No Families, No Children, No Future
Here’s a fascinating article from New York magazine on the massive gender gap between Trump and Biden supporters. It contains this eye-popping claim, buried deep down:
Neither the societal shift away from traditional gender roles nor the downstream cultural consequences of that shift are anywhere near complete. As Rebecca Traister has incisively argued, the growing prevalence of singledom among America’s rising generation of women is one of the most potent forces in contemporary politics. In 2009, for the first time in history, there were more unmarried women in the United States than married ones. And today, young women in the U.S. aren’t just unprecedentedly single; they also appear to be unprecedentedly uninterested in heterosexuality: According to private polling shared with Intelligencer by Democratic data scientist David Shor, roughly 30 percent of American women under 25 identify as LGBT; for women over 60, that figure is less than 5 percent.
David Shor is one of the best data people the Democratic Party people has. Take this seriously.
Has anything like this ever happened to any society, ever? Three out of ten women under the age of 25 consider themselves to be gay or transgender. Five percent, sure. Maybe even eight percent. But thirty? Will they always think that? Maybe not, but these are their prime childbearing years. The US fertility rate is at a 35-year low, and there’s no reason to think it will rise. Some critics blame structural difficulties in the US economy that make it harder for women to choose to have children, but European nations make it vastly easier for mothers, and still cannot get their fertility rates above replacement.
What’s behind this is primarily cultural. We have become an anti-natalist society. And further, we have become a society that no longer values the natural family. We see everywhere disintegration. Yesterday, on the Al Mohler podcast, I talked about going to a conservative Evangelical college a few years back, and hearing from professors there that they feared most of their students would never be able to form stable families, because so many of them had never seen what that’s like.
And now we have 30 percent of Gen Z women claiming to be sexually uninterested in men. There is nothing remotely normal about that number. It is a sign of a deeply decadent culture — that is, a culture that lacks the wherewithal to survive. The most important thing that a generation can do is produce the next generation. No families, no children, no future.
In 1947, Carle C. Zimmerman, then the head of Harvard’s sociology department, wrote a book called Family And Civilization. He was not a religious man; he was only interested in the cultural values that allowed civilizations to thrive, and those that caused civilizations to collapse. His general thesis is that family systems determine the strength and resilience of a civilization. Zimmerman wrote:
There is little left now within the family or the moral code to hold this family together. Mankind has consumed not only the crop, but the seed for the next planting as well. Whatever may be our Pollyanna inclination, this fact cannot be avoided. Under any assumptions, the implications will be far reaching for the future not only of the family but of our civilization as well. The question is no longer a moral one; it is social. It is no longer familistic; it is cultural. The very continuation of our culture seems to be inextricably associated with this nihilism in family behavior.
The only thing that seems certain is that we are again in one of those periods of family decay in which civilization is suffering internally from the lack of a basic belief in the forces which make it work. The problem has existed before. The basic nature of this illness has been diagnosed before. After some centuries, the necessary remedy has been applied. What will be done now is a matter of conjecture. We may do a better job than was done before; we may do a worse one.
He wrote this in 1947. Zimmerman missed the Baby Boom coming, but otherwise, he was right on target.
Earlier this year, David Brooks wrote a big piece for The Atlantic in which he observed that we are living through the most rapid change in the structure of the family in human history. In the piece, Brooks writes:
Eli Finkel, a psychologist and marriage scholar at Northwestern University, has argued that since the 1960s, the dominant family culture has been the “self-expressive marriage.” “Americans,” he has written, “now look to marriage increasingly for self-discovery, self-esteem and personal growth.” Marriage, according to the sociologists Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas, “is no longer primarily about childbearing and childrearing. Now marriage is primarily about adult fulfillment.”
Sex is also primarily about individual fulfillment — and maybe solely about individual fulfillment. Young people today see no connection between sex, family, and a greater purpose. I wrote about this more or less in a 2013 essay, “Sex After Christianity,” that remains one of the most read pieces I’ve ever published here at TAC. In his book, the sociologist Zimmerman, in listing the signs of a dying civilization, mentions a decline in family formation and a rise in homosexuality. Again, he was not a religious man, but his social science convictions led him to conclude that from studying the historical records of ancient Greece and Rome.
It’s far too simplistic to say “homosexuality brought down Rome.” Homosexuality didn’t mean the same thing in those societies that it means in ours. More importantly, the idea is that the greater tolerance for and acceptance of homosexuality was an indicator of the collapse of the shared belief that forming families to produce the next generation was the most important purpose of the civilization, and that a culture’s structures and norms should be constructed to support that mission.
We are going to have to endure a civilizational collapse before we begin the Great Relearning. I am beginning to see now why a sociologist I heard speak a few years ago said that losing awareness of the gender binary is going to mean the end of us. He meant that we will lose cultural memory of the basic fact needed to ensure the future of our civilization. We are living through the fall right now. This is why I wrote The Benedict Option. The newer book, Live Not By Lies, is about enduring acute marginalization and persecution; the older book is about constructing a strongly countercultural community capable of surviving in the ruins of our civilization.
Thirty percent of women aged 25 and under have no interest in sex with men. If that does not alarm you as a religious traditionalist or conservative, then you might actually be dead. We absolutely must form right now — not tomorrow, right now — communities that socialize our children into the goodness of marriage and family. The broader culture knows what it believes, and it preaches this confidently. The churches are barely pushing back. And it shows.
UPDATE: A number of readers have pointed out that the “B” in “LGBT” — bisexual — is probably doing a hell of a lot of work in that 30 percent number. This is probably true, but it doesn’t really change much. I’m not sure how many men would want to partner with a woman whose sexual desires are so unstable. I would never have wanted to date a woman who identified as bisexual. How many women would want to date men who identified as bisexual? So, I will withdraw my “not interested in sex with men” claim, because “bisexual” could cover “open to sex with both sexes,” but I maintain my point about this being a decadent and deeply destabilizing finding.
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Preparing People For Persecution
I’ve been away from the keys doing interviews for Live Not By Lies (still going strong, three weeks in). I wanted to point out to the book’s fans two really good online videos about the book. The first is the Dark Horse podcast #50, with Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying, in which they spend nearly the entire 100 minutes of the podcast talking about the book. You may not know that Bret and Heather are evolutionary biologists, liberals, and atheists — yet they both find a lot to like in the book:
It’s a very rich discussion, all the way through. I will be very surprised if you watch this without subsequently subscribing to their podcast.
The second is a long podcast interview I did with my friend Yoram Hazony, the Israeli scholar, who is a very thoughtful interviewer:
I’ve been away from the keys, more or less, for the past day, because I’ve been doing a lot of press for the book (e.g., I spent a good hour yesterday online with Dr. Albert Mohler, for his podcast), and because I had to drive down to Bayou Lafourche to give a book talk at Nicholls State University (more on which in a separate post). I didn’t get home till midnight last night; after posting this, I’ll turn to approving the seventy-billion comments from yesterday.
