The Canadian Red Ensign

The Canadian Red Ensign

Friday, July 31, 2020

Christianity, Darwinism, and Marxism

I was just entering high school when I developed an interest in the “scientific creationist” response to the Darwinian theory of evolution.  By the end of my formal theological education at what is now Providence University College I had become convinced that this response was deeply flawed.   While that may sound like the testimony of someone whose theology grew more liberal over time, allow me to clarify that the flaw that I had come to perceive in scientific creationism was to be found in the adjective and not in the noun.   Creationism is an indispensable part of the orthodox Christian faith.   It is present in the very first affirmation of the two most ancient and sacred Creeds.   “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth” the Apostles’ Creed declares, and lest there be any confusion about the issue, such as that generated by Marcion of Synope and other Gnostics who attributed the creation of the physical world to a lesser deity than the Father God of Whom Christ spoke, the Nicene Creed expands this to “I believe in One God, the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth, and of all things visible and invisible.”   As with all else affirmed in the Creeds, this is the clear teaching of the Holy Scriptures, which are God’s authoritative propositional revelation.  


Scientific creationism is the response to the Darwinian challenge to this affirmation that asserts that the evidence of the physical sciences better supports the most literal reading of the first three chapters of Genesis than it does Darwin’s theory.   The question of how literally these chapters should be read is a question of hermeneutics and not one that I am going to deal with at any great length.   Dr. RonDart has recently reminded us that the house of hermeneutics has many layers,of which the literal – the historical, grammatical reading of the sacred text–is the lowest.   He was making the point, quite correctly, that the emphasis on this layer to the exclusion of the others in the post-Reformation branch of the Christian tradition creates an impoverishment in hermeneutical meaning.  All that I will say about that is that in this day, when the truth of the Scriptures at the literal level has sustained relentless attack from every direction for centuries, it is important to remember that St. Augustine identified the literal level of meaning as the lowest layer because it is the foundation upon which all the others are built.


The flaw in the scientific creationists' response is that by asserting that the evidence of the physical sciences supports the literal reading of the creation account rather than Darwinism the scientific creationists affirm what is in fact the most questionable element of Darwinism – that that which emerges from the observations, hypotheses, tests and experiments of the empirical method can provide answers to such questions as “why am I here”, “why is there life on this planet”, and “why is there something instead of nothing.”   This confusion of the physical with the metaphysical, is problematic from the standpoint of both ontology and epistemology.   It is, in other words, deeply philosophically flawed.


One writer who was particularly influential on my thinking in this regards was Gordon H. Clark, the very Calvinist theologian who was chairman of the department of philosophy at Butler University from 1943 to 1973.   He is probably most remembered as one of the two leading figures in the development of the presuppositional school of Christian apologetics – and for his historical clash with the other, Cornelius Van Til.   Both men were among the circle of conservative Presbyterians that had formed around J. Gresham Machen when the Fundamentalist/Modernist controversy hit Princeton Theological Seminary and who helped Machen organize the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, although the clash between the two began almost immediately after when Van Til led the faculty of Westminster Theological Seminary, the conservative successor to Princeton that had been founded when the latter went Modernist, in opposing Clark’s ordination by the OPC’s synod in Philadelphia over a number of theological and philosophical disagreements that I am not going to get into here.  Clark’s The Philosophy of Science and Belief in God (1964) made a powerful case that since all scientific theories and laws involve contradictions and other logical fallacies and any truth claim based upon science reduces to the fallacy of asserting the consequent, science has only operational and utilitarian value and not epistemic value.   I found his argument to be quite persuasive and was further impressed by the inevitable conclusion to which it led, that the Christian response to the challenges posted by the claims of Modern scientism in general and Darwinism in particular must speak the language of philosophy rather than of science.


An excellent and simple illustration of a philosophical response to scientism can be found in C. S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia.   In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which is the third volume in the fantasy series by order of publication, on one of the last islands that Prince Caspian, the younger two of the Pevensies, Lucy and Edmund, their cousin Eustace Scrubb, and the other characters visit in their journey, they encounter an old man named Ramandu who explains to them that he had once been one of the stars in the Narnian sky but had long since retired.   Eustace, whose very progressive parents have been sending him to a very up-to-date school, has only recently begun to escape the trappings of his scientistic and materialistic upbringing.   The following exchange takes place:


“In our world,” said Eustace, “a star is a huge ball of flaming gas.”

“Even in your world, my son, that is not what a star is but only what it is made of. 

In other words, while you can produce an impressive and comprehensive description of something by scientific analysis – taking it apart and identifying its components – this will always fall short of answering the question of what that something is.  


This approach by contrast with that of the scientific creationist can be likened to the sort of physician who addresses the underlying disease rather than merely treating the symptoms.   Scientific creationists frequently identify Darwinism as the cause of all the problems of the last century and a half – Communism, Nazism, secularism, the erosion of morality, etc.   To do this, however, is to make the mistake of confusing one of the fruits with the tree.  


Let us consider the actual relationship between one of the evils mentioned in the previous paragraph and Darwinism.   It makes very little sense to say that Communism, or rather Marxism, the ideology of which Communism is the practical expression, comes from Darwinism, despite the fact that Karl Marx wrote that Darwin’s book contained “the basis in natural history for our view” in a letter to Friedrich Engels on December 19, 1860.  For when Marx wrote those words Darwin’s On the Origins of Species By Means of Natural Selection had only just appeared, having been first published in 1859.   The Communist Manifesto had been published eleven years previously.   Granted, some of the ideas that we associate with Charles Darwin had been brewing in the natural sciences for decades prior to the publication of his book, but then, something similar could be said about Karl Marx and his manifesto.    Moreover, only a year and a half later on June 18, 1862, Marx was writing to Engels, having come full circle on Darwin and denouncing his theory as an embodiment of the sentiments of Victorian era capitalism.   Perhaps, considering that years later Marx would dedicate the second edition of the first volume of the English translation of Das Kapital to Darwin and sent him a courtesy copy, he changed his mind yet again.   Darwin himself, however, although he thanked Marx for the book and the dedication, was on record as being opposed to the use of evolutionary science in support of socialism.   Indeed, while Marx’s initial, and possibly later, attraction to Darwin’s theory is probably best explained by his seeing in it a club with which to bash religion in general and Christianity in particular, which Marx notoriously despised, Darwin repudiated this use of his theory.  


The erroneous notion that Marxism is a fruit of Darwinism is a huge stumbling block to understanding the interaction between the two in the twentieth century.   This failure has had some rather ironic theological repercussions.


The history of Darwinism after Darwin is the history of the mainstream of the scientific discipline of biology.   It can be said of biology what Clark said about science in general, that it is “always false, but often useful.”   What happens to the utility of a science, however, when its methodology is subverted by the dogmas of a political ideology? 


The consequences can be devastating and disastrous.   As it so happens, just such a political ideology – Marxism – went to great lengths to subvert the science of biology in the twentieth century.   This was done in an obvious and overt fashion in the first country in which Marxism had attained control of the state – the Soviet Union.   For a full account of the notorious episode in which the USSR forced biology, and specifically genetics, to submit to Marxist dogma, see Valery N. Soyfer’s Lysenko and the Tragedy of Soviet Science (1994).   Lysenkoism also became official dogma in other Communist countries.  The period in which it was the party line in Red China corresponds to the years in in Mao was repeating all of the Soviet Union’s worst mistakes and reaping a similar harvest of famine and death in the “Great Leap Forward”.   For a description of this period that includes a discussion of how bad agricultural techniques, like “close planting” and “deep plowing”, derived from Lysenkoism contributed to the Chinese famine see Jasper Becker’s Hungry Ghosts: Mao’s Secret Famine (1996).


Outside the Communist bloc, Marxism never attained this sort of overt power in the state.   It had, however, attained a comparable degree of control in Western academe by the middle of the twentieth century, and this is where most science is done.   In 1959, the Professor of Botany at the University of Pennsylvania, Conway Zirkle, who ten years previously had written a book length treatment of Lysenkoism the year after the USSR officially condemned genetics as a “bourgeois pseudoscience”, published Evolution, Marxian Biology, and the Social Scene, which argued that the ideas which now bear the name of Trofim Lysenko can be traced directly to Marx and Engels themselves, who had cherry-picked ideas from Darwin, wed them to Lamarck in rejection of Mendel, and threw out completely both the Malthus who had influenced Darwin and the Galton who had been inspired by him, to produce an alternative “Marxian Biology.”   While it was only in the Communist bloc where this dominated the biology classroom, Zirkle maintained that the way evolutionary theory was understood in much popular culture and literature, reflected the Marxian version of the theory rather than the Darwinian, because it was pervasive in the Marx-dominated social sciences.


