Uncommon Sense

politics and society are, unfortunately, much the same thing

Liberal Fascism Is What Happens Once People Think God Is Dead

original article: Liberal Fascism Is What Happens Once People Think God Is Dead
March 27, 2017 by Sethu A. Iyer

Before the recent presidential election, I did not think of myself as a conservative. But after seeing the Left’s unhinged reaction, I realized I was definitely anti-progressive. My own studies and reflections had left me well-equipped to spot a religious cult when I saw one, and I had no doubt that progressives are just such a thing.

The content of every religious mind may be different, but the structure of religious thinking is always the same. Here are a few ways progressives have filled traditional categories for themselves:

God: History—they think they’re on the “right” side of it.
Dogmas: identity politics; there are more than two genders, et cetera.
Apocalyptic prophecy: climate change.
Inquisition: political correctness.
Antichrist: Donald Trump, who is taken to be evil by definition.
Excommunication: disagree, and you will be cut off forever.

Clearly, there is nothing secular about progressivism. Look under the veneer of pseudo-scientific language, and you’re left staring at a fanatically religious mindset. How did we get here?

The So-Called Death of God

The last couple centuries of the Western world have witnessed the decline of old-fashioned religion. The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, in his work “The Gay Science” (gay as in happy, not homosexual), saw this and infamously proclaimed “God is dead.” It is often forgotten that he also added, “For we have killed him.” The main point was that the traditional idea of God had ceased to play a central role in both people’s minds and the structures of modern society.

Of course, Nietzsche’s proclamation is primarily figurative. If there is a God, then he did not just drop down dead sometime in the 1800s. Likewise, even for a believer today, God is still alive and well. The accurate fact contained in Nietzsche’s statement, though, is that Western culture as a whole was going through a sea change.

But the human soul may not be as malleable as a lot of people these days are given to think. If God lived within the soul until the day before yesterday, then it stands to reason that he left an empty space when he went away. This has consequences. To paraphrase the late and great David Foster Wallace: everyone worships; it is not a question of whether, but rather a question of what. If a person doesn’t know what he worships—if he believes that God is dead, and that’s the end of the story—then he will just become very susceptible to getting driven from behind his back by impulses he can never understand.

In a way, people can’t live without their gods. If they abandon one god, they merely move on to another, even if surreptitiously. This helps explain the religious drive at the bottom of progressivism. Moreover, I would suggest that after giving up on a god of truth, the progressives, with a kind of tragic inevitability, moved toward a god of power, whose altar at which they now worship.

The Grand Inquisitor

It may well be appropriate to grant Fyodor Dostoevsky the title of prophet. In the chapter of his masterwork, “The Brothers Karamazov,” known as “The Grand Inquisitor,” he explains exactly what’s going on here. In this story, the Inquisitor and his church have established a society that has reduced the vast majority of folk to a state of sheep-like serfdom. The Inquisitor believes this has been done for the people’s own good: he thinks they cannot handle liberty, and are so much happier being treated like children, never having to make one real decision.

Then in walks a figure who seems to be Christ returned. The Inquisitor has him arrested, then proceeds to interrogate him in private. During the entire encounter, Christ doesn’t say a single word. He merely looks on with compassion, as the Inquisitor raves about why abolishing freedom was the right thing to do. This is perhaps the most memorable passage that departs from the Inquisitor’s lips:

“You did not want to enslave man by a miracle and thirsted for faith that is free, not miraculous. You thirsted for love that is free, and not for the servile raptures of a slave    before a power that has left him permanently terrified. . . . Respecting him less, you          would have demanded less of him, and that would be closer to love, for his burden would be lighter. He is weak and mean.”

With these words, the Inquisitor reveals what his church’s dark game is really about. He says they’re moved by love for the common man, whereas they are in reality moved by contempt for the common man. He says they are acting in the name of truth, when they are in fact acting only in the name of power. In short, the Inquisitor and his church had accepted the third temptation of Christ in the desert: when the Devil said Christ could rule all the kingdoms of the world, if only he would fall down and worship the Devil.

Fascism and Romance

The god of truth is not the same as the gods of power. When the god of truth takes his leave, man will almost necessarily try to fill this hole in his soul with a god of power. Just about every decent person knows there’s something wrong with this world. But there are two fundamentally different ideas of how to actually make change happen. The first can be called fascism, and the second can be called romance.

As Jonah Goldberg ofNational Review has made clear, progressives have spiritually and historically always had a deep affinity with fascism. (This is fascism meant in a literal way: an actual ideological mindset, not just a vague slur against things we don’t like.) The original fascist fallacy consists of loving ideas more than people: real persons, in all their messiness, folly, sin, and freedom. Fascism is always about using power—of the state, or coercion more generally—to control people, change what they are, make them new. The one concept that never enters this picture is the primordial freedom of the individual.

It’s the exact opposite with romance. By romance, I mean a focus on the actual, living person, in all his or her sadness and confusion and beauty and glory. Friendship and romantic love are the main avenues through which most folk learn to see things in this way: a way that is ultimately rooted, in my view, in the vision of the Lord himself as a specific, individual man. When you see the intrinsic value of every individual person, whole categories of action become no longer possible. That includes the entire fascist approach to the transformation of the world.

At the end of “The Grand Inquisitor,” Christ still says nothing. He merely gives the Inquisitor a Russian kiss, and the Inquisitor breaks down. He tells Christ to leave, leave, and never show his face there again. The Inquisitor knows he has been defeated by a power greater than himself. He knows that for all his pretty words, he actually doesn’t care about people at all. He actually hates real persons, just as Christ loved them. Christ wanted true freedom for all, because that’s the only revolution that will ever really matter.

So Here We Are

You don’t need to call the god of truth by any one name in order to understand that truth and power are at odds with each other. Inquisitor versus Christ is one poetically powerful way to see the matter; but call it what you will, the conflict still exists.

