The hollow shell of ‘progress’

The stark communist ideology of the late 19th and early 20th centuries promised the world that its faithful implementation would lead the withering away of the state and the arrival of a utopia like man had only ever dreamed of. The modern Marxist now tells us that because those early enthusiasts got some things wrong in their analysis, poor dears, the great project somehow went off the rails and its wrong turning point resulted in some unfortunate consequences – like millions dying across the multiple nations which were brave enough to undertake the Marxist experiment.

Now they tell us they have got it right and all we need to do is follow the ideology of progressivism – which is essentially Marxism by another name, smelling just as foul. Marxism then as now worshiped at the altar of what it called History; then as now it also saw human beings in terms of raw matter, more or less maelable – more so now; all we needed to do was go along with this reading of our nature as soon we would all be enjoying to the full our time-limited sojourn in a Brave New World.

This is the steamroller of History-a-la-Marx now bearing down on us, constantly warning us not to get on the wrong side of the road. We’ve lost count of the number of progressive issues which carry this warning. Join us in our great triumph or get out of our way. Otherwise you will be crushed.

Crushed, like Keith Olbermann who this time last year was exhorting his readers to crush a certain political figure and his supporters – and the public servants who had the temerity to work for him. 

So, let us brace ourselves. The task is two-fold: the terrorist Trump must be defeated, must be destroyed, must be devoured at the ballot box, and then he, and his enablers, and his supporters, and his collaborators, and the Mike Lees and the William Barrs, and Sean Hannitys, and the Mike Pences, and the Rudy Gullianis and the Kyle Rittenhouses and the Amy Coney Barretts must be prosecuted and convicted and removed from our society while we try to rebuild it and to rebuild the world Trump has destroyed by turning it over to a virus.

Remember it, even as we dream for a return to reality and safety and the country for which our forefathers died, that the fight is not just to win the election, but to win it by enough to chasethe maggots off the stage and then try to clean up what they left”

This is the price to be paid now for being on ‘the wrong side of history’.

This reading of history is of course a travesty, just as their reading of literature is a travesty of literature. We are watching a version of progress which is slowly but surely eliminating both history and literature – and indeed everything cultural – from our lives. Critical theory, the current weapon of choice of progressive Marxism, does not read history. It simply molds its weapons of destruction from the fragments of history which it hand picks to suit its purpose. Harvard historian, Jill Lepore, tells us “History is the art of making an argument about the past by telling a story accountable to evidence.” The Marxist progressive turns this on its head and makes history tell us a story about the present, designed to suit its deterministic vision, playing fast and loose with the evidence.

With these people in the driving seat we are in a very dangerous place – and increasingly they are in the driving seat of all our major institutions – political, media and academic. One alone stands effectively against them.

As with the old more primitive form of Marxism, the abiding enemy of this ideology is of course religion. Religion is its enemy for two reasons. The first is that it has called out the ideology for the lies at its heart; the second is that any religion which teaches something of the transcendental truth about our race cannot coexist with an ideology which teaches that we are no more that a collection of cells.

Progressivism in its most vibrant form now dominates the United States and Canada – and their satelite anglophone nations – among whom I number my native Ireland. This progressivism is obliged denigrate and if possible eliminate the Christian religion. The Christian faith has no problem with rational modernity. As its path through history shows it has always sought to live peacebly with Caesar and has ultimately always succeeded in winning Caesar over to the marriage feast of faith and reason – from the Classical world down through the Renaissance and on into the Enlightment. That is why it is progressive Marxism’s Enemy Number One. Cartago delenda est has to be progressivism’s battle-cry.

We are now engaged in a new punic war. The engagement will be troublesome but the outcome will be the triumph of the good. Patrick Deneen in his study of the failure of Liberalism predicted that things would get worse and be more confused before they get better, before viable moral structures are restored on both the left and right. We can only hope that this will not take too long. The only show in town offering a true moral compass to the world is genuine Christianity.

What is the current state of play between the forces in the field just now?

Catholic President Biden was persuaded to leave the word “God” out of his first address to Congress last month. A win for progressives.

Across the Atlantic in Britain, Abby Day, professor of race, faith and culture at Goldsmiths, University of London, reports that less than half of Britons are expected to tick “Christian” in the UK census. In the 2011 census, 59.3% ticked Christianity, a fall from 71.6% a decade earlier. Day says post-war generations regard the church as irrelevant and immoral. Another win for progressivism.

