The end of the West? Spiritual and educational challenges for the family in all nations

Rhodes Forum IX Annual Session - Family Values Round Table (Family and Religion)

Intervention of Marguerite A. Peeters

Rhodes, Greece – October 8, 2011

The crisis we are in is not only economic and financial. Ours is a crisis of democracy, a crisis concerning the nature of our social contract, the fabric of societies, the moral authority of government, world governance, our relationship to nature, the content of education, marriage and the family, our human identity. It is a crisis of civilization.

No sooner had the “end of history” been proclaimed in 1989 (the “end of history” implying, in the mind of Francis Fukuyama who coined the expression, the definitive triumph of the Western model – democracy, the rule of law, human rights, the free market) than the pertinence of the catchphrase “the end of the West” paradoxically imposed itself as an evidence. In other words, the whole world was geared towards the gradual adoption of a western model that had become an empty shell. While its external façade was still standing, the rooms were occupied by disenchanted and unengaged citizens under the control of, or manipulated by, ideologues, minority lobbies and other power-grabbers.

A striking development of our times – one that should concern families and people of faith in all nations – is that western cultural decadence reached its zenith when globalization was dramatically gaining momentum. Such a decadence has been part of the West’s product of exportation to the non-western world. No country today can claim immunity to western secularization and the penetration of those very lifestyles that led the West to its “end”. Will we allow the “end of non-western civilizations” to be the next dark side stage in human history?

Alongside the process of fast cultural globalization, there is a political factor: after the fall of the Berlin wall, global governance – that is, international organizations, powerful international NGOs among other influential “non-state actors” – have transformed the objectives of the western cultural revolution into global political norms, such as “the family under all its forms”, “gender equality”, “reproductive and sexual health and rights”, “sexual orientation”. For some twenty years now, governments and societies have been pressured to comply with a global ethic that is both secularist and deeply pessimistic. Didn’t Sigmund Freud, a precursor of the May 68 sexual revolution now in the process of being globalized, assert: “happiness is no cultural value”?

The sense of being in a “total crisis situation” generates a pervasive malaise – a malaise which is painfully perceptible, but could become a kairos, a time favorable for positive change. There is a growing sense that past societal models are at the end of their course, that something fundamental has to change, that indeed something will happen soon. More importantly, there is a growing recognition, although generally more among the grassroots than among decision-makers, that the crisis has moral and spiritual roots, therefore that only a return to God can offer appropriate answers. Would we be on the verge of a global spiritual revival?

Ours is a time of striking contrasts. This time of transition confronts the family everywhere with a task that is both trying and enthusing: to discern the challenges that the global secularist norms confront us with, and to identify and seize the opportunities that the current vacuum offers us to lead the way back to what is real, true and good, after centuries of ideological entanglement.

The family, the basic cell of society, has been the main target of the cultural revolution that has led the West to its current state of decadence. The gender equality agenda is the last fruit of this revolution. Knowing the content, history and objectives of the gender revolution therefore helps us identify the scope and depth of the spiritual and educational challenges that the family in all nations currently faces.

Over the past months, the integration of the gender agenda in the natural sciences manuals used by high school students in France, as if it were scientific evidence, has provoked a political controversy that could mark the beginning of a beneficial cultural and spiritual awakening on the part of a number of parents and educators.

What is the gender agenda about? According to the social engineers who have been fabricating it since the 1950s, the feminine and masculine identity, the ontological structure of the woman as spouse, mother and educator, the anthropological complementarity of man and woman, fatherhood, heterosexuality (“heteronormativity”, that would be dominant in all cultures), marriage and the traditional family would not exist per se, would not be good in themselves, but would be social constructs: sociological phenomena, social functions constructed over time, stereotypes to deconstruct by way of education and culture in the name of the non-discrimination and equality principles.

Described as it is, this « theory » shocks. In reality, western culture over the last centuries went through a revolution that dramatically accelerated in the last fifty years and of which the gender agenda is the natural fruit. A long secularization process has progressively led to the cultural death of the father, the mother, the spouse, the son and the daughter – in other words of the person made out of love and for love, in the image of God. It has substituted the person with the secular and “autonomous” “citizen-individual”. Western Christians and believers have too often behaved as remote and passive observers, not to speak of the compromises many of them made for over forty years, seduced as they were by the dynamism of the revolution and by its “progressive” and “liberating” proposals. Religion itself has undergone the effects of secularization.

After its first apparition in the 1950s, the gender ideology started fleshing itself out in French and American universities around May 68. Surfing on the wave of the western feminist and sexual revolution, it progressively acquired a power of social transformation. As a consequence of the operational partnership between the western postmodern intelligentsia and international organizations since the 1960s, the gender perspective was adopted as a global political norm at the Beijing conference in 1995. Gender equality has become the effective transversal priority of international cooperation. It is imposed as a condition for development aid.