Zirkle passed away in 1972.   He did not live to see the controversy of three years later, when Edward O. Wilson, a research professor and myrmecologist at Harvard University published his massive volume Sociobiology: The New Synthesis, a controversy which would have provided him with plenty of material for an expanded edition of his own book.   Wilson’s book, which drew heavily on the elements of mainstream evolutionary biology which the Marx-Lysenko version rejects, explores the relationship between genes, adaptation, and the social behaviour of animals, culminating in the last, and most controversial, chapter on human beings.   Widely reviewed, the book was received well by those within the discipline of biology, but it angered many sociologists, illustrating well the difference between the two schools that Zirkle had highlighted. 


In the November 13, 1975 issue of the New York Review of Books published a letter which condemned Wilson’s book for reviving “biological determinism” for the political purpose of providing a “genetic justification of the status quo and of existing privileges for certain groups according to class, race, and sex.”   It completely distorted Wilson’s thesis, of course, with the writer of the letter not hesitating to stoop to inserting an ellipsis into a quotation from Wilson at one point that completely inverted his meaning.   The NYRB had the decently to run a rebuttal letter from Wilson in the December 11th issue.     The original letter was, of course, guilty of the very thing of which it accused Wilson – smuggling political views into biology.   The letter was signed by sixteen individuals listed in alphabetical order – and accordingly is attributed to Elizabeth Allen, et al, Allen, who was a pre-med student at Brandeis University at the time being listed first.  The signatories were mostly, perhaps entirely, people associated with Science for the People, a Marxist activist group the  raison d'être of which was to use science as a vehicle for the promotion of left-wing political views.   These included a number of biology professors, which would have signaled to anyone paying attention, as Zirkle most certainly would have had he lived to this point, that an attempted Marxist coup within the biology departments of Western academe is underway.   Sadly, not enough people were paying attention.   By the end of the twentieth century, one of those signatories, Stephen Jay Gould, who made little attempt to hide the Communist politics beneath the thin veneer of his science, was widely considered to be the face of evolutionary biology.


Indeed, the Marxian takeover of Western biology was by then so complete that when, in the year 2000, Bill Clinton hosted a big party at the White House at which he and Tony Blair, along with Dr. J. Craig Venter of Celera Genomics and Dr. Francis Collins of the Human Genome Project announced the completion of the mapping of the human genome, Venter made a point of declaring that the research illustrates that “the concept of race has no genetic or scientific basis.    In other words, the completion of the most important research project in the history of the very branch of biology which Lysenko rejected, was being used to promote a concept, which originated in the social science departments where Lysenko’s Marxian views prevailed, in this case that of Boasian anthropology.   Although the regime he supported had gone the way of the dodo, Trofim Lysenko had his ultimate triumph.


At this point I would like to repeat the quotation from Gordon Clark that “science is always false, but often useful.”   The most obvious utility of a project like the mapping of the human genome is in the area of treating genetic diseases and conditions.   There are plenty of such conditions that afflict primarily or exclusively the members of a single race or ethnicity.   If the influence of Marxist Neo-Lysenkoism has become such in Western biology that the then-president of the private research company competing with the government sponsored scientists in this project, turned such an occasion into a platform for espousing Franz Boas and Ashley Montagu’s Marxist race denial, even going so far as to mislead his hearers into thinking that ethnicity cannot be determined from a gene sample, is this likely to have a positive or a negative effect on the usefulness of this research in treating such diseases?


This brings us back to the scientific creationists and their error of regarding Marxism as the fruit of Darwinism, an error unavoidable on their part because of their more fundamental error of attempting to answer the Darwinian challenge to the truth of Creation in Darwinism’s own scientific language thus accepting the same false scientistic premise as Darwinism that science has epistemic as well as utilitarian value.  It brings us back to this point because of the irony of the fact that one of the leading scientific creationists – perhaps the leading scientific creationist now that Henry M. Morris is no longer with us – Ken Ham, wrote an entire book which attempted to read the same Marxist concept that J. Craig Venter espoused at Bill Clinton’s garden party in 2000 into the Bible.


The book in question, One Blood: The Biblical Answer to Racism, was co-written with Don Batten and Carl Wieland and suspiciously appeared the same year as the aforementioned party.   It is based entirely upon semantic dishonesty – using the fact that we use the word “race” for both our species as a whole and for subspecies within it, rather than the distinct words we use for other species/subspecies, such as species = dog, breed = cocker spaniel, bull dog, Doberman, etc., to deny the existence of “races” within humanity because we are all “one race”, bad hermeneutics – Acts 17:26 means the opposite of what Ham et al., say it means, and the same sort of fallacious reasoning that secular scientific Marxists use to deny race – there is more genetic diversity within races than between races therefore there are no races.


If Ham and his co-authors had thought the last mentioned argument through they would perhaps have been more wary of employing it.  For the obvious response to this fallacy is to point out that the exact same thing can be sad, substituting “sexes” for “races.”   Would they accept the argument as formulated as being valid about “sexes” as well as “races” and declare “sex” along with “race” to be an invalid social construct?


Of course not.  When it comes to “sex” Ham and company are as guilty of the “biological determinism” – regarding biology as destiny – that Trofim Lysenko, Stephen Jay Gould, Richard C. Lewontin, and other Marxist biologists accuse hereditarian Darwinists of as the hereditarian Darwinists themselves.   Rightly so, from the standpoint of Scriptural and traditional Christian ethics.   Which is good cause for them to reconsider siding with the Marxists against the Darwinists on other matters.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Narrative, Fact, and “Fake News”

Suppose that you were to pick up a copy of the long-standing Liberal Party propaganda sheet that is considered to be Manitoba’s “newspaper of record” one day. I don’t know why you would bother. Let us say that you do it on a dare. The front page headline catches your eye:

 “Common Grackle Nears Extinction”.

 As it so happens, a specimen of said species has been annoying you all morning long with its obnoxious excuse for birdsong, (1) and this is far from being an uncommon occurrence.

 Intrigued but skeptical, you read on. The story that accompanies the headline tells you that the branch of the Manitoba government that keeps track of provincial avian populations has become alarmed at the shrinking percentage of Quiscalus quiscula versicolor – the local “bronzed” version of the Common Grackle – within the total bird population. Statistics are provided that demonstrate that each year for the past fifteen years it has dropped at least one rank on the catalogue of the most common birds in the province.

 “If this trend keeps up”, the Province’s Chief Ornithologist is quoted as saying “the Common Grackle will eventually be extinct. There are just under four hundred species of birds in this province. If the grackle continues to drop in rank, even by only one level a year, it will be practically extinct in less than four centuries, since it was not at the very top to begin with.”

The ornithologist and the article then go on to insist that urgent action is needed to prevent this imminent catastrophe.

You, having noticed that among the statistics cited in the article can be found the fact that whatever its percentage of the total bird population might happen to be, its own population size has not undergone a significant drop in absolute numbers within the province of Manitoba during the years in question, recognize that this is the only meaningful fact in the entire story and that it completely invalidates the “spin” of the narrative. 

You crumple the newspaper up and throw it away in disgust.

 Later that day, however, you find the same story is being highlighted on every local television news station. To your amazement, it continues to get top billing the next day, and the day after that as well. Polls are taken, which indicate that the vast majority of Manitobans agree that something must be done to “save the grackle.” This persists for week after week. You attempt, through a letter to the editor, to draw people’s attention to the narrative-invalidating fact, but are quickly branded a “denier” of the impending grackle holocaust, and start receiving threatening phone calls and e-mails, so you decide to leave the masses to their own irrational stupidity.

Now, the above scenario is, of course, fiction. The Common Grackle is classified by the conservationists as “Near Threatened”, which is the second lowest of their low risk categories. Its total North American population began to decline in the last half of the last century, after experiencing a boom in the first half. This is why it is not classified with the “Least Concern” category, but it is not likely to jump into any of the “Threatened” categories, or even the “Conservation Dependent,” for the simple reason that this species thrives on the kind of human activity – especially agricultural land development – that the conservationists argue endangers many other species. This partially explains both the boom and the decline of the last century. The decline of the population over the entire continent has not been reflected in the local population in this province – the narrative-invalidating fact from the fictional scenario is indeed a fact, even though the scenario itself is made-up.

The point of all of the above, if it is not already obvious, has nothing to do with grackles, birds of any sort, or conservation. It is about how people gullibly swallow media narratives even if the stories containing the narratives also include hard facts which completely invalidate them.

