Can those inhabiting the West agree anymore on what constitutes a Western civilization worth preserving? An old friend who is a classics professor at a highly-respected university told me recently that he didn’t believe in “self-congratulatory fictions of ‘the West’ and ‘Western Civilization.’” Given the tenor of recent student protests across America’s colleges, which usually target representatives of “intolerant” power structures associated with an “oppressive” Western tradition, I’m not sure my friend holds a minority opinion among Americans.
For those (like myself) who believe in Western civilization and that its global impact has been a definitive “net positive,” what hope is there of preserving the heritage of the West? William J. Slattery’s Heroism and Genius: How Catholic Priests Helped Build — and Can Help Rebuild — Western Civilization builds upon the work of other pro-West scholars like Thomas E. Woods, Jr. (and his 2005 How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization) to offer a fresh perspective on what should—and can—be saved.
Finding Common Ground
In the not-so-distant past, a majority of Americans, and even Europeans, still recognized and cherished a common Western heritage. In reference to religion, almost half of Americans attended church weekly, and the vast majority of them believed in an understanding of God recognizable as stemming from the Western tradition.
As for the Western literary canon, a recent First Things podcast noted that millions of Americans participated in the Book of the Month Club or the Great Books of the Western World project. In the arts, Texaco sponsored a weekly broadcast of the metropolitan opera that garnered an audience of almost 10 percent of the population, while the Great American Songbook offered a widely hailed canon of American music.
As we enter 2018, much of this shared culture has evaporated. About a quarter of Americans no longer identify with any religious affiliation. Many have stronger connections to their favorite sports team than to any religious denomination—more than a quarter of Americans spend at least six hours of their Sundays watching professional football. Millennials are the least religious generation in American history, and it seems probable Generation Z will surpass them in unbelief.
Read more at The Federalist.