The original fascist fallacy consists of loving ideas more than people.

Progressives have clearly fallen for what Goldberg has identified as the totalitarian temptation—the desire to remake the world through the fiat of raw power, as opposed to doing what it takes to awaken real living freedom within human souls. They have gone for fascism over romance. Insofar as America is an essentially romantic nation, this also means they have bet against the American spirit.

They have done this because they have tried, badly, to fill the god-shaped hole within their souls. Every man worships, even if he doesn’t know what. The progressives have thrown their lots in with the gods of power. Instead of believing in Christ and his vision, they have aligned themselves with the Inquisitor. Human nature says this is exactly what will happen when people have convinced themselves that the Lord of Truth is dead.

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How Intellectuals Cover for Evil

original article: How Intellectuals Cover for Evil: Deconstruction
March 18, 2017 by Thomas McArdle

Alongside its unprecedented mass violence, the 20th century saw the rise and reign of the secular intellectual as false prophet and would-be führer. For such men, as historian Paul Johnson wrote:

The collective wisdom of the past, the legacy of tradition, the prescriptive codes of ancestral experience existed to be selectively followed or wholly rejected entirely as his own good sense might decide.

Enter the villain of Stream columnist Jonathan Leaf’s powerful new play, Deconstruction, running through March 25 at the Theatre at Grand Hall (St. Mary’s Parish), 440 Grand Street, New York, N.Y., produced by Storm Theatre.

The Antwerp-born Paul de Man came to America after the Second World War and Blitzkrieged the study of literature by pioneering the postmodern theory of deconstruction — which, among other things, put morally-relativistic modern man in the place of a murdered God.

Pretending to be a Hero of the Anti-Nazi Resistance

De Man ultimately reached the zenith of academic prestige at Yale, becoming the single most influential literary critic in America — whose theories still deeply influence English classes at colleges today. But at the outset of Deconstruction, it’s summer 1949. He holds a menial job at a Grand Central bookshop, and finds himself the pitied guest of Catholic-turned-Marxist novelist and critic Mary McCarthy in her Rhode Island beach cottage.

Leaf’s drama speculates about the two married academics’ rumored affair.  McCarthy would secure de Man his first academic post at New York’s Bard College, an hour’s drive north of Vassar, where she was teaching. De Man doesn’t quite seduce McCarthy; it’s mutual. As she later admits, “anyone who strokes my ego after a few drinks too often can stroke other places.” He compliments her literary talent. She praises his conversational cleverness, and his brave service in the Belgian Resistance – except that, as we discover, the latter was a lie. Quite the contrary.

Deconstruction 2

Jed Peterson as de Man is a fascinating near-reincarnation of Paul Henreid playing the sly, covert Nazi in Carol Reed’s 1940 thriller Night Train To Munich. De Man apes sincerity quite effectively, as he professes shame for seducing other women, then dwells on his tragic youth. At 17, he found his mother hanged on the anniversary of his brother being struck dead by a train. Yet soon after telling the tale, he does indeed lead McCarthy to bed.

In Leaf’s telling, McCarthy would eventually find herself expecting de Man’s child, leaving her third and current husband to think the child is his. After her miscarriage it would be her husband, not de Man, at her side. De Man would by this time be busy with a 21-year-old Bard student whom he had also impregnated.

No, de Man had not fought in the Resistance. In fact, he had served the Nazis.

Inventing New Forms of Relativism to Explain Away His Crimes

But this is the tip of the iceberg. No, de Man had not fought in the Resistance. In fact, he had served the Nazis. Some four years after de Man’s 1983 death, a Belgian scholar would discover more than 100 pro-Nazi articles de Man had published under his own byline in occupied Belgium during the war in the country’s leading newspaper, Le Soir. In one, he recommended a forced exodus of the Jews, remarking that Europe “would lose, in all, a few personalities of mediocre value” then continue in greatness.

Le_SoirDe Man’s legion of deconstruction disciples would proclaim the revelations overblown. Literary scholar James Atlas noted in the New York Times in 1988, while the truth about de Man was still hitting the fan, that de Man’s Yale colleague Geoffrey Hartman minimized de Man’s offenses because they “didn’t begin to compare with the ‘vulgar anti-Semitic writing’ in other newspapers of the day.”

De Man would quit the pro-Nazi paper, but not necessarily for the right reasons. Two months after de Man’s departure Le Soir’s other literary critic was assassinated by the Resistance for being a Nazi collaborator.

Interrogated by Hannah Arendt

The play twists the knife when Leaf’s last character arrives — McCarthy’s friend, political theorist Hannah Arendt. A German Jew who grew up in Koenigsberg, she’d escaped death in the Holocaust thanks to falsified papers from a U.S. diplomat. To an audience, Karoline Fischer’s stern, straight-talking Arendt may be the least enchanting of the three characters, but that suits her harsh message of truth.

“That I managed to get out of Germany, then out of a detention camp — it’s because I’m not cowed. By anyone.” So she informs de Man in an unwelcome visit to his Bard office. “I want to know: who are you?”

But this far-and-away more honest intellectual already knows, having “made some inquiries in Belgium.”

“Tell me, did you deliver bombs for the Resistance? Is that true or a lie?” Arendt demands of de Man.

“If we cannot prove God’s existence or the moral laws taken from antiquity, then what place is there for traditional morality?”

His blood-curdling response: “As a student of Heidegger, you of all people should know that the notion of objective truth is a philosophical concept. An abstraction. Neither more, nor less.”

“What Is Truth?”

De Man was taunting Arendt, aware that she’d once been both Heidegger’s student and his lover. (Heidegger’s blatant, public support for the Nazis even after the war has since dimmed his intellectual star a little.)