On the long drive down through the cane fields, I called a Catholic priest I know, but from whom I had not heard in over a year. He had moved to a new parish, and I was eager to see how it was going. He told me that he had been pleased and surprised by how the people were rallying to his leadership. Their previous pastor had been an older ultra-liberal, and while this younger priest is not political, he actually believes in the Catholic Church’s teaching about abortion and the natural family, and isn’t afraid to teach them. He had wondered if the congregation would reject him, because he is so substantively different from the previous pastor, but in fact, it seems, they were dying for real Catholic leadership. He said they really do seem to appreciate bold, straightforward preaching.
We talked about the problems in the Catholic Church, and he said basically that he has emotionally disconnected from the bishops and the Pope. He obeys them, of course, but he no longer expects leadership from them, only confusion and weakness. He says his mission is to do the best he can to build up his own parish community as a bastion of spiritual strength and resilience for the days to come. I told him that I write about this in my new book, specifically in the story of Father Tomislav Kolakovic, who did not let the discouragement and lack of leadership from the Slovak bishops in the 1940s prevent him from preparing his people for the coming of communist dictatorship.
I suggested to my priest friend that he get my new book, because in it he will find vindication for what he is trying to do in his parish, and also inspiration, and practical advice, for how to go about it. I told him too that if he decides to start a Live Not By Lies reading group in the parish, that he could download the study guide I wrote, for free.
This morning I see on my Twitter feed this essay by the conservative Evangelical pastor John Piper. He seems pretty down about voting for president. He spends the essay confronting fellow Christians who believe that Trump’s sins — he names them — are less destructive to the nation than Biden’s sins. It’s well worth reading, though I don’t share his conviction that Trump’s sins are equally destructive as Biden’s. Trump does not support the right to murder the unborn. Trump doesn’t consider it important to protect the right of children to be jacked up with cross-sex hormones. The beliefs that lead Biden to endorse unrestricted abortion and transgenderism in children are terribly destructive to the nation.
That said, I appreciate Piper’s warning that we Christian conservatives would be fools to downplay or dismiss the seriousness of Trump’s personal corruption. He writes:
Therefore, Christians communicate a falsehood to unbelievers (who are also baffled!) when we act as if policies and laws that protect life and freedom are more precious than being a certain kind of person. The church is paying dearly, and will continue to pay, for our communicating this falsehood year after year.
The justifications for ranking the destructive effects of persons below the destructive effects of policies ring hollow.
I don’t really agree with this. I think Joe Biden is probably a far more personally decent man than Donald Trump. But look at the policies he supports.
Here’s a real-life example of why you can’t take the full measure of a man by his personal behavior. Thomas Howard, the celebrated convert to Catholicism, died recently. He was a wonderful man. I met him once, in March of 2002, in New York. This was about two months into the church abuse scandal, which had exploded out of Boston, where Tom lived. We were both Catholics, and both very upset about what we were learning. Tom had recently retired from teaching literature at St. John seminary, where the Archdiocese of Boston trained its priests. Tom told me that homosexuality was rampant at the seminary when he was there, and how shocked he was to discover that his best student had a reputation for giving the most expert fellatio in the entire seminary.
If you knew how personally dignified Tom Howard was, you could appreciate how painful it was for him to speak those words.
“Tom,” I said, “did Cardinal Law know about all this?”
“Yes,” he answered. “I told him myself.”
“And he did nothing?”
Tom just looked at me like a deer caught in headlights. I knew that he was very close to Cardinal Law, and held him in high esteem as a man and as a friend. But here, Tom was faced with the fact that the man he knew and loved had been faced with gross moral corruption in the seminary for which he, the cardinal, was responsible — and had refused to do anything about it. Tom was caught in the trap of cognitive dissonance. All the good personal qualities that endeared Cardinal Law to Tom said nothing about how Law actually governed — or failed to govern — his archdiocese. And that led to collapse.
We didn’t talk about it further; I could see it was too painful for Tom. But I’ve never forgotten that, and I learned over and over, in writing about the scandal, that it was easy to be fooled by the personal kindness of bishops and priests. That could be a cover for deep immorality. Don’t forget that everybody loved Cardinal McCarrick.
That said, I don’t at all think that we can dismiss what Piper is saying here about the corrupting aspect of Trump’s public behavior, even if one believes that voting for him is the lesser of two evils. Piper does not say who he’s voting for, if he’s voting for either, but he makes it clear that he finds both unacceptable. He makes it clear that he sees that America has become decadent, not just on the left. He gives this charge to pastors:
May I suggest to pastors that in the quietness of your study you do this? Imagine that America collapses. First anarchy, then tyranny — from the right or the left. Imagine that religious freedom is gone. What remains for Christians is fines, prison, exile, and martyrdom. Then ask yourself this: Has my preaching been developing real, radical Christians? Christians who can sing on the scaffold,
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill:
God’s truth abideth still;
His kingdom is forever.
Christians who will act like the believers in Hebrews 10:34: “You joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.” Christians who will face hate and reviling and exclusion for Christ’s sake and yet “rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, [their] reward is great in heaven” (Luke 6:22–23).
Have you been cultivating real Christians who see the beauty and the worth of the Son of God? Have you faithfully unfolded and heralded “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8)? Are you raising up generations of those who say with Paul, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8)?
Have you shown them that they are “sojourners and exiles” (1 Peter 2:11), and that their “citizenship is in heaven,” from which they “await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20)? Do they feel in their bones that “to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21)?
Or have you neglected these greatest of all realities and repeatedly diverted their attention onto the strategies of politics? Have you inadvertently created the mindset that the greatest issue in life is saving America and its earthly benefits? Or have you shown your people that the greatest issue is exalting Christ with or without America? Have you shown them that the people who do the most good for the greatest number for the longest time (including America!) are people who have the aroma of another world with another King?
I one hundred percent endorse that. I’ve noticed that when I’ve been on radio call-in shows promoting Live Not By Lies, there is usually a Christian caller, sometimes two, who will come in with the idea that the only thing standing between Christians and persecution is Donald J. Trump. I am telling you that even if you vote for Trump, you would be wise not to put false hope in him. Even if he were super-competent and without moral fault, even he could not turn back this tide. This is not primarily a political problem.
Last night at Nicholls State, I learned about a controversy that had burst out on campus this week. Some College Republicans chalked “TRUMP 2020! MAGA!” on a sidewalk there. You would have thought that the Hitler Youth had marched through campus by the reaction of campus lefties. At my dinner table last night was a young female College Republican who had had to go to class that day escorted by a campus police officer, because of all the death threats she received from fellow students. She shared some of the vitriol with me on her smartphone; I’ll be writing about it later.
This is not Oberlin. This is not Yale. This is not Evergreen State in Washington. This is a public university in a small city in a deeply red state. A conservative student had to be protected by a campus police officer just to go to class, because she is a Trump supporter. Her boyfriend is head of College Republicans, and he is black. The racist abuse he has received from other black students over this is beyond vile.
What can Donald Trump do about that? What could any president? There is something profoundly disordered and evil in our culture today. Vote, yes — it’s important. But don’t think for a second that voting is the most important thing you can do to prepare yourself, your family, and your community for the terrible trials to come.
