Today’s post was supposed to be Science Is Real, continuing our study An Appearance of Godliness. However, after deciding to go on a fairly last-minute vacation with my family this week, I haven’t had as much time to prepare the post, and I would much rather put in on hold for another week than rush through it and probably write something that’s not even worth posting. So look for that post next Wednesday. As for today, I’ll share something I’ve been reading that ties pretty closely to the theme of secularism.
I’m almost finished reading That Hideous Strength, which is the third novel in C. S. Lewis’ sci-fi trilogy. I’ve started it twice before only to quit within the first chapter, but third time really is the charm on this occasion. As weird as the book is, it is quickly becoming one of my favorite books of Lewis, so I’ll certainly have write more on it in the near future. At the same time, I am also reading another book with a very similar title: That Hideous Strength: How the West Was Lost by Melvin Tinker. This little book purposely attaches itself onto Lewis’ novel, explaining how it quite accurately predicted many of the current (and downward) trends in culture and society today.
First and foremost in Tinker’s focus is the ideology of cultural Marxism, which you have likely at least heard mentioned at some point. Cultural Marxism is rooted in a secularistic framework and is increasingly becoming the dominant worldview of the West. I would certainly recommend Tinker’s book as a brief introduction to recognizing the dangers that it poses for society, but until you read it for yourself, allow me to share with you one of my favorite sections wherein he briefly explains the basics of cultural Marxism. Sadly, you will likely notice many parallels between his words and our present reality.
We saw how for Lewis, the ideology of his day, which he sought to expose and debunk, was naturalistic materialism. One of the main ideologies of our day is a variant of this, namely, neo-Marxism, sometimes called cultural Marxism or libertarian Marxism.
One of its modern advocates, Sydney Hook, defines it as:
“A philosophy of human liberation. It seeks to overcome human alienation, to emancipate man from respective social institutions, especially economic institutions that frustrate his true nature, and to bring him into harmony with himself, his fellow men, and the world around him so that he can overcome his estrangements and express his true essence through creative freedom.”
But the liberty which the cultural Marxists have in mind is not the liberty of classical liberalism–equality under the law or even equality of opportunity. Unlike the classical Marxist whose main focus was economic inequality, theirs is an equality cutting across the whole of human experience. It was Herbert Marcuse of the Frankfurt School who argued that traditional societies promote what he called a ‘repressive tolerance’ because they do not deal with the latent inequalities of humans; the fact that some are cleverer, wiser or harder working than others, who are then to be considered to be oppressed because of their perceived deficiency. As Andrew Sandlin writes:
“Libertarian Marxism is all about liberating humanity from the social institutions and conditions (like the family and church and business and traditional views and habits and authorities) that prevent the individual from realizing his true self, his true desires and aspirations, from being anything he wants to be– full autonomy… Libertarian Marxism is the Marxism of our culture, of our time.”
How is such a revolution– one in which ‘God is brought down,’ and his objective creation to which humanity must conform is discredited– to be achieved?
Here we come to the writings of the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci and his key idea of ‘hegemony’ (from the Greek hegemon, which means ‘ruler’). This is the process by which a dominant class exerts and maintains its influence over people through noncoercive means such as schools, the media and marketing. It works by changing what Peter Berger calls the ‘plausibility structures’ of a society, that is those background assumptions, beliefs and ways of thinking and acting which are taken as given. It is the presumption which declares ‘Of course, everyone now days knows that…’ The aim is to get people to think and feel for themselves that certain values and practices, such as same-sex marriage, are common sense, fair or even natural.
Over the last 60 years or so in the West there has effectively occurred the death of one culture, rooted in the Judeo-Christian world view, and the rise of another more secular one… One of the key tools for achieving such a change of perception and feeling is by the destabilisation of language, thus enabling a new language to be devised by which the power of the elite can be exerted. The goal for Marcuse was to, ‘break the established universe of meaning.’ This lies at the heart of social constructionism (words do not necessarily refer to anything, except perhaps to other words in a language matrix) but they are tools, units of power to be employed deconstructing and reconstructing, creating our own Tower of Babel around which we can rally and ‘bring God down.’ This involves censoring not just words but thoughts, and it is here that the ‘hideous strength’ is seen at its strongest. According to Marcuse, cultural subversion ‘must begin with stopping the words and images which feed this [opposing] consciousness. To be sure, this is censorship, even pre-censorship’. He writes:
“Tolerance cannot be indiscriminate and equal with respect to the contents of expressions, neither in word or in deed; it cannot protect false words and wrong deeds which demonstrate that they contradict and counteract the possibilities of liberation. Such indiscriminate tolerance is justified in harmless debates, in conversation, in academic discussion; it is indispensable in the scientific enterprise, in private religion. But society cannot be indiscriminate where the pacification of existence, where freedom and happiness themselves are at stake: here, certain things cannot be said, certain ideas cannot be expressed, certain policies cannot be proposed, certain behavior cannot be permitted without making tolerance an instrument for the continuation of servitude.” [emphasis mine]
Notice all those ‘cannots’? Who do you think they are applied to? Mainly people like Christians. This is a new totalitarian-tolerance while all the time masquerading as a new freedom. As such the new tolerance must extinguish the older tolerance and those people and institutions which traditionally espouse it, such as the church. Furthermore, for neo-Marxism to have a raison d’etre there must be repressed groups which need liberating. People are required to see themselves as victims of the liberal society of which they are a part.Pp. 45-49
This, just as old-school Marxism was all about attempting perfect economic equality, cultural Marxism does targets culture as a whole. Unfortunately Marxism’s equality ends up looking a lot like sameness rather than diversity.