Only last year (and I’ve no doubt it’s still the case throughout the media) the Independent dismissed the concept of Cultural Marxism’s “long march through the institutions” as a far-right conspiracy theory. This may be the case, but if so we are seeing this month exactly the same phenomenon made starkly manifest under whatever name you choose to give it.
It does not follow from the murder of a black man in Minneapolis that statues of historical figures should be taken down in Britain, nor that all people classified by others as “white” should kneel to a Marxist organisation with the published aims of abolishing the police, overthrowing capitalism and destroying the family.
Yet it is hard to think of a single organ of society that didn’t immediately rush to do those very things, as if they had all studied the same intersectional political tracts.
In politics, left-leaning parties aided and abetted violent assemblies during supposed lockdowns, and right-leaning parties acquiesced in their overt aims without daring to challenge either the truth of the claims behind them, nor the anarchic Astroturf* movements organising them. (* An “Astroturf” movement is an apparently grass-roots movement that has actually been initiated, or sometimes taken over, by well-funded political groups. The left have over a century of experience of this kind of mass opinion-management.)
The police on both sides of the Atlantic were ordered to step back and allow the destruction to happen, concentrating their attention, it seems, on suppressing any counter-demonstrations, such as those by forces veterans here, as fascist sedition.
The universities endorsed the simplistic historical distortions, and in many cases encouraged iconoclasm on their own patches.
Artists and entertainers flocked to support the unrest, and dutifully cancelled any dissident voices in their midst.
The social media platforms, needless to say, played their own part in defunding or de-personing those with doubts, shadow-banning skeptical videos, and marking out-of-step content with links to “reliable information.”
The press, famously, selectively forgot their obsession with COVID whenever social distancing was abandoned by demonstrators looking to increase the social separation of skin colours. After a fortnight of left-wing destruction, and a possible Islamist triple-murder here over the weekend, the Beeb this morning had an in depth piece on the overwhelming dangers of… Neo-Nazi terrorism.
The very first post-lockdown Premier League soccer matches ensured that all players “take the knee” (is that quaint term a neologism?) and carry the Marxist Organisation’s name on their strip.
School teachers, formerly doubtful even about letting kids back to school before a sure-fire COVID vaccine is found, hastened to redesign curricula to teach infants to see the world through the lens of anti-racism (and therefore to make them ever more conscious of colour, and suspicious of their parents).
Scarcely a corporation failed to rush to express solidarity with BLM, and when a straggler (Yorkshire Tea) was congratulated by a Twitterer for sticking to selling tea, the firm responded with a veritable manifesto of white contrition. Those firms with black people in their trademarks suddenly spontaneously saw that such portrayals are racist, and those without such branding trawled their history to find ancient links to the transatlantic slave trade to confess and erase.
In sharp contrast neither Tesla, nor Amazon, nor Duracell nor any of the big tech companies said anything about the black slaves working in the mineral mines of Africa now. Those souls don’t get into the leftist political tracts, and in any case are a necessary evil if we’re to have tracking apps, AI, electric cars and all the other things essential for a green and equitable anti-racist world. Virtue-signalling isn’t popular when it affects the bottom line. And nobody notices its absence in these cases because all attention is focused on ancient evils and institutional sins only discernible to the Enlightened, and not to the perpetrators, who must take their guilt on trust from trendy academics.
Lastly, Anglican bishops started eying up the historical characters in their cathedral stained glass with malevolent eyes, because above all things, and certainly above preaching universal sin and the complete forgiveness won by the death of Jesus, the church must be seen to be in line with progressive ethics, in which the cardinal sin is no longer lack of love for God and neighbour, but indelible institutional racism.
The last example, the church, is where I want to focus our attention. There are deliberately “woke” churches out there, straying intentionally far from “outdated” biblical foundations. And some denominations have been bitten more than others by intersectionality – I’m reminded of the Archbishop of Canterbury, last year, overturning the Great Commission of Christ by telling people to check their “white privilege” before considering world mission.
More worrying, to me, is the way that most Evangelical churches are imbibing just enough postmodern intersectionalism to weaken their gospel witness, without understanding its anti-Christian roots, and its deliberately anti-Christian destination. In short, we’ve soaked up the world’s new moral and spiritual agenda because we neglected the biblical one.
It’s a little like the way that so many churches “dabble” in the charismatic theology I critiqued in my previous post, apparently avoiding “excesses” but laying themselves open to them both by failure to critique the theological roots and their faulty expressions, and also by leaving house-room for the teaching, songs and videos coming from the heretical extremes.