If there is no real truth, then why be good? Or, as de Man earlier asked McCarthy, “If we cannot prove God’s existence or the moral laws taken from antiquity, then what place is there for traditional morality? You do see the logic at least?”

The logic she sees – indeed keenly feels – is the soul-destroying vacuum of love and beauty that de Man leaves in his wake. As Mary McCarthy, Fleur Alys Dobbins, in the performance of the night, shifts jarringly from a feathery hedonism to ravaged victimhood.

“You know, Paul, I spent hours thinking of baby names, painting the child’s room different colors in my mind. Wondering: a girl or a boy, which would you like?” she cries in her pain. When de Man claims, “I’m ashamed,” Arendt counters, “You have no shame,” then reveals, “one of the inquiries I made told me something that didn’t entirely surprise me: you wrote for a Nazi newspaper.”

The real difference between de Man and McCarthy?  She admits, “I know I’m a fraud,” but “I want to be good.”

The year he died, de Man would write, “’I am not given to retrospective self-examination, and mercifully forget what I have written with the same alacrity I forget bad movies … although, as with bad movies, certain scenes or phrases return at times to embarrass and haunt me like a guilty conscience.” Atlas noted that, writing on Rousseau, de Man had even claimed we can never distinguish between “fictional discourse and empirical event,” which “makes it possible to excuse the bleakest of crimes.”

Leaf’s deconstruction of the de Man myth ends with McCarthy (“some Marxist, I am!”) repeating aloud a prayer to the Virgin Mary. In the words of Whittaker Chambers, the Communist spy who turned Christian, Deconstruction’s audience discovers that “man without mysticism is a monster.”

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Benevolent Totalitarianism – New Age Slavery

original article: The government’s war on Christianity
May 4, 2015 by Bob Livingston

The number one goal of all governments is to control and dominate their own citizens. The more deceptively it can be done, the more complete and long-lasting the tyranny.

I have been telling you for many years that the face of modern tyranny is benevolent totalitarianism. Police state totalitarianism went out with World War II. The “Gestapo” knock at the door in the middle of the night and barbed-wire detainment camps are history, though there are steps in place to recreate them here via FEMA resettlement camps. Benevolent totalitarianism is an advanced stage of people control through mind control and mass psycho-political manipulation.

The individual (individualist) is an enemy of the state. Therefore individuality must be removed. So the individual and the nuclear family, which is an individual and sovereign unit, are under attack.

Stop here, dear reader, if you are offended by the politically incorrect. This column will surely distress your sensibilities. If you read on you are in for some uncomfortable but Godly truths.

Government is attacking the individual and family unit in a myriad of ways: through social programs, class warfare and altruism, which is selfless self-denial to the point of literal self-sacrifice for a myth called society, and propaganda.

Social welfare programs are destructive to the individual and the family unit because they absolve the parents of their parental responsibilities and promote dependency on government. There are now “families” that for two or three generations have been wards of the state. Many if not most of them are without a male head of household. They depend upon the state to provide their sustenance, their housing, their transportation, their healthcare and their entertainment. They know nothing of individuality or personal responsibility. Their provider is the state, and the state is their god. It is 21st Century Baal worship.

Class warfare is a code word for race warfare and it promotes racism and bigotry. Government panders to minorities with extravagant subsidies and racism. Minorities respond because they are conditioned to do so. Subsidies and racism are subtle forms of economic warfare between the middle class and minorities. All is a masquerade for the benefit of a wicked political system.

Who are minorities? They are, of course, racial minorities, but there are a whole lot more. There are homosexual minorities, feminist minorities, political minorities, religious minorities, low wage minorities and all the minorities whose issues dominate the news cycles. For more on this read, “Lawyers and minorities love socialism.”

Public policy is molded on these manipulated minority influences, all contributing to the power and collectivism of government. This is all an invisible charade, an organism, with a totally different and opposite orientation to individual liberty and Christianity. It is in reality New Age slavery, a benevolent totalitarianism, an illusion of freedom.

One can always identify minority special interests simply because they welcome government intervention and intrusion (socialism) as a net for perceived social inequality, poverty and underachievement. Guilt manipulation and all manner of charades are used to force social and economic equality where none is earned.

Because of perceived social, cultural, racial and psychic inferiority, minorities desire to parasite on government force and socialism to subvert those they envy and wish to imitate.

They could never succeed except for the very sophisticated propaganda of altruism.

Altruism is the very foundation of statist propaganda that the individual must place his interests, including his property, beneath the “need” of the collective (state). It is a deceptive ploy by government to play upon Christian values of service and servitude as taught by Jesus Christ. But it is not service to benefit others — as Christ taught — that the state seeks, but service and sacrifice to the state. In our time this is called “in the public interest” or “common good.” The terms “public interest” and “common good” always translate to “in the government interest.”

Therefore, the army of federal judges and politicians act in the “public interest.” And they would tell you in a minute that they do everything in the “public interest.” This is a deception that few unravel mainly because of the self-deception of altruism. As long as an individual believes that he should share his property and produce for the “common good,” he is in reality no longer an individual but a part of the collective servants of the state. Altruism motivates people to self-sacrifice for the state. This is why altruism is at the root of all governments. Governments must instill self-sacrifice to solidify political power.

The goal of government is to coerce the people into a regimented, docile and obedient mass under a propaganda system based on altruism and self sacrifice. That is why the individual and the family unit must be undermined.

The individual will act in his own interest and is therefore a danger to the state. In a traditional family unit headed by a man – as established by God in Genesis 1 and reaffirmed by Christ in Matthew 19 and the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 7 and Colossians 3 — the individualist man will always act in the best interest of self and family.

