Having been rather busy last week, I just got around to reading Rabbi Jonathan Sacks powerful piece, Reversing the Decay of London Undone, which appeared in the Wall Street Journal. The incredibly articulate chief rabbi of Great Britain explored a historical precedent both for the recent riots in England and for believing that there is a way to prevent them from reoccurring. In his usual straight-forward and hard-hitting manner, Rabbi Sacks presents the case that only a religious reawakening can put the western world on the right track again.
In effect, he lays the onus on you and me. We may bewail the fact that universities, the media and government have abandoned the values which allowed them to flourish, but realistically they will only change when forced to do so. That force needs to be in the form of pressure by millions of ordinary citizens who refuse to take the path of least resistance and who are willing to be publically vilified by people including the president and popular pundits as well as their children’s teachers and their neighbors. It means that we are responsible for demanding respect for our beliefs and unabashedly proclaiming our commitment to our faiths.
It also means that we need to start in our own orbit of responsibility. How many of us believe that sex should be reserved for marriage, that God created the world and that capitalism is moral, but we still send our children to schools and universities which relentlessly preach the opposite to them? How many of us hold back from insisting that ‘social issues’ cannot be separated from economic ones? How many of us don’t take the time to research issues so that we can articulately and intelligently discuss these topics? Or we speak the truth so bombastically that we end up chasing away people who would listen to and agree with us if we spoke more carefully?
The race is not necessarily to the swift but often yields to the persistent. Despite the Supreme Court, public opinion and the establishment’s attempts, abortion is less acceptable today than it was a few decades ago. The Pooh-Bahs didn’t change their minds, but thousands of heroic citizens refused to normalize the destruction of human life. Individuals opened their homes to unwed mothers, started pro-life clinics and refused to ‘get with the program’. They ignored those who mocked and hated them. They are winning.
I increasingly speak to friends who are seriously worried about the future their children will face. They would probably agree with Rabbi Sacks that the viability and security of our nation depends on fidelity to traditional Jewish and Christian values. Yet when polls show homosexual marriage gaining in popularity these same people suggest that religious Jews and Christians should keep their views to themselves; they stay quiet when colleagues or their children’s teachers mock their beliefs, and they refuse to tell teenage and adult children whom they support financially that the support comes with strings attached. Like me, they sometimes find it difficult to speak up and present an unpopular viewpoint.
Rabbi Sack’s article is both reassuring and challenging. History shows that successful civilizations can and do fall. Whether America and Western Europe follow that descending path, or revitalize themselves and bequeath our children a flourishing society, is in our hands.