…and the modern virtues don’t work either

A precious little snippet in the news yesterday, which is a quote from a press release by my alma mater, Cambridge University. They have just revoked a visiting fellowship they offered to the controversial psychologist Jordan Peterson, apparently because the Students Union, as “representative” as it was in my own day no doubt, threw some of the meaningless vice-words discussed in my previous post at Peterson, or more likely at the University to imply guilt by association.

The press release reads:

“[Cambridge] is an inclusive environment and we expect all our staff and visitors to uphold our principles. There is no place here for anyone who cannot.”

This sentence is a good test for readers: if you see nothing wrong with it, then your conceptual apparatus has been successfully buggered by whatever educators and life informers you have suffered.

It’s a good game, for those who still retain some alternative thought-forms, perhaps from studying the Bible in faith, to scan the news for the Newspeak that is now so pervasive that we usually don’t even notice it. Here are the two example I have spotted today until now (8.33am).

The first was the BBC’s news update on Brexit, which mentioned that Theresa May had spoken in “conciliatory terms” to MPs, whom she had previously blamed for the crisis over its implementation. So far so good. But the next sentence described how MPs of all parties had been outraged by this, because it had “put their lives in danger.”

This refers to the claim by some MPs that they have received death threats over the matter, from right wing, or left wing, or racist or Islamophobic posters on social media. And maybe those claims are true, because it seems that the main criterion nowadays for being a public figure is receiving death threats, such threats apparently being one of the less celebrated tenets of popular post-christian morality. That’s how I know I am not yet a public figure, because I don’t get them, or up to date, because I don’t send them.

Be that as it may, put on your alternative spectacles and see what this means: the MPs in question were not at all concerned to accept, or refute, Theresa May’s accusation that they had collectively made Britain a laughing-stock (which is indisputable). She is to be judged, instead, on whether some morons out there on Twitter act moronically. Since morons will always do so, it follows that in Progressive Land, criticism of those in power who do foolish or wicked things is immoral – because it results in anonymous death threats. There goes “speaking truth to power,” then.

The second item that caught my eye was the collapse of Britain’s first “transgender hate crime” case. I’m not quite sure I can explain the complexities of this, but the accused was one Miranda Yardley, who was born as a man, was surgically “transitioned” 10 years ago, and describes himself now as a transexual male. The case was brought by a transgender activist (whose own self-description I haven’t gone into) on behalf of her transexual teenage son, whom she says is a woman now, but whom Yardley said isn’t because men cannot become women, and vice versa, simply by choice. Get it?

Now, my interest was two-fold. The first was that it appeared that Yardley may possibly live in my old stamping ground of Essex, which put me in mind of some catastrophic “transitions” I came across during my career there. But the real meat was the explanatory paragraph in whichever newspaper it was, which said Yardley’s claim had received “a backlash on social media.” No doubt there were some death threats in there, the blame for which must lie somewhere – probably Yardley himself in this case, since he still claims to be a male and is white, which makes him privileged, right?

But the time was when the appropriate journalistic response to a disputed biological claim would be to find out what scientific experts say about the meaning of “male” and “female,” or maybe what philosophers or others who consider such things conclude. Not that that would necessarily be of use in this case, since the favoured (because oppressed) transgender groups would point to the piss-poor, but culturally normative, body of sociology research on gender as a purely social construct, that I was taught as cutting edge at Cambridge, but which has been shown to have been little more than a cover for child abuse back then. Look it up.

But the article didn’t even bother with that, because we are past the stage in progressive discourse, where the truth about things – especially the biological truth – matters at all. At best that science is biologism – which is bigotry. At worst, since some biologists are white males, it’s encouraging the Patriarchy to commit hate crime.

Instead, what matters is purely how closely an opinion matches the progressive narrative which, fortunately in this case, may be mapped to “social media outrage,” because the narrative is that to be an outraged minority is to be right.

And that’s OK until the social media response comes out the wrong way. In that case the news will carry stories of how the social media have been infiltrated by hate-speakers and needs to be policed to exclude them.

A bit like Cambridge University, really.

