Moral Immunity

Here’s a quote from an Unherd essay by Jacob Howland:

Ideology is a highly communicable social contagion that infects people who are morally immunocompromised.

This speaks very much to my last two posts, and perhaps most of all to the comment I put under Born, raised or brainwashed on the incomprehensible crassness of the Scout Movement’s issuing badges on “Trans fun,” amongst other badges for other “fun” perversions. I wrote:

[T]he question to ask is if the Scouts have been captured by the cultists, or whether they are simply ignorant to the point of culpability.

“Morally immunocompromised” actually seems to be a powerful way to explain this. It’s a variation on G. K. Chesterton’s (if I remember rightly) dictum that when men stop believing in God they do not believe in nothing, but in anything. And ideology – any ideology – is a seductive way of filling such a moral vacuum.

Ideology, in Howland’s essay, is used with the specific meaning of a philosophical scheme for getting rid of all the world’s problems and building a better future (remember “Build Back Better”?). But as Peter Hitchens, as well as Howland, observes, that future never actually arrives, but is always somewhere over the horizon across an ocean of blood. The word “ideology” was coined for the French Revolution, and we now have multiple historical examples of the tearing down of human life and well-being to bring about a Utopia that always turns out to be totalitarian and murderous, whether it lauds Marx, Hitler or the Liberal World Order.

What I want to emphasise here is that ideologies are not, in themselves, that pathogenic until a society has become “immunocompromised” by the destruction of its moral foundation. It’s also tempting to make a special comparison with COVID, and point out that it was experimental vaccines produced by the COVID ideology that seem to have produced the damage to immunity that has people suffering their third bout of the bug in a year, having been vaccinated four times. My much-vaccinated daughter-in-law, somewhat ironically, picked up hers in the open air at Glastonbury, where I’m sure the Unvaxxed were in short supply. Unless it was the unvaxxed who left all the litter.

The more general parallel to the ideological origin of the immunocompromised state itself is that it is ideologues who for several centuries have pointed to the failure of “organised religion” to build Utopia, and who infiltrated religious institutions and subverted them to ideological causes.

But in fact Christianity (and I’m writing for Christians primarily) never promised a Utopia: Christians were to be salt and light preserving some godly order and bringing illumination of the world’s evils, whilst foreseeing a climax of evil only to be solved by the return of Christ.

In my (free!) e-book Seeing through Smoke I tentatively suggest an emphasis on biblical teaching as the antidote to the great deception surrounding us today. I confess that my ideas of how this would work were only vaguely formed at the time: how does studying the Bible give one protective insight on false climate science or epidemiology?

The answer, of course, is that it teaches us to recognise ideology itself when we see it. Christ offers us suffering like his (and the Bible culminates in what many regard as the scariest prophecy of earthly disaster in the Scriptures, given through the revelation of Jesus himself). It also teaches us to concentrate on the godly means of sacrificial love, rather than the ideological end of a Utopia. This is crucial, because it immunises us against any slogan to build back better. However as soon as the Bible is marginalised, that immunity is lost, because we all hanker after a better world.

I discovered this in my research on the Glastonbury piece, when I checked to see if Greenbelt Festival is still running after all these years. I was saddened to find that the hints of syncretism I saw back in the 80s (and satirised in the song linked to the Glastonbury blog) have come home to roost. The festival is now organised in collaboration with “liberal” organisations with and without Christian commitments, and openly says it is seeking common cause with those trying to “build a better world.”

Don’t we Christians want a better world? Yes, but we’re not told to build one (that is the work of God himself as the Creator) but to collaborate with God in building new people through living and sharing the Gospel of the crucified and risen Jesus, “teaching them to do everything I have commanded” – which is to say, immunising them against the fashionable errors of ideologies by his teachings.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating. In my lifetime, several phases of ideology have come and gone, and the civilised world has fallen for them all in turn. Meanwhile, simple people who committed themselves to Jesus before any of them still find Jesus can navigate them through the world’s “tempestuous seas.” What was it Paul said on this?

And it was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for works of ministry and to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God, as we mature to the full measure of the stature of Christ.

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed about by the waves and carried around by every wind of teaching and by the clever cunning of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Christ Himself, who is the head.

Hooray for natural immunity!

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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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