Van Maren’s Culture War: Hope in the midst of desolation
November 1, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) -- Reading Culture War (LifeCycle Books, 2016) by Jonathon van Maren is much like that IMAX experience where a helicopter takes you on a racing ride above a quickly changing landscape. It is an epic and fast-moving panoramic sweep of contemporary society, displaying in HD clarity the deepest problems that are haunting many of us, often silently. No one can walk away from reading this book without a profound sense of just how desperately and completely our society is in the clutches of darkness.
Van Maren is one of Canada’s most talented young social conservatives, and Culture War is his first book, though surely not his last. It is a powerful work, packed with statistics, research and personal anecdotes which expose the rot and devastation that have built up under the thin veneer of normality in Western society.
Chapter by chapter, Van Maren descends down the circles of hell, starting with the hook-up culture and the “porn plague”, and proceeding to the rape culture, abortion, euthanasia and eugenics, and the commodification of human beings. It is a painful read, because our infection runs so deep and so far. But if we want to work towards creating a healthier culture, we first need an accurate diagnosis of our problems.
Van Maren is still in his 20s, but his understanding of the ethical quandaries of our culture seems far beyond his years. And little wonder, since Van Maren is like a doctor who has seen thousands of patients. As a pro-life activist with the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform, Van Maren has repeatedly encountered our hidden afflictions face-to-face. He has debated with scores of young people, visiting schools, presenting at conferences and knocking on doors. He also speaks out and fights the scourge of pornography across Canada with Strength to Fight, an organization which he co-founded.
As detailed in Culture War, Van Maren’s activist journey has taken him to places like the steps of the U.S. Capitol, where he watched Obama deliver his Second Inaugural Address, to a courtroom where he listened as abortionist Kermit Gosnell was tried for killing live-born babies in his “House of Horrors”, to a garage encounter with a veteran pro-lifer who showed Van Maren a perfectly-formed baby boy floating silently in a jar. The baby had been found in a dumpster behind an abortion clinic. “I almost expected him to wake up,” Van Maren writes. “The only sign that all was not well were two little puncture wounds in the back of the skull, where the abortionist had killed him.” It was a powerful moment, and it brought into focus the reality that ”[t]he culture war is a real war, with real bodies.”
This book is a must-read for young people and also for their parents. It will help parents recognize the extent of the damage, and encourage them to get real about the influence of pornography and the hook-up culture in their children’s lives. And it will equip young people with an understanding of how the Sexual Revolution has affected not just society at large, but also their teachers and professors. Van Maren tackles some of the key authorities that students will encounter in high school and university, where the left-wing secular worldview is taught as fact. He demolishes Dr. Alfred Kinsey and Margaret Mead, and shows how their research was full of dangerous errors and outright lies. He also clearly points out the eugenic tendencies of Darwinism.
As he turns from one moral pandemic to the next, as if rotating a dice, Van Maren masterfully draws out the connections between them. Many readers won’t be surprised that a hook-up culture leads to abortion, or that pornography breeds sexual trafficking. But I was struck, for example, by Van Maren’s discussion of why the pro-life movement is made up primarily of women: “the reason for this is that huge numbers of Christian men struggle with pornography...the guilt and shame from porn addiction cripples and castrates them.”
In fact, pornography emerges in Van Maren’s account as “without exaggeration, the number one threat to North American families.” Because of pornography, he says, the culture war has often been a ‘war’ in name only, since Christians have been so disabled by this poison that many have simply failed to show up for the battle. Even the gay rights movement owes much of its rapid social success to the influence of pornography, says Van Maren. “Pornography has successfully normalized virtually every sex act.”
Towards the end of the book, we arrive at the death of religious freedom and realize that the dawn of totalitarian society is the grand finale of the Sexual Revolution. The time is coming when we will be forced to choose: “You can be a Christian, or you can be successful.” Government power is now prioritizing “erotic liberty” over religious freedom, with the result that Christians are already being forced out of elite professions like medicine, law, and politics.
And so, how now shall we live? There is reason for hope, says Van Maren, and there are things we can do to protect our children and ourselves while working towards a cultural renewal. Above all, he says, we need to keep our kids out of public schools. The school system is competing with us for influence over our children, and it wants to indoctrinate them into the “ideology of the state.” If we plop our children into public schools for several hours each day, we are “nearly guaranteeing” that the state will succeed.
I couldn’t agree more. Unfortunately, Canada’s Catholic hierarchy has not even begun to comprehend this point. Many priests and Bishops are mentally stuck in the past when it comes to their support for the public ‘Catholic’ school system. They refuse to acknowledge that today, this system is just as steeped in secular-left ideology as its public counterpart. They continue to give that system their imprimatur, which just makes it easier for people like Kathleen Wynne and Justin Trudeau to spread their tentacles over our children’s minds. To stop digging its own grave, the Church needs to reject the interference of the state and step up its support of truly independent, authentically Catholic schools.
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For me, one of the most evocative and hopeful aspects of Van Maren’s book was the full circle that it represents. Culture War begins with an introduction by Ted Byfield, Alberta’s iconic bedrock of conservatism. Now 87 years old, Byfield writes about witnessing the start of the Sexual Revolution. He was there as the institutions came tumbling down. “And who were these revolutionaries?” he asks. “The brute fact is that they were our own children.”
Those ‘baby boomer’ revolutionaries are now themselves geriatric. Van Maren represents the generation of their grandchildren, the inheritors of a nearly complete Sexual Revolution. But these young people are not buying it. Instead, young people like Van Maren are reaching for the torch of truth that was once held by Byfield’s generation. They are spitting out the bitter fruits of sexual license, and they seek to rebuild a culture of life and family.
“One of the most moving things I have ever seen was a room packed full of beautiful, smiling girls and guys, sunburnt from days of outdoor summer pro-life outreach”, writes Van Maren. Despite the fact that the CCBR shares graphic photos of butchered abortion victims with our society, young people continue to flock to this group. Many older people claim to be disturbed by these images, and some even want them banned. They would prefer to shut their eyes to the truth about abortion, but young people refuse to blink at its murderous reality. They know that just as easily, they could have been among the victims. They accept the challenge to be brave, like William Wilberforce, and to fight for something greater than themselves.
Van Maren is so right. That room of young people is inspiring and beautiful. And whatever else may be happening today, that room - and Van Maren himself - are signs of a springtime to come.