 Two obvious examples come to mind from this year alone. Beginning in March, the same mass media which two months earlier had labelled all talk of closing of travel in and out of China as “racist”, as soon as the World Health Organization declared a “pandemic” began pushing the narrative that the WHO’s recommendations – a universal quarantine/house arrest with the economically devastating closure of all business arbitrarily declared to be non-essential, and the socially/culturally/psychologically/morally devastating transfer of social interaction onto the internet to be draconically enforced by special enforcers armed with obscenely high fines and the encouragement of the kind of snitch-on-your-family-friends-and-neighbours culture previously associated with totalitarian regimes like the Third Reich and the Soviet Union – was the only option other than doing nothing at all. Since the world has survived previous pandemics without resorting to anything remotely close to this, the obvious implication of the media-peddled narrative of the “necessity” of this lockdown is that this pandemic is worse that all previous ones. The hard facts about the virus, however, from the same media sources, even the limited ones available back in March, never supported this thesis. Facts such as that a large percentage of people infected with the virus are completely asymptomatic, that the majority of those who do experience symptoms experience nothing more severe than the flu, and that even for those who do contract the harsh SARS form of pneumonia from the virus the risk of dying is quite low apart from the combination of age and multiple complicating health factors. What these facts all screamed was that even if this virus turned out to be more fatal than the seasonal flu, it is more comparable to the seasonal flu than to previous, far worse, pandemics. Which, of course, completely invalidates the narrative spin that says that inflicting all of this other damage upon our countries by embracing this form of medical totalitarianism was needed. Yet everywhere you go, you encounter people who accept that narrative, in spite of the facts.

The other example is that of the media narrative of the “peaceful protests” that Black Lives Matter organized following the death of George Floyd. Even as the media was telling us that these were peaceful protests, and that only fascists would consider the idea of quelling them by force, they could hardly cover up the arson, looting, vandalism and violence that accompanied these “protests” in most major American cities. Nor could they hide the fact that as these “protests” spread beyond American borders throughout all of Western Civilization, they began more and more to resemble the attempts by the Jacobins, Maoists, and Khmer Rouge – groups that belong at the top of the list of the most destructive and murderous of all of history’s revolutionaries - to raze history to the ground. All of which completely belies the description of these “protests” as “peaceful.”

In the last few years “fake news” has become a household expression. It has two primary meanings which are the polar opposites of each other. Captain Airhead uses the expression to refer to the spread of information in support of views which conflict with the narratives pushed by the mainstream media. The other meaning, of course, is that those narratives themselves are the “fake news.”

The events of this year have made it obvious for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, which of these two is the real “fake news.”

The question is whether anyone is left who has eyes to see and ears to hear.

 (1) My maternal great-aunt Hazel, before she moved out of her house, had a clock which would chime with a different birdsong for each hour of the day. When I would visit her there, and the clock would go off, we would look at it and I would make the joke “this clock is missing a few birds – where is the grackle, magpie, and raven?” Her answer would always be some variation of “if this clock had a grackle, it would be in the garbage.”

Thursday, July 23, 2020

How Wokeness is Creating Nostalgia for Political Correctness

If someone had told you back in the nineties, that the time would come when we would look back with nostalgic longing on the days of political correctness, what would you have said?

You probably would have laughed and assumed that he was either crazy or under the influence of some dangerous mind-altering substance. Yet, here we are in 2020, and political correctness is now passé, old hat, yesterday’s news and so very twenty-five years ago. That which has replaced it, wokeness, is much worse by far.

The differences between the two are mostly differences of degree or scale. There is a noticeable difference, for example, in the size of the circle of influence of the two. Political correctness was taken seriously in academe, but largely treated as a joke outside the halls of ivy. Indeed, Bill Maher hosted a late night comedy television show devoted entirely to being “politically incorrect” from 1993 to 2002. Wokeness, by contrast, in addition to dominating the campus to a far greater extent than was ever achieved by mere political correctness, extends its tentacles of influence into every area of culture and society.

Think about what a television show that treated wokeness the way Maher’s show treated political correctness would look like. Can you imagine such a show being given the green light by any network today, let alone aired for nine years?

The other major difference between political correctness and wokeness is in terms of what it demands of us.

The demands of political correctness were basically limited to the language we use. It started by telling us that we should use this word instead of that to refer to such-and-such races. I do not mean that it started by telling us not to use racial or ethnic slurs. The use of such words, at least in the hearing of anyone to whom the slur referred, violated the older rules of politeness, etiquette, and good breeding as well as the newer ones of political correctness. Rather, it told us that the non-pejorative common terms for races needed to be changed. In some cases this was done several times over for the same race. The obvious example is when “coloured” and “Negro” became “black” which became “Afro-American” which became “African American” and which has come almost full circle to “people of colour.”

Political correctness expanded from the category of race into other categories but still remained mostly confined to language usage. It told us to use gender-inclusive language, which was a much more awkward requirement than the changing of race names. For example, where previously the custom was to use the third person masculine pronoun in the double capacity of a neuter pronoun if a person is being discussed in situations where the sex of the person is unknown, political correctness demanded that we use either a cumbersome and absurd phrase like “him or her” or the plurals “they” “them” or “their.” Similarly it required that “man” or “men” be replaced with “person” or “people.” It also told us to replace BC and AD with BCE and CE when referring to the calendar year so as to remove explicit references to Jesus Christ.

It was because political correctness was mostly thought of in terms of demands of this nature that it was treated as such a joke outside of the universities. Except, of course, by those of us on the right who were paying attention to just how seriously it was being treated inside academe and were aware that the Marxist professors who were pushing it there were doing so as a preparatory step towards a much more extensive form of thought control.

I remember discussions regarding political correctness from about twenty years ago. There were those who thought of it as something benign, an update of the principles of politeness for the new era of diversity and pluralism. (1) Others just thought of it as being silly. There were centrist-libertarians who would agree that it was a problem, but could conceive of that problem in no other terms than that of select individuals imposing their private values on the whole of society. From their perspective anyone who took the position that political correctness was the first campaign in a culture war and that we needed to fight back against it with everything that we have because by the next campaign it would have evolved into a race war was just adding to the problem.

I wonder if they still think this today.

What such people had failed to take into account is that political correctness began in academe as the result of a neo-Marxist takeover of the institutions of higher learning. Marxism in all of its forms is theory that exists to promote and serve revolutionary movements. The end for which all revolutionary movements exist is the seizure of power. Revolutionaries inevitably justify their cause on the grounds of existing abuses of power, but due to the nature of power, which corrupts the most those who seek it for themselves and especially those who usurp it through violence, revolution does not produce a net decrease in the abuse of power but rather an increase. (2) In its classical form, Marxism promoted the revolutionary cause with a theory of history as the struggle between economic classes created by the private ownership of property which divided mankind into the “haves” and the “have nots.” In classical Marxist theory, the propertied class, the “haves”, were always guilty of oppressing the “have not” classes. Neo-Marxism was developed when the events of history made the classical form of Marxism untenable through the failure of Marx’s major predictions. Capitalism did not worsen the living conditions of the working classes, but rather did the exact opposite, and when the general European war came, national and patriotic allegiance proved stronger for the working classes than class solidarity. Since the theory existed to serve the revolutionary cause and not the other way around, Marxists did not see the debunking of their theory as reason to say “oops, we were totally wrong, sorry about all the trouble we tried to stir up” but instead formulated a new theory, this time defining historical oppression in terms of categories such as race and sex, as well as class.

By the time the 1960s rolled around, the Marxist takeover of the universities had been well underway for almost a century. The social sciences succumbed first – sociology was practically Marxist from its very beginning in the nineteenth century, North American anthropology had been dominated by the far left school of Cultural Anthropology headed by Franz Boas since the earliest decades of the twentieth century, and around the middle of the twentieth century Claude Lévi-Strauss, et al., effected a similar left-wing takeover of European anthropology. In the 1930s and 1940s the Frankfurt Institute of Social Research, a neo-Marxist think tank made it their project to develop a cross-disciplinary Critical Theory that would unite the social sciences and the humanities in the service of the revolutionary cause.

Then in the 1960s, students who had been radicalized rather than educated by these Marxist professors, organized a student revolutionary movement that supported the various causes of the New Left – opposition to the Vietnam War, the Palestinian Cause, the Black Power movement, second-wave feminism, etc. All of this would have been a mere display of the ignorance of youth were it not for the changes this movement demanded in academe itself. A strong case can be made that all of the former was merely a misdirection tactic and that the latter was the true goal of the movement which received its direction, after all, not from the students themselves but from their Marxist professors. These demands were of basically two types.

First, there were the demands that professors the Marxists disapproved of be silenced and research the Marxists disapproved of be cancelled. For the most part these were psychologists, biologists, and anthropologists whose writings, lectures, and research focused on the hereditary aspect of human nature and/or behaviour and intelligence – Hans Eysenck, Arthur Jensen, Richard Herrnstein, Thomas J. Bouchard and Vincent Sarich to give a few examples. Second, there were the demands for the establishment of new disciplines such as Black Studies and Women’s Studies.

With regards to the first set of demands, the student revolutionaries largely failed in their short-term goal of ending the careers of the men they targeted but succeeded in their long-term goals of establishing Marxist influence over hard science disciplines that were otherwise resistant to the sort of infiltration that had worked in the soft sciences and instilling in these disciplines a taboo against the publication of the findings of the kind of research the Marxists hated, at least in any straightforward manner.