It deconstructs the family there where it is culturally and politically implemented, but it often does so imperceptibly, using soft social transformation techniques such as semantic manipulation, consensus-building, scientist arguments, education reform, “dialogue”. Gender equality as a global cultural and political norm seduces the masses and leaders in countries where the equal dignity of women has not always been honored. But there is tremendous ignorance about the holistic character of gender equality which offers a broad diversity of interpretations all inspired by the same secular source: a view of the woman as a pure citizen, autonomous from God and her family relations as daughter, spouse and mother, holder of rights including to abortion, and, as man, to sexual orientation. There are no clear borders between these different interpretations. The history of the West demonstrates how one drifts from one to the other once we have opened the door to secularism.

Secularism is indeed the starting point. The 18th century enlightenment in France operated a divorce between the individual and the person, the citizen and the father, the secular and the believer, human rights and gratuitous love, reason and faith, state and Church. Didn’t the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau then declare that to be a father was a social privilege contrary to equality? In the name of equality and liberty, the French revolution achieved its objectives on the basis of a dialectical opposition between the citizen on the one hand and the father, the mother, the spouse, the son, the daughter on the other. Such a secularist concept of “equal citizenship” is anthropologically undifferentiated. It is asexual, “neutral”. Men and women, children and adults, heterosexuals and homosexuals are all equal citizens with equal rights. Over the last centuries, the equal rights of the individual and his or her freedom to choose have socially, juridically, politically taken over from fatherhood, family and love. It finally became possible to reconstruct the human being on new, purely secular foundations: the gender theory.

But there are cracks in the new ideological system. There are opportunities to seize before us.

1.- Strain on reason. The first crack is the great strain that the gender theory and its natural extension – the queer theory which goes as far as affirming that the male or female body is a social construct – put on reason. The gender theoreticians fight among themselves over the meaning of the expressions they themselves forged, such as sexual identity, gender identity, sexual norms, sexual orientation or preference, sexual role, gender role, sexual behavior, gender stereotype, sexual diversity and so on. The proliferation of lexicons attempting to clarify ad infinitum the specificities of the numerous expressions declining the gender concept only strengthen the Babel tower in which we live, as they often contradict themselves. This state of confusion is the end point of the long process of western cultural revolution now being globalized. But irrationality and ambivalence are not socially sustainable. They are socially conflictual! Isn’t a return to common sense bound to happen sooner or later?

2.- Religious revival. The second crack is the growing realization that secularism is culturally and politically unsustainable. The divorce between faith and reason is at the root both of postmodern irrationality, which proclaims the “end of philosophy”, and of modern rationalism, which produced an uninterrupted series of ideologies. There is a continuum between these two distortions of reason, but the process is nearing the end of its course, placing us before a choice: the suicidal choice of persevering in secularism, or the good choice of reconciling reason and faith and thereby recovering the sense of reason. By brushing aside God, the person, the disinterested gift of self, love from culture and the social contract of western societies, secularism has brought about an unprecedented vacuum. A return to God has started emerging as the only way out of the dead end we are engaged in. This is a time of hope.

3.- Rehabilitation of conscience. The civilization crisis we are in is a favorable time to reintroduce, especially in the field of education, the notion of conscience: of a sincere search for what is good, true, loving, real. The West, where reason became “autonomous” from faith, has for centuries given an absolute primacy to reason, to the detriment of the conscience and the heart, thereby producing serious anthropological imbalances we now have the opportunity to redress. We know by experience that rational arguments are not heard by those who choose negation. We are not first and foremost in an intellectual debate but in a combat between light and darkness, life and death, love and hatred, truth and falsehood. The gender revolution, to use the example of our case study, is first and foremost, not a simple “theory”, but a process of negation of what is real, true and good for the human being, and a personal and cultural engagement in this negation. This mystery of evil and of its free choice must be taken into account, including in our public engagements. We have capitulated on this front for centuries.

4.- Global aspiration to love. The first target of secularization has been the person created in the image of a loving God. The disarray it produced generated a compelling thirst for love: paternal love, filial and fraternal love, spousal communion. It is our responsibility to determine how we can collaborate in the advent of a new civilization in which God, the family, love will be at their rightful place and celebrated. It is our task to reconcile the citizen and the father, the citizen and the Christian, rights and gratuitous love, to give back to the family its rightful place as basic cell of the society.

Finally, let me say a word about the role of non-western cultures at this hour of human history. Their time has come. Foreign to the western “laïcité” concept, they wouldn’t freely choose the norms imposed on them from outside. Let them have the courage to think outside the box of western-driven global governance, decide to remain and be who they are, make their specific and irreplaceable contribution to humanity as Russians, Africans, Chinese, recover their soul and help the West, help humanity recover its soul.