Reviews & Interviews
Back to the Ethic: Reclaiming Western Values
How do we restore the vigor and greatness of Western civilization?
April 25, 2016
The collapse of the West is accelerating. The secular, leftist, multiculturalist elites have subverted Europe so successfully that the clash of civilizations is ending not with a bang, but with a whimper. The continent’s leaders have imported a violent, virulently anti-Western horde in the form of mass male Muslim migration; a rape culture and terrorist mayhem are becoming the new normal; and the best self-defense the Europeans can muster is ragtag bands of vigilantes. Here in America the cultural decay is less dramatic but gathering momentum as the radical left’s half-century war on American exceptionalism takes its toll.
As the West commits slow-motion suicide, and fundamentalist Islam advances, the questions arise: what can we do to recover our cultural self-confidence? How can we restore the vigor and greatness of Western civilization? How do we revive the unique values of our culture and push back against the barbarians at (and within) the gate?
A new book from Canadian publisher Mantua Books addresses these urgent concerns: Back to the Ethic: Reclaiming Western Values, by Diane Weber Bederman. Bederman is a multi-faith endorsed, hospital-trained chaplain who contributes regularly to CanadaFreePress and the Times of Israel, as well as maintaining her own blog.
Back to the Ethic is both a personal memoir and a broader cultural prescription. From the author’s own death-defying struggle with illness and depression to her meditations on a secularized culture that itself is mortally ill, the book stresses our need to return to the Judeo-Christian ethical monotheism that is at the root of Western civilization’s success.
Bederman begins by simply stating what I noted at the outset of this review – that “our belief systems are under attack.” Those belief systems, she writes, derive from our “foundational story,” the Bible. “The Hebrew Bible, filled with these teachings, the Gospels, and the New Testament make up the backbone of the Judeo-Christian ethic as practiced today in the Western world.”
Ethical monotheism, the 3500-year-old value system that began with Moses and the Israelites wandering in the desert, spread outward from that humble beginning to transform the earth. “And the world’s greatest transformation,” claims Bederman, “has been the knowledge that we humans are individually accountable for our actions.” It taught us that “we each have intrinsic value – we matter because we exist.”
That belief in the ethical God of the Christians and Jews “counterbalances egoism and the idolization of another human being.” Its emphasis on individualism has “freed us from the belief that we had no control over our destiny, that we were mere pieces in the games of capricious gods.” And yet, because it also teaches that we are also our brother’s keeper, the Bible has paradoxically led to a compassionate culture that rose above the narrow tribal loyalties of the past.
Ethical monotheism, set on a Biblical foundation of justice, “colors every aspect of Western culture, including the basic principles of our social, political, and judicial systems.” It is based on the recognition “that we are imperfect creatures, and it provides the path to forgiveness, redemption, and hopefulness, through ritual, symbol, tradition, and prayer.” The belief in a single god is a rejection of moral and cultural relativism. “Moral relativism lacks the universal principles and absolutes that are needed to guide one’s behavior.”
Winston Churchill once wrote that the Bible has given us a “system of ethics which, even if it were entirely separated from the supernatural, would be incomparably the most precious possession of mankind, worth in fact the fruits of all other wisdom and learning put together.” But we are losing our connection to those ethical rules, and unfortunately, Bederman says, now “the ideologies of secularism, agnosticism, atheism, and political correctness have been elevated to the status of Champions of Objective Truth that will somehow protect us from intolerance, war, and all the other human evils that these interest groups wrongly blame on every religion.”
Those ideologies do not, for Bederman, offer a cogent intellectual or moral alternative to the Bible stories that for thousands of years were part of our collective consciousness in the West. We once read them “for the values considered vital to all citizens of all races, colors, creeds, and religions living in this Western culture.” Those stories, however, are no longer shared. Students today are as tragically unfamiliar with them as they are the classics of the Western canon. The stories in the Bible “teach us the prerequisites for the establishment of democracy” and “how to become moral and ethical human beings,” Bederman writes. They “provide the path to personal liberation and a nourished soul as well as the infrastructure upon which to build an ethical, compassionate, free, and hopeful society.”
In addition to losing our connection to the Biblical roots of our ethics, we are “losing our sense of the sacred” as well, “the sacredness of family, friends, and community.” As with regaining our moral footing, restoring that sense of the sacred lies in reconnecting intellectually and spiritually with the Bible. Bederman writes:
“Maintaining Western culture requires that we continue to teach the ethics and values of the Bible. We must teach this ethic as a firewall, a bulwark against cultures and religions that are stuck in the past, that fear change and free will, or that promote extreme submission.”