Across the Irish Sea from Britain the Irish government is pummeling the Catholic Church and now the Deputy Prime Minister has declared that all publicly funded schools should adhere to Government policy by including LGBTI+ relationships in all sex education programmes. This is a response to a new sex education programme for Catholic primary schools which stated that the Church’s teaching on marriage between a man and a woman “cannot be omitted”. It’s description that sex was a “gift from God” is a problem for Irish progressives because it implies that as a gift it should be treated with due respect. This might still be a stalemate.

Back on the other side of the Atlantic, Republican Senator Tim Scott in his dignified reply to Biden’s Godless address spoke of his hope for a better future. “I am confident that our finest hour is yet to come. Original sin is never the end of the story. Not in our souls and not for our nation. The real story is always redemption.” Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal commented, “Broadcasters missed the meaning, thinking it was just some sweet Christian talk.” It was more. It was a win.

Ross Douthat, in a New York Times column a few days ago reflected on the implications of what he saw as the gradual erosion of Catholic faith in the face of progressivism.

“If you’re a liberal Catholic, especially one whose peers are members of the secular clerisy in Europe and the United States”, he observed, “your position has become much more difficult as progressivism has become more comprehensive in its demands. A small but telling example was offered in a recent essay for The Hedgehog Review, in which a Catholic campus minister wrote about her experience as an impeccably liberal and feminist Catholic working on a contemporary liberal-arts campus. 

“She was startled to find that the new progressivism regarded even liberal Catholics as tainted by their association with something as white or patriarchal or Western as the official Catholic Church. She in turn cited the experience another: ‘It’s taboo to explore Western spirituality, especially in liberal circles. I’m careful who I tell about it.’ She was not alone. Other students asked me not to take photos of Mass and post them on social media. They didn’t want to be ‘outed’ as Catholic.” 

But we must remember that although Rome did destroy Carthage, nevertheless, it arose from the ashes and eventually was the home of St. Augustine who became bishop of neighbouring Hippo and one the greatest champions of the Christian faith the world has ever seen. His work still endures with powerful effect to this day.

Is it not all a question of the vine and the branches? You either reunite with the vine or you wither away. At the root of this whole debacle are misconceptions about human nature – and in our time, family and sexuality in particular. That in its turn however, is rooted in something else. It is rooted in a shriveling up of the life of the spirit and the spirit’s conversation with the God whom Biden chose to ignore. True knowledge of God only comes through that conversation. Tim Scott, in that same address, said:  “Becoming a Christian transformed my life,” He concluded telling us that he was “standing here because my mom has prayed me through some really tough times. I believe our nation has succeeded the same way, because generations of Americans in their own ways have asked for grace, and God has supplied it.”  

The great French novelist Georges Bernanos once wrote an essay on the train wrecks in the history of the Church. He reminded us all that the church is always saved by its saints. It is they who keep the train on the tracks.

The Devil in his time, the Devil in our time

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THE MASTER AND MARGARITA, a text for all time because the Devil is for all time.

The dark art of performing exorcisms may seem archaic, even absurd, to non-believers, but the Catholic Church insists that the presence of the devil is growing all the time, due to the increasing secularisation of society, loss of faith in God and the easy access provided by the internet to black magic and the occult. So Dublin’s Irish Independent newspaper and a good deal of other media reported last week.

If he is still doing mischief, it is reassuring that should he decide to target any of us individually to the extent of seeking to possess us bodily, someone will be prepared to do something about it. But individual possession might be the least of our problems. What if he is targeting our entire civilization – and given who he is it is not beyond his powers or ambitions to try to do so. He did it before, with devastating effect. Admittedly there were only two of us – but we underestimate him at our peril.

There is no doubt but that something very strange has happened to Western society. When you find yourself reading this from Thierry Frémaux, the chairman of Cannes Film Festival we surely have reason for concern. He told reporters last week. “Today it is very difficult to reward or honour or recompense anyone because the political police then falls on you.”

Add to that the life-shattering punishment meted out to Israel Folau on the other side of the world for a thought expressed on social media. Then, in another hemisphere, medical personnel, by a judgment of a Canadian court of appeals, are to have their professional careers destroyed if they will not cooperate in the killing of their patients. Those examples don’t even cover the tip of the iceberg of injustice being meted out in so-called civilized society today in the name of something they call equality.

