For Whom the Bell Tolls: An Elegy of Our Own Making

By Cade Campbell

For God’s sake, let us sit upon the ground
And tell sad stories of the death of kings…
all murder’d…”
William Shakespeare, Richard II, 3.2

Let us sit here, you and I, and rehearse a tragedy. It is a sad epic, a dirge to serve as society’s death knell, a funeral pyre lit with the somber mourning for two kings: a beast and a baby, an animal and just “another boy,” a lion and a lamb, both innocent, both helpless. One, protected by conservation law, and yet slaughtered anyway. The other, unprotected, the targeted victim of constitutional legality.

This last week our nation has watched with fixed attention as outrage was expressed toward the reckless entrapment of a well-loved lion named Cecil and the clinical extinction of boys and girls from the environment of their mothers’ wombs. While it is certainly right and good to be outraged by both, a cursory glance at the manner (and volume) in which the apparent majority of our culture has been outraged by the death of the lion while continuing to support the pro-choice movement is staggering, and I believe telling. It unmasks the decomposing corpse at the heart of the American psyche.

We are surveying here nothing less than the cratered moral landscape of a culture in love with death, doubt, and duplicity. This week has seen its share of “raging against the dying of the light,” but for much of the prevailing culture, our culture, and certainly for much of the political powers that are tied with complicity to an economy of abortion, it has been a rage that is merely “sound and fury, signifying nothing.” As the horrific online videos have been released to shine light into the darkness of the secular-abortion-complex, we have borne witness to a society whose national conscience is so seared and so blinded as to be utterly and practically ruined for all purposes of actual dissent and change. The mirrored constituencies of media, money, and masked outrage have displayed the rock-bottom hollowness of a society (our society) that is devoid of any moral mooring.

We are looking upon the madness of our age in all its bloodied insanity, a madness in which many will employ the highest humane ethics to be bolstered in decrying the senseless slaying of an African lion while ignoring (at best) or defending (at worst) the surgical murder, mutilation, and marketing of helpless human lives. This madness trumpets the rights of animals while simultaneously celebrating the animalistic degrading of all that is right and inherently human. Behold, ours is a culture that in all of its gathered self-righteousness must at once be seen to protest the dehumanizing violence carried out  on a creature in a vain attempt to distract the public’s attention away from our own desensitized dehumanization. In a perversion of value we have treated that which is not human as of ultimate human worth, while treating humans who are yet unborn as of no worth at all. If you want to be shocked, be shocked at that.

This societal dehumanization is nothing more than the display of the absolute inconsistency of our age’s wisdom. We find ourselves immersed amid a sea of mind-numbing contradictions, and we have been sinking into these depths for quite some time. Make no mistake, Planned Parenthood did not just begin a campaign of death, nor did our society just recently put in place the public policies that would make it happen (and make it almost impossible to be stopped).

The videos (and the others to come) tell the biography of our culture’s collapse. Those exposés are cultural x-rays, showing the depth of our society’s danger from its long exposure to secularity. Those x-rays reveal a cancer ravaging the very heart of our culture, a cancer that has slowly, over long years, reached its full deadliness as our moral implosion has metastasized. In its wake we are left with the capsizing waves of modern man’s fracturing, a wreck that reduces all denunciation to a parody, a parody that loudly screams against one evil only as a cover for the continuation of another far greater evil. This is what we deserve. This is what we the people apparently want. Look around, what we are observing each day is the very meaning of those stark and horrifying words: “God gave them up” (Romans 1:24). Is there a more terrifying sentence in the English language?

When a society so loudly insists that all truth is subjective, all identity is fluid, all morality is relative, and the entire nature of personhood has meaning only for those “courageous” souls who may self-identify as whatever their whims may want at any given moment, then that society is left only to gaze at its own reflection and see a world of imbeciles, a world of living (and utterly meaningless) contradictions. When the highest of ideals only exist to mock the very notion of ideals, that society cannot  and will not long endure. How could it? In the first decade of the twentieth century G.K. Chesterton described the bizarre and self-defeating outlook that seems to aptly describe the prevailing winds of culture during the second decade of the twenty-first century. Chesterton wrote in his book Orthodoxy this description of the crazed contradiction of a morally-imperiled society:

“…the new rebel is a skeptic, and will not entirely trust anything. He has no loyalty; therefore he can never be really a revolutionist. And the fact that he doubts everything really gets in his way when he wants to denounce anything. For all denunciation implies a moral doctrine of some kind; and the modern revolutionist doubts not only the institution he denounces, but the doctrine by which he denounces it. . . . As a politician, he will cry out that war is a waste of life, and then, as a philosopher, that all life is waste of time. A Russian pessimist will denounce a policeman for killing a peasant, and then prove by the highest philosophical principles that the peasant ought to have killed himself. . . . The man of this school goes first to a political meeting, where he complains that savages are treated as if they were beasts; then he takes his hat and umbrella and goes on to a scientific meeting, where he proves that they practically are beasts. In short, the modern revolutionist, being an infinite skeptic, is always engaged in undermining his own mines. In his book on politics he attacks men for trampling on morality; in his book on ethics he attacks morality for trampling on men. Therefore the modern man in revolt has become practically useless for all purposes of revolt. By rebelling against everything he has lost his right to rebel against anything.” – G.K. Chesterton

This type of contradiction has created within our society a shallowness, a world without chests. C.S. Lewis, in his little book, The Abolition of Man, foresaw and foretold the necessary consequences of a society that casts off objective value and truth. It creates, Lewis says, “men without chests.” By that he means that a society so ungrounded on firm and objective morality will desecrate itself into becoming itself subhuman, being governed only by whim and the mass herd-hysteria. It is at once a maddened zeal to grasp at a semblance of stability while sinking into the quicksand of a standard of meaning and truth no larger than ourselves.

That quagmire is where the modern project that so many have so confidently called progress, when it is divorced from truth, unalterably leads. It brings us to the inevitable and horrific irony of a nation that federally funds the cutting-up of the butchered flesh of murdered babies, being itself so butchered as to be beyond any resemblance of actual humanity. The atrocity of Planned Parenthood’s evils plays the sad melody of an American elegy.  A society that will not live in the light of the Lord of Life is slinking toward its own demise. It is participating in its own dark funeral procession, garbed in the black robes of injustice’s mourning, marching sedately into the graveyard that is the final resting place for history’s once mighty empires that are now no more, all while holding signs in sincere support of Cecil, and in the sincere support of our cherished notion of choice.

Make no mistake. The videos that have been released to uncover the heinousness of the abortion industry are not merely videos. They are obituaries played in high definition.

They are bells that signal the death, the living death, of a society. Ours.

“..Send not to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.” – John Donne


Cade Campbell is Associate Pastor for Preaching and Discipleship at First Baptist Church Henryville, Indiana. You can follow him on Twitter at @DCadeCampbell.

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