The second set of demands met with great success, and the new disciplines, each built upon the foundation of Critical Theory, which had undergone a re-energization in this period through the input of post-Saussurean language theorists such as Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault, were created. These disciplines came to exert a powerful influence over the study of language, art, history and culture – the humanities – just as Max Horkheimer had dreamed of back in the 1930s.

This was the backdrop to the genesis of political correctness in the academic world. It can be understood either as the first stage of the Marxists exerting their new power on campus, an attempt by university administrators to appease the Marxists’ demands, or a combination of the two which is likely the best interpretation.

Today, we are seeing the result of higher learning having been under this type of Marxist control for forty some years. Those who have underwent the brainwashing in Critical Theory based classes under the mistaken impression that they were getting an education have become the “woke” who are employing tactics similar to those used by the student revolutionaries of the sixties and seventies, only this time on all the other institutions of Western Civilization outside of academe. Just as the universities had already been largely taken over by Marxism through infiltration prior to the student revolution, so the other institutions have experience a similar takeover in the decades leading up to this woke revolution.

The demands of the woke go far beyond those of mere political correctness. A few years ago, Dr. Jordan Peterson noted the distinction between prohibiting speech and compelling speech. The Liberal Party of Canada under the leadership of the Trudeaus has done both, the former in the notorious Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act of 1977, the latter with Bill C-16 in 2016. The difference is between saying “you can’t say that” and saying “you must say this.” Political correctness involved elements of both from the beginning, but originally leaned more on the side of prohibiting speech. By the time Peterson was discussing this distinction it had shifted more towards the compelling of speech. This is but one example of how the wokeness of the present day goes beyond the demands of the political correctness of yesterday. Consider what else we are seeing today – the demand that historical figures be weighed in the balance of the ideals of the neo-Marxists of 2020 and erased if they be found wanting, the vandalism and arson of Church buildings, the requirement that white people and authority figures genuflect before black people. All of this brings to mind similar acts by the French Jacobins, the Maoists in China, and the Khmer Rouge.

It is almost enough to make one nostalgic for the relative tameness of the political correctness of twenty-five years ago.

(1) Apart from the superficial similarity in which both ask you to watch what you say so as not to offend people, politeness and political correctness are polar opposites. Politeness asks us not to say things that virtually everyone would have been offended by without some ideologue telling him that it is offensive. For example, it asks us not to go around telling other people to “eff off”. Political correctness tells us not to use words that have been ideologically defined as being offensive to specific groups that it says ought to be protected against offensive because they have been assigned “historical victim” status. For example, it tells us not to use the pronouns “he” or “him” to refer to someone with a set of XY chromosomes who nevertheless self-identifies as a woman. Why “eff off” is universally considered offensive does not really require an explanation. The politically correct rule requires such an explanation and it is long, complicated, and boring, something along the lines of “gendered pronouns are offensive because they violate the right of the individual to blah, blah, blah, and perpetuate the false binary so-on-and-so-forth ad nauseam ad infinitum.”
(2) This is why the answer to the evils which the Cromwellian, American, French, 1848, Bolshevik, Maoist, and other Communist revolutions have unleashed upon the world is not another revolution. As Joseph de Maistre put it, “what we need is not a revolution in the opposite direction but the opposite of a revolution.”

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

The Matrix was not Supposed to be a Blueprint for a New World

I believe that I have mentioned a number of times in the past that I was not particularly impressed by the trilogy of films written and directed by the Wochowski Brothers as they were known at the time – they have since become the Wochowski Sisters – produced by Joel Silver, and starring Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, and Carrie-Anne Moss that began with The Matrix in 1999. It is not that I have anything against them, per se. I just did not find them at all interesting. In fact, having allowed friends to talk me into going with them to see all three instalments, there was not a single one in which I was able to make it to the end credits without dozing off in the theatre.

Having said that, I did manage to pick up on one detail of the motion picture franchise’s storyline that I am increasingly becoming convinced that many other people somehow missed. At the beginning of the story, the main character Neo portrayed by Reeves, is, like most other human characters in these movies, living out his life within the computer-generated virtual reality to which the title of the series refers, completely unaware that it is a simulation – until the events of the first film unfold. Now, the detail to which I refer is simply this – the simulated reality, the Matrix, is not a good thing. The choice represented by the “blue pill” – to remain in the Matrix blissfully unaware that it is not reality – is the wrong choice. The choice represented by the “red pill” – awaking from the Matrix and discovering reality – is the right choice. The filmmakers were not throwing this idea of people spending their lives trapped in a virtual reality out as a suggestion of something we might want to try and make happen.

I am being somewhat facetious and sarcastic, or course, in saying that other people missed this point. However, consider some of the trends of the past couple of decades that as recently as last winter a sizeable number of people decried but which have been accelerated over the last four months.

When I was growing up, parents would scold their children for watching too much television instead of going outside and playing, doing their homework, or reading a book, and would often actually lay the law down, shut the television off, and send the kids outside. Furthermore, they would try to prevent their daughters from spending hours talking to their friends on the telephone, which in those days was something stationary inside the house rather than something that you carried around with you everywhere. In those days, parents were far more likely to have the latter problem with their daughters than with their sons, and nobody was afraid to mention this even though feminism was already entering into its third wave, way worse than the first and second. I won’t belabor the point that nowadays people are scared to death of talking about behavioural differences between the sexes because that belongs to an entirely different set of unwholesome trends than the one being discussed here, but I will note that if the transition to cellular phone technology has eliminated this distinction between the sexes it was not in the positive direction of girls wasting less time on the phone but in the negative direction of boys spending way more time on it. Since phones now double as television sets – with instant access to far more content than was available on the broadcast stations of three to four decades ago – anyone today seeking to emulate the examples of good parenting just described, would have a much, much, harder time of it.

I wonder what anyone would have said back then if you were to have told them that within a few short decades everyone would have their own portable phone which they would all bring to family meals, with which they would feel free to engage in electronic text conversations with distant friends, and sometimes even the person across the table from them?

I don’t know if they would have believed you or not, but I suspect they would have had a few words to say about the utter rudeness of such behaviour.

When I was a teenager/young adult, young men and women who were unattached and wished to change that had a number of options. These were somewhat more limited for those who had a traditional moral upbringing which they still honoured and obeyed, but they all involved going someplace and meeting someone in person. It could be Church-sponsored events and groups for those of stricter morals, bars and clubs for the less strict, get-togethers with mutual friends trying to set you up for either group, or any number of such possibilities. Today, online dating is where it is at, with plenty of dating sites and cellphone apps to choose from. The closest thing to this back then was the “personals” in the advertisement section of the newspaper.

Granted, for those who preferred to by-pass relationships of this sort altogether and substitute the vicarious sexual experience of others, pornography was available back then as it always has been, but obtaining it involved going to some shady theatre, or the back room of a video or magazine store, rather than simply downloading it on your computer or phone. This, however, opens up yet another line of complaint about our cultural downward spiral that is extraneous to the present discussion.

I grew up on a farm in rural Manitoba, and a concern that was somewhat regularly voiced in the local newspaper, had to do with locals driving into the city – where I lived this would have meant Brandon more often than Winnipeg – to do shopping that could have been done locally. Stated positively, of course, this was the idea that we should support our local communities, and the businesses within them. The positive formulation of this remains more or less the same. The negative concerns have grown however. With the advent of the internet, it is no longer merely the competition of larger businesses in the big city that smaller, local, rural businesses have to worry about, or, even the competition of the multinational chains that threaten local businesses rural and urban, but the competition of online megabusinesses.

There have been on-air religious programs for as long as the media of radio and television have been around, but these were regarded as parachurch ministries that were supplemental to going to Church not substitutes for it. Many of these were explicitly aimed at evangelizing the unchurched. A television or radio preacher who actually encouraged his audience to think of themselves and him in the traditional pastor-flock relationship would have been regarded as bordering on the cultic, if not crossing the line. In the eighties this sort of ministry was coming into a bit of disrepute due to excessive fundraising tactics and scandals on the part of some prominent televangelists – when I was eleven country and western comic artist Ray Stevens released his recording of the song “Would Jesus Wear a Rolex (On His Television Show)” written by Margaret Archer with legendary guitarist Chet Atkins and it just missed the country Top 40.

What all of these trends have in common is that they all involve moving things – playing outside with other kids, conversing with friends and family, becoming romantically involved with someone, making purchases, hearing hymns and a sermon – from the circle of real social interaction into that of the artificial space generated by electronic technology. There are plenty of other such examples, and all of these trends have been accelerating since the governments of the world decided to follow the World Health Organization’s lockdown model for dealing with the Chinese bat flu.

In mandating social distancing and severe limits on group sizes, our governments essentially ordered us to move all social interaction onto the internet. Companies that operate online have swallowed up a much larger share of the market than they ever had before. Amazon has made out like a bandit, to give one obvious example. Churches were all forced to become the internet age equivalent of televangelists and the governments have left them closed longer than practically anything else.

