What Happens to a Culture When Christianity Becomes the Villain of History?
In the Cultural Marxist account of history that has been growing in popularity and influence since the 1960s, Christianity is the villain.
This is actually a new phenomenon, and because it is an anti-establishment narrative that has arisen from within the academic establishment, people have yet to come to terms with just how radical it is. It is a product of the Sexual Revolution and the moral transvaluation of all value in the sexual realm.
To be sure, Christianity has had its critics within the West for generations. Enlightenment historian Edward Gibbon argued that because Christianity was intolerant of paganism, believed in miracles, saw earthly improvement in terms of virtue rather than in material goods, and, above all, comforted itself in a belief in a better life after death, it was the bygone relic of another era and belonged on the ash heap of history.
In more recent days, the New Atheists have argued similarly. Christians irrationally believe in the supernatural; they indoctrinate in intolerant beliefs; and they make judgments of value that cannot be grounded in scientific facts, etc..
Yet in the Cultural Marxist account, the animus against Christianity is broader, more hostile, and at the same time more specific. Taken as a whole, Christianity is a villain for its crimes against humanity, and specifically because of its understanding of human nature.
The reason it is broader is because Cultural Marxists make a sweeping moral verdict upon the malign historical effect of Christianity. It is narrower because that effect is seen through the lens of power and identity group politics. The Enlightenment and the New Atheists have little interest in the latter.
The effect of Cultural Marxism is that human nature is redefined for everyone at its most basic level, the level of human personhood. Human nature, rather than being the pre-political state of nature recognised by every major religion throughout human history, becomes an arbitrary status that the state alone defines. And the Cultural Marxist insists that it does define it for the purposes of social justice.
The Cultural Marxist take on history
Christian beliefs have, the Cultural Marxists say, been used throughout history to violate the rights of minority groups such as blacks, women, and the LGBT community. The dominant majority group in the West – white heterosexual European male Christians – have used their their power and privilege to dehumanize others.
They attempt to root this historical claim within a broader autobiography of the political left that has it working against the establishment. Since the times of the Revolutions of France and America, the political left has pushed back against the power and privilege of this majority group, first on behalf of the common man, then on behalf of (visible minority) slaves, and finally on behalf of women.
And now there is a new front on which progress must be made against white heterosexual European male Christians.
Those who advance a Cultural Marxist narrative (as the American New Left has) argue that LGBT rights are the latest battle in a historic march for minority group rights against (Christian) oppression. To be against SOGI laws isn’t to defend individual freedoms, it is to be a ‘hate group‘ on the wrong side of history.
The problem with this account of history is that it is simply false.
The history of abolition and emancipation
It can be argued that both the abolitionist and the suffragette movement were led by Christians, though some might dispute that fact because Christians were on both sides. What isn’t disputable however is that they only made their advances within the context of Western civilization because they appealed to its fundamental belief that every individual person deserved legal and political recognition because he or she bore the imago Dei.
The establishment of these individual rights of personhood was the foundation for the push to recognize the full human rights of the enslaved and women.
The LGBT rights movement, on the other hand, is a movement to establish group rights. Group rights are categorically distinct from individual rights because they are functionally exclusive. They effectively deny the full humanity of other groups. They are an anathema to the common law tradition precisely because they encourage tribalism and reject the fundamental premise of the sanctity of every human person.
Cultural Marxism, much like Marxism of which it is a Western expression, not only ignores the sanctity of individual persons, it sees the conviction about individual rights as the primary obstacle to establishing the group rights of the LGBT community.
For that reason, we are observing that as SOGI laws come into effect, all of the historic rights and individual freedoms of the West are simultaneously under assault. It is an intended outcome of the social justice movement.
The duping of the historic left
It is my belief that a failure to be attentive to the rationale for abolishing slavery and supporting women’s suffrage that has led many to see the modern social justice movement as a larger historical movement rather than what it actually is: the fundamental denial of everyone’s human rights.
It has also taken place at the expense of those deplorable white heterosexual European male Christians who constitute much of the working class voters that the Democrats (and the political left in general) has effectively abandoned.
In Canada, as we have seen from the time of Pierre Elliott Trudeau in the late 1960s till the time of his son, Justin Trudeau, there has been a consistent pattern that has played out throughout the West. In order to establish its notion of minority group rights, the progressive state must first eradicate the established rights of the ultimate minority, the individual person.
The concept under which this attack on individual human personhood by the state has been enacted is ‘tolerance’.
This is where the Cultural Marxist thinker Herbert Marcuse comes in. Contrary to John Locke’s three hundred year old legacy of tolerance in the Anglosphere – suffering opinions with which we fundamentally disagree – tolerance now means only tolerating views that are an anathema to the previous Christian status quo.
The transformation of the concept of tolerance to intolerance towards Christians and the conviction about individual rights has a historical source.
In his 1965 essay entitled ‘Repressive Tolerance’, Cultural Marxist Herbert Marcuse deems Locke’s concept of tolerance repressive because it denied the identity group tenets of the LGBT community. In place of Locke’s notion, Marcuse proposed what he calls ‘liberating tolerance’.
And ‘liberating tolerance’, as we now regularly observe, far from being liberating to individuals, is fundamentally at odds with all Western notions of freedom. In fact, in the process of liberation, every notion of human rights is being overturned in the name of ‘tolerance’.
This article is republished with permission and originally appeared on patheos.com. It can be found here.