Libertarian Brendan O’Neill, introducing a Spiked.dot.com post on the subject, says of the Folau case, “So we’re back to persecuting people for their religious beliefs. That’s the take-home message of the scandalous sacking of Israel Folau. He’s been dumped by Rugby Australia for sharing a meme on social media that said ‘hell awaits’ gay people (and also drunks, thieves, adulterers and atheists). But Folau is a devout Christian and this is a Christian belief. It is part of Christianity to believe in hell and to believe that certain sexual and social ‘deviants’ will go there. Folau has been punished for his religious convictions. And the people cheering his sacking are supporting this chilling, pre-modern form of punishment. This case speaks to the new intolerance, where anyone who thinks differently to the mainstream risks being cast out. Israel Folau – rugby player and thought criminal.”

This was the kind of totalitarian world which we thought we had largely left behind us with fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of Soviet Communism. Clearly, we were wrong. Soft cultural Marxism has brought us to a place which is worse than the stark Soviet variety ever was – worse because it insidiously masquerades under the cloak of a benign progressivism, and the whole world seems to be swallowing it.

It seems as if the battles for humanity fought by the Russian and Eastern European dissidents like Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Vaclav Havel and others have to be fought all over again if we are to have any hope of restoring our freedom, our common sense and common decency.

But who will fight them? Forget the political class. It is too prone to corruption of one kind or another, in thrall to or captive by the ayatollahs of ever more lunatic political correctness. Will writers and artists come to our rescue as those Russians did in the last century? The evil of National Socialism – in both its Teutonic and Latin manifestation – self-destructed in the space of little more than ten years. Admittedly there was the help of a significant military push. But the evils flowing from hard Marxist ideology took a good deal longer to vanquish (if vanquished they are). They were essentially undermined by a combination of religious faith and the creative imagination of a handful of great writers.

The great Russian writers and artists of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were never shy about talking about the Devil. Solzhenitsyn took on the soviets and identified their greatest folly and vice as the denial of the spiritual in man. He later warned us in the West that we were descending into our own hell by putting man at the centre of all things and denying the existence of God. He had no doubt who the driving force behind this was.

One of Russia and the world’s greatest film auters, Sergei  Eizenshtein, in Ivan the Terrible, personified the eponymous subject as Satan. No one said it out loud but everyone suspected who the real personification of Satan was. The film was heavily censored.

As noted in Russian Literature and its Demons (ed. Pamela Davidson, Berghahn Books, New York / Oxford), Stalin’s terror of the 1930s, evokes the book of Revelation, in which Satan takes on the form of a “great red dragon” (Rev.12:3). In Eizenshtein’s film, the play in the cathedral in which Shadrach, Medrach, and Abednego are symbolically cast into the fiery furnace draws a parallel between the cruelty of Ivan (or Stalin) and the evil Babylonian ruler Nebuchadnezzar. In the banquet scene, with its wild dance of the oprichniki (Ivan’s secret police) and its vivid use of black and red, the representation of Ivan evokes Satan presiding over some demonic orgy.

Mikhail Bulgakov was much more explicit and in some ways more devastating in making the Devil and his acolytes the central protagonists in his extraordinarily funny but utterly serious and complex satirical fable, The Master and Margarita. This was completed in 1940 but not published until 1965 – and only then in a heavily censored version.

Writers and artists like Bulgakov, and composers like Shostakovich and Prokofiev suffered rejection but persevered within the repressive system. Bulgakov, even with his White Russian background and hostility to atheism, kicked against it and still survived. He was constantly refused permission to go abroad and spent time being interrogated in the infamous Lubianka. The Master and Margarita, his masterpiece, is a slap in the face of the intolerant atheism which poisoned Soviet Russia. By 1922 the Orthodox Church was under direct attack and priests were rounded up. Four were condemned to be shot (Bulgakov’s own father was a priest and theologian). Throughout the 20’s the debunking of Christianity was a constant objective. Ruthless punishment was inflicted on the books whose authors questioned this and found themselves abroad owing to deportation, emigration, or defection. Their books had to be removed from public libraries and shredded.

Bulgakov’s portrait of the Devil, Woland, daringly suggests Stalin. Both were mysterious, aloof, and rarely seen. Like Woland, Stalin also destroyed what sought to expose him. Both demanded subservience from their followers. Woland and his acolytes, however, also attack the agents of the system. We are inclined to cheer them on. Throughout the novel they mock and play games, sometimes hilariously funny, with the apparatchiks who run the system and who at least pretend not to believe in Woland’s existence – despite all the evidence he gives them. In their folly they try to explain the tricks he plays on them as some form of hypnotism or scientific slight of hand.