I found all of these trends appalling long before the lockdown, and this dangerous social experiment has done nothing to change my mind. They are moving us quickly in the direction of a virtual reality experience, different, of course, than the one depicted in The Matrix, but arguably just as bad.

Apart from the story of the Ring of Gyges, the best known narrative in Plato’s dialogue Politeia, is his Allegory of the Cave. It is the story of men, who all their lives have been chained in a fixed position to a bench in a cave, watching shadows on the wall in front of them, cast by people walking before the fire behind them, one of whom, having been set free, realizes for the first time what the images he has been seeing are. Ironically, the reality into which Neo awakes in The Matrix, is what the shadows represent in Plato’s allegory, for the point he was trying to illustrate is that the universal ideas contained in things – for example, the idea of dog which makes a dog a dog despite the fact that specific dogs differ from each other – being permanent and unchanging, unlike their material representatives, are the real reality. Or, perhaps it is not so ironic after all. By Plato’s reasoning, the simulated world of The Matrix could only fit into his Allegory of the Cave as something even less real than the shadows on the wall – perhaps their dim reflection in a mirror.

This is the direction in which we have been moving. The dim reflection of shadows in a mirror.

I’m sure you are as thrilled about that as I am.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Liberalism and the Anglican Church - in Memory of J. I. Packer

This essay is dedicated to the memory of the late Reverend Canon Dr. James Innell Packer who passed away on Friday at the age of 93. Dr. Packer was born and raised in England and ordained in the Church of England, but spent the latter half of his career here in Canada where he was Professor of Theology at Regent College in British Canada. I read his Fundamentalism And the Word of God and Knowing God when I was a high school student in the early 1990s. The former, which uses the word "fundamentalism" in the UK rather than the North American sense of the term, i.e., anyone who after 1850 still believed what the entire Church had believed about the inspiration and infallibility of the Bible for the previous eighteen centuries, is an excellent brief defence of Scriptural authority. The latter, which is likely the book that will be his lasting legacy, belongs to that genre that occupies the middle territory between works of serious theology and devotional material, combining elements of both. As a theologian, he will be remembered primarily as a champion of the aforementioned "fundamentalist" view of Scriptural authority with which I with only a single caveat (1) agreed with him wholeheartedly, and as a Calvinist who admired the Puritans, as I, who see in these historical figures the regicides who provided the model for the Jacobins of the French Revolution who in turn were the template for the Bolsheviks and all subsequent Communist movements and revolutions, most decidedly, do not. In Canada, he was a key figure in the Anglican Essentials movement, which began in the mid-1990s as a long-overdue response to creeping liberalism - theological liberalism, which starts from rejection of Scriptural authority and proceeds to reject or reinterpret the doctrines of Creedal orthodoxy - within the Anglican Church of Canada. The catalyst for the movement was the aggressive efforts of liberals to radically alter the Church's moral theology with regards to homosexuality in the direction of affirmation and later the blessing of same-sex partnerships and eventually the consecration of same-sex "marriages". Dr. Packer was situated in the Diocese of New Westminster, in which Michael Ingham was consecrated bishop in the same year Essentials was launched. At the time Ingham was noted for being very liberal in his theology - and everything else - and in 2002 he was the first bishop to authorize same-sex blessings, a decision which he followed up on with aggressive efforts to curb dissent. This eventually led the Essentials parish of St. John's Shaugnessy in Vancouver, the largest parish in the diocese and indeed the entire Anglican Church of Canada at the time, of which Dr. Packer was a member, to disassociate with the diocese and the national Church, and to join the Anglican Network in Canada under the episcopal oversight of the conservative Anglican Province of the Southern Cone.

With regards to the same-sex affirmation/blessing/marriage issue, I addressed it at length eight years ago in the "blessing" period of liberal activism immediately prior to their assault on the marriage canon in the last two General Synods. Since the same arguments apply to the other stages I will not repeat them here. I will note instead what is probably the most common charge levelled against those who oppose these changes by those determined to bring them about, which is that of a singular obsession with sex. While the answer to this charge, in the sense in which it was intended, is that the obsession is entirely on the part of those who wish to effect a revolution in moral theology and not on the part of those placed in a necessarily defensive position by their attacks on what is both the plain interpretation of the Scriptures and the Catholic, in the Vincentian meaning of the term, consensus as to their interpretation, it does, taken in a completely different sense, make a valid point that is related to what I said above about the Essentials response being long overdue. As I can attest, having grown up reading my paternal grandmother's issues of the Anglican Journal, the letters to the editor section, much larger then than it is today, were packed with this controversy in the decade prior to Essentials. My point, however, is not merely that an organized, conservative, response to liberal activism on this one issue should have begun at least a decade earlier, but that the ground the Essentials movement stood upon had been made considerably weaker because many for whom same-sex affirmation/blessing/marriage went too far had already imbibed and accepted many other elements of liberalism.

Theological liberals in the Anglican Church of Canada, as well as the Church of England and the Episcopal Church in the United States, like to maintain that they are the present day heirs of the spirit within the Anglican tradition which has allowed the Orthodox and Evangelical (2) to co-exist in the same Church, more or less peacefully, for centuries. This is obviously not true for two reasons. The first and least important is that the attitude they have displayed towards conservative Anglicans in the controversies of the last century can hardly be described as one of peaceful co-existence. The second and most important is that the changes in doctrine and practice that they have championed, are ones that break with both the plain interpretation of the authoritative Scriptures stressed by Evangelicals and the Vincentian Catholicism of the Orthodox. In other words, they go against what the Bible clearly teaches and what the Church has taught and believed, "everywhere, always, and by all" from the first century onward. This is true not only of the same-sex affirmation/blessing/marriage issue, but of the admission of women into the priesthood which took place in both the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church in 1976, the more permissive attitude towards divorce and remarriage which started around the same time, and even the acceptance of artificial contraception at the Lambeth Conference of 1930.(3)

I am not saying , of course, that the Essentials leaders accepted all of these other changes. The late Dr. Packer, notably opposed the ordination of women to the priesthood. (4) There was no such consensus among them, however, in favour of the Scriptural/Vincentian Catholic positions on these issues as there was on same-sex affirmation/blessing/marriage and this very much weakened the ground they stood upon with regards to the latter.

Now, you have probably noticed that all of these other issues pertain in one way or another to sex. At this point, we need to consider how this theological liberalism relates to the broader cultural/social/political liberalism. It was just last week that I made the observation that liberalism's loosening of social controls in the area of sex went hand-in-glove with a tightening of controls in almost every other area and how Aldous Huxley in Brave New World provided us with an illustration of what this, taken to the nth degree, would look like. Theological liberalism within the Church is a product of the liberalism in the broader culture and largely reflects it. This was true in the era of classical liberalism, which produced Latitudinarianism in the Church, and it is true in this era of hard left, progressive liberalism. If the Essentials leaders were divided among themselves on all of those other issues pertaining to sex in which the teachings of Scripture and the Catholic tradition were united on the one side and liberalism stood on the other, how many of them were willing to openly oppose hard left progressive liberalism wholesale?

How many, when the Anglican Church of Canada's House of Bishops came out with that disgusting letter last month about "systemic racism", were willing to stand up and say that "systemic racism" is itself a racist concept devised by New Left Critical Race Theorists (5) to demonize white people?

How many of those who opposed the attempt to change the marriage canon in the General Synod last year were willing to condemn the "apology" from former primate Fred Hiltz, approved at the same Synod, for the "spiritual harm" of evangelizing the Indians, which statement amounts to a denial that Jesus Christ is as He Himself declared "the Way, the Truth, and the Life"?

How many of them would have a bigger problem with the Archbishop's denial of the Gospel's exclusivity than with my non-pejorative use of the word "Indians" in the previous sentence?

How many of them, when the House of Bishops issued its call earlier this year, for a universal basic income, were willing to point out that the only concept difference between UBI and the social security net that was already in place prior to the pandemic is the elimination of even a nominal attempt at minimizing moral hazard and that if their idea is to make CERB permanent, as the Dominion government's "fiscal snapshot" of the week before last clearly demonstrates this will simply accelerate the country's rapid descent into insolvency, which will make things much worse rather than better for all the poor and underprivileged?

How many of them, when the bishops shut down the dioceses for the last four months in obedience to unnecessary and totalitarian public health orders, were willing to stand up and say that to obey these orders is to render unto Caesar that which belongs to God, that the Church is more essential than any business or all of them put together - especially so, in a time of crisis - and that the transitioning of all interaction into the virtual world of the internet is a trend the Church has a duty to oppose rather than jumping on board the bandwagon itself?

To oppose hard core left-liberalism only on sexual issues - or, for some, only on the single sexual issue of same-sex affirmation/blessing/marriage - while remaining silent or supporting them on all these other matters, is to take an unsustainable position. Or, to use a Scriptural metaphor, to build one's house on sinking sand.

