Trueman on the New Left ‘Mumbo Jumbo’

A hearty ‘amen’ goes to this post by Carl Trueman about the New Left’s tactic of disenfranchisement. Trueman argues that by redefining terms, the New Left have also redefined “basic categories of personal identity into species of Gnostic knowledge on which only the illuminati can opine.” Today you must play by their rules which includes a prohibition on dissent. This is something that I’ve also found irksome having observed, for example, the term ‘tolerance’ morph into something like ‘tacit approval.’ The rub is that the enlightened must genuflect to the new meaning of a host of cultural buzzwords, with no room for disagreement no matter how substantive. Read Trueman’s entire post, but enjoy a snippet here:

Last year has provided an abundance of examples of how disenfranchisement is the order of the day for the Left. Does a significant historical figure not conform to the exacting moral standards of today’s Manhattan cocktail party-goers or over-indulged Ivy Leaguers? Then erase them from history. Nay, simply erase the history. Saves time later. And does somebody today hold to a position on marriage or sexuality which fails whatever test Slate cares to set? Then by definition they have no place in polite society.

When Religious Pluralism goes Mainstream

…it finds its way – not accidentally – into every sphere of culture, which includes once benign comic book-based movies like the upcoming ‘X-men: Apocalypse.’ The trailer (here) depicts the title character, Apocalypse, as having gone by the names Yahweh, Krishna, and Ra, saying, “I’ve been called many things over many lifetimes.” Also in the trailer, Apocalypse employs the help of the ‘four horsemen.’ In response, one character says, “he got that from the bible,” and another, “or the bible got it from him.” So, what one can reasonably assert from having seen the trailer is that, 1) various gods of different world religions are portrayed as the same god, and 2) the one ‘god’ being portrayed, named Apocalypse, is the villain.

It remains to be seen how this theme will play out in the (yet to be released) movie, but the trailer not only smacks of religious pluralism, but also of what Christopher Hitchens has called antitheism. And although the spread of antitheism is a very recent development spurred by the New Atheists, religious pluralism (the view that all spiritual paths have the same destination) isn’t new. However, it is only in recent decades that this view has become popular enough to be considered mainstream. And among those who do not hold this view or even consider it absurd or indefensible, few seem to be bothered by it. I believe that one important reason that this is so, is that these belief systems have been transmitted through media entertainment; and also why I’d like to say just a few things about the manner in which film and television lull consumers into (at least passively) accepting false beliefs and destructive ideologies.

Movies and television shows have a sly way of inculcating ideologies and values; a way of forming one’s beliefs and assumptions without the media consumer really noticing it, because they are packaged inside of compelling narratives. It’s similar to the way in which anesthesia allows a person to undergo surgery with no memory of the procedure – except the procedure exacted by media consumption is lengthy, slow, and requires very little anesthesia (although I’m sure binge-watching has sped the process along a bit, let alone smart phone/social media consumption). Movies and television shows hold the potential to change the way I see the world by presenting a grand message, or to shape my identity, as I envision absorbing certain on-screen characters’ personalities and beliefs into my public persona. As early as age seven, I can recall roaming about my neighborhood looking for Russian communists with toy guns after having watched Red Dawn; or becoming skeptical of the criminal justice system as a teenager after watching The Shawshank Redemption; or even the current inexplicable feeling that G.E. is a great company, simply because of my fondness for Jack Donaghy and his mentor, Don Geiss, on 30 Rock. The point here is that films and television shows are powerful, and to an extent that is not immediately apparent.

The transmission of ideas and sentiments is a significant transaction between the screen and the consumer, and one that is not always a bad thing. What is important to note is that it is a thing. The film industry certainly knows it. Consider this short that documentarian Errol Morris made for the 2002 Academy Awards. Obviously, it intends to cast the film industry in good light, but the point still holds up. This is all the more reason, when a destructive, heretical ideology is presented (as it appears is the case in ‘X-men: Apocalypse’), to point out the sway of film of television and their ability to shape who we are.


On Christian Political Non-engagement

Doug Wilson makes an important point about American exceptionalism here, and I’d like to offer some words to the same end. Here’s a quote:

Nationalism is the result when you try to make your natural affection for your people into a god. It is a terrible, devouring god. If a couple of men got into a fist fight in the greeting card section of a store because one of them saw that the other guy was going to buy a “best mom in the world” card, when he did not in fact have the best mom in the world, because the fellow punching him had the best mom, what would we say? One would begin to suspect, would one not, that they were both missing the point?

But there is a mistake in the opposite direction. I have noticed an unsettling tendency among some young Christians, who know that they are not supposed to be nationalists, therefore thinking that they can or should zero out their Americanness. When the project of eradication is complete, we will have “just a Christian.” No, we will have nothing of the kind. We will have a translucent, shimmery thing that will look and act like a wisp of morning mist. Real Christianity lands. Real Christianity disciples nations.

Patriotism, rightly developed, is a duty that falls under the fifth commandment. I am to honor my father and mother, and this extends beyond them in such a way as to include my people, my tribe. Ordinary and ordered patriotism is not just okay; it is a duty, one that needs to be cultivated.

Special notice to other readers of my blog. Whites are not a tribe. Blacks are not a tribe. Americans are a tribe — and that, incidentally, is what currently is under assault. Trump is a demagogue who is playing off the fears created by the assault, but the reality of the demagoguery does not erase the reality underneath the fear. But demagogues can’t save. Only saviors save.

So America is a tribe, a nation, and, as such, the Church is commanded to disciple her. The end point we should have in view should be an obedient nation, not an erased nation.

The pit that some evangelicals fall into, even unwittingly, is to become apolitical. Many young evangelicals in America, having observed the inability of a political ideology to win the day, coupled with the moral imperfections of any such ideology, have decided to distance themselves from any set of actions having to do with politics. This is a mistake which will produce “a wisp of morning mist,” as Wilson notes.

The trouble, it seems to me, with such an approach to politics, is that nearly every area of social and civic life intersects with politics (or at least political ideologies). And when a Christian judges anything remotely political to be guilty by association, one ends up with a Christian who is silent. Silent on the rights of the unborn, on the sanctity of marriage, on constitutionally protected religious liberties; but also silent in general. Further, self-conscious political non-engagement engenders a private faith, wherein silence on political issues extends to personal proclamation of the gospel. It is difficult to strike a balance between politically private and spiritually public; sure it can be done, but not without remaining silent on some pretty important social matters about which the bible has something to say. The notion that political non-engagement is a more fitting third way for Christians turns out to be yet another stripe of political correctness masquerading as politeness or even piety.

Eschewing politics is not a more Christian stance. It’s not less Christian either. But it is still a kind of de facto ideology. Christian faith is not meant to be private, and it also happens to regularly intersect with the world of politics. Any attempt to cleanly separate the two is mistaken. The gospel is for all of life, even for those areas of life that can make me and you both squirm.