10 / CHRONICLESnhard to discern, but the books he reads and the code ofnmanners he hves by are a fair indication of his “culture,”nand what is more, they present opportunities for correction.nWe are caught on the horns of a dilemma. On the onenhand, cultural norms have no transcendent origin either innthe will of God or in the laws of nature; on the other hand,nculture itself is elevated to the status of Mind, a sort ofninvisible god. But if our cherished “values” (whatever thatnvulgarism can be supposed to mean) do not derive eithernfrom nature or from nature’s God, then they can bendefended only on the limited grounds that some of us in thisnculture happen to find them useful; but we are in nonposition to argue that incest, adultery, and bad manners arenthings bad in themselves.nCultural conservatives are not alone in believing that thencurrent Kulturkampf is being waged by friendly parties whonhave fallen out over a misunderstanding. All we have to donis explain to the other side, politely, of course, that theirnviews are undermining the status quo, and they willnapologize and help us to set things right. But the revolutionariesnwho have been reconstructing society since the 1790’snare not misguided defenders of civilization: They loathe ourncultural traditions and moral principles precisely becausenthey are the bulwarks and foundation of everything thenrevolutionaries seek to destroy: the family, individual freedomnand responsibility, social stability. Our enemies haventheir own traditions, their own principles, their own culture.nNot only that, they have their own gods on theirnside—Social Justice, Equality, and, above all, the Future.nChester Finn is smart enough to realize that few atheistsnwill sign on to any form of cultural conservatism; still, henmaintains, “I have said nothing that would oblige a bonanfide cultural conservative to believe in God, much less tonparticipate in any particular branch of organized religion.”nHere at Chronicles we are constantly barraged withnmanuscripts explaining why conservatives don’t have tonbelieve in God or value religion. I always ask the samenquestion: What is it you think you are conserving? We usednto have a simple name for this civilization of ours: It wasncalled Christendom. By using knives and forks a man atenAre there othernoptions to thenAIDSnISSUE?nFind out in “A SOUNDER ANTI-AIDS OPTION”nby John A. HowardnSend this coupon and a check for $2.50 to:nOccasional Papers f 16nThe Rocicford Instituten934 N. Main StreetnRockford, IL 61103nnnlike a Christian; by displaying charity or good manners henwas said to do something like a Christian. Actual religiousnfaith is something else. Many of Christendom’s staunchestndefenders have been, like David Hume, skeptical of theologynand irritated by the clergy’s pretentions—every sect andndenomination is overrun with its own version of thenBakkers. It would, in any case, be bad manners to inquireninto what our friends and allies really believe deep in theirnhearts; however, we do expect self-described conservativesnto “act like” Christians and leave metaphysical speculationsnto philosophers. Otherwise their only effect will be tondishearten the strongest conservative strain in the Americannpopulace—believing Catholics, Protestants, Jews, andnMormons.n”The long march through the institutions” of Americannculture was accomplished long ago, but there is no sign thatnthe cultural conservatives have a plan for recapturing thencitadels. No party can be built around such abstractions asn”democracy” or “traditional values.” I can imagine ancoalition of Darwinists and Fundamentalists to defendnhuman nature against social engineering, because bothnsides accept the roots of human behavior as givens, butncultural conservatism excludes any such alliance based onnnatural law. I can also conceive of a comfortable relationshipnbetween people who share a taste in music and books,nbut on this point of serious music and literature, thencultural conservatives are remarkably reticent. The draftnstatement declares explicitly that the most important componentnof culture is not high culture but the values ofnordinary people. Near the end, they concede that aestheticsndoes matter but confine their attention to a paragraph onnthe international style in architecture.nThere are issues more pressing than the performance of anBach partita or the decay of rhyme. However, it is a serious,nindeed a deadly mistake to dismiss serious art so cavalierly.nHigh art is really only “high” in a civilization that is fallingnapart. How high were Shakespeare or Beethoven or Aeschylus?nAll had broad, middle-class followings—the sort ofnpeople who today read James Mitchener novels or tune in ton”easy listening” stations on the radio. Where, after all, donideas come from? It can take a generation or two for thenpernicious nonsense of a Voltaire or a Dewey to seep downnto the level of pamphlets, magazines, and television shows.nConspicuous figures like newsreaders and TV producers arenlittle more than mouthpieces that parrot what they learnednfrom professorial mouthpieces 30 years ago. The highbrownfancies of the last century, which became the middlebrownfads of The New Republic in the 20’s now fuel the efforts ofnNorman Lear and Dan Rather. The best available escapenfrom the revolutionized mass culture is the direct andnpowerful appeal of an artistic masterpiece, the effect of whatnRussell Kirk calls the moral imagination.nMention of Dr. Kirk brings us to the nub of the problem.nAs a man of letters—essayist, literary historian, and writernof tales—Kirk is in a long line of English and Americannwriters and critics who have turned their attention toncultural problems. In nearly every period of English literature,nthere have been one or more pundits who have givennthe law on taste, fashion, and morals. Ben Jonson may haven(continued on page 18)n