the devil). It is also a blow against the vocations of men and women - especially the masculine role as protector of women and children. And it is increasingly more difficult for young people to pray to a Father when their own fathers are either absent or are adolescents who have abdicated the role of family leader and protector.

I do disagree, however, about the world becoming more wicked. Scripture is clear that we are on a bad trajectory, that lawlessness will increase until our Lord returns, that the universe is in a state of decay because of sin. The evidence is all around us, as this degradation is not limited to the U.S. For example, the Roman Catholic Church has seen a huge increase worldwide in the need for exorcists. The loss of the sense of shame is idiomatic of this decline - not the cause of it.

There is a great apocalyptic novel by Michael O'Brien called "Father Elijah" that deals with this rise in the level of evil in these last days as manifested by the open wickedness you make reference to.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Jon:

It's Orwellian, isn't it? It speaks to the Satanic delusion of the mind. But it shows how untenable their position is. They themselves can't truly exalt diversity - because their goal is to jam a single opinion down everyone's throat. So, they pay lip-service to their god diversity and redefine it to mean 21 women with identical leftist politics and cookie-cutter "progressive" theology.

War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. Rinse and repeat.

Rhonda said...

Our kids(5adults, 1 three year old)were and is being raised not to talk certain ways in public,in front of kids, older people and especially women. I am always surprised when I go to the high school for some reason and most of the kids I hear let fbombs fly so easily. Girls also. It especially makes females so unattractive.Our kids know we won't allow "language" in our home. I think if more parents did this more kids wouldn't use it in public.

Mike Keith said...

It seems to me this is all connected to the growing informality of our culture. Dress and behaviour has becoem more and more informal. there is little distinction between private and public life. There may have been a time when a gentleman woudl "cut loose" a little when in the company of close friends and in private. Now, there is no restraint expected upon behaviour in public. In fact it is the opposite - to expect some standard of behaviour or to seek to require some standard of behaviour will get you labelled as intolerant.

Michael Canaris said...

--making church dialogue resemble the conversations at a communal urinal trough in a men's room isn't going to win them over in the long run.--

What conversations? In Sydney people would tend to look askance if one so much as says a word while doing one's business.

Mind you, though, we have our share of Neo-Barbarianism too; by and large it regrettably seems our parliamentarians have lost the knack of How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Leslie said...

Interesting post. Two books I've read that deal with similiar ideas of morality, chivalry and feminism are authored by Wendy Shalit.

'Girls gone mild : young women reclaim self-respect and find it's not bad to be good' and

'A return to modesty : discovering the lost virtue'.

This author believes there is a sort of 'counter-revolution' starting within young women tired of the messages put upon them by the culture. As a mother of two young daughters, I can only hope so.

SiegfriedGoodfellow said...

As a heathen, a certain amount of coarseness and Anglo-Saxon sailor talk is of no concern to me, but I will state that people should learn courtesy and to be aware of different customs that function in different environments. I do not think that "women" need to be "shielded" from baseness, as they are human, too, and well-aware of bodily functions. Since most so-called "baseness" has to do with bodily functions, and since there is nothing shameful about the body or bodily functions, there's nothing wrong with "baseness" inasmuch as it is a kind of earthiness. On the other hand, it is common courtesy to demonstrate consideration regarding other people's comfort levels about a particular conversation, and therefore exercise discretion --- although I say "consideration" and not "conformity" or "deference", because we do have rights of free speech, after all. But then again, this is the opinion of a heathen who values barbarianism, so your mileage may vary.