Whether or not Bulgakov intended to draw a parallel between Stalin and Woland, there is no question but that the Soviet censors read the novel in this way. In one passage, the shape changing cat, Begemot, speaks of the grandeur of Satan’s ball, but, after being contradicted by Woland, immediately hastens to agree obsequiously with his master: “Of course, messire.  If you think it wasn’t very grand, I immediately find myself agreeing with you.” That was much too close to the bone.

And what does that remind us of? The daily groveling apologies of many of those who find themselves reprimanded and punished by our thought police.

So where are they, the writers, creative artists, who will expose this evil among us? They have yet to stick their heads above the parapets – and God help them when they do. The great Russians who exposed Satan suffered for what they did, some physically as well as mentally. Perhaps the same has to happen again? Perhaps the answer is here:

And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and kneeling before him said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly; for often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” And Jesus answered, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was cured instantly. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you. But this kind never comes out except by prayer and fasting.” (Mathew 17. 14-20).

Back to the future… or the end of the road?

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Can it really be this bad?
A British Conservative government minister, Justine Greening, says that gender is virtually meaningless by proposing to let adults come in off the street and change it at will. “Pronoun Committees” on campus warn, “If you fail to respect someone else’s gender identity, it is not only disrespectful and hurtful, but also oppressive.” Does anyone hear an echo, “Committee of Public Safety”? From there it was but a short step to the guillotine. Mozzilla’s CEO was removed from the company he founded because he privately supported traditional marriage – and that was also disrespectful, hurtful and oppressive. It certainly was for him – but that didn’t matter. A Google engineer is the latest casualty of the thought police because he expressed an opinion of doubtful orthodoxy.

This is just a very small sample from a long catalogue of seemingly mad events which are taking place around us. But they are not mad. They are the result of a cold, calculated dogma that has pervaded our culture. We are, in truth, not a million miles, not even a few hundred miles from the nightmare of Stalinist Russia, where to write an opera (Prokofiev), compose a symphony (Shostakovich) or pen a novel (Pasternak) which was out of synch with the ideology of the State would reduce your career to ashes and even endanger your very life.

Is there anyone out there prepared to defend mankind from this self-destructive ideology? Yes there is, perhaps too timidly yet, but the principles are sound and if this onslaught of injustice persists then surely the perennial voice of reason will be heard loud and clear.

For seventy-plus years Marxism was a political force in the Soviet Union, backed up by a lethal totalitarian state. In that time the one enemy which it constantly singled out for annihilation was the Christian religion. Wherever Christians were found the grotesque regime’s apparatus  first sought to corrupt them. Failing that it sought to crush them. After soviet Russia led the way a handful of Eastern European followed under its tutelage – or its tanks. China and some Asian countries then joined the monstrous regiment and in the fifties and sixties of the last century the ideology made a largely unsuccessful attempt to subvert Latin America.

Eventually, bearing within itself the seeds of its own destruction, the states which embraced it began to crumble and fall. But to the very end Christianity remained its perpetual enemy and number one target for persecution and extermination. Even in the last decade of its hegemony it sought to assassinate – and almost succeeded – the Vicar of Christ on Earth.

Why was this so? Why should the followers of a peace-loving prophet from 2000 years ago be such a threat to what at first sight might be described as just one more attempt to solve the problems mankind faces in organising this world to meet the daily needs of its inhabitants?

It was so because the vision of humanity held by the followers of Jesus Christ, based on the belief and understanding that this God-man in fact created the world and all that is in it, is radically at odds with that of Karl Marx, his antecedents and his disciples. The essential contradictions inherent in the Marxist vision of man, its utterly flawed anthropology, eventually killed it – but not before it left tens of millions dead in its wake. These contradictions, these flaws, were called out and opposed by authentic Christianity from the moment they first made their appearance. For that reason Christians became the constant and number one enemy and Marxists had to corrupt them or wipe them off the face of the earth. Despite pretences to the contrary, peaceful co-existence for a thorough and clear-sighted Marxist was never going to be an option with this enemy in full bloom.

We may feel relieved that this form of Marxism, while not extinct, is now largely moribund. That would be naive. Marxism itself is still with us in an even more insidious form, currently seeking to corrupt but increasingly looking like reverting to its crushing mode once again. Because it is no longer a unified ideology it is even more dangerous and pervasive. Its new suit of clothes was acquired from what we call the Frankfurt School. Here, already divining the self-destructive excesses of Soviet Communism in the 1930s, adherents of the basic core of Marx’s materialistic determinism articulated a “new improved model” which we now call neo-Marxism. This new manifestation of Marxism, often not even calling itself Marxism, again sees itself confronted with the same enemy – the Christians.