However, let’s bring this closer to home – in this case, the church meeting of a village Baptist Church, where someone was urging a more specific welcome to all those LGBTQ+ people out there, on the basis of an anecdotal tale of someone who went to a church and saw some poster or leaflet saying that gay people will go to hell.

Now the only kind of conversation likely to develop from that is one in which one distances oneself from such bigoted oppressors and identifies with the oppressed – in other words, the meeting has been channelled into playing by the Cultural Marxist playbook: choose between being a hate speaker or affirming the oppressed. And guess what – nobody is ever eager to stand up and say, “As for me and my house, we will continue to hate the oppressed!”

Now that fact in itself casts some considerable doubt on the original anecdote. I guess in America you have Westboro Baptist Church. But I’m willing to bet that any such “Gays will go to hell” stuff is always in someone else‘s church, not yours, reportedly down south in Fundamentalesia maybe, or at best in the mouth of some guy thumping a Bible on a street corner. There are a good number of documented instances of “hate speech” being made up on the justification that if that church doesn’t preach hate, others do – and failing that, they have homophobic Bibles in the pews, so deserve all they get. (This is not hyperbole – it is the direct Cultural Marxist descendent of the Communist “revolutionary justice” so well described in Gulag Archipelago.)

In Britain it’s a lot less easy to believe the accusations even than that. Fundamentalism in the American mould is a pretty rare beast here. It’s the usual thing for Evangelicals on holiday to drop into any local church that looks Evangelical, or even to support the local struggling Anglican church. In fifty four years as a Christian I have never heard a preacher say that gays will go to hell. They’re mostly too mealy-mouthed to mention hell even for Satan, let alone for a minority group that most churches are falling over themselves not to single out, whether they are maintaining a biblical position on sin or simply afraid of getting a bad press. As for putting such statements in print, in a welcome pack or on a wall, I’m sorry to say I simply don’t believe it without ironclad evidence. It is theologically, sociologically, and psychologically implausible in Britain in 2019.

But why would whoever told the story originally lie about such a thing? Why indeed. Those with ideological agendas never lie, do they?

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About Jon Garvey

Training in medicine (which was my career), social psychology and theology. Interests in most things, but especially the science-faith interface. The rest of my time, though, is spent writing, playing and recording music.
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6 Responses to …and the modern virtues don’t work either

  1. Ben says:

    I’d really love to know what you make of Jordan Peterson’s “Psychological significance of the biblical stories” lecture series (supposing you have the 24 hours available!).

    It’s a shame that all of this politicking is detracting from what he’s attempting: which is some kind of agnostic Natural Theology.

    Those, John Walton, NT Wright (mediated by Paul VanderKlay – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYSLD7g4Axs), and yourself are currently being stewed in my inner world, in the hope of coming to something like a coherent and connected world-view ; a scratching of the itch described in Foolishness to the Greeks.

    Aside: I’ve discovered a few extraneous words in your book that got past the proof readers. Are you interested, or have you already received them 10 times over?

    • Avatar photo Jon Garvey says:

      Hi Ben, and welcome to The Hump.

      It’s something of an honour to be put up there with N T Wright and John Walton, and if I had as many hits as Jordan Peterson I’d certainly look even more tired than he does just now! Wright comments on JP on a recent YouTube clip, by the way, generally positively.

      Peterson has been a useful resource in this area of the “postmodern religion,” but I’ve not heard much of his output on the Bible – there’s just such a volume of it, which I guess is his strength: he’s willing to engage with Channel 4 News (the most progressive news outlet here in UK), RT (State Russian owned and pushing the evils of capitalism like Soviet Weekly used to), The Cambridge Union Society – and of course all those outlets in the USA etc.

      It would be surprising if the quality didn’t suffer somewhere along the way, but his massive output, seen by millions, overcomes the efforts of his opponents to misrepresent it simply because anyone can see what he stands for is not what they claim. Propaganda prospers because the reasonable people usually say what they have to say and stop, to get misrepresented.

      I agree with you with the “agnostic Natural Theology” label. Where the Christian will want to go beyond him is in the matter of divine grace – but I’ve actually found his “take responsibility” message helpful even in that context: the response to grace and the seeking of grace are both, humanly speaking, active and not passive processes. The gospel prospers in a world where people have the freedom of thought and action that’s become so lacking today.