If Father Kolakovic were here, what would he tell us to do? Think about it, and do likewise.
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Left Is Coming For Christian Schools
Oh my God, Amy Coney Barrett is a believing Catholic! The Associated Press brings the shocking news:
Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett served for nearly three years on the board of private Christian schools that effectively barred admission to children of same-sex parents and made it plain that openly gay and lesbian teachers weren’t welcome in the classroom.
The policies that discriminated against LGBTQ people and their children were in place for years at Trinity Schools Inc., both before Barrett joined the board in 2015 and during the time she served.
The three schools, in Indiana, Minnesota and Virginia, are affiliated with People of Praise, an insular community rooted in its own interpretation of the Bible, of which Barrett and her husband have been longtime members. At least three of the couple’s seven children have attended the Trinity School at Greenlawn, in South Bend, Indiana.
The AP spoke with more than two dozen people who attended or worked at Trinity Schools, or former members of People of Praise. They said the community’s teachings have been consistent for decades: Homosexuality is an abomination against God, sex should occur only within marriage and marriage should only be between a man and a woman.
Interviewees told the AP that Trinity’s leadership communicated anti-LGBTQ policies and positions in meetings, one-on-one conversations, enrollment agreements, employment agreements, handbooks and written policies — including those in place when Barrett was an active member of the board.
Let me explain something to the Associated Press: there is this thing called the Roman Catholic Church, and it teaches that marriage is only between one man and one woman. It also teaches that sex outside of a lawful marriage is sinful. It teaches that homosexual acts are sinful. It has done this for almost 2,000 years.
This is not what liberals believe today — and not just liberals. Many people who identify as conservative have shed the historic Christian teaching about homosexuality. Today comes news that Pope Francis has endorsed civil unions for LGBT people. Even so, he has not declared that Catholic teaching about homosexuality and marriage has changed. Still, yes, we have to acknowledged that society at large has changed decisively on this issue. Ours is a post-Christian society, in that most people in it do not understand the Bible as the story by which they live their lives.
But some of us still do. Amy Coney Barrett is one of them. If she is anything like me, she bears no ill will towards gays and lesbians, and counts some as friends. She doesn’t think gays are icky, or anything like that. Her personal and professional life would be easier if she simply accepted what the world now believes. But she tries to be intellectually honest, and she knows that one cannot simply throw aside an authoritative Biblical teaching because it doesn’t suit contemporary cultural beliefs. A believer — certainly a faithful Catholic or Orthodox — is bound to submit to these teachings whether or not she understands them or wishes they weren’t there. Truth is objective, though it must be subjectively appropriated and lived out. A number of Catholics are really members of the Church of What’s Happening Now, and they’ve enjoyed lucrative careers because of it; Amy Coney Barrett is not one of them. If she is confirmed as a Supreme Court justice, it will be despite the fact that people like these AP reporters tried to tear her down for her fidelity to her Church’s teaching.
Look at the way this AP story reads:
Nearly all the people interviewed for this story are gay or said they have gay family members. They used words such as “terrified,” “petrified” and “frightening” to describe the prospect of Barrett on the high court. Some of them know Barrett, have mutual friends with her or even have been in her home dozens of times. They describe her as “nice” or “a kind person,” but told the AP they feared others would suffer if Barrett tries to implement People of Praise’s views on homosexuality on the Supreme Court.
Terrified! Petrified! Frightening! Even though Judge Barrett is a nice and kind person, she’s really a smiley-faced monster, you see.
Turpin-King said she has briefly met Barrett, and they share mutual friends. Some of her husband’s family members are still members of the People of Praise community, and she loves and respects them. Many of Trinity’s teachers were wonderful to her. But the thought of Barrett sitting on the Supreme Court scares her.
“I am deeply concerned about my queer friends. I’m concerned about my own children,” Turpin-King said. “From what I experienced in People of Praise, as a student of one of their schools, everyone needs to be petrified, frankly.”
Everyone! There is not the slightest attempt in this long story to explain why the Catholic Church believes what it does, just to give the other side, and to give readers context for why People of Praise has the policies it does. The reporters know what they’re doing here. They called a well-known left-wing Catholic historian at Villanova, who helped paint a picture of People of Praise as cranky weirdos outside the Church’s mainstream.
Look, there’s nothing wrong with pointing out what ACB believes as a Catholic, even controversial stuff. But this AP story is propaganda. It’s not going to keep her from being confirmed and sworn in, but it is important for the rest of us to understand it as a glimpse into the mindset of liberal elites, as the Catholic journalist Tim Carney tweeted this morning:
Of course they will. Do not ever believe them when they say they won’t. There are good Democrats who say it won’t happen, and they really believe it — I’m thinking of my friend Michael Wear — but the logic of what the Democrats believe, and the force of its activist wing, is going to go that way. The Left sees no goal as more important than non-discrimination, at least not against its preferred victim groups (racial minorities, LGBTs, and others). If they have to smash religious liberty to achieve it, they will, as soon as they are able. Even though they have won the culture war in every significant aspect, they will not be satisfied until they have rubbed the noses of the vanquished in the dirt.
Last year, in my travels (remember when we could do that?), I found myself in conversation with an experienced religious liberty litigator, a fellow Christian. We were talking about how frustrating President Trump was on this or that. I said to the lawyer, “I feel, though, that as this country moves further away from Christianity, the federal judiciary is going to be the last line of defense Christian schools and churches have — and that’s why it’s important to make sure we get good judges who respect religious liberty on the courts, while we can.” The lawyer strongly affirmed this.
I have pretty much decided to vote third party for president (American Solidarity Party). Trump has my state locked up anyway, so I’m thinking that I would like to cast a vote in favor of a party whose platform I really believe in, as opposed to voting for the lesser of two evils, and choosing between the evil of two lessers. Reading this AP story this morning, though, has reminded me again of the contempt the left has for people like me, and our institutions, which they will demonize as a precursor to destroying them. The story has re-centered me on the critical importance of the federal judiciary as likely the last thing standing between Christian schools and institutions, and the progressive mob. I’m going to be thinking about this all the way through to election day, and I hope you Christian readers — especially those in swing states — will too. Though my vote really doesn’t matter in my state, this issue might move it to Trump anyway, given the quality of his judicial appointments. If I were in a swing state, this AP story, and what it symbolizes, would seal the deal for me.
This is who the Democrats are. If the party’s leaders and activists didn’t despise traditional religion so much, I would be open to voting for them (as I’ve voted twice for Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana). But we can’t afford to look at the world through rose-colored glasses. If the Democrats take power and hold it, it will only be a matter of time before they come after traditional Christian (and Orthodox Jewish, and Islamic) schools on anti-discrimination grounds. When they say today that they would never do such a thing, don’t believe them. They’re relying on the Law of Merited Impossibility: It will never happen, and when it does, you bigots will deserve it.