(1) Packer held to B. B. Warfield's view of Scriptural authority, which held the Scriptures to be "inerrant", but limited this quality to the non-extant autographs. I am inclined to agree with the late Theodore P. Letis, that this departure from the consensus of the post-Tridentine Lutheran, Reformed, and Anglican scholastic tradition that the Scriptures were "infallible" and that this quality applied to the text as canonized by ecclesiastical use down to the present, was a shift to a weaker rather than a stronger view of Scriptural authority.

(2) Orthodox or "High Church" Anglicans stress the importance of continuity with the early, undivided, Church in organic and organizational structure and identity (the three clerical orders led by the historical episcopacy in Apostolic Succession), doctrine (the three ecumenical Creeds), ministry (Word and Sacrament) and worship (ceremony, ritual, and liturgy). Evangelical or "Low Church" Anglicans stress the doctrines of the Protestant Reformation (the five Solas), the supreme authority of the Scriptures in matters of doctrine and practice, and the need for a personal faith in Jesus Christ.

(3) That the break from the universal consensus of the Church against contraception also violates the plain teaching of the Scriptures is most likely to be seen as the weakest link in this chain as the most obvious Scriptural example, that of Onan, is descriptive historical narrative rather than explicitly prescriptive, but see the late Lutheran Bible scholar Charles D. Provan's The Bible and Birth Control (Zimmer Printing, 1989). for a full treatment of this subject.

(4) J. I. Packer, "Let's Stop Making Women Presbyters", Christianity Today, February 11, 1991.

(5) "Systemic racism" "structural racism" or "institutional racism" are all expressions that mean that every institution in Western Civilization, from the rule of law to 2X2=4, are unfairly biased towards white people and against all others and so all white people and only white people are collectively guilty of an unconscious racism. On May 6th, the Anglican Compass published an essay by the Rev. Dr. Esau McCaulley, who is Assistant Professor of New Testament at Wheaton College, entitled Discerning Friends from Enemies: Critical Race Theory, Anglicans in North America, And the Real Crisis. He attempted to argue that systemic racism predates Marxist Critical Theory, having been part of black theology, orthodox as well as progressive. From the examples he gives he seems to mean something different by "systemic racism" - overt racism on the part of institutions rather than individuals. The Black Lives Matter movement uses the expression in the Marxist sense, and relies upon many people misunderstanding it in the latter sense to weaken opposition to their Cultural Maoist agenda.

Friday, July 17, 2020

The Existential Crisis of the West - Redux

The prescient have seen it coming for a century now. In 1918 and 1922, the two volumes of Oswald Spengler’s The Decline of the West were first published. In his magnus opus Spengler examined the civilizations or cultures – he used the latter term but the way the two terms were used and distinguished in the German thought of his day was very different from how they are used and distinguished in English today – of human history, and identified a super-organic life cycle that they each passed through, of which, he maintained, the modern West with its “Faustian” spirit of empirical exploration – the spirit exemplified by the Ulysses of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s eponymously titled poem – was entering into its final season.

In 1964, James Burnham’s The Suicide of the West: An Essay On the Meaning and Destiny of Liberalism was published for the first time. This book is probably best understood as the third in a trilogy, the first of which was The Managerial Revolution, written immediately after Burnham’s break with his Trotskyite youth and the Socialist Workers Party and published in 1941, arguing that the capitalist world was evolving into something that would not be the socialist worker’s paradise predicted by Marxism, but rather the rule of a new class of technocratic corporate managers and government bureaucrats. The second was The Machiavellians: Defenders of Freedom, published two years later, in which Burnham gave an overview of a Realpolitik theory regarding the inevitability of elites and the nature of political power that he traced from the writings of Florentine Renaissance political scientist Niccolò Machiavelli through the nineteenth to early twentieth century writings of Robert Michels, Vilfredo Pareto and Gaetano Mosca, the philosophical framework that he had turned to after abandoning Marxism. By the time he wrote The Suicide of the West, Burnham had become one of the original members of William F. Buckley Jr.’s editorial team at National Review and the magazine’s principal analyst of geopolitical events. In The Suicide of The West he discussed liberalism as being the ideology of Western suicide. A familiarity with the first two books is helpful in understanding what he meant by this, for he did not mean that liberalism was formulated to bring about the end of Western Civilization, but rather that it was an ex post facto rationalization on the part of the governing elites for Western Civilization’s self-imposed collapse. Although this was written at the height of the Cold War – the Cuban Missile Crisis had taken place two years prior to the book’s release – the “suicide” Burnham was talking about was not merely what he perceived to be a losing strategy against the Soviet Union in the “Struggle for the World” (1) but also included internal moral, cultural, and social decay, into which category he put the immediate historical antecedents in his own day of the “woke” race revolutionaries of our own.

In 2002, Patrick J. Buchanan, syndicated columnist, speechwriter and advisor to Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Ronald Reagan, and Reform Party nominee for the 2000 American Presidential Election, released his The Death of the West: How Dying Populations and Immigration Invasions Imperil Our Country and Civilization. The subtitle pretty much sums up the thesis. As Christendom through secularization became Western Civilization, it lost not just its faith in God but its faith in itself. Since this process was more or less complete by the end of World War II, the period since has seen a radical and sustained fall in fertility throughout the Western world. To prevent the economic disaster that this threat to Western population size poses, and for other reasons, the governments of the liberal West have been admitting unprecedented numbers of immigrants from outside the West, and specifically the Third World. This combination, which adds up to a massive and rapid demographic transformation, spells disaster for the survival of Western Civilization in any recognizable form, and in the meantime, a far left ideology that is hostile to Western survival – Cultural Marxism – has captured the major cultural institutions of the West, from the schools to the media, and has been promoting an agenda of pushing the West’s loss of faith in God and its own civilization and its embrace of the suicidal combination of domestic anti-natalism, mass immigration, and radical multiculturalism ever further and further.

As their Cassandra like predictions of doom progressed from decline to suicide to death, Spengler, Burnham, and Buchanan each provided valuable insights into the phenomenon that four years ago I described as “The Existential Crisis of the West.” Today, I rather regret having used up that title so early. At the time we were seeing Europe inundated with migrants, whom the media represented as being asylum seekers from the Syrian Civil War despite abundant evidence that the majority came from outside the region affected by the conflict, and many of whom clearly displayed hostile intent towards the countries they were entering, as the plot of the late Jean Raspail’s The Camp of the Saints materialized before our very eyes. Today, the news and entertainment media, academic institutions, big tech companies and other corporations, and bureaucrats and politicians of every stripe have united in insisting that no dissent be allowed to the Marxist Critical Theorists’ indictment of our civilization as being built upon racism and so thoroughly permeated by it that all white people are collectively guilty of it even if they have never had a conscious racist thought. This has been accompanied by a large scale campaign of intimidation on the part of far left activist groups such as Black Lives Matter and Antifa. The chaos has evolved from the familiar pattern of previous race riots – inner city arson, vandalism, looting, and violence – to the Maoist assault on figures of the past – to the current wave of vandalism and arson targeting Churches.

A question I have frequently encountered from those who are fed up with this sort of thing is “what do we do about it?”

The answer which people who ask this question are inevitably looking for is a practical answer, that is to say, one that would resemble a “How to” manual. How to stop Cultural Marxism in ten easy steps, or something along those lines.

I do not have such an answer, and, frankly, I have my doubts as to whether one even exists. The left devoted a century to capturing our cultural institutions and turning them into vehicles for disseminating its hatred of our civilization before making this aggressively totalitarian move and that preparation unquestionably is a major factor in their effectiveness today. We do not have that sort of time to prepare a counter-attack which is required immediately.

This much, however, I will say, and that is that unless we recognize this crisis as the threat to the very existence of our civilization that it is are prepared to deal with it as such, we have already lost. This means no more apologies for our history. No more apologies for being white. No more apologies for believing the Christian faith and practicing the Christian religion. No more wasting our time trying to persuade those who are determined to “cancel” anyone and everyone whom they condemn with one of their ever-growing list of –ists and –phobes that they are in violation of the canons of liberal thought because they don’t care.

When we are all in agreement on that, then maybe we can find a practical strategy for finally defeating this Marxism and saving what is left of our civilization.

(1) This is the title of another of Burnham’s books, the first of a trilogy that addressed the Cold War. It came out in 1947.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

The Grey Lady is a Tramp

(My apologies to Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart and to the countless others who have made the same lame pun on the title of their song prior to this)

Bari Weiss’s letter to A. G. Sulzberger, publisher of the New York Times, announcing and explaining her resignation from that highly overrated organ of far left propaganda, has gone viral in the metaphorical sense of that phrase. Ordinarily, specifying the sense of gone viral would be unnecessary but in these days of pandemic-induced panic, it is probably wise not to take these things for granted. The letter has certainly generated an explosion of discussion online and it will be very interesting to watch how the newspaper handles the controversy.

