The story of little Alfie Evans reveals a cultural direction for the West that should set off alarm bells in every capital. As National Review’s David French wonders, how does a nation essentially kidnap a child from a loving, functioning family, yank that same child off life support, deny him care as he unexpectantly fights to stay alive and then block attempts by a foreign government to… “provide him top notch care free of charge?” This bizarre condition was a function of bureaucratic directives emanating from the British Healthcare system.
Remarkably, this story did not have any legs in the United Kingdom – where Alfie Evans died – or the United States where millions of secularized Americans have a worldview in which the religious dimension of the nation’s founding (rights “endowed by their Creator”) rings false and hollow. However, if God does not preside over the state, the government determines rights and the very notion of the Constitution is altered.
Here in essence is the real clash of civilizations. The Samuel Huntington book was a welcome antidote to “the end of history buffs,” and it quite appropriately described the role of Islam as a threat to national identity, but it did not deal with the clash between a secular order that is devoid of the metaphorical, which in many instances denies the legitimacy of religion and the foundational principles of America. This is the tension so evident in the Alfie Evans case.
It is instructive that secular liberalism grew organically out of the Judeo Christian world and is based on a Christian tradition that recognizes the dignity of each person as a child of God. This dignity is the foundation for individual rights governments exist to defend and for individual conscience that allows one to worship as one pleases. Clearly church and state are separate, albeit there is still a legitimate place for religion in the public square but it is a space rapidly diminishing. Religion for most of our history was not viewed as a threat to the social order, but an integral part of it. Without the basic morality and obedience to a higher authority religion teaches, liberal democracy would not be possible.
Adherence to a metaphorical framework has become controversial in today’s secular world as demonstrators in the Alfie Evans matter would attest. Through the Enlightenment and a reliance on positivist humanism, secular culture undermined national identity, particularly the concept of freedom. Secularism is moving toward a culture that excludes God from the public conscience in the name of tolerance. But experience shows that banishing God from the public square does not create a more tolerant world. Instead, it engenders a pattern of thought opposed to other cultures of humanity.
There is little doubt that the emancipation of man from God atomizes and isolates. It forces mankind to rely on the state rather than inner resources, a condition that exacerbates isolation since the state is incapable of providing mankind with meaning greater than itself. As Dostoevsky pointed out “if there isn’t a God, anything is possible.” Alas, we have observed atrocities beyond any measure of human indulgence in this secular age, as well as a plague of isolation.
This diatribe is not merely religious; it is spiritual. The sense of providential will describes what sets the American people apart. Where else in the world is there a Declaration of Independence that depends on God’s prominence? Should American desiccate God from public life, the nation will be a different and, I should add, dehumanized space. Alfie Evans will come to America in many forms if that hasn’t happened already.
There was time only a few decades ago when close to 90 percent of Americans regardless of religious affiliation said they believe in God. Most recently that number has been reduced to 73 percent. America is changing as the secularist bandwagon parades through the halls of Congress and even in Small Town USA.
If the life of an infant can be cast aside like so much rubbish, the conscience of the nation must be either myopic or deluded. Is roll back possible? Perhaps when we sink deeper into the swamp of secular culture, rebellion might occur. Certainly, I cannot wait for that moment.
Herbert London is President of the London Center for Policy Research, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of the book The Transformational Decade (University Press of America). You can read all of Herb London’s commentaries at www.londoncenter.org
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