UPDATE: If they destroy Christian schools, where will parents be able to educate their children away from this kind of propaganda, which is presented to fifth graders in California public schools:
UPDATE.2: I know y’all are all waiting for me to say something about Pope Francis and civil unions. Patience, my preciouses; I have been very busy all day doing book stuff, and I am about to head down to the bayou to give a speech. I haven’t even had time to approve comments yet. I’ll get to it, promise — though I won’t be home till later tonight.
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Egalitarianism Yes, Excellence No
San Francisco’s academically selective Lowell High School will admit students using a random lottery for next year’s freshman class, a decision made unanimously by the school board Tuesday after a divisive community debate.
Lowell has for decades admitted students based on a score that takes into account grade-point average and test results while setting aside a limited number of spots for qualified students from underrepresented schools, making it one of the best public high schools in the country.
Board member Stevon Cook urged the public to remember that the great thing about the district and the city is that there are opportunities everywhere.
“This was in response to the pandemic and it’s become a discussion about race and diversity as well as the culture at Lowell and the negative experiences that black students have experienced,” he said, adding those are issues to be dealt with. But for Tuesday’s vote, he said: “We are here today because of the pandemic.”
Notice these competing quotes in the passage below:
Resident Howard Hsu strongly disagreed with the decision.
“Real life doesn’t give out awards for just showing up,” he said. “Not everyone gets into UC Berkeley or Harvard.”
Others applauded the decision.
“It’s way past time that we have only one high-performing high school,” said Diane Gray, a Lowell graduate. “All of our high schools demonstrate high academic and artistic standards.”
Last week there was a chaotic school board meeting about the proposal. Parents who spoke out in defense of the selective system were denounced as — surprise! — You Know Whats:
Board members chastised some public speakers for the rude behavior as well as comments that appeared to imply that some students don’t belong at Lowell or aren’t good enough to attend the school.
Currently, Lowell lacks diversity, with less than 2% African American students among the 2,800 students. More than half the students are Asian American.
“This was not a good day for San Francisco,” said board member Rachel Norton after public comment. “What I’ve heard tonight from people who claim to support our system and claim to support our students is disgusting. I’m really overcome by the ugliness.”
Board member Alison Collins, at one point, was heard on a hot mike, speaking apparently to someone outside the meeting saying, “I’m listening to a bunch of racists.”
The new lottery policy is only supposed to be in effect for one year, because of Covid, but it will almost certainly be retained for racial reasons. In the end the left is going to destroy the best public high school in the city, and one of the best in America, for the sake of egalitarianism. Smart kids whose parents can’t afford to send them to high-quality college prep schools had a chance to get a first-rate education at Lowell. Now the school board is taking that away from them, because excellence is intolerable, even racist.
Here’s one lie that people there have to live by: “All of our high schools demonstrate high academic and artistic standards.” This is not true, but it’s what they have to tell themselves to avoid the painful realities of hierarchy — namely, that some students are more academically or artistically gifted than others.
Another lie: that the reason there are so few black kids at Lowell is racism. Do I know for a fact that that’s a lie? No, of course I don’t. But I strongly reject the Ibram Kendi “antiracist” gospel that says all racial disparities are the fault of white supremacy. (And boy, white supremacy sure is doing a bang-up job at Lowell, where more than half the students are Asian.) This is a lie that the left tells itself, and demands that we all agree to, to support its destructive levelling policies.
In Live Not By Lies, I quote Hannah Arendt on the pre-totalitarian societies of Germany and Russia:
The members of the elite did not object at all to paying a price, the destruction of civilization, for the fun of seeing how those who had been excluded unjustly in the past forced their way into it.
I don’t think the school board members are seeing this as “fun,” exactly, but they certainly don’t care that they are destroying an important part of civilization in the name of inclusion and egalitarianism.
This passage from Live Not By Liesis also applicable to the Lowell situation:
It’s possible to miss the onslaught of totalitarianism, precisely because we have a misunderstanding of how its power works. In 1951, poet and literary critic Czesław Miłosz, exiled to the West from his native Poland as an anti-communist dissident, wrote that Western people misunderstand the nature of communism because they think of it only in terms of “might and coercion.”
“That is wrong,” he wrote. “There is an internal longing for harmony and happiness that lies deeper than ordinary fear or the desire to escape misery or physical destruction.”
In The Captive Mind, Miłosz said that communist ideology filled a void that had opened in the lives of early twentieth-century intellectuals, most of whom had ceased to believe in religion.
Today’s left-wing totalitarianism once again appeals to an internal hunger, specifically the hunger for a just society, one that vindicates and liberates the historical victims of oppression. It masquerades as kindness, demonizing dissenters and disfavored demographic groups to protect the feelings of “victims” to bring about “social justice.”
I guarantee you that’s what’s happening at Lowell now. And when this lottery system causes the quality of instruction nosedives to accommodate students who simply are not able to do the work, the answer will be: more diversity, more egalitarianism, more rage against the idea of excellence.
More calling Asian people like Howard Hsu racist for simply telling the truth. More lies all around — whatever it takes to satisfy that internal longing for harmony and happiness, which in this case can apparently only be realized by taking a valuable civic good away from certain people so nobody else feels bad about themselves.
What a shame for that school. It has been educating the city’s best and brightest for decades. Look at the list of alumni. And now the institution’s guardians — the San Francisco school board — has thrown it away so they can live by progressive lies.
Don’t think for a second that the same militant egalitarians aren’t going to target your school one day.
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Facebook Stings Babylon Bee
During the Amy Coney Barrett hearings, The Babylon Bee, an Onion-like humor site for conservatives, published a story that starts like this:
WASHINGTON, D.C.—After two days of Amy Coney Barrett gracefully and stoically answering questions with perfect recall and no notes, suspicions grew on Capitol Hill that she might be a practitioner of the dark arts.
“Oh, she’s a witch alright, just look at her!” said Senator Hirono. “Just look at the way she’s dressed and how she’s so much prettier and smarter than us! She’s in league with Beelzebub himself, I just know it! We must burn her!”
Senator Hirono then pulled a live duck out of a massive burlap sack next to her and announced: “In addition to being a Senator, I am also quite wise in the ways of science. Everyone knows witches burn because they are made of wood. I think I read that somewhere. Wood floats, and so do ducks– so logically, if Amy Coney Barrett weighs as much as this duck I found in the reflection pool outside, she is a witch and must be burned.”
OK, it’s not that funny — but it is unmistakably a joke. It was not that funny because all of us have seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail eleventy-million times. Here’s the scene that the joke is lifted from:
OK, but now this actually happened:
There is a zero percent chance that Facebook’s censors don’t understand that this is a joke, and a zero percent chance that they really believe that repeating a gag from a universally beloved comedy film that’s nearly fifty years old incites violence.
What is it, then? It’s Facebook flexing its muscle to punish a comedy website that made fun of Democratic politicians.
They have demonetized The Babylon Bee for a groundless reason, making it harder for the people who write for the Bee to make a living. I wrote yesterday about Amazon deciding not to allow Shelby and Eli Steele’s terrific documentary What Killed Michael Brown?
