ably been strained by the followingnfactors.n(1) The breakdown of the traditionalnfamily has created a vacuum.nFor many the affection, warmth, andnsecurity once provided by the family isnno more. These human needs stillnexist; hence, the search elsewhere fornthe vital family services. The sect—nwhether religious or secular—oftennclaims to compensate by creating annew family based upon belief andncommitment rather than biology.n(2) Many today are overwhelmednby the complexity of modernity. Vastnareas are beyond the reach of even thenmost sophisticated. The academicnemphasis is upon narrow specialization.nThe more we know the less wenseem to understand. For many, complexityncauses frustration and a searchnfor simplicity. There is a temptationnto seek the Rosetta stone or a return tonsome golden age when the worldnseemed intelligible. The sect offers ansimple explanation of reality and anremedy to human trauma.n(3) For some inexplicable reason,nthere has been a modern revitalizationnof the 19th-century romanticismnthat questioned the Greco-Roman,nhumanistic-Enlightenment componentnof the Western ideological mix.nAgainst order, continuity, and civilitynit posed flux, experimentation, andnemotion. It stressed the virtue of thenexotic, less-developed, more primitivenregions, viewing them as equal ornsuperior to the middle-class, bourgeois,nstaid European world. It totallynrejected the progressive-developmentalntheory of history. It legitimizednThird World philosophies and cultsnand encouraged deference to ThirdnWorld demands that previous generationsnwould have ignored. It universalizednthe West, introducing optionsnthat were not previously available,nbut it strained a once-existing ideologicalnconsensus.n(4) Recently Western man hasnespoused an ethos that rewards self-n14nChronicles of Culturencriticism and encourages self-loathing.nRevisionist history stresses thennegative, portraying a Western legacynof violence and exploitation. It evaluatesnthe West in terms of a norm ofnUtopian perfection rather than from anhistorical and comparative perspective.nLittle room is left for culturalnpride. Naturally, the more sensitivenhave turned from their society to seeknother alternatives. Man always seeksnunits of identity and, when the inheritednones fail, he seeks others.n(5) The pervasive liberal dogmanthat dominates so much of Westernnthought tends to be obsessed withnchange. It perceives society in mechanicalnrather than organic terms,nand thus offers unlimited opportunitiesnfor experimentation and transformation.nThere is optimal faith in innovation,nbut the latest reform nevernquite satisfies. It is but a precedent fornanother change. Liberal Episcopalians,nfor example, have moved fromnthe demand for female priests to les­nA Slow and Secret PoisonnJoan Ahse: Join Ruskin: The PassionatenMoralist; Alfred A. Knopf; New York.nPatricia B. Craddock: Young EdwardnGibbon: Gentleman of Letters; }ohssnHopkins University Press; Baltimore.nby Robert C. SteensmanA heir careers were separated by ancentury and their personalities and interestsnwere perhaps as different as onencan imagine, yet both Edward Gibbonnand John Ruskin were among the firstnrank of writers in their times, and bothnwere perceptive commentators on thendecline of civilization. Gibbon’snDecline and Fall of the Roman Empire,ndespite the work of later historians, re-nDr. Steensma is a professor of English atnthe University of Utah.nnnbian priests to no priests to romanticizingnEastern Orthodox traditionalnpriests—all in one generation. Liberalndogma, in essence, encourages eachngeneration to be dissatisfied with thenideology it has inherited.n(6) The old order of church andnstate demands minimal sacrifice fromnits clientele, and it is reluctant to inconveniencenor to discipline. Thisnconflicts with a primordial belief thatntruth and value involve considerablencost. In contrast, the sects and totalitariannmass movements demand andnreceive a maximal commitment ofntime, labor, and resources.nIt is unlikely that Lottman’s intellectualsnor Tipton’s exotic cults will solvenmany of the problems confrontingnWestern society. A more likely source ofnrecovery would be the revitalization ofnthe old ideology after this flirtation withnthe bizarre. One can hope that in historicalnretrospect the 60’s and 70’s will benviewed as merely a brief aberration. Dnmains one of the benchmarks ofnmodern historiography; Ruskin’snalmost 40 volumes of aesthetic commentary,nart history, social economy,nand cultural criticism have earned himna place among the most eminent ofn19th-century intellectuals. Yet Gibbonnhas suffered that fate of so manynclassic writers: he is talked about mostnby people who have never read him.nAnd Ruskin is commonly viewed as annexhibit in a cabinet of Victorian curios.nBoth men deserve much better, forneach has a great deal to say to a modernncivilization whose vitals are afflicted byna cultural cancer. In our time, whenn”18th-century” and “Victorian” arenmerely convenient semantic cudgelsnwielded by political neurotics, whennmodernists have replaced the City ofnGod with a slum, Gibbon and Ruskinnare critically meaningful.n