The crowd, on the other hand, is easy to persuade and manipulate through the mass media. Note that few if any television families today or in the last 40 years are traditional families. This is by design. In fact, traditional families are anathema to Hollywood and the male head of household, if there is one, is almost always portrayed as drunk, a louse, an adulterer, an abuser or a buffoon — or some combination of those traits — who is disrespected by his wife and children. This serves to diminish the role and necessity of the father and the traditional family unit. (This is not to vilipend the importance of the work by single parents in families torn apart by death or divorce, but to point out that the ideal family in God’s plan is for there to be a husband, wife and children.)

All public schools are government training grounds for group dynamics. Everything is taught in terms of groups over individualism and even family. Children are force-fed altruism, feelings-based character traits (where self-esteem is elevated over achievement), alternative lifestyles and even non-Christian religious or pagan dogma. But Christian-based values are banned from the classroom and the discussion.

So how is all this an attack on Christianity? The way to destroy a religion is to dilute it. Enough water in the milk and the milk becomes water. The way to conquer a religion is to absorb it. The way to one-world religion is to unite all religions. This is what secret cults do rather than open confrontation.

Christianity still has its name, its churches and its forum but not its spirit. Hillary Clinton recently said “deep-seated … religious beliefs” have to be changed before the world’s women will get full access to abortion. Fifty-three million souls lost to abortion since Roe v. Wadeare not enough for her or the arbotionistas.

But Christians cannot change these “deep-seated … religious beliefs” because if they do so they are no longer Christian. (1 John 2)

The homosexual lobby tells Christians they must violate their beliefs and God’s commands and participate in their immorality. The homosexual lobby preaches tolerance but will not tolerate other beliefs. They are homo-intolerant.

The regime’s Solicitor General conceded to Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito that if homosexual marriage is legalized by the Supreme Court that churches that do not accept homosexual marriage in their doctrines would lose their tax-exempt status. This would be an all-out, full frontal assault on the Christian faith. And it would get ugly quickly, because Christians cannot accept homosexual marriage in their midst because to do so is to violate God’s command in Ephesians 5:3, and engage in works of the flesh. In fact, some avowed Christians are now promising resistance to this heresy.

Some “Christians,” I call them nominal Christians, have come to accept anything that doesn’t interfere with their six pack and wide-screen TV. So they sit back as the messianic state, also known as the nanny state, legislates away our freedoms one by one, promising security in return and even deliverance from every modern problem. Herein the religious basis of the modern religio-political system is revealed. One cannot understand politics today (which is to say, the system) until one understands the history and manifestation of false religion among sinful men.

All sin is established and brought forth from a seemingly tiny kernel of false belief about the nature and purpose of man. This humanistic kernel is planted in the vacuum of men’s hearts and spirits when they kick God out of their lives. As the Bible tells us, true belief is shown in the doing (James 2:14-26). Faith without works is dead. Many men speak of freedom but their actions do not accord with what they say.

Christians, in your smugness, arrogance, conceit and materialism, the time is at hand when you will be considered “a terrorist” if you claim your faith, proclaim Biblical teaching, belong to a patriotic group or even a pro-life organization.

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Gay marriage is not just a social revolution but a cosmological one

original article: Sex After Christianity
April 11, 2013 by ROD DREHER

Twenty years ago, new president Bill Clinton stepped on a political landmine when he tried to fulfill a campaign promise to permit gay soldiers to serve openly. Same-sex marriage barely registered as a political cause; the country was then three years away from the Defense of Marriage Act and four years from comedian Ellen DeGeneres’s prime-time coming out.

Then came what historians will one day recall as a cultural revolution. Now we’re entering the endgame of the struggle over gay rights and the meaning of homosexuality. Conservatives have been routed, both in court and increasingly in the court of public opinion. It is commonly believed that the only reason to oppose same-sex marriage is rank bigotry or for religious reasons, neither of which—the argument goes—has any place in determining laws or public standards.

The magnitude of the defeat suffered by moral traditionalists will become ever clearer as older Americans pass from the scene. Poll after poll shows that for the young, homosexuality is normal and gay marriage is no big deal—except, of course, if one opposes it, in which case one has the approximate moral status of a segregationist in the late 1960s.

All this is, in fact, a much bigger deal than most people on both sides realize, and for a reason that eludes even ardent opponents of gay rights. Back in 1993, a cover story in The Nation identified the gay-rights cause as the summit and keystone of the culture war:

All the crosscurrents of present-day liberation struggles are subsumed in the gay struggle. The gay moment is in some ways similar to the moment that other communities have experienced in the nation’s past, but it is also something more, because sexual identity is in crisis throughout the population, and gay people—at once the most conspicuous subjects and objects of the crisis—have been forced to invent a complete cosmology to grasp it. No one says the changes will come easily. But it’s just possible that a small and despised sexual minority will change America forever.

They were right, and though the word “cosmology” may strike readers as philosophically grandiose, its use now appears downright prophetic. The struggle for the rights of “a small and despised sexual minority” would not have succeeded if the old Christian cosmology had held: put bluntly, the gay-rights cause has succeeded precisely because the Christian cosmology has dissipated in the mind of the West.

Same-sex marriage strikes the decisive blow against the old order. The Nation’s triumphalist rhetoric from two decades ago is not overripe; the radicals appreciated what was at stake far better than did many—especially bourgeois apologists for same-sex marriage as a conservative phenomenon. Gay marriage will indeed change America forever, in ways that are only now becoming visible. For better or for worse, it will make ours a far less Christian culture. It already is doing exactly that.

 

When they were writing the widely acclaimed 2010 book American Grace, a comprehensive study of contemporary religious belief and practice, political scientists Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell noticed two inverse trend lines in social-science measures, both starting around 1990.