Weiss was hired to be an editor and writer by the New York Times in 2017. She had previously worked for the Wall Street Journal for four years, and her recruitment was an attempt by the Grey Lady to expand its thought horizons after Donald the Orange’s rise to power demonstrated just how out of touch they were with ordinary Yanks. It was rather amusing that they thought that hiring someone from the Wall Street Journal would help rectify this. The editorial position of the Wall Street Journal is right-of-centre only in the sense that it fiscally conservative and economically neo-liberal – the elements of right-of-centre thought furthest removed from the mixture of populism, nationalism, and social and cultural conservatism that came together to elect Trump. Unsurprisingly, since their efforts to remedy their own cluelessness were themselves utterly clueless, they failed completely, bringing about the situation in which Weiss has so publicly resigned her position.

She published her letter to Sulzberger on her website, and it has been reproduced in many other places on the internet. Her indictment of her former employer basically consists of two elements. There is her charge that contrary to the paper’s stated intentions when hiring her three years ago, it has narrowed rather than broadened the spectrum of acceptable views. Then there is her complaints about how she has personally been treated at the paper as a consequence of the former element. While I would recommend reading the letter in its entirely, the first element is encapsulated in her sentence “Instead, a new consensus has emerged in the press, but perhaps especially at this paper: that truth isn’t a process of collective discovery, but an orthodoxy already known to an enlightened few whose job is to inform everyone else” and the second in the following paragraph:

My own forays into Wrongthink have made me the subject of constant bullying by colleagues who disagree with my views. They have called me a Nazi and a racist; I have learned to brush off comments about how I’m “writing about the Jews again.” Several colleagues perceived to be friendly with me were badgered by coworkers. My work and my character are openly demeaned on company-wide Slack channels where masthead editors regularly weigh in. There, some coworkers insist I need to be rooted out if this company is to be a truly “inclusive” one, while others post ax emojis next to my name. Still other New York Times employees publicly smear me as a liar and a bigot on Twitter with no fear that harassing me will be met with appropriate action. They never are.

Lest there be any confusion about the matter among those unfamiliar with Weiss the people who called her a “Nazi” and remarked about her “writing about the Jews again” were not alluding to anti-Semitism in her writings – she is Jewish and the author of a book published last year entitled How to Fight Anti-Semitism – but rather to her ultra-Zionism. Weiss’s politics, it should be noted, are neither conservative nor centre-right, except perhaps from the perspective of the extremely anti-Zionist New Left or the ultra-Zionist American neoconservatives, but are rather moderately progressive liberal and centrist. This makes her experience at the New York Times all the more indicative of how far to the left this so-called newspaper of record has swung.

All of this, however, only addresses the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the corruption of the New York Times. Last month, James Bennet who was then the head editor of the opinion page, was forced to resign over his decision to allow an editorial by Senator Tom Cotton which expressed the opinion that the race riots which were causing so much chaos and destruction in American cities should be squashed by military force. While this incident goes further towards demonstrating how intolerant the newspaper has become of those who dissent from its party line, the responsibility the New York Times bears for creating the conditions in which the media portrayal of the death of George Floyd could spark these riots in the first place is a much more interesting story. I do not mean that the newspaper bears sole responsibility – in recent essays I have discussed how the Marxist takeover of the social sciences and the humanities and their attempts to dominate even the hard sciences in academe have brainwashed the supposedly educated classes with the lies of wokeness. It can hardly be coincidence, however, that this wave of race riots which crossed the borders of the United States and spread into the rest of Western Civilization and which quickly took on aspects which eerily resembled the Maoist Cultural Revolution and Pol Pot’s Year Zero, took place within a year after the New York Times launched the 1619 Project.

The 1619 Project, which premiered in August of last year in the magazine supplement to the Sunday edition of the New York Times is a re-interpretation of American history from the perspective of Critical Race Theory. Critical Race Theory is a branch of Critical Theory, which began in the 1930s when the Institute of Social Research or “Frankfurt School”, a neo-Marxist think tank, launched an ambitious project of establishing a new theoretical synthesis for both the social sciences and the humanities that would be distinguished from previous theories by its activism, that is to say, that its goal would be to unsettle, disrupt, and overthrow all of traditional society rather than to seek learning and understanding. (1) Initially blending elements of Freudian psychoanalysis with its Marxism, as it spread throughout the academic world its development was influenced by the incorporation of ideas from other disciplines, especially the deconstructive techniques of post-Saussure French literary theorists. Critical Race Theory is the branch of this diabolical technique which tries to delegitimize all of Western Civilization by reading its entire history as the oppression of other races by whites. The 1619 Project which applies this methodology to American history by making black slavery and white racism into the fundamental paradigm by which all events in that history must be interpreted, is the brainchild of Nikole Hannah-Jones, a New York Times staff writer who apparently had a past record of combining anti-white race hatred with pseudoscience and fabricated history, even prior to taking on this project which does the same. Note that Hannah-Jones herself acknowledged and applauded the connection between her project and the riots.

In the past, the New York Times covered up for the crimes of the Soviet Union. Walter Duranty, wrote rave reviews of Stalin’s five-year plan in the 1930s, and denied that Stalin’s government was engineering the Ukrainian famine now known as the Holodomor even though he was fully aware that it was going on. He justified this cover-up – and the Stalinist atrocities he was covering up – with the infamous phrase now often attributed to Stalin himself, “you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs.” Like Hannah-Jones, he won the Pulitzer Prize for his abominable Communist propaganda. This was neither the first nor the last time that this newspaper would behave like an official organ of the Soviet Union. It heaped plenty of praise on other Communist dictators such as China’s Mao Tse-Tung over the years, as well, and lionized Cuba’s Fidel Castro and Ernesto “Che” Guevara even before they became the epitome of coolness for imbecilic college kids.

Cheerleading for Communist dictators and covering up the atrocities of Communist regimes is one thing, however. Helping to incite a Communist race war and a Year Zero Cultural Revolution is something else altogether. It is hardly surprising that a newspaper that has moved in this direction, would hold its staff to a narrow and rigid party line. It merely raises the question of why they went to the bother of appearing to broaden their perspective when they hired Bari Weiss et al. three years ago.

Perhaps Bari Weiss can address these matters in either a follow up letter to Sulzberger or a column in her next journalistic venture.

(1) I gave a brief introduction to Critical Theory in my essay “It is Time to Criticize Critical Theory” and called for a new Christian apologetical approach to addressing it in my essay “A New Apologetics is Needed.” Anyone who is looking for an overview of it from a perspective far less hostile to it than my own can consult Critical Theory: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2011) by Stephen Eric Bronner, Professor of Political Science at Rutgers University. Anyone interested in the history of the think tank that started it can either consult Martin Jay’s The Dialectical Imagination: A History of the Frankfurt School and the Institute of Social Research, 1923-1950 (University of California Press, 1973) or, for the most exhaustive treatment of this history, Rolf Wiggershaus’ The Frankfurt School: Its History, Theories and Political Significance (Polity Press, 1994, German original, 1986). Anyone looking for a response to it from the perspective of conservative Christian apologetics is again referred to Dr. Neil Shenvi. For other interesting critiques of it from the right, see William C. Lind’s 2000 speech “The Origins of Political Correctness”, the two sequels Dr. Paul Gottfried, formerly Horace Raffensperger Professor of Humanities at Elizabethtown College and now editor-in-chief of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, wrote to his After Liberalism: Mass Democracy in the Managerial State (Princeton, 2001) which are Multiculturalism and the Politics of Guilt: Towards A Secular Theocracy (University of Missouri, 2002) and The Strange Death of Marxism: The European Left in the New Millennium (University of Missouri, 2005), and, for a much more controversial critique, chapter five of Culture of Critique: An Evolutionary Analysis of Jewish Involvement in Twentieth-Century Intellectual and Political Movements (Praeger Publishers, 1998), which is the third in a trilogy, following A People That Shall Dwell Alone (1994) and Separation and Its Discontents (1998) by Dr. Kevin B. MacDonald, retired Professor of Psychology at California State University, Long Beach. Also of interest is the aforementioned Dr. Paul Gottfried’s autobiography Encounters: My Life with Nixon, Marcuse, and Other Friends and Teachers (ISI, 2009), in which he discusses attending the lectures of the Frankfurt School’s Herbert Marcuse when the latter was a visiting lecturer at Yale prior to his move to the West Coast to become the guru of the Student Revolutionaries and the interesting trajectory that the Critical Theory journal Telos followed after its founding editor, the late Paul Piccone, became largely disillusioned with the New Left and invited contributions from right-of-centre thinkers such as Alain de Benoit and Gottfried himself.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

The Mask of the Beast

Every civilized society has laws which prohibit its members, or anyone else for that matter who happens to be within its jurisdiction, from murdering, kidnapping and raping other people and stealing, damaging, or destroying their property. These laws are universally considered to be just. I do not mean that every single person who has ever lived has agreed with this consensus. I mean that every civilized society, considered as a collective entity, has agreed with the consensus. Uncivilized societies and the forces of barbarism within civilization, such as the Marxist Critical Theorists who regard civilization itself as being fundamentally unjust and who would disagree with the laws protecting property, are obviously outside that consensus.

