A number of people have suggested to me that the name Crisis should be changed. They worry about the magazine having a negative image. Beyond merely criticizing the present state of affairs, they feel the magazine should appear more forward-looking: the name Crisis doesn’t sound like a magazine showing the way toward a Catholicism for the next millennium.
It is easy to sympathize with this viewpoint; the morally higher ground always seems to belong to those who offer hope for the future. When all is said and done, the religious and conservative critique of contemporary culture must be completed by an integrated vision of familial, social, and ecclesial life. What we are for, after all, determines what we are against.
But I, for one, don’t think the name of this magazine is necessarily dated — there are still crises aplenty in the culture and the Church, and still the need to address them. Our culture has not yet reached its nadir; things are going to get worse before they get better. For example, if you don’t think that PC and MC (multiculturalism) have become mainstream, just wait until Disney’s new animated feature Pocahontas opens next summer. Assuming the preview is representative of the rest, we will soon be watching the deconstruction of Western Man set to music for our children to hum on the way out of the theater. Pocahontas promises to do for Eurocentrism what Bambi did for hunting.
How many parents will naively take their children to Pocahontas and accept without protest its depiction of white, male, Christian Europeans who bring violence and slaughter to a paradisical land populated by saintly native Americans? Robert Royal’s 1492 and All That, a brilliant response to the nonsense surrounding the 500th anniversary of the discovery of the Americas, should be required reading for all parents before this next Disney onslaught.
Thus, the same sense of urgency that led to the founding of this magazine in 1982 still exists and, if anything, the advancing legions of the culture wars only heighten it. The possibility of transforming private and public life may end with the human heart, but it begins with the kind of critical analysis that has been presented in these pages over the last twelve years.
Let’s face it, many people still don’t realize that their cultural institutions have been corrupted, taken away from them by ideologues attempting to restructure society and recondition its citizenry along unrealizable, repressive, utopian lines. As Kierkegaard once said, the worst form of suffering is the one you don’t recognize. In spite of all the wake-up calls, including the November elections, we are still a society needing to recognize the mess it is in.
But Crisis means more than even this. More than the shortcomings of the state, culture, and Church, there is the perennial crisis of human life as seen from the cross of the Son of God. In this shadow, no temporal happiness, no political structure, no public policy, can claim finality. We are a people forever in need; we must pray for vision and for the strength to carry it out.
We must continue to test, measure, and discriminate in earthly matters, but without confusing the orders of nature and grace. Grace perfects nature, it does not destroy it, Thomas Aquinas wrote. This integration must be the guiding principle for the future of our humanism and our politics. We can give human nature its full due only by recognizing its fundamental need for divine help.
It is sometimes difficult to know which traditions and social structures are more effective than others in fulfilling human purpose, in encouraging ordinate pursuits of happiness. Yet to be reminded that our ultimate purpose is eternal happiness does not release us from our obligation to order all aspects of earthly life — economic, political, aesthetic, intellectual, scientific — toward this end. As a part of this task Crisis remains committed to articulating the advantages of both American democracy and democratic capitalism.
The question remains whether or not the positive contribution of Crisis and its contributors will be recognized in spite of its name and, one might venture, its reputation. Whatever its name may be, this magazine will continue its habits of debunking the secular faith and exposing questionable opinions and practices within the Church itself. But inspired by the spirit of John Paul II’s recent As the Third Millennium Draws Near, we will also offer opinion and articles about the shape of things to come. After the brambles have been cleared, it is once again time for planting.