They found that young Americans coming into adulthood at that time began to accept homosexuality as morally licit in larger numbers. They also observed that younger Americans began more and more to fall away from organized religion. The evangelical boom of the 1970s and 1980s stopped, and if not for a tsunami of Hispanic immigration the U.S. Catholic church would be losing adherents at the same rate as the long-dwindling Protestant mainline.

graphic by Michael Hogue

Over time, the data showed, attitudes on moral issues proved to be strong predictors of religious engagement. In particular, the more liberal one was on homosexuality, the less likely one was to claim religious affiliation. It’s not that younger Americans were becoming atheists. Rather, most of them identify as “spiritual, but not religious.” Combined with atheists and agnostics, these “Nones”—the term is Putnam’s and Campbell’s—comprise the nation’s fastest-growing faith demographic.

Indeed, according to a 2012 Pew Research Center study, the Nones comprise one out of three Americans under 30. This is not simply a matter of young people doing what young people tend to do: keep church at arm’s length until they settle down. Pew’s Greg Smith told NPR that this generation is more religiously unaffiliated than any on record. Putnam—the Harvard scholar best known for his best-selling civic culture study Bowling Alone—has said that there’s no reason to think they will return to church in significant numbers as they age.

Putnam and Campbell were careful to say in American Grace that correlation is not causation, but they did point out that as gay activism moved toward center stage in American political life—around the time of The Nation’s cover story—the vivid public role many Christian leaders took in opposing gay rights alienated young Americans from organized religion.

In a dinner conversation not long after the publication of American Grace, Putnam told me that Christian churches would have to liberalize on sexual teaching if they hoped to retain the loyalty of younger generations. This seems at first like a reasonable conclusion, but the experience of America’s liberal denominations belies that prescription. Mainline Protestant churches, which have been far more accepting of homosexuality and sexual liberation in general, have continued their stark membership decline.

It seems that when people decide that historically normative Christianity is wrong about sex, they typically don’t find a church that endorses their liberal views. They quit going to church altogether.

This raises a critically important question: is sex the linchpin of Christian cultural order? Is it really the case that to cast off Christian teaching on sex and sexuality is to remove the factor that gives—or gave—Christianity its power as a social force?

 

Though he might not have put it quite that way, the eminent sociologist Philip Rieff would probably have said yes. Rieff’s landmark 1966 book The Triumph Of the Therapeutic analyzes what he calls the “deconversion” of the West from Christianity. Nearly everyone recognizes that this process has been underway since the Enlightenment, but Rieff showed that it had reached a more advanced stage than most people—least of all Christians—recognized.

Rieff, who died in 2006, was an unbeliever, but he understood that religion is the key to understanding any culture. For Rieff, the essence of any and every culture can be identified by what it forbids. Each imposes a series of moral demands on its members, for the sake of serving communal purposes, and helps them cope with these demands. A culture requires a cultus—a sense of sacred order, a cosmology that roots these moral demands within a metaphysical framework.

You don’t behave this way and not that way because it’s good for you; you do so because this moral vision is encoded in the nature of reality. This is the basis of natural-law theory, which has been at the heart of contemporary secular arguments against same-sex marriage (and which have persuaded no one).

Rieff, writing in the 1960s, identified the sexual revolution—though he did not use that term—as a leading indicator of Christianity’s death as a culturally determinative force. In classical Christian culture, he wrote, “the rejection of sexual individualism” was “very near the center of the symbolic that has not held.” He meant that renouncing the sexual autonomy and sensuality of pagan culture was at the core of Christian culture—a culture that, crucially, did not merely renounce but redirected the erotic instinct. That the West was rapidly re-paganizing around sensuality and sexual liberation was a powerful sign of Christianity’s demise.

It is nearly impossible for contemporary Americans to grasp why sex was a central concern of early Christianity. Sarah Ruden, the Yale-trained classics translator, explains the culture into which Christianity appeared in her 2010 book Paul Among The People. Ruden contends that it’s profoundly ignorant to think of the Apostle Paul as a dour proto-Puritan descending upon happy-go-lucky pagan hippies, ordering them to stop having fun.

In fact, Paul’s teachings on sexual purity and marriage were adopted as liberating in the pornographic, sexually exploitive Greco-Roman culture of the time—exploitive especially of slaves and women, whose value to pagan males lay chiefly in their ability to produce children and provide sexual pleasure. Christianity, as articulated by Paul, worked a cultural revolution, restraining and channeling male eros, elevating the status of both women and of the human body, and infusing marriage—and marital sexuality—with love.

Christian marriage, Ruden writes, was “as different from anything before or since as the command to turn the other cheek.” The point is not that Christianity was only, or primarily, about redefining and revaluing sexuality, but that within a Christian anthropology sex takes on a new and different meaning, one that mandated a radical change of behavior and cultural norms. In Christianity, what people do with their sexuality cannot be separated from what the human person is.

It would be absurd to claim that Christian civilization ever achieved a golden age of social harmony and sexual bliss. It is easy to find eras in Christian history when church authorities were obsessed with sexual purity. But as Rieff recognizes, Christianity did establish a way to harness the sexual instinct, embed it within a community, and direct it in positive ways.

What makes our own era different from the past, says Rieff, is that we have ceased to believe in the Christian cultural framework, yet we have made it impossible to believe in any other that does what culture must do: restrain individual passions and channel them creatively toward communal purposes.

Rather, in the modern era, we have inverted the role of culture. Instead of teaching us what we must deprive ourselves of to be civilized, we have a society that tells us we find meaning and purpose in releasing ourselves from the old prohibitions.

How this came to be is a complicated story involving the rise of humanism, the advent of the Enlightenment, and the coming of modernity. As philosopher Charles Taylor writes in his magisterial religious and cultural history A Secular Age, “The entire ethical stance of moderns supposes and follows on from the death of God (and of course, of the meaningful cosmos).” To be modern is to believe in one’s individual desires as the locus of authority and self-definition.