What is it about these laws which makes them just?

The classical liberal answer is that they can all be derived from the harm principle. In classical liberalism, that is to say eighteenth - nineteenth century liberalism, the securing of the rights and freedoms of individuals was made to be the sole purpose for the existence of the state. From that perspective, laws which by their very nature restrict the rights and freedoms of individuals, must be justified by the necessity which arises out of the harm done to others by the violation of those laws. John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty is the classic exposition of this theme. Unlike many twentieth and twenty-first century progressive liberals, who often give the impression of agreeing with the Marxists and other socialists on this matter, the classical liberals saw harm done to property as being harm done to the property’s owner.

While the harm principle was not entirely an invention of Mill or even of liberalism in general – what is arguably an early form of it can be found in the writings of thirteenth century Scholastic theologian St. Thomas Aquinas – its spread in the Modern Age of liberalism is indicative of a shift away from the older paradigm of thinking. In the older tradition, laws of this sort were considered just because the actions which they forbade were regarded as wicked. This meant more than just that these actions were wrong, although that was obviously included. It meant that they were sufficiently wrong to warrant suppression by the force of law. The difference between wickedness and wrongness in general pertained to both degree and kind, but with regards to the latter difference, the older tradition perceived in these acts a threat to the peace and security of the society as a whole and emphasized this over the harm done to the individual.

It could be argued that in theory, the older tradition would have less of a problem than liberalism with other laws, and more specifically with laws which are against acts which are merely mala prohibita, that is to say, bad or wrong because they are against the law, rather than mala in se – bad or wrong in themselves, regardless of the law. If, in the older tradition, the wickedness of an act which justifies its suppression by law is to be found in the threat to the peace and security of the society more than in the harm to the individual, then any violation of the law could be said to qualify as wicked because by breaking any particular law, it breaks the law as a singular whole, and the law as a singular whole is what maintains peace and security within the society. Those who read history through the lens of the Whig Interpretation, in which the events of the past are perceived as progressively moving towards greater freedom today and in the future, would be particularly inclined to accept this argument.

The reality, however, does not bear out the Whig Interpretation. The transition into the Modern Age which had liberalism as its zeitgeist, made government a much larger and more intrusive presence in the lives of the governed rather than less of one. I am not referring only to the hard totalitarian aberrations that arose out of the radical and revolutionary branches of Modern continental thought in Germany and Russia in the early twentieth century. In the English-speaking liberal democracies, governments exert regulatory control over a far larger portion of people’s everyday lives today than they did prior to the English Civil War, much of the distinction between private and public spaces has been eliminated, and people have become accustomed to paying taxes at levels that are exponentially higher than what would have been considered unbearable tyranny prior to the Modern Age. In other words, by the standards with which the pre-liberal tradition measured freedom, we are much less free today than before liberalism.

In the last decades of the twentieth century those who attempted to argue against this conclusion pointed to areas in which they maintained there were far fewer restrictions on individual choice than ever before. Since this basically reduced to a single area – sexual behaviour and preferences – this argument had been rebutted before it was ever made by Aldous Huxley, in his 1932 novel Brave New World, which depicted a totalitarian world in which every individual’s life was planned out by the state from the moment of genetic engineering until death, and the state prevented people from rebelling against this total lack of freedom in all other areas of their lives – or even noticing it – by encouraging maximum sexual freedom – and providing them with ample amounts of a euphoria-inducing substance called soma. Today, we are less likely to hear this sort of argument, not so much because everybody has been persuaded by Huxley’s book as because sexual liberation has so obviously morphed into a form of totalitarianism that seeks to suppress all dissent from those who believe in more traditional mores.

I have often discussed how the noun in liberal democracy has contributed to this trend of maximizing government control and decreasing freedom. While small-r republicans like to blame kings like Henry VIII and Louis XIV for the omnipotent Modern state, and it is true that the centralization that these sovereigns introduced, by upsetting the more de-centralized feudal balance, contributed to the problem, this was made far worse when the elected assemblies usurped most of the royal powers. While Parliament as an institution that evolved in the pre-Modern era was a safeguard of freedom, the Modern abstract ideal of democracy is not, because the idea of popular government contradicts the idea of limited government. There can be no rational limits to government, when government of and by the people is made to be the ideal, for this eliminates the distinction between government and governed which is the very foundation upon which the idea of limiting government power rests. John Farthing was right and liberalism was wrong – freedom wears a crown.

Today, however, it is evident how the adjective in liberal democracy has contributed to the same trend. While Mill saw his harm principle as a protection of individual freedom against the encroachment of expanding government, it has become the very basis of a new totalitarianism.

I introduced this essay by talking about the type of laws against mala in se crimes such as murder, rape, kidnapping, robbery, etc. which have universally been considered to be just among civilized societies. Let us think about what the opposite of this type of law would look like. Obviously laws which are the opposite of those universally considered to be just, would be laws which, to paraphrase the Vincentian canon so as to apply it to a political rather than an ecclesiastical contest, would be considered unjust by all civilized societies in all places and all times. Such laws would not prohibit mala in se crimes, or even acts which might be considered morally neutral, but acts which are bona in se, that is good in themselves. What kind of laws might these be?

Laws against going to Church to worship God. Laws against shaking someone’s hand or cheering someone up with a hug. Laws against holding gatherings of your large extended family. Laws against meeting up with your friends in person rather than online. Laws against opening your business or going to your job so as to support yourself and your family rather relying upon the public purse. Laws, in other words, against normal, basic, everyday good human behaviour.

Laws which were almost universally imposed, even outside totalitarian hellholes like Red China and North Korea, over the past four months.

How did our governments justify these insane prohibitions of the good?

They used the harm principle, of course. Engaging in ordinary, decent, human social and economic activity, they claimed, would put people in danger of contracting a new coronavirus which had escaped from China and was rapidly spreading around the globe. While the dangers this virus posed were themselves grossly exaggerated, the very idea of prohibiting almost all ordinary, good, human behaviour in order to prevent harm from a virus is warped. The restrictions and regulations of these “public health orders” are, by the standards of civilization since time immemorial, fundamentally unjust. Indeed, there can be no word more appropriate to describe rules that prohibit the good than the word evil. Make that Evil with a capital E.

It is not over yet. After four months of this abominable universal house arrest which treats all law-abiding citizens as criminals, government health officials are finally considering letting people go back to Church again. Most businesses were allowed to re-open long before this. All sorts of restrictions are being imposed upon the re-opening Churches, and all of them are restrictions that any true believer in Jesus Christ will immediately recognize as vile obscenities that were thought up in the fiery pit of hell by the devil himself. Limiting attendance. Requiring people to register in advance. Prohibiting the Sacrament, in one or both kinds. (1) Prohibiting congregational singing. Prohibiting physical contact like the customary handshake or hug in the Pax. Requiring mask wearing as a condition of attendance. The specifics vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction (2) but the evil spirit behind these restrictions is the same everywhere.

It was through liberalism, including and especially Mill’s harm principle, which is clearly not remotely as innocuous and benign as it seems, that this evil spirit has so pervaded the governments of what used to be Christendom. It was through the same ideology, wearing theological garb, that it has so pervaded the Churches that they are willingly submitting to these requirements, as they willingly submitted to the governments’ orders to close in the first place. This is not the obedience to the civil authority that is enjoined upon believers as individuals and as Churches in the New Testament, but a rendering unto Caesar of that which is God’s.

In the eighteenth chapter of the Gospel according to St. Luke, the Lord Jesus concludes the parable of the Unjust Judge by saying “And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily.” He then asks this question “Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?”

If He were to come back today, then judging by the behaviour of the Churches in this pandemic, the answer to His question is clearly no. If He were to come back tomorrow, He would likely find His Church wearing the mask of the Beast.

(1) Restricting the Sacrament to the one kind would be less of an issue for the Roman Communion, which broke with the universal practice of the Church from the first to the twelfth centuries almost a millennium ago. The Byzantine Communion has maintained the early Church practice all along, and the Anglican Communion, in returning to the practice in the Reformation, forbade the restriction in the Thirtieth of the Articles of Religion of the Elizabethan Settlement. Communion in both kinds is also the doctrine and practice of the other Churches of the Magisterial Reformation, as well as practically all of the sects.
(2) Some, but not all of the ones listed, have been put in place here in the province of Manitoba. For a much longer list, see Laurence M. Vance’s “CDC Churches.”