Amazon told the filmmakers that it was for unspecified “content” reasons. I watched the film, which is formally excellent, but contains content that challenges the left-wing narrative about race in America — this, from the point of view of a highly regarded black conservative academic, Shelby Steele. The only conceivable reason Amazon is doing this is to manage the Narrative.
That’s a serious issue. What Facebook is doing to the Bee might seem more trivial, but it’s not. The idea that you cannot even make a 45-year-old joke about a Democratic politician without losing your ability to make an income on Facebook ought to tick you off. Who’s next? Big Tech has way too much power, and they’re using it to silence conservatives on matters both serious and silly.
Who do they hire at Facebook to make these decisions? Facebook — and Twitter, and Amazon, and Google — deserve what’s eventually coming to them. Did you hear about the Justice Department’s big antitrust lawsuit filed today against Google? That’s going to take years to resolve, but I hope that both Republicans and Democrats understand that the power of Big Tech over the lives and livelihoods of ordinary Americans is a bad thing.
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Hating Poland, Hating Hungary
I’m old enough to remember when it was a huge political deal when President Gerald Ford, in a debate with challenger Jimmy Carter, said that he didn’t believe there was any such thing as the Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. Seriously, he said it:
He screwed up a line from his briefing book, is what happened. Still, it was a moment. (And even though I was nine years old at the time, I remember it because I was a total nerd kid who obsessed over this stuff.)
So, the other night, it was shocking to hear Joe Biden describe US allies Poland and Hungary as “totalitarian.” Look:
These are democracies and NATO members! What an incredible insult to these nations, which have democratically elected nationalist governments. That derisive remark revealed more about Joe Biden than it did about either Poland or Hungary. Gladden Pappin cuts loose:
Protestations from Poles and the Hungarian foreign minister aside, however, no firestorm broke out in English-speaking media—and for one very simple reason. To the media class, the categorization of Poland and Hungary as “totalitarian regimes” was not a gaffe at all. It did not lead to fact-checking or hasty denials. (Notably, no EU diplomats defended their member states, either.) Rather, it points to new levels of laziness in American foreign policy thinking, where vague impressions of “totalitarian” (read: nationalist, culturally traditional) rule are enough to cast aside countries that have been allied with the United States for generations. For these viceroys of global liberalism, the new hostility is fully intentional.
The real problem with Poland and Hungary, though, is not that Andrzej Duda and Viktor Orbán have charted supposedly authoritarian political courses. Indeed, faced with the loss of political control over the Supreme Court, the Democratic Party is more than willing to consider tactics that would be pilloried as “authoritarian” in any other context. Rather, Poland and Hungary are successful countries that insist on maintaining their national identities and traditional values—and doing so with the use of democratically earned political power. Liberals abandoned “democratic” concerns long ago, when the European Union was justified in pursuit of substantively democratic outcomes—even while popular opinion was opposed.
The real reason that Poland and Hungary have been demonized in the United States is that they represent a successful alternative to the failed American combination of industrial and family collapse. In recent years, Poland has pursued a policy of modest domestic re-industrialization, while also supporting Polish families with direct government support. Hungary has done the same, including appointing a minister of state for family affairs (Katalin Novák) tasked with helping Hungarian families thrive.
It really is eye-opening to actually go to Hungary and Poland, to talk to ordinary people there, and to try to see the world through their eyes. You must understand that for Americans who don’t speak Polish or Hungarian, all we ever hear about those countries comes to us through English-language media. It is impossible to overstate how culturally conditioned US journalists are by liberal internationalism — that is to say, towards seeing those nationalist governments, which were chosen by their people in free and fair elections, as illegitimate. Even, as Joe Biden put it, as “totalitarian.”
What opened my eyes, and my mind, to the other side of this story was going to Hungary for the first time a few years back, and talking to ordinary Hungarians about how fearful they were of losing control of their own country’s identity, and its fate, to Western capitalist entities and liberal institutions. The people in the Western media, and among Western elites, who look down on the Deplorables in this country hold the same views about the kind of Poles and Hungarians who vote for Duda’s Law & Justice Party, and Orban’s Fidesz. I’m not saying that those governments are above criticism, but Pappin is right: what people like Joe Biden find most repulsive about them is that they have the audacity to question whether policies made in Washington and Brussels are in the best interests of their peoples — and whether the progressive ideals championed by secular Western elites are actually nothing more than a form of cultural imperialism.
As a person who is not a registered foreign agent, it strikes me that much of the criticism of Hungry and Poland by American elites is directly due to the challenge those countries governing parties make to the idea that only left liberal solutions are possible in a ‘democracy.’
— Dan Pollak (@PollakDan) October 20, 2020
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I often hear from academics who are scared to death to publicly dissent from the woke totalitarian apparatus at their universities. Daniel B. Klein, an economics professor at George Mason University, is a great example of a professor who is unwilling to live by the lies that the professoriat accepts, and is courageous enough to say so in public. Here is a letter he wrote to the president of his university (forgive the unevenness in the alignment; I captured it in a series of screenshots). This, folks, is how you do it:
Hooray for Professor Klein! Principled and courageous! I know there are many more like him out there, both on the left and the right. Let him be an example to you. Stand up! Live not by lies!
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Liberalism’s Fear Of Shelby Steele
We saw last week how Big Tech — Twitter and Facebook — tried to control the political Narrative by making it impossible, or at least difficult, to spread the New York Post‘s scoop about Hunter Biden’s hard drive. Notice that the Biden campaign has not denied that what’s reportedly on that hard drive is true. The media have been running interference for Team Biden by focusing on how the Post obtained that information.
Here’s another jaw-dropping move by the media controllers to restrict the Narrative. You might have heard that Amazon has refused to add a new documentary, What Killed Michael Brown?, to its streaming service. The documentary was written by and stars the conservative black scholar Shelby Steele, and was directed by his son Eli Steele. In it, the elder Steele examines the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson a few years back, and its place in the larger story of race in America.
Here’s what Amazon told Eli Steele in rejecting the film for inclusion on its streaming service:
Your title doesn’t meet Prime Video’s content quality expectations. Why not? What could possibly be so offensive about this movie that Amazon Prime, which streams some real junk, won’t let it onto the platform? I e-mailed the film’s producers and asked for a press screener (which I encourage all media to do by clicking here).
After 15 minutes, it was perfectly obvious why Amazon wouldn’t let this movie show: they do not want any criticism of the progressive narrative about Michael Brown, and about race in America in general. There is only one acceptable narrative — and black men like Shelby and Eli Steele who challenge it must be silenced.
It’s hard to overstate the power of What Killed Michael Brown? It’s not a bombastic polemic, in the style of Michael Moore. Eli Steele is a cool, careful filmmaker. Its power is in its understatedness, its reasonableness — and, of course, in the truth bombs that Shelby Steele drops throughout the whole thing. This film is so dangerous that Amazon doesn’t want people to see it. Why is Amazon so afraid of a gentle 74-year-old black professor?