      That connected and coherent world-view you seek exists, by the way – and within the fold of faithful Christianity, too. There are many of us striving towards it.

      Thanks for reading GGE – I’ve been mildly annoyed with myself for some silly proofreading errors, pointed out to me by the saxophonist in my church band of all people – though he has published novels himself, so knows the ropes. I actually left one typo in myself having spotted it at the very last minute. Next edition, hopefully there will be fewer.

      This current “sociological” series arises from the relaisation of just how much Bristh Evangelicalism is in meltdown through believing the spirit of the age. I knew about America, but hoped we had longer over here than is the case. The self interest in pursuing this is partly because GGE is a book about the old creation, and the forthcoming book The Generations of Heaven and Earth is about the new creation – but the progessive agenda within the church is so anti-creation (as opposed to “anti-Creationist”) that if it prevails, nobody will even understand my stuff, let alone want to read it.

  2. Ben says:

    The compliment is not empty, though it may be wrongly assigned: you have been my portal into a part of the pre-scientific view of a reality where God is not banished. Newbigin encouraged us to learn the scientific-materialistic world-view in order to be able to ‘translate’ between that and our Christian world-view, but truth be told, the scientific-materialistic world-view is the aether in which I exist day-to-day. It’s the Christian world-view which takes the intellectual effort to break into.

    As NT Wright says in the video you mentioned (thanks for the tip), Jordan Peterson is very rambly, but I grew up in a church where Holy-Spirit-inspired-hour-long ‘sermons’ were the rule, so I can handle that. And contrary to my memory of those preaches, near everything he says is interesting (and astoundingly, he always seems to manage to find his way back from the detours).

    As far as concerns the overlap with origins, if I were to try to summarise his thesis (to save you time, or possibly whet your appetite), I’d say that the interesting bit is the idea that the knowledge of good and evil equates to the birth of self-consciousness: that it was the woman who “woke up” first, who “discovered the future” in the form of fear for her offspring. This is symbolised by the danger of predation (the snake), and the need for food beyond today (the fruit). Obviously there is plenty more.

    Here’s the link to the entire playlist for the biblical series:

    If you do watch, you will better understand the ‘tragedy’ of Cambridge universities climbdown. Peterson often confesses his own ignorance of the theological side of things, and both he and his public would have benefited enormously from a bit more theological expertise. This is assuming, of course, that they still have any of that at Cambridge!

    Sometimes his coyness about whether he ‘really believes’ in God seems like an artifice, but I think that in the current climate of culture wars, it’s the only way to have ‘both sides’ keep on listening to what he’s actually saying, rather than writing him off as ‘one of them’.

    Oh, by the way, GGE is going to be reviewed at the internetmonk sometime soon, just so you know 🙂

    • Avatar photo Jon Garvey says:

      “It’s the Christian world-view which takes the intellectual effort to break into.”

      Yes indeed. Hence my understanding of the Bible as, in essence, a counternarrative to whatever narratives are operating at any particular time.

      I have hear one or two of Peterson’s OT expositions before. I found them a little too mythopoetic and Jungian for my taste – not that that might not be a worthwhile approach in some circumstances. Maybe it’s a necessary entrée for him, assuming his uncertainty over Christianity.

      There’s still ceratinly some good theology going on at Cambrige, but how much of that is in the faculty I don’t know. Back in my university days (doing medicine) the faculty was, I think, staunchly theologically liberal. The growth of Tyndale House as a serious research faculty has modified that to some extent, I’m told.

      But of course, Peterson’s un-personing was done at University level (over beer and cigarettes with the Students Union guys, maybe? Conjures up an interesting picture!).

      A second review can’t do my book any harm. If it starts, “This book contains no less than n proofing errors” I’ll know where it came from!

      • Ben says:

        To avoid any misunderstanding, it won’t be me reviewing on iMonk: one of the writers there commented last week that he was in the process of reading and would be reviewing soon. Previously reviewed books have tended to be heavily TE, so it will be interesting to see how GGE goes down.

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