So just as “moderate” German Evangelicals left house-room for Naziism in the thirties by failure to call either it, or its Communist opposite, out into the light of Scripture, and ended up being its organs, so the church that fails to see the poison of postmodernism from the start is likely to succumb to it completely in time.
And to demonstrate that, let’s compare how seriously, in practice, the churches take the eternal law of the Lord, summarised as the ten commandments (Luke 18:20), compared to their anxiety over transgressing the new-minted sins of postmodernism, none of which correspond to any biblical transgression. I was tempted to do a “Ten Woke Commandments” list, but it’s been done before and can be searched online, and anyway my readers are too intelligent not to get the idea straight away without it. “Thou shalt not be born into an oppressor-group,” would probably sum up the whole Law and prophets, but that would break down into disowning the patriarchal nuclear family, not denying a woman’s right to abortion, not agreeing that property is theft, not committing transphobia, not failing to say anything, true or false, that will get a racist cancelled, and not, even for a moment, forgetting your sense of grievance and victimhood over others’ perceived privilege.
How seriously do churches take Moses’ commandments? To take the first table, directed towards God, many churches see doubts about the existence and character of God to be a sign of maturity and courage, and call on us to “repent of the sin of certainty” (What price Heb 11:1?). That includes the feeling that belief in other gods may well be just salvific as belief in God the Father, or that Jesus is not necessarily divine, at least in his kenotic earthly life.
Nobody fears censure for claiming that God told them something for the church to hear, even if it turns out to be bad theology or just fail to come true; and yet that is the core meaning of “taking the Lord’s name in vain.”
In my medical career I met many Christian women who sought abortions, but none who were challenged by their churches on the incompatibility of that act with the fifth commandment, which was the universal position of the early church.
Jesus interpreted the seventh commandment in a way stricter than almost any other teacher in history, so that his disciples said it would be better not to marry. But in few churches is cohabitation outside marriage condemned plainly, and we have taken only five years to flip-flop from principled opposition to gay marriage to considering it divinely indispensible, together with bisexual relationships, and whatever other “ways of being family” the world invents out of whole cloth.
Now, in these and many other cases one could discuss, the idea of stating biblical teaching as binding is regarded as uncaring bigotry, and that in mid-stream Evangelical churches rather than radically progressive ones. Regarding God’s law, “love your neighbour,” churches have redefined love, after the world’s pattern, in terms of “affirmation,” rather than in the biblical sense of “truth telling”:
‘“Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbour frankly so that you will not share in their guilt.
‘“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord. (Lev 19:17-18, NIV)
But, in contrast, how much less latitude is given to those who offend the fashionable new “sins” to which we have been introduced over a generation or two? In how many churches is the suggestion that the sexes might have different characteristics and roles, as is the witness of Scripture as well as biology, likely to lead to public censure at the first offence, and quiet suggestions to leave if persisted in?
In how many churches would someone’s opinion that, perhaps, Dr Livingstone or even General Gordon of Khartoum had, some good role in the overcoming of slavery, be met with embarrassed silence or scowls? The brotherhood of these Victorians in Christ, and their giving their lives to fight Islamic slavery on his behalf, is likely to be trumped by the knee-jerk condemnation of British colonialism, in the name of the modern iniquities of patriarchy, white supremacy and, of course, racism.
In how many churches would the Pastor look askance at someone who pointed to the complete remission of sins at baptism, or even Ezekiel 18:17-18, when told to consider their historical guilt for slavery? The original sin of being white, or male, seems a lot more credible to many believers now than the biblical original sin in Adam, which is widely denied by Neo-Pelagian theologians as an oppressive theology.
If we sit so light to the seriouslness of sin as defined by the law of God, why don’t we mind being oppressed by a false morality of group-accountability without any concept of personal forgiveness? It’s partly because we have swallowed the concept of the “marginalised,” which appears to us to map to the love of Christ for publicans and sinners, and hence to all groups officially described by the woke as “oppressed.” For fear of rejecting those formulaically portrayed as “outsiders” (though being cancelled for your opinions is highly marginalising, and certainly worse than being a black US president or a gay millionaire) we fail to teach the whole counsel of God.
But Jesus didn’t, actually, have a bias to the marginalised: he simply treated them like everyone else he met, as erring children of Abraham, and drew them in from the margins to the centre of the Kingdom: “Go, and stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”
Love, expressed by hard truth according to God’s law and the true gospel, is what Jesus displayed, and calls the churches to display, and not “virtue” according to the superficially attractive commandments of woke, that never saved a single soul.