Notice the title — not who killed Michael Brown, but what. We know who killed him: Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who was not indicted for the shooting. Shelby Steele wants to know what forces brought Michael Brown to that fateful encounter with the white officer. In exploring this question, Steele shines a piercing light on the way our media, politicians, and institutions construct the narrative about race in America.
He observes in the film’s opening minutes that in 2014, the year Michael Brown died in Ferguson, over 700 black men were shot and killed in Chicago, by other black men. Nobody in Black Lives Matter cared much about those black lives, nor did the national media. It’s only when a black life is taken by a white police officer that they care. Late in the movie, Steele observes that more and more black children are dying from drive-by shootings in their neighborhoods. Activists barely noticed. Observes Steele, “There was no power for blacks, or innocence for whites, to be had from these innocent deaths.”
What explains this? “We human beings never use race except as a means to power,” Steele says. His thesis is that “racism” did not kill Michael Brown, but rather that Michael Brown became the sort of thuggish young man who threw his life away because of cultural forces of disintegration emerging from 1960s liberalism — and that is something we cannot bring ourselves to face.
Steele reflects on his 1960s past as a self-described “black militant” working in LBJ’s War on Poverty. He worked for three years with the black poor in East St. Louis. Young Steele was optimistic then about what the government could do for the black poor who had been held back for so long by racism. What he learned was that the antipoverty programs were not really about advancing black people in the name of social justice. Rather, he says, “Taking advantage of white guilt was the focus of justice.”
Steele explains the concept of “poetic truth.” It’s not the objective facts about a person or an event, but what others believe those facts to mean. Poetic truth is a synonym for “myth” — a story that may or may not have basis in fact, but which we use to explain what the world means, who we are, and how we are supposed to react. With poetic truth, says Steele, “you don’t think so much as step into that meaning.”
Poetic truth always distorts objective truth, and can be used to gain power. That, says Steele, is exactly how black activists and their allies have used and abused the Michael Brown narrative. He explains what is well established truth (according to the US Department of Justice’s investigation): that Michael Brown died after attacking Officer Wilson and trying to take his gun. Michael Brown was in no way an innocent victim of police brutality. But, says Steele, “poetic truth set the stage for a power grab.”
I had forgotten the role that Obama Attorney General Eric Holder played in this drama. Steele is quite harsh on him. The DOJ under Holder proved that the Michael Brown victim narrative was entirely false — but as Steele shows, Holder inserted himself into the Ferguson situation in a racialized, politicized way, and turned the town in which a bully was shot trying to assault a cop into a symbol of America’s 400 years of racist oppression. Says Steele, “Holder made Ferguson pay the price for a racist murder that was neither racist nor a murder.”
If Michael Brown is a victim, then he is the victim not of a racist cop, but of the toxic culture of 1960s liberalism, which, in Steele’s words, “focused far more on assuaging white guilt than on black development.” Steele talks about how federal social engineers destroyed working-class black homes, and the equity that was in them, to build massive housing projects that dispossessed and ghettoized black people in lawless hives. Moreover, this kind of liberalism conveyed to blacks that they didn’t have to take responsibility for their own lives and fate, but rather had to depend on how much they could extract from guilty white people. “The poetic truth of black victimization became their identity,” he says. Liberalism consigned blacks to “invisibilization,” to “permanent victimhood.”
“The faithlessness in black authority is what gave us the world that Michael Brown grew up in,” Steele says.
And further: “Modern liberalism does not like human complexity in its victims. It wants the lines of responsibility to be clear and simple, and always to point to the white world.” Liberalism wants blacks to give up before even trying, by convincing them that no matter how hard they work, they can never get ahead. Though Steele condemns the police killing of George Floyd as a “murder,” he casts a gimlet eye on the violent protests that followed, saying that Floyd’s murder was “less a tragedy and more an opportunity” for cynics seeking to advance their grip on power.
Steele profiles contemporary black neighborhood activists, including a pastor on Chicago’s poor and violent South Side, who are trying to return a sense of agency and responsibility to communities decimated by the moral collapse of institutions of black authority: the family, the school, and the community. Here are two of them you meet in the movie:
In these people, Steele sees a contemporary version of his late father, a black man raised in deep poverty and segregation, with only a third grade education, but who raised himself and his family up by virtue of his self-discipline and hard work. He calls the Black Lives Matter movement a “bad faith movement” that wants to dismantle America, by contrast to the Civil Rights Movement, which wanted blacks to be part of America.
Why is that message so threatening to Amazon? Maybe Shelby Steele has it wrong. Maybe he’s blind to things that others see. Fine — release the movie and let people make up their own minds. Stop this liberal paternalism that doesn’t trust people to think for themselves. The fact is, a lot of people, including black people, will watch What Killed Michael Brown? and hear an authentic American voice, the voice of common sense and bedrock American values. It won’t be good for the Victim Industrial Complex. Hence Amazon’s desire to control the narrative.
In 1989, the black critic Stanley Crouch — who died last month — published a searing essay in The Village Voice about Spike Lee and his new film Do The Right Thing. He denounced the film as “Afro-fascist chic.” Excerpt:
One must always face the razor’s edge of the fact that race as it applies to American identity has a complex relationship to the grace, grime, and gore of democracy, and that an essential aspect of democracy, of a free society’s exchange of ideas, is that we will inevitably be inspired, dismayed, and disgusted by the good, mediocre, and insipid ideas that freedom allows. The burden of democracy is that you will not only get a Thurgood Marshall but an Alton Maddox, a Martin Luther King and an Al Sharpton — the brilliant, the hysteric, the hustling. And in terms of film opening up to more and more black people, there is no doubt that most will follow trends and appeal to the spiritual peanut galleries of society as long as there is money to be made, while a few will say something of importance, not only to American society but to the contemporary world. Few in this country have ever wanted to be artists, have wished to challenge or equal the best on a national and international basis. Most want no more than a good job and — in our time of the rock-and-roll elevation of the brutish, the superficial, and the adolescent — pop stardom. Those who believe that such American tendencies will fall before the revelations of the sword of the Negro soul are naïve.
That naïveté, like an intellectual jack-in-the-box bumpkin, periodically popped up through the Black Filmmaker Foundation’s ceremonies. There was much talk of “controlling our images,” a term suggestive of the worst political aspects of black nationalism, one far more dangerous if taken in certain directions than, say, expanding our images. Such “control” without attendant intelligence and moral courage of the sort we saw so little of during the Brawley farce or rarely hear when Louis Farrakhan is discussed, will make little difference, since the problems Afro-Americans presently face extend far beyond the unarguable persistence of a declining racism. Intellectual cowardice, opportunism, and the itch for riches by almost any means necessary define the demons within the black community. The demons are presently symbolized by those black college teachers so intimidated by career threats that they don’t protest students bringing Louis Farrakhan on campus, by men like Vernon Mason who sold out a good reputation in a cynical bid for political power by pimping real victims of racism in order to smoke-screen Tawana Brawley’s lies, by the crack dealers who have wrought unprecedented horrors, and by Afro-fascist race-baiters like Public Enemy who perform on the soundtrack to Do the Right Thing.
