_Wichita Eagle_. This article by David Awbrey, editor of the editorial page, was entitled

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_Wichita Eagle_. This article by David Awbrey, editor of the editorial page, was entitled "Civil society victim of culture war," and was accompanied by a two panel cartoon. The first panel shows Lady Liberty holding up a "2 Crude 2 B Rude" record and exclaiming to the angry protesters before her, "This may be trash, but it's legal..." The second panel shows a man listening to the record in his bedroom and thinking, "This may be legal, but it's trash..." This article spans two messages - questions follow. Civil Society Victim of Culture War ----------------------------------- At first, many of the more than 3,000 people at Wichita's Central Community Church probably felt smug as Robert DeMoss, Jr., talked about an informal poll he took to find out what were the most popular movies among teenagers and younger children. Certainly, these people no doubt thought, their children would not be interested in such adolescent sex comedies as "Porky's Revenge" or in such slasher movies as "Nightmare on Elm Street" and "Texas Chainsaw Massacre." No, those are the kind of movies that other kids see - kids who don't come from good Christian homes. Wrong, said DeMoss, a staff member with Focus on the Family, a Colorado Springs-based organization actively fighting what it says are anti-family and anti-social values in popular culture. "That list was taken from students attending _Christian_church_schools_," DeMoss said in his lecture entitled "A Generation at Risk." Coincidentally, DeMoss' presentation was Aug. 19, during the same hours that the Republican National Convention was staging "Family Values Night," trying to gain politically from the deep worry many Americans feel over the sexually explicit and violent messages that seem to dominate much of the mass media. Although some Republican strategists are cynically exploiting the family values issue, the Kansans at the Central Community Church were sincerely concerned that much of American culture is promoting hedonism, libertine lifestyles and social irresponsibility, and undermining parental authority. It's the culture war, the most wrenching debate in the United States today because it affects almost all aspects of American life. Indeed, calling it a debate may be a misnomer, because the two sides seldom confront each other in open democratic discourse and have so demonized each other that rational discussion of the issues is virtually impossible. The culture war involves abortion, homosexuality, rap music lyrics, movies, avant-garde art, public school curricula, the flag provocative perfume and fashion advertisements - the thoughts and deeds, images an impressions that help form the mass consciousness and moral standards of the American people. Loss of religious consensus --------------------------- America has always had cultural conflict. But through most of U.S. history, there has been a basic set of assumptions about American society. The "Judeo-Christian consensus" put the Bible at the philosophical center of American life. While they may have differed on matters ranging from baptism to evolution, most Americans shared a common theism that liked the nation's course to the purpose of God. They also shared an ethical tradition that helped create a remarkable progressive and idealistic political system. With the rise of secularism since the 1920's - which rapidly accelerated during the 1960's - the United States has become a morally as well as an ethnically and racially pluralistic society. In broad terms, on one side are people who maintain the values of an earlier, almost entirely Christian America. To them, truth is Bible-based; morality comes from the lessons of the Old and New Testaments. Society has a duty to protect itself and its members from the natural human tendency toward depravity and to resist the temptations that can destroy community life. On the other side are people who put most of their faith in the individual. Ethical decisions hinge more on the particulars of the situation than on holy writ. They prefer government ot focus on social evils rather than regulate personal behavior, however offensive it may be to some people. They oppose most restrictions on art, literature or other forms of expression. In short, the disagreement is total. Each side sees the individual's role in society in starkly contrasting terms. While it may be fought over such issues as government funding for the arts or sex education in the public schools, the conflict is irreconcilable because each side has a fundamentally different worldview. That being the case, the question is whether the culture war will become so brutal that it hopelessly splits American society an shatters any hope to build a larger American community. Fatal threats to freedom ------------------------ It should be recognized that the current onslaught of sexuality and violence in popular culture is an inevitable product of contemporary American capitalism and democracy. Such cultural offerings are available for one simple reason - there is a commercial demand for them. They are allowed for another simple reason - the First Amendment. That does not mean, however, that Americans are condemned to a continued cheapening of human life, personal intimacy or family values. What American society needs is a renewal of self-restraint, mutual respect and responsibility. A civil society requires people to recognize that their actions and attitudes can hurt and offend others. Yet, for many actors, writers, artists and other cultural elitists there is a compulsion today to outrage people - to stretch the borders of the permissible, regardless of the impact on children and the community. History teaches that freedom is impossible without order. At some point individuals must constrain themsilves or risk losing personal liberty. A free society can't exist without some collective sense of decency and moral standards. Americans alarmed by the debasement of culture and morals should not remain silent. But there is a difference between _censoring_ and _censuring_. One invilves the heavy hand of government, a restriction on thought; the other expresses social disapproval, the most effective form of criticism. The culture war is for the heart and soul of America. It has to be waged in each family and community. Mostly, however, it has to be fought within each individual, because in a free society there can't be morality without personal virtue.


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