Gradually the West lost the sense that Christianity had much to do with civilizational order, Taylor writes. In the 20th century, casting off restrictive Christian ideals about sexuality became increasingly identified with health. By the 1960s, the conviction that sexual expression was healthy and good—the more of it, the better—and that sexual desire was intrinsic to one’s personal identity culminated in the sexual revolution, the animating spirit of which held that freedom and authenticity were to be found not in sexual withholding (the Christian view) but in sexual expression and assertion. That is how the modern American claims his freedom.

To Rieff, ours is a particular kind of “revolutionary epoch” because the revolution cannot by its nature be institutionalized. Because it denies the possibility of communal knowledge of binding truths transcending the individual, the revolution cannot establish a stable social order. As Rieff characterizes it, “The answer to all questions of ‘what for’ is ‘more’.”

Our post-Christian culture, then, is an “anti-culture.” We are compelled by the logic of modernity and the myth of individual freedom to continue tearing away the last vestiges of the old order, convinced that true happiness and harmony will be ours once all limits have been nullified.

Gay marriage signifies the final triumph of the Sexual Revolution and the dethroning of Christianity because it denies the core concept of Christian anthropology. In classical Christian teaching, the divinely sanctioned union of male and female is an icon of the relationship of Christ to His church and ultimately of God to His creation. This is why gay marriage negates Christian cosmology, from which we derive our modern concept of human rights and other fundamental goods of modernity. Whether we can keep them in the post-Christian epoch remains to be seen.

It also remains to be seen whether we can keep Christianity without accepting Christian chastity. Sociologist Christian Smith’s research on what he has termed “moralistic therapeutic deism”—the feelgood, pseudo-Christianity that has supplanted the normative version of the faith in contemporary America—suggests that the task will be extremely difficult.

Conservative Christians have lost the fight over gay marriage and, as we have seen, did so decades before anyone even thought same-sex marriage was a possibility. Gay-marriage proponents succeeded so quickly because they showed the public that what they were fighting for was consonant with what most post-1960s Americans already believed about the meaning of sex and marriage. The question Western Christians face now is whether or not they are going to lose Christianity altogether in this new dispensation.

March/April 2013Too many of them think that same-sex marriage is merely a question of sexual ethics. They fail to see that gay marriage, and the concomitant collapse of marriage among poor and working-class heterosexuals, makes perfect sense given the autonomous individualism sacralized by modernity and embraced by contemporary culture—indeed, by many who call themselves Christians. They don’t grasp that Christianity, properly understood, is not a moralistic therapeutic adjunct to bourgeois individualism—a common response among American Christians, one denounced by Rieff in 2005 as “simply pathetic”—but is radically opposed to the cultural order (or disorder) that reigns today.

They are fighting the culture war moralistically, not cosmologically. They have not only lost the culture, but unless they understand the nature of the fight and change their strategy to fight cosmologically, within a few generations they may also lose their religion.

“The death of a culture begins when its normative institutions fail to communicate ideals in ways that remain inwardly compelling,” Rieff writes. By that standard, Christianity in America, if not American spirituality, is in mortal danger. The future is not foreordained: Taylor shares much of Rieff’s historical analysis but is more hopeful about the potential for renewal. Still, if the faith does not recover, the historical autopsy will conclude that gay marriage was not a cause but a symptom, the sign that revealed the patient’s terminal condition.

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Nobel Prize winner: man has forgotten God

February 13, 2015 by BILL FEDERER

“Man has forgotten God; that is why this has happened” was Russian author Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s response when questioned about the decline of modern culture.

Solzhenitsyn continued: “Over a half century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of old people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: ‘Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.’ Since then I have spent well-nigh 50 years working on the history of our revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: ‘Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.’”

This echoed another Russian author, Dostoevsky, in whose book, “The Brothers Karamazov,” the character Ivan Karamazov contended that if there is no God, “everything is permitted.”

It is also similar to Nazi leader Hans Frank who remarked during his conviction at the Nuremberg Trials, Aug. 31, 1945: “At the beginning of our way we did not suspect that our turning away from God could have such disastrous deadly consequences and that we would necessarily become more and more deeply involved in guilt. At that time we could not have known that so much loyalty and willingness to sacrifice on the part of the German people could have been so badly directed by us. Thus, by turning away from God, we were overthrown and had to perish. It was not because of technical deficiencies and unfortunate circumstances alone that we lost the war, nor was it misfortune and treason. Before all, God pronounced and executed judgment on Hitler and the system which we served with minds far from God. Therefore, may our people, too, be called back from the road on which Hitler – and we with him –have led them. I beg of our people not to continue in this direction, be it even a single step; because Hitler’s road was the way without God, the way of turning from Christ, and, in the last analysis, the way of political foolishness, the way of disaster, and the way of death. His path became more and more that of a frightful adventurer without conscience or honesty, as I know today at the end of this Trial. We call upon the German people, whose rulers we were, to return from this road which, according to the law and justice of God, had to lead us and our system into disaster and which will lead everyone into disaster who tries to walk on it, or continue on it, everywhere in the whole world.”

In February 1945, Solzhenitsyn was arrested for writing politically incorrect comments against Joseph Stalin. He was imprisoned for eight years, as he described in his autobiographical lecture, printed in the Nobel Foundation’s publication, Les Prix Nobel, 1971: “I was arrested on the grounds of what the censorship had found in my correspondence with a school friend, mainly because of certain disrespectful remarks about Stalin, although we referred to him in disguised terms. A further basis for the ‘charge’ were drafts of stories and reflections which had been found in my map case.”

Stalin said: “Crisis alone permitted the authorities to demand – and obtain – total submission and all the necessary sacrifices from its citizens.”

President Franklin Roosevelt told the Delegates of the American Youth Congress, Feb. 10, 1940: “The Soviet Union … is run by a dictatorship as absolute as any other dictatorship in the world.”