In Back to the Ethic, Diane Weber Bederman has written a deeply thoughtful, deeply personal, and deeply spiritual work which urges us to understand that the future of Western civilization lies in its monotheistic origins, and that we can flourish again both personally and culturally by recommitting to the wisdom and values of the Bible. “[W]e need a shared morality that protects and promotes freedom, free will, individuality, and care for the community,” she asserts. “If not the ethics and values of the God of the Bible, what shared morality will it be?”
Mark Tapson, editor of TruthRevolt.org and a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center
Democracy at Risk; New Book Sounds the Alarm and the Remedy
Today, our way of life is threatened as never before. Canadians tend to take freedom, human rights and democracy for granted, never having known the opposite. The world appears to be descending into chaos – conflicts and war victimizing hundreds of thousands of people; a fast– growing, aggressive totalitarian ideology, sending its tentacles ever wider.
Unless we reclaim our Judeo-Christian heritage – the foundation of our way of life – we risk losing it altogether, writes Diane Weber Bederman in her debut book, Back to the Ethic: Reclaiming Western Values. Deeply felt and deeply thought out; bold, clear and forthright, the book is her impassioned plea to re connect to the ethical monotheism in Judaism and Christianity that brought us Western democracy, before it’s too late. “The Bible is the blueprint for democracy”, she writes.
From the book: “Sadly, we are losing our connection to the Bible’s ethical rules, and are thereby putting our Western democracies on life support. Not only are we under attack from those who hate our way of life, our Western culture is crumbling from internal pressures: from idolizing tolerance, inclusion and accommodation to the point that we welcome beliefs, customs and rituals that undermine our democracy – in the name of democracy.”
Through personal anecdotes, interwoven with history, politics, philosophy, science and theology, she quotes Winston Churchhill: “The Judeo Christian ethic colours every aspect of Western culture, including the basic principles of our social, political and judicial systems. It is the foundation of our lifestyle.”
Bederman, a strongly identified Jew and Zionist, is a frequent contributor to CIJNews. She writes about mental illness, religion, politics, and ethics for a variety of publications. She is also is a multi-faith, hospital trained chaplain. She is critical of those in “our affluent “drive-through” society, ….with designer spirituality… those who want it all now, without truly investing anything of themselves….they end up following the guru of the month.” She tells us there is no short-cut to spirituality. It is to be found through, meditation, contemplation and through love. “We experience God -because human love has divine love running through it.”
In the riveting “Misfortune Weighs Heavy”, she writes about her botched surgery and the harrowing months of pain and depression that followed. An ordeal so terrible she thought of taking her own life. Guided by her Rabbi “tapping into the part of me that is deeply connected to God” , she found “relief. comfort and purpose”.
Throughout the book, there are a wealth of quotations gleaned from the greatest minds across the ages From the prophets to the Prince of Wales, I found myself re reading the book again and again, scouring the book for these gems.
Bederman writes. “I want you to come away from reading my book with a new appreciation of the Bible…(as) the path to personal liberation and a nourished soul as well as the infrastructure upon which to build an ethical, compassionate, free and hopeful society.”
Back to the Ethic: Reclaiming Western Values
by Diane Weber Bederman
Published by Mantua Books Ltd., 2015
Doris Strub Epstein, Journalist, CIJ News
I was born in a Muslim country, Turkey. Most of the people who lived here had been Christians until 1453, when the Muslims captured Constantinople and started to Islamize it. Even as a child I had puzzled over the reasons why we lack freedom and justice in our country, and I wondered why we could not live in dignity, why so many Muslims were cruel to non-Muslims, and why different people in the Middle East could not live together harmoniously instead of everyone being dominated by someone else.
When I studied Western nations, I longed for their culture and way of life. People there were free. They had rights, and they respected the rights of others. They solved their political problems through compromise. We did not. If they could live that way, why couldn't we? What made them different?
At first, I thought secularism made it possible; but after I read Weber Bederman’s brilliantly written and incredibly eye-opening masterpiece, “Back to the Ethic: Reclaiming Western Values”, I understood that there is much more to western civilization than secularism. It was the Jewish and Christian values that enabled a secular system that separated church from state in the West. And “church” or “synagogue” and the state were not completely separate. Judeo-Christian ethics greatly shaped and influenced western civilization to make it the magnificent civilization it is today.
