New Commandments I give unto you

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.

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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 New Commandments I give unto you

  1. Kristospheros says:

    Splendid piece of writing sir!
    I was listening to a podcast on folks leaving the CRT (specifically those identifying as Christian adherents to CRT) movement just the other day. Both of the speakers were highlighting the notion that the CRT “woke” crowd either willfully or inadvertently has placed itself in a position of superiority over those outside of the movement, thereby creating an unbiblical power dynamic.

    • Avatar photo Jon Garvey says:

      Welcome to the Hump, Kristospheros.

      Yes, I hear that in the US the Southern Baptist Convention has become deeply influenced by CRT, that theory being just one example of the intersectional worldview that can be clearly traced to its roots in recent French Postmodern and Marxist philosophy. But it can’t be traced to roots in the Bible, which is therefore marginalised, when it should have been the corrective.

      For a whole major Evangelical denomination to succumb, when it has the resources to trace those roots and to remind each other of Scripture’s warnings about “teaching as doctrine the commandments of men” (Matt 15:9; Isa 29:13-14), and specifically about the fallibility of human scholarship (Col 2:8; 1 Cor 1:19-20), is a dreadful thing.

      “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn. They will pass through the land hard-pressed and famished, and it will turn out that when they are hungry, they will be enraged and curse their king and their God as they face upward. Then they will look to the earth, and behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish; and they will be driven away into darkness.”

      Orange man bad (king). Cosmic child abuser (God). -> CHOP (distress and darkness).

      Much is made in the WOKE cult of being open to others’ “lived experience,” completely ignoring the truth that “lived experience” includes exposure to, and adoption of, deceptive teaching and false information. You can be sure that the “lived experience” of many Germans in the 1930s included the experience of being exploited by evil Jewish bankers – but that experience was the result of seductive Nazi propaganda interpreting their negative experiences and spinning events to their narrative.

      Indeed, to Southern Baptists of the past, their “lived experience” was that blacks were self-evidently inferior, unteachable and probably cursed along with Ham. It took until only a generation ago for that “experience” to be found to come from false beliefs, and for sound biblical teaching to transform it.

      Experience arises from the heart. But “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jer 17:9).

      Perhaps it’s less surprising that the ideas creep into the hearts of individual churches and believers, when they are so pervasive (and when they are pushed by denominations!), but in fact we each have the Bible’s teaching, and are individually accountable for following God, not men.

      In this particular case, suspicions should have been raised by the strong “gnostic” element in intersectionality: your institutional guilt cannot be demonstrated from your actual acts, but only by a secret priestly knowledge possessed by the initiated about your “microaggressions.” These shamans not only can define what guilt is, but can (it seems) look into the very hearts of men to see sins they themselves are not even aware of.

      Those of us who are older can remember the same thing from psychoanalysis (if you have no experience of an oedipal complex, it’s because you have repressed it, thus proving the theory), and of course from the Gay Rights Movement (where disapproval of same-sex intercourse is sure-fire proof not just of homophobia, but of repressed homosexuality).

  2. Kristospheros says:

    I am not sure about Southern Baptist life anymore, as I left the denomination around 2004. Are you referring to Russell Moore? I graduated from Southern around 2000 while the seminary was making some dramatic changes (including dismantling the archaeology program).
    I was just sharing Jeremiah 17:9 with my 14 year old this evening. It was the first verse he learned at AWANA as a child. Right now he is conversing over on the BioLogos forum on various matters, which is how I found out about this site!
    These are certainly trying times for the Orthodox. Having a long view of history helps assuage my and my son’s fears concerning the present.

    • Avatar photo Jon Garvey says:

      They still mention me at BioLogos?! My notoriety is greater than I thought.

      I comment on the Southern Baptists only what I see on YouTube from those reporting a “downgrade” at the centre into critical race theory, in particular.

      The long view of history, I agree, is important at many levels: firstly in reminding us that trouble for Christians is not new, secondly in reminding us that we signed up to the gospel on the basis that things would get worse before the end, and thirdly because we see the whole of history as the unfolding of God’s salvation plan (which is a plug for my book The Generations of Heaven and Earth!).

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