Stalin controlled citizens through “fear and food.”

The people were kept in constant fear that government agencies would falsely accuse them and cart them away in the night, and the people were kept in a continual shortage of food, so they could not have the resources to rebel. Stalin engineered a famine in his war against the kulaks that killed millions.

Richard Pipes commented on the absolute power of Russia’s Josef Stalin in his book, “Communism: A History” (Random House, 2001): “To break the resistance of the peasants in the Ukraine, the North Caucasus, and the Kazakhstan, Stalin inflicted on these areas in 1932-33 an artificial famine, shipping out all the food from entire districts and deploying the army to prevent the starving peasants from migrating in search of nourishment. It is estimated that between 6 and 7 million people perished in this man-made catastrophe.”

Pipes continued: “Stalin’s regime needed another crisis … as Fidel Castro, the leader of Communist Cuba, would explain. … ‘The revolution needs the enemy. … The revolution needs for its development its antithesis.’ … And if enemies were lacking, they had to be fabricated.”

Richard Pipes continued: “In 1934, a prominent Bolshevik, Sergei Kirov, the party boss of Lenningrad, was assassinated under mysterious conditions … evidence points to Stalin. … Kirov was gaining too much popularity in party ranks for Stalin’s comfort. His assassination brought Stalin two advantages: it rid him of a potential rival and provided a rationale for instigating a vast campaign against alleged anti-Soviet conspirators. … Purges of the 1930′s were a terror campaign that in indiscriminate ferocity and number of victims had no parallel in world history. … Authorities … beat them until they confess to their crimes they have not committed.”

Stalin’s terror campaign was similar to the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror, led by Robespierre, head of the “Committee of Public Safety.”

In a speech titled “The Terror Justified,” Robespierre told the National Assembly, Feb. 5, 1794: “Lead … the enemies of the people by terror. … Terror is nothing else than swift, severe, indomitable justice.”

Alexander Solzhenitsyn was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1970, but the communist government did not allow him to leave the country to accept it.

Solzhenitsyn began publishing The Gulag Archipelago in 1973, and in response to international pressure, the Soviet Union expelled him on Feb. 13, 1974.

The following year in Washington, D.C., Alexander Solzhenitsyn warned: “I … call upon America to be more careful … because they are trying to weaken you … to disarm your strong and magnificent country in the face of this fearful threat – one that has never been seen before in the history of the world.”

original article: ‘Man has forgotten God; that is why this has happened’

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Chaplain punished for sharing his faith in suicide prevention class

December 9, 2014 by Todd Starnes

An Army chaplain was punished for discussing matters of faith and quoting from the Bible during a suicide prevention training session with the 5th Ranger Training Battalion — leading to outrage from religious liberty groups and a Georgia congressman.

Chaplain Joseph Lawhorn was issued a Letter of Concern that accused him of advocating for Christianity and “using Christian scripture and solutions” during a Nov. 20th training session held at the University of North Georgia.

“You provided a two-sided handout that listed Army resources on one side and a biblical approach to handling depression on the other side,” Col. David Fivecoat, the commander of the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade at Ft. Benning, Georgia, wrote in the letter to the chaplain. “This made it impossible for those in attendance to receive the resource information without also receiving the biblical information.”

The Christian chaplain was warned to be “careful to avoid any perception you are advocating one system of beliefs over another.”

The Christian chaplain was warned to be “careful to avoid any perception you are advocating one system of beliefs over another.”

However, attorneys for the chaplain, along with religious advocacy groups, say his comments are covered by the “right of conscience clause” that was passed in last year’s National Defense Authorization Act, section 533.

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Chaplain Lawhorn was ordered to appear in the colonel’s office on Thanksgiving Day where he was personally handed the Letter of Concern.

Based on Col. Fivecoat’s version of events — you would’ve thought Chaplain Lawhorn had turned the suicide prevention workshop into a Billy Graham Crusade. However, that’s not what happened.

During the course of conducting the training session, Ron Crews, the endorsing agent for military chaplains for Grace Churches International, explained, the chaplain discussed his own struggles with depression and the methods and techniques he personally used to combat depression. He said the chaplain did provide a handout with religious resources — but he also provided a handout with non-religious resources.

“The chaplain did nothing wrong,” said Crews. “At no time did he say his was the only or even the preferred way of dealing with depression. And at no time did he deny the validity of any other method.”

Lawhorn is one of the few Army chaplains to wear the Ranger Tab and Crews said it was through that identification that he shared his story about depression.

“His story involves his faith journey,” Crews said. “He was simply being a great Army chaplain – in ministering to his troops and providing first hand how he has dealt with depression in the past. That’s what chaplains do. They bare their souls for their soldiers in order to help them with crises they may be going through.”

However, someone in the training session complained to the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers. That complaint led to a story on the Huffington Post.

Michael Berry, an attorney with Liberty Institute, a law firm that handles religious liberty cases, is representing the chaplain. He said the person who filed the complained “exploited” the chaplain’s “vulnerability.”

“It took a great amount of courage for Chaplain Lawhorn to discuss his own personal battle with depression,” Berry said. “At no time did he consider himself to be in a ‘preacher’ role.”
Berry called on the Army to rescind the Letter of Concern — calling it a violation of the chaplain’s constitutional rights.

“Not only is it lawful for a chaplain to talk about matters of faith and spirituality and religion in a suicide prevention training class – but the Army policy encourages discussion of matters of faith and spiritual wellness,” Berry told me. “The fact that one person in the class was offended changes nothing.”

Congressman Doug Collins, a Republican lawmaker from Georgia, whose district includes the area where the training session took place, fired off a letter to Col. Fivecoat expressing his concerns in the matter.