In more than a few ways, Do the Right Thing fits the description Susan Sontag gave fascism in her discussion of Leni Riefenstahl, “Fascinating Fascism.” Sontag says fascist aesthetics “endorse two seemingly opposite states, egomania and servitude. The relations of domination and enslavement take the form of a characteristic pageantry: the massing of groups of people; the turning of people into things; the multiplication or replication of things; and the grouping of people/things around an all-powerful, hypnotic leader-figure or force.”
In Do the Right Thing, the egomania and the servitude, the massing of people into things, and the irresistible force are all part of blackness. That blackness has the same purpose Sontag recognized in the work of Riefenstahl: it exists to overcome “the dissolution of alienation in ecstatic feelings of community.” Lee’s vision of blackness connects to what Sontag realized was “a romantic ideal… expressed in such diverse modes of cultural dissidence and propaganda for new forms of community as the youth/rock culture, primal therapy, anti-psychiatry, Third World camp following, and belief in the occult.”
Notice the difference Crouch draws between controlling the images, and expanding them. That’s precisely what’s going on here with Amazon’s actions towards the Steeles’ film. And, the poetic truth that Shelby Steele so powerfully illuminates and dismantles in What Killed Michael Brown? is a baldfaced lie about race and America that promises to deliver its believers from alienation — both its black believers and its white believers (who are so desperate for absolution from racial guilt that they will accept anything). As I write in Live Not By Lies:
A totalitarian state is one that aspires to nothing less than defining and controlling reality. Truth is whatever the rulers decide it is. As Arendt has written, wherever totalitarianism has ruled, “[I]t has begun to destroy the essence of man.”
When Shelby Steele, in this extraordinarily important, even urgent film, exposes the lies of Michael Brown’s death, and of the left-wing race narrative, and concludes that “liberalism wants your very soul” — this is exactly what he is talking about. No wonder Amazon, as one of this culture’s controllers, will not permit any challenge to its monopoly on reality. Shelby and Eli Steele are two of the bravest men in America, and I mean that.
UPDATE: A reader points out that you can buy a DVD or Blu-ray version of What Killed Michael Brown? here. I hope you will. Not only will you support these filmmakers and their worthy project, but you will own a movie that you can show to your kids and to your friends, and talk about these issues. Shelby and Eli Steele put a lot on the line to tell this story; we should stand with them by buying their work and telling others about it. This really is a first-rate documentary.
UPDATE.2: Great news from Eli Steele:
Good news to report. Yes, the film has done extremely well since its launch last Friday but that is not the good news for today.
Amazon reached out to me late this afternoon and we had a positive exchange of emails — I prefer emails to the phone due to my deafness. Apparently, we had an uninvited third party that interfered on my behalf, unbeknownst to me, and that caused confusion. So it was good to communicate with them directly; I listened to their side and they listened to mine.
They acknowledged what happened and said they would work to improve and prevent incidences like this one from happening again.
Given today’s volatile culture war, I believe this was a positive step. They will have this experience on their minds going forward and one hopes they will improve their policies so that all American perspectives are included. They certainly did not have to reach out, but they did and that gesture is meaningful.
I do want to thank the writers at Wall Street Journal, Fox News, National Review, and many other places for writing about this. Without this publicity, we likely would never have reached this resolution. Thank you.
So, I am very happy that I can finally announce officially that our very well received documentary, “What Killed Michael Brown?”, is now on the Amazon platform!
The film will continue to play on Vimeo as well.
Hopefully, our experience with Amazon can provide a benchmark and my father and I can now focus on the most important thing to us: the film’s message.
And when you do watch it on Amazon, please be kind enough to leave us a review. Helps us shoot up the ratings. 🙂
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Cultural Revolution In King County
Christopher Rufo is still on fire fighting left-wing institutional racism and bigotry. Look at what he found in leaked documents from the King County, WA (Seattle), district attorney’s office. They are forcing employees to endure this racist claptrap. Imagine being compelled to confess your guilt as a condition of employment! Look at these examples:
There’s more, from two other agencies. Read Rufo’s column in the New York Post explaining more. Excerpts:
State-sanctioned racial segregation ended with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 but has recently returned in an unlikely place: government agencies in Seattle. According to new whistleblower documents I’ve reviewed, at least three public agencies in the region have implemented race-segregated diversity trainings.
At the King County Library System, a private consulting firm called Racial Equity Consultants recently held racially segregated “listening sessions” to root out “institutional privileges and systemic inequities.” Apparently, there is widespread “institutional racism” in the libraries, and employees who reject that premise are accused of “internalized racism.” When reached by e-mail, the firm said it wasn’t authorized to comment.
At the federal Veterans Administration Puget Sound facility, the local leadership has launched a series of racially segregated “caucuses” for “individuals who identify as white” and those who identify as “African-American or black” or as “people of color.” According to whistleblower e-mails, the organizer, Dr. Jesse Markman, convened the racially segregated sessions, calling them “an environment for sharing and discussion, which is not afforded by mixed groups.” Dr. Markman referred me to the VA’s public-affairs office, which didn’t provide comment.
Finally, at the King County Prosecutor’s Office, the chief prosecutor, Dan Satterberg, and senior staff have recently required employees to sign an “equity and social justice” pledge and assigned “continued training for white employees,” who must “do the work” to “learn the true history of racism in our country.”
White employees are encouraged to participate in racially segregated “anti-racist action groups,” as well as agency-wide “cultural-competency” training that teaches them to how to adopt “a new non-oppressive and non-exploitive attitude.”
According to a leaked memo I’ve reviewed, Satterberg recently wrote a letter to staff suggesting that the “privileged, white, male cohort” in his office should “shut up and listen.” The prosecutor’s office confirmed the authenticity of the equity pledge and staff-wide memo but didn’t offer further comment.
Oh, the irony: Seattle’s white elites are instituting a policy of racial segregation in the name of social justice. In all three of these institutions, white executives have explicitly implemented these policies, arguing, in one case, that holding segregated training sessions mitigates “any potential harming of staff of color that might arise from a cross-racial conversation.”
