Sit Down, Be Comfortable!

Which of our editors wrote this indictment of post-Christian America?

More than a few of us begin to see that while wealth accumulates in these United States, man seems to decay.  Corruption corrodes our political and industrial doings.  In our private lives a pervading relativism, an absence of conviction about what is the good life, a willingness to seek the easy way rather than the way of integrity, blunts the prodding of conscience, takes the zest out of living, creates a general boredom.  We are not a happy people; our alleged gaiety is not spontaneous.  Our boredom results not only in a reluctant morality but in shockingly bad manners, which most of us do not even know are bad manners.  We become increasingly truculent.  Our way of life, while opulent and brash, is less and less conducive to peace of mind and security of soul.

This condemnation of American culture is not to be found in a Chronicles editorial written during the Clinton years, but in an essay of Bernard Iddings Bell published in 1952 as a chapter in his short but important book Crowd Culture, republished now by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute.  Bell was that rarest of writers, an American “centric”; of course, by the American standards of shoddy vulgarity, he was entirely eccentric, but both by the purity of his prose and the integrity of his thought, Bell represented...

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