“This might surprise you,” wrote Weber Bederman, “but the freedoms we have in the West come from the Bible: the blueprint for democracy…. The powerful Bible stories teach us the prerequisites for the establishment of democracy: how to become moral and ethical human beings, able to live in a compassionate, moral, and ethical civilization…. Biblical ethical monotheism changed us from tribal societies incapable of caring for other people into a culture based on free will.”
The Jewish and Christian teachings about workers’ rights, about social justice, about protecting the weak, the poor and the oppressed, about defending the victims of violence, about safe building practices, about doing fair business, about achieving peace with other nations, about being compassionate to animals, and about caring for everyone even if they do not belong to our ethnic or religious group: these ideas are the real sources of western civilization. It is the Bible that gave the West the fundamentals of its political and judicial systems.
A society that is established on those values will become just and free, but human beings will always be imperfect. Hence, westerners have not always been able to live by their values. But to the extent that they have been able to follow these teachings, they have created a profoundly free and thriving culture. As Weber Bederman wrote: “We haven’t always succeeded in following the commandments. But that is a human failure and not a failure of the religio-ethic that teaches it.”
This book has also made me realize even more strongly what we in the Middle East - once a Christian land – have lost by destroying Judaism and Christianity in our countries. For the last 1400 years, the Muslim world has given itself only the gravest human rights violations: forced conversions, destruction of entire non-Muslim civilizations, ethnic cleansing, sexual slavery, and the systematic violence against women and minorities.
And our most serious problem today is that our people do not apologize for their crimes of the past. Most of the criminals are even proud of their criminal history and continue proudly to commit new crimes. And they do not even consider them crimes. For they do not follow a spiritual moral code to guide them to “care for the other person as they care for their brother.” Intolerance and the lack of respect for human rights has become the norm in the Muslim world.
That is why the values inspired by Judeo-Christian ethical tradition should not remain only “western values”; they should be universal values - all other nations should also aspire to embrace them to live more freely and humanely. These ideas can be adapted to and adopted by all peoples in the world.
And to cherish and respect these values and what they represent, one does not have to be Jewish or Christian. Even atheists, agnostics or other non-religious people should be proud of and grateful for what the Judeo-Christian ethic has given to western civilization as well as to all of humanity.
Weber Bederman’s “Back to the Ethic Reclaiming Western Values” is a must read for all people to value. They must never take their Judeo-Christian values for granted. Non-westerners must learn that it is western civilization that we should take as an example, and they must contemplate what we have lost by annihilating the indigenous Jews and Christians in Middle Eastern lands.
Uzay Bulut, writer for Gatestone
Why do some cultures support freedom and individualism, while others are repressive? Why do some value the inherent dignity of each human being, while others sacrifice millions for dubious ends? Back to the Ethic: Reclaiming Western Values is Diane Weber Bederman’s cri de coeur, her passionate call to renew the Judeo-Christian heritage of the west before it is swamped by utilitarianism, secularism, and moral relativism. It is also a wide-ranging personal reflection and marshalling of specific references that link the stories and injunctions of the Bible to the deepest values of ethical monotheism. Most of all, the book is an invitation to readers to return to the Bible to ground a principled and compassionate ethical system, one that neither petrifies into a rigid fundamentalism at war with science or intellect, nor opens itself to dissolution through excessive tolerance or reliance on feelings. Both religious believers and non-believers will find much to engage and provoke in these pages, which distill a lifetime’s worth of thought and insight.
Janice Fiamengo, Professor of English University of Ottawa
When freedom turns into nihilism, ignorance is accepted as "free choice", the human body turns into a fashion model, family values are viewed as "old stuff" and caring for the mere existence of our next generation is only an option, Western culture is in danger. A culture which does not reproduce itself walks proudly into the museum.
When freedom, the axis of our culture, is deliberately misused to destroy it, and our values, which for centuries enlightened the world are twisted they become a poison which we force ourselves to drink. Under the slogan of tolerance and inclusion we allowed cultures – which share very little with our own – to infiltrate into our societies, settle inside them, ferment and change them from within.
We tolerate and welcome people who do not believe in tolerance, we grant freedom to people who openly preach against our freedoms, we equally accept men and women who do not believe that men and women are equal. Western culture, which once was the lighthouse for humankind, is turning into a self-destruction scheme which leads the world into a dark tunnel with a dead end.
Mordechai Kedar, Research Associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, Bar-Ilan University, Israel
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