This is how soft totalitarianism is coming to us. Along those lines, today I received an e-mail from a reader whose Chinese-born wife who grew up during the Cultural Revolution saw me on “Morning Joe” on Friday, arguing with the black Princeton professor Eddie Glaude, who denied that there is any such thing as the illiberal left, and said people like me who say there is are really racist. The reader wrote:
She pointed out immediately that [Princeton professor] Dr. [Eddie] Glaude was doing EXACTLY the same thing that Chairman Mao and the Red Guard, initially a far left left-wing group of college-aged students, did during the early phases of the Cultural Revolution. The technique is hauntingly familiar to her.First it was done in debates and speeches on campus and the local and university newspapers. Then it progressed to “struggle sessions” in public forums. Eventually, at the end, it led to repeated public executions.The tools in the initial phases of the Cultural Revolution are exactly the same we are seeing now, and were demonstrated perfectly by Dr. Glaude the other day. Indeed, in early Cultural Revolution China, prominent university faculty were always the voices of choice. Facts are pesky details to be brushed aside. Minimize any legitimate issues with the official narrative as “tawdry little trifles.” If your debate opponent continues down the road of facts, make sure you begin tarnishing him with one ad hominem attack after the other. In Cultural Revolution China, it would be that you didn’t pay taxes, your mother was a Nationalist whore, your family members were proven enemies of the People etc. Today, in America, of course, you are a racist. Everything you say comes from your privileged status. Or better yet: you are being supported by Putin and his Russian hackers.She also had some words of warning for folks like Mika Brzezinski who sit and lap this all up, act offended on cue, and see every issue through the lens of “the official narrative.” You may think you are righteous in what you are doing. But please note: when the time came in the worst of the Cultural Revolution, after years of percolation, it was the non-radical liberals like Mika who were taken out and shot first.She wants to urge anyone with eyes to read to go and look at the history of the early Cultural Revolution. The issues and narrative are completely different to ours in America now, but the techniques and the groups involved are disturbingly familiar. And she and thousands upon thousands of Chinese immigrants to this country are struggling with the same question: WILL THE RESULT BE THE SAME?She wanted me to let you know that this is EXACTLY how the Chinese Red Guard did business — and despite years of trying, the other side never could figure out a way to combat it. She lamented that this will soon spread into families here in America, and family members will begin turning on each other. Everything will be about politics — including the most sacred holidays and the most private family issues. There will be no place or no relationship that will be truly safe.
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Queering Calvin University
In the 102 years that Student Senate has existed, we’ve never had an openly gay student body president. It’s beyond time that the LGBTQ community is represented in the highest student leadership position at Calvin. I’m proud to be the first.
A few years ago, I never thought that I would be coming out to the world through my school newspaper at my Christian university. I wanted to be known as the girl who started Dance Marathon and led students to raise $50,000 for our local children’s hospital, the girl who co-hosted a podcast for the Chimes, or the girl who tried out for every single hip hop dance guild and was rejected from every single one. But my legacy will invariably be different, because I am Calvin University’s first openly LGBTQ student body president. I’m bisexual. I’ve also questioned if I was a lesbian in the past. Usually, I use the term “queer” because it encompasses all of these identities.
One thing’s for sure: I am not straight. I’m sharing my story with the community because I take the weight of representation seriously, I have a desire to lead Calvin and the CRC [the Christian Reformed Church in North America] into the future and want other queer students to see themselves in my story. I’d feel as if I’d made a mistake as student body president if I did not use my platform to do so.
The CRC are the Dutch Reformed in America. The friend who sent me that link also sent along this 2018 essay by the Rev. Christopher Gordon, a pastor in one of the NAPARC (conservative Presbyterian) churches. Excerpts:
It was a painful decision for my father to leave the Christian Reformed Church of North America (CRC). He was pulled apart over it. He expressed all of his concerns to the new minister. “The direction you’re taking,” my father said, “is undermining the Great Commission of Jesus.” Immediately, the pastor yelled back, “this is what’s wrong with you Reformed people.” My father retorted, “But aren’t you Reformed?” That is a great question.
By being raised in the CRC I learned a lot about what can happen to a church. I have been a pastor in a confessional Reformed church for almost 15 years now. As I watch the shifts and listen to the discussions, this all seems like déjà vu. What took the CRC thirty to forty years to accomplish, in jettisoning her Reformed heritage, seems to be taking some NAPARC churches about a decade. I am particularly concerned for the PCA, but they are not the only one. There are other Reformed denominations following suit, but the PCA, at the moment, appears to be leading the pack.
The most disturbing part is that many seem completely oblivious to the shifts. Among a new generation of Reformed pastors and churchgoers, there seems to be little awareness that the project they are pursuing, and the shifts they are pushing, have already been tried and have ended with catastrophic consequences in the life of a major Reformed denomination.
The pressures being laid upon Reformed churches are many. As a pastor, I have felt the pressure to conform to the American way of church. Among the evangelicals in our community, our Reformed church is pegged as the strict church in town doing things that nobody else does. Downgrading those Reformed practices that are the most off putting is assumed to be the best path forward to reach a broader base of potential churchgoer. This is the very audience the CRC took to evangelicalism. The CRC’s commitment to downgrade became a commitment to the intolerance of its own theological identity, and the toleration of everything else.
The question to be answered is whether other NAPARC churches, like the CRC, have already been sowing these seeds of their own overhaul. In my humble opinion, when I look at the practices of many NAPARC churches, especially when it comes to corporate worship, I see little different from the evangelical church down the street. This is not the case across the board, but neither was it in the CRC. The general trend was clear. Once the CRC hierarchy opened the door to accommodation becoming a more broadly evangelical church, that door remained open for everything else. I fear that history is repeating itself.
The CRC, after remaking itself into another evangelical church, soon found itself absorbed by social justice issues. Synodical meetings were filled with social causes. The irony was, most evangelical churches didn’t fall into social justice as deeply as the CRC did once that door was opened. The thirst for relevance could not be quenched. They were like a man out of prison, running as fast as he can without looking back. Social activism and causes became a dominant focus of church life.
In the coffee hour (outside, socially distanced) at my Orthodox parish today, I was talking with a younger convert about how hard it is for so many Christians, across the different churches, to see clearly what is happening within their churches, much less figure out how to resist it. He told me about some family members who are in a conservative Pentecostal church, and how the teachings of the denomination itself are being fast undermined by the new hymns that the denomination is taking up. My interlocutor said that standing outside that denomination, from an Orthodox point of view, he can see what’s happening, and that it’s happening very quickly. But those within the denomination might sense that something is wrong, but nobody dares to say anything. This young man and I talked about how a determined and focused elite really can move entire masses of passive people.
Anyway, maybe you think it’s a good thing that the churches are moving this way. But you have to admit that it is a thing.
UPDATE: A reader comments:
As someone who works within Christian academia, it must seem very puzzling to those on the outside why institutions – like those discussed in this article – move towards “wokeness.” I do not believe that administrators or trustees set out to abandon traditional Christian thinking. How does this happen, then?
I suspect that the first step in abandoning orthodox belief occurs with the adoption of a neoliberal (i.e., corporate or business model) philosophy of institutional governance. While viewing the university as a business and students as customers has many negative impacts, the most important is that it sets a default anthropology of what it means to be humans in institutional relationship. In other words, the customer – provider relationship is by its nature contingent and open, not prone to obligation or fundamental commitment, and thus fully in line with secular society’s understanding of humanity. From here, how can an institution maintain a real commitment to theological orthodoxy? The institution is operating as a mechanism to meet consumer needs, which will tend to reinforce felt identity. Add in human resources, risk management, and the legal superstructure in which a university operates, and the cross-pressures towards conforming with the broader society’s philosophy of corporate management may be irresistible.
This is, by the way, the reason why evangelical Christians are in serious cultural trouble, whether we want to admit it or not. We have extended the neoliberal model to all our institutions, not just schools, but our churches and families as well. Some things in life – the most important things really – can’t be treated as business relationships without losing something essential of our humanity.