Resurrecting the Idea of a Christian Society

by RR Reno, Regnery Faith, £21

I groan a little when I read an opening sentence like: “Our country is entering a crisis.” There is always someone, it seems, who thinks their age is an age of great, unprecedented crisis.

But hold on. I shouldn’t be so smug. In Resurrecting the Idea of a Christian Society, RR Reno (a Catholic convert from Episcopalianism and editor of First Things magazine) reports that the life expectancy of a white woman in America without a high school degree declined by five years between 1990 and 2010. This statistic alone sounds both baffling and ominous. Reno sees it as suggestive of a crisis among poor whites akin to that in Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union. It is “an indication of a shocking cultural collapse. It’s a sign of the perversion of our age that we ignore it.”

Once into his stride, Reno is compelling. While there is barely an ounce of malice in his writing, time and again he lands his punches. Market deregulation – but more importantly, “moral deregulation” (“the seemingly innocent expansion of lifestyle choices”) – are wreaking havoc in America. The rich are OK. They get to practise “disciplined hedonism”: vice in moderation with money to spare for safety nets like professional treatment. They outwardly observe the “pieties of non-judgmentalism” while sticking closely to traditional morals when it counts.

The difference in marriage rates at either end of the social scale is telling. Many young Americans who now live “without a Father in heaven” are also without “even a father at home”, their losses compounded by political correctness which has prised away “a workable cultural inheritance”. Yet to discuss the “moral and spiritual poverty” of the poor is prohibited as “blaming the victim” by the very elites who, in Reno’s eyes, caused these things in the first place and whose remedies have failed.

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