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We’re in big trouble, folks. Forget the corruption of the Clinton administration. Forget the growing menace posed by the People’s Republic of China. Forget Saddam Hussein and Jack Kevorkian.

Let’s talk about a bigger problem — the role each of us is playing in the surrender of our culture to a neo-pagan, morally relativistic value system that is turning our kids into prey and predators and our country into a jungle.

In the last two weeks, my wife, Elizabeth, and I went to two movies — “Devil’s Advocate,” a surprisingly powerful, but exceedingly graphic, morality tale, and “Starship Troopers,” an insipid, but equally graphic, paean to global government and 21st century political correctness.

About the only thing these movies have in common is their R rating. Under no circumstances could either be construed as suitable for children by any responsible parent. Both contain nudity, strong sexual content, explicit, even gory violence and enough horrors to inspire nightmares in kids for years to come.

In both cases, however, we were surprised to see the theaters loaded with children — some as young as 4 or 5 years old dragged along by parents and others as young as 12 without any adult supervision.

It’s painful even to think about the effect such movies have on kids, and even more difficult to imagine scenes like this recreated in thousands of cities and towns across America — every day, every week, for years. What impact do such images leave on impressionable minds? What damage do they inflict on young hearts? What scars do they leave on their souls?

Has America gone nuts? Have this many parents lost their ability to reason? Are adults abdicating responsibility to the popular culture or is the popular culture merely a reflection of the absence of standards so prevalent among the general populace? And, even more difficult to ponder: What’s the solution to such mass capitulation to immorality?

It seems to me America has lost respect for innocence, for childhood itself. Certainly no government policy is likely to restore that — though I can think of many that have contributed to the problem. No system of voluntary ratings by an industry run by immature, unaccountable, unprincipled egomaniacs can hope to return our society to virtuousness.

So, where do we begin? Well, as usual, my wife had some ideas. We all bear some responsibility, she told me. How can we sit by quietly and watch our culture destroy itself? Following one of the movies, she confronted a group of four young teen-age boys seated in front of us.

“I want you to tell your parents that you met a crazy lady at the movies who told you it was totally inappropriate for you to see the movie you saw tonight,” she said.

They were shocked. Perhaps it was the first time in their lives that an adult authority figure showed an interest in their well-being. But, do you know what? It’s not just their emotional and spiritual health for which Elizabeth is concerned. These kids are going to be an influence on their friends — our kids. No matter how we try to protect our own children from such evil pressures, when our culture is this polluted, we become powerless to isolate them from their sway.

We have to fight back, says Elizabeth. That means confrontation. It means talking to the children who are no more than victims of this insanity. It means asking theater managers why they are allowing under-age children to attend such movies. And, yes, it even means confronting parents with their own shameful irresponsibility. Each individual action may seem too insignificant to trifle with, yet, as Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

There was a time, not long ago, in this country when the church played a powerful role in influencing the entertainment industry. From 1933 until the late 1960s, every major Hollywood studio submitted its scripts for approval to the Protestant Film Office and the Roman Catholic Church’s Legion of Decency. When the churches abandoned Hollywood (not the other way around, by the way), the negative result was both predictable and dramatic.

Today, nothing short of a general cultural reawakening — a spiritual revival, if you will — can save us from ourselves. All of us, not just Hollywood, need constant reminding that there are, indeed, moral absolutes in this universe of ours. There are right ways and wrong ways of behaving and, especially, of rearing children. There are immutable laws that have worked pretty well for nearly 6,000 years. Ignore them, as we have recently, and the world goes to hell in a handcart.

Our only hope is to stop ignoring the corrosive evil that surrounds us. Confront it. Battle it. Defeat it.

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