Scholar on How to Rebuild America From the 'Sewer' of Cultural Rot

(Photo: Screengrab/YouTube/Saint Benedict Forum)Providence College professor Anthony Esolen delivering 2014 lecture titled "Liberal Arts and the Christian College in a Post-Christian World" at Hope College as part of the Saint Benedict Forum's Catholic Speaker Series.

An esteemed English professor who refused to go along with campus "diversity" programs believes American culture is disintegrating and is now offering a prescription to bring the United States out of what he views as the "sewer" of cultural rot.

Anthony Esolen, who teaches at Providence College, a Roman Catholic institution in Rhode Island's state capital, did not hold back in his criticism of today's culture — including the LGBTQ movement and schools. His latest book Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture issues a clarion call for Christians to restore vital institutions essential for a flourishing society.

"I've been meeting the results of our collapsed culture," Esolen told The Christian Post. "I teach college freshman every year so I get them straight from the supposedly best schools in the Northeast. And I have a pretty fair idea as to what they know and what they don't know."

And as it turns out, they don't know very much at all when it comes to the best writers and literature of their mother tongue. But they somehow do manage to know a lot about contemporary politics.

"We are now raising a generation of kids who really are not learning, who are not interested in learning about anybody but themselves. Their minds have been poisoned with identity politics," Esolen said.

The professor is a veteran writer on the disintegration of culture, frequently opining in places like Touchstone, Crisis Magazine, and the Witherspoon Institute's Public Discourse.

Some of his recent works that were critical of the nature of campus "diversity" have generated controversy. Last fall, Esolen came under fire at Providence shortly after he expressed his opposition to the college's promotion of "diversity." He contended in a Sept. 26 Crisis Magazine article that a distinctly Roman Catholic school ought not to embrace "the alphabet soup of cheered-on sexual proclivities," as espoused by the LGBTQ movement.

"Is not that same call for diversity, when Catholics are doing the calling, a surrender of the Church to a political movement which is, for all its talk, a push for homogeneity, so that all the world will look not like the many-cultured Church, but rather like the monotone non-culture of western cities that have lost their faith in the transcendent and unifying God?" he posed in the article.

He was summarily marginalized on campus, a faculty petition got circulated condemning his work as hateful and bigoted, and students marched in angry protest.

"I said, 'Wait a second. Are we a Catholic college or not?'" Esolen noted in a December interview with the National Catholic Register in response to the fallout. "If we are a Catholic college, then we welcome everybody, but we don't welcome the sin or the temptation to the sin."

That alphabet soup remark "was the thing that needled them," Esolen told CP. "If you are any kind of believing Christian, and you have not deluded yourself about the gospels in 2,000 years of Christian history and the nature of human beings, you can't be on board with the insanity."

He further noted that his college president has refused to meet with a group of orthodox Catholic professors of theology and philosophy about this.

Esolen is urging Christians not to adopt the language of the culture when it comes to sexuality. He refuses to use transgender pronouns or in any way lend credence to the sexual revolution because employing such language forces him to lie.

"You cannot compromise one bit on that," he said. "Now it doesn't mean you have to insult people to their face. But you cannot say 'My niece and her girlfriend are getting married.' You can't say that.

"Because as soon as you say that you have given the whole ball game to the Father of Lies. It is not possible for a woman to marry a woman. It makes no physical sense, biological sense, anthropological sense, even grammatical sense," he argued.

Nowadays, every time he meets someone who says they object to some teachings of the Church, he knows immediately it is about something sexual.

"It is not that the person does not agree with the definition of the Trinity or about lending money at interest, or the relationship of faith and reason. It's all about what you do with your genitals. That's how tawdry we have become," Esolen said.

"They just don't make heretics like they used to," he joked.

Yet beyond word policing and incessant political correctness, Christians must repudiate the whole sexual revolution, every last bit of it, the author maintained. And that will require a recovery of real manhood, a theme Esolen explores in great depth in his book.

Boys, he argued, have been deeply hurt by all the gender-bending in culture, and they do not know what it means to be a man nor how to access real masculinity.

A boy "must me made into a man," he wrote in Out of the Ashes, "nor is it true that, once he has established himself as a man, he need never worry about it again. Manhood is risky. It must be publicly affirmed, and you can lose that affirmation by cowardice and effeminacy."

When we fail to raise men to be fathers, society crumbles as they retreat from leadership, he added.

Gone are the groups that once cultivated these virtues. The Boy Scouts does not even know what a boy is anymore and the YMCA has become nothing more than a daycare center for middle-class women, Esolen lamented.

This cannot change quickly enough and churches that still believe in the Word of God must create contexts for brotherhood because it is in such godly fraternities that men continue to become men, not just boys in adult bodies.

"Let brotherhoods then proliferate, and let the churches lead. Right now, men can congregate to get drunk and watch sports on television at a bar. Let them congregate instead to do adventurous work, the kind that stretches their muscles, physical, moral, and intellectual," Esolen wrote.

Perhaps his most salient criticism extends to the education system in America. Most schools, he believes, are not repairable.

"We avoid religious questions at the cost of avoiding the most human questions. And thus education, which should be human, is reduced to the mechanical and the low," the author noted in his book.

Even well-meaning teachers still do not put before their students the great heritage of English literature, especially works that engage the whole human person and are in many ways profoundly religious.

"You can't really talk about Charles Dickens sensibly unless you are talking about the gospels. And John Milton, he's writing about the Fall of Man in Paradise Lost," Esolen said.

"So teachers are afraid of what might happen to them if they get called on the carpet for discussing the most human things, avoid it, or maybe they themselves are not comfortable with it even though they may have good intentions with it," he pointed out.

CP asked Esolen what he hoped Christians will take away most from a book given the bleak picture it paints.

"If you look at how much has been destroyed, you'll despair and never get started," he replied. "The task is daunting if you think you have to do everything. But nobody can do everything. Nobody can even address everything. But everybody can do something. Any one of us can do something that is right there to hand."

One thing he wants Christians to do is to "get your kids out of the toxic waste dumps, otherwise known as schools, and pick up some good books and start reading."

"Good books have never been cheaper than in the history of the human race. You can have a library that Thomas Jefferson would have envied for a few hundred dollars," he noted.

Overall, it's not going to be easy to rebuild.

"It's going to be a long haul because it's a lot easier to destroy than it is to build," he concluded.

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