“I find it counterintuitive to have someone lead a suicide prevention course but prohibit them from providing their personal testimony,” Collins wrote.

He cited the Army’s Equal Opportunity policy and how it was set up to protect the personal beliefs of military personnel.

“I fear Chaplain Lawhorn’s freedom of expression was improperly singled out,” he wrote.

Liberty Institute tells me the Army will allow me to speak with the chaplain — but not right now. And Col. Fivecoat sent me an email telling me that he would not be able to comment at this point.

If I’m reading between the lines — that Letter of Concern comes pretty close to accusing the chaplain of proselytizing. Crews agrees with my assessment.

“The bottom line is — that is exactly what they are trying to accuse him of — when nothing could be further from the truth,” Crews told me. “The military leadership needs to commend Chaplain Lawhorn, not condemn him.”

Berry said Americans should be shocked and outraged over Chaplain Lawhorn’s punishment.

“His job is to save lives — and he’s being punished for trying to do his job,” Berry said. “He’s doing everything he can to save them – and yet now they’re trying to say – the way you’re doing it offends me.”

I find it both repulsive and heartbreaking to know that we have a military that frowns upon a chaplain using a Bible to save a soldier’s life.

original article: Chaplain punished for sharing his faith in suicide prevention class

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Climate Change Debate: Coming Soon to a School Near You

June 20, 2014 by Allie Bidwell

Opponents of new science standards have said they promote ‘anti-human’ messages and atheism.

Political debates surrounding climate change and creationism are now making their way into America’s schools, as more states are deciding whether to adopt or reject new common science standards that put a greater emphasis on controversial topics like global warming and evolution.

Critics of the standards have said they do not present the issue of human influence in global warming objectively and do not consider “all sides” when discussing evolution.

Twelve states and the District of Columbia have already adopted the Next Generation Science Standards, which were developed by a group of national science and education organizations, including Achieve – one of the groups involved with the development of the Common Core State Standards. But Wyoming became the first state to officially reject the standards when Republican Gov. Matt Mead approved a budget in March precluding the use of state funds to review or adopt the science standards after they were heartily endorsed by the state’s teachers union. South Carolina lawmakers blocked the adoption of the standards in 2012, before the final draft was published.

read full article: Climate Change Debate: Coming Soon to a School Near You

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Does a religiously neutral approach equal bigotry?

Are we going too far in trying not to offend the hand full of non-religious people in the world?

NBC Cuts ‘Under God’ From Pledge of Allegiance
June 19, 2011 by Noel Sheppard

NBC on Sunday decided to cut the words “under God” from the reading of the Pledge of Allegiance that accompanied the beginning of its coverage of the U.S. Open Golf Championship.

In fact, this happened twice during the show’s introduction (video follows courtesy Mark Finkelstein with partial transcript):

read full article and watch the video

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Purposefully rewriting history at Independence Hall in Philly

Christianity gets flayed at home of Liberty Bell
September 19, 2010 by Bob Unruh

A Christian chaplain has written to officials at the nation’s historic Independence Hall in Philadelphia asking them to provide a better experience for visitors after a tour guide there discounted the Christian beliefs of the Founders, saying, “Washington didn’t even go to church.”

The letter from Pastor Todd DuBord, now the chaplain for the enterprises of actor, martial arts champion and philanthropist Chuck Norris, was sent to the superintendent of Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, where some of the nation’s founding documents were assembled and where the Liberty Bell now is exhibited.

DuBord for years has worked with tours of patriotic citizens who have visited Washington and other locations to see the markers of America’s Christian heritage. He previously exposed when tour guides at the U.S. Supreme Court building were denying the multiple representations there of the Ten Commandments.

He also exposed the agenda at work in the District of Columbia when the replica of the Washington Monument capstone, which is engraved with “Laus Deo,” or “Praise be to God,” was positioned in the visitors’ center so observers were not able to see the inscription.

“The NPS guide went from being an expert on the Founders to someone who was fumbling to formulate his words and get even a coherent and accurate sentence about our Founders’ religion,” DuBord wrote. “It struck me from his initial utterances on their religious views that he knew very little if anything about the real issues at all – and that made me wonder how many presentations he had done over the years to school children and guests from all over the country and world without ever discussing the Founders’ religious nature with any accuracy.”

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Triumph of naturestition over reason

It seems science has come full circle. In the middle ages one widely accepted scientific (not religious) explanation for how things like rats or flies existed was the idea of Spontaneous Generation. Due to a desire for a more verifiable and rational explanation, this idea has been thoroughly discredited throughout the centuries. Or so we thought.

Stephen Hawking now declares God did not create the universe and the “Big Bang” was an inevitable consequence of the laws of physics. On the argument’s surface some question arise, such as how do any laws of physics exist without a physical universe to govern? Or, how would physical laws have been established when nothing exists and why would those laws be necessary? How would we know that physical laws preceded the physical universe, rather than the other way around? Or, how is the idea of the universe creating itself out of nothingness any less ridiculous than the notion of an intelligent being creating it? Both notions seem utterly absurd, yet it seems one must be true; thus the endeavor to prove God unnecessary no matter how foolish the explanation.

God did not create the universe, says Hawking
September 2, 2010 by Michael Holden

In “The Grand Design,” co-authored with U.S. physicist Leonard Mlodinow, Hawking says a new series of theories made a creator of the universe redundant, according to the Times newspaper which published extracts on Thursday.

“Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist,” Hawking writes.

It seems difficult to see Hawking’s argument as anything less than wishful thinking backed up by a faithful adherence to an anti-theistic paradigm. We are now told the more rational (“rational” being so often treated as the opposite of faith) argument for explaining why anything exists is Spontaneous Creation, the cosmic equivalent of Spontaneous Generation. Is this idea a scientific breakthrough or a betrayal of reason itself? I look forward to reading the book when it is made publicly available.

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