The core materialism which was at the heart of Das Kapital and the Communist Manifesto is also at the heart of this new Marxism. This is the central error of the ideology which Christians must of necessity oppose. It must set its face against it because it is an error which denies the central truths of man’s nature and essence. From this central error springs a series of maladies which are now afflicting Western society and which in time will also spread to every other cultural environment on the planet: from it springs gross consumerism; rampant individualism of the “me, me, me” variety – proclaiming absolute freedom which is no freedom at all. From it also flows the scourge of gender ideology and all that it spawns; finally, the ideology which proclaims the right to destroy human life before birth and force its termination before its natural end.

But making a stand against the materialistic ideology of our time is to rule you out as a candidate for public service. We remember the rejection by the European parliament of Rocco Buttiglione. They haven’t gone away, you know. Governor Sam Brownback has been nominated by the President of America to join his administration as an ambassador for religious freedom. The so-called Human Rights Campaign, beloved of Barak Obama and the Clintons, which says Christian ministers should be forced to not only publicly approve of homosexuality but endorse it officially with God’s blessing, is outraged.  They are outraged because Gov. Brownback has defended the rights of Christian and other religious student groups to have membership standards consistent with the group’s religious affiliation. For them, to require members of Christian groups to believe Christ’s teaching amounts to promoting “hateful discrimination”. Most hateful of all of course is the fact that, as governor, Brownback supported Reality Birth Certificates that note biological sex. They consider biological reality and genetic science to be a “deadly” prejudice and an attack on one’s true “identity,” which for them is oh-so-solidly and rationally based on feelings and one’s current whim. Cue Justine Greening.

The warning signs are there that a new hegemony of this ideology is already with us. We can now see a new era of materialistic ideology slowly – or maybe not so slowly – gaining ground in the political square, in the halls of learning and in the schools where it is being inculcated in our children.

Last week, Campus Reform reported a lecturer at the University of Michigan advocating the “retraining of preschool children to make them less heteronormative.” Defining “heteronormativity” as a culture in which “heterosexuality is always assumed, expected, ordinary, and privileged,” she argues that the issue is especially important because preschools contribute to the “reproduction of inequalities pertaining to gender and sexuality,” such as gender roles and “gendered feelings”.

Furthermore, this new materialism is now being voluntarily adopted lock stock and barrel by political establishments in state after state around the world. They euphemistically call it “evolution in their thinking”; they call it getting in step with history; what they fail to do is call it what it really is: indoctrination in an ideology which is errant nonsense.

An example of the consequences: working within the laws which our indoctrinated legislators have put in place for our common good, we were told last week that a man has given birth to a baby. We negate the judgement of our sense and the principles of biological science when we call a woman a man. This is the “progress” of progressivism. In a similar case in Sweden, a woman manages to grow a beard and calls herself a man. She then gets pregnant by a man who thinks he is a woman and between them they have two children. These children in their turn are deliberately not being told what they are, boy or girl. They will decide for themselves. The truth is they won’t. They will be what they are and that is it.

The probability is that by writing this I am breaking a law. What law it is or in what country I might be prosecuted I do not know for sure. But I suspect that that some law brands me as a “hate-criminal” and  I am sure that the time is not far distant when the law will catch up with people who point out the folly and injustice of these ideas. Since breaking laws incurs punishments they will be punished.

Do I exaggerate? No. The esteemed University of West Virginia has warned its staff and students that referring to someone by the “wrong” gender pronoun is a violation of federal anti-discrimination laws. In a totally different jurisdiction, Dr. Jordan Peterson, a psychology professor in the University of Toronto, refused to adhere to the university’s policies on pronouns, requiring him to refer to students  as “ve”,”ver” or “vis”. He was threatened with legal action.

From the time of Adam man has known sin. Human history gives an account  of how we cope with the consequences of our malice and our weaknesses. It is often a sad story, it is can be salutary, it is sometimes heroic. But this is a different sin. Until modern times mankind’s understanding of our wrong turnings have been, in a sense, within the parameters of our own nature. The Judaeo-Christian response to those wrong turnings was corrective and didactic. We often resisted correction and were slow learners – but seldom if ever did we reject them on the basis of their being unnatural, alien, or foreign to what was deemed to be the very nature of the species. That, with Marxism, has all changed. The Judaeo-Christian vision of man and the Marxist vision of man are now radically and fatally at variance. Mankind is now engaged in a fight to the death. If Marxism is victorious in that conflict then mankind is doomed to self-destruct. We are very near the Gates of Hell – but Christians do have a promise about that.