We have been long-time subscribers and readers. Chronicles is one of many periodicals, newspapers, journals, magazines, books we read expressing thoughts that span the political idea spectrum. You state that you are a magazine of American culture. I do not know how you define that and would like your definition. I find your articles perplexing. You seem to give Donald Trump a big pass on so many issues. You have lots of complaints about America’s popular culture. I no longer know what you stand for. What do you stand for and what is your idea of American culture?
Mr. Foley Replies:
How do we define culture, specifically American culture? It’s a great question that goes to the very founding of Chronicles in 1977.
As Leopold Tyrmand, the magazine’s first editor, wrote in its first issue:
We believe that culture is, more than ever, the breeding ground of formative factors: it engenders attitudes, lifestyles, exemplars, it abounds with archetypes and modes of conduct that create a social atmosphere in which human destinies are formed.
Unfortunately, when it comes to the term culture, many Americans solely associate it with fine art, museums, excellent cuisine, and orchestral music; these are the fruits of the culture from which they came forth. Culture is much more, as can be seen in the word’s origin in the Latin—cultus, which in its verb form means to “to foster, to live in,” and as a noun means “care, worship, devotion.” The American Sociological Association defines culture as “the languages, customs, beliefs, rules, arts, knowledge, and collective identities and memories developed by members of all social groups that make their social environments meaningful.”
For the purposes of Chronicles and its parent organization The Charlemagne Institute, we define culture pragmatically as “belief lived out”. For at the foundation of a culture, country, and civilization is belief—traditionally, the religious beliefs of the people. All human action, even inaction, flows from the metaphysical belief.
Is there a God? Is there sin? Are cows sacred? Do you have a soul? Is god in everything? Are spirits manifested in trees, animals, and the rest of nature? Is man perfectible? Was Jesus Christ real and should he be followed? Is the emperor a demi-god? Is there truth?
Each individual’s answers to those questions fundamentally influence and shape both their lives and the collective identity of a society and nation. American culture is no different.
When we talk of American culture, we cannot separate it from the foundational metaphysics of Western Civilization. At its core is the synthesis of Hellenism and Christianity, and of Natural Law and revealed Truth, with Roman law and order thrown in for good measure. The fusion of those beliefs long ago put the West on the path to become the greatest civilization the world has ever seen, yielding astonishing achievements in art, literature, and music; science, technology, and mathematics; and law, economics, and government.
However, over the last century and especially the last few decades, elite intellectuals, politicians, and businessmen rejected those founding beliefs and worked diligently to create a post-Christian American culture. You are right to point out that we have lots of complaints about it, whether it manifests itself in high or popular culture.
With America’s rapid abandonment of its Christian roots and Western intellectual traditions, cultural changes are occurring at an increasingly rapid pace. Here are a few data points that reveal the rotten fruit of our current culture:
• 63 percent of high school seniors are not proficient in reading.
• 64 percent of child-bearing Millennials have had one or more out-of-wedlock births.
• 44 percent of millennials prefer to live in a Socialist country.
• 76 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds believe that “right or wrong depends on the situation.”
One cannot look at any of those points and dismiss them as inconsequential. We know for a fact that children raised in a broken home are far more likely to do poorly in school, be afflicted with depression and anxiety, turn to violence and drug use, and on average struggle in life. A generation has been deeply wounded because the culture of their parents and grandparents changed and, thus, how they formed their children changed.
What then do we stand for? Chronicles and The Charlemagne Institute exist to defend and advance Western, Christian civilization. We stand for restoring the foundational traditions and principles upon which our country and civilization once rested, so desperately needed by Americans, young and old, to make sense of the world. We endeavor to direct those whose lives are filled with empty pleasure and suffering toward sources of meaning and purpose.
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