worldview

Delivered at the Center for Cultural Leadership West Coast Symposium on “The Brave New Sexual World(view), October 24, 2015  

Did you even notice how people often line up together on an entire range of seemingly unrelated social and political issues? Why are socialists usually pro-same-sex “marriage”? Why are most environmentalists against capital punishment? Why are the strongest advocates of gun control usually pro-choice? Why are most pro-life Americans also committed to American exceptionalism? Why are the chief defenders of the traditional family usually also defenders of the free market? Why are the most vocal opponents of the theory of man-made global climate change also opponents of judicial activism? At the recent Democratic Presidential debate in Las Vegas, why did every candidate express or imply reluctance to confront the spread of radical Islam and also castigate Wall Street? Of course, there are exceptions to these pairings, but these kinds of “people-belief clusters” — people clustering around a cluster of beliefs — are too widespread to be an anomaly. The anomaly, in fact, is when this clustering doesn’t happen. When is the last time you heard of a leading pro-abortionist that also strongly supported capital punishment? A long time ago, I’d venture.

The reason for these “people-belief clusters” is worldview. That word is not hard to understand. It just means how we view the world. Worldviews are like pancreas. Everybody has one, even if we don’t know it. We tend not to see separate issues in their own light, but in light of our entire worldview. This is why so many people hold to the same cluster of beliefs as other people, not just the same beliefs. Lots of people don’t just agree on an issue; they agree on a cluster of issues. This is certainly true in the case of sex.

Socialism and Sex

Think for a minute about socialism and the Sexual Revolution. I re-read recently a 1952 article from a socialist magazine. It appealed to fellow socialists to champion the cause of gay rights. Until that time, the socialists had opposed homosexuality. But the author appealed to his fellow socialists that homosexuals should be their natural allies. Why? Because they were both in the social transformation business. Specifically, both wanted the egalitarian (as opposed to hierarchical) society. The author wrote:

Propaganda aimed toward the sexual individualist [he mainly means the homosexual] should stress his importance as a political concern; it should point out his right to what the Declaration of Independence called the “pursuit of happiness.” This soon will make more and more people aware of socialism as a constructive force in the transformation of America into a truly happy country where the individual rights of all its people (regardless of their departure from the Puritan “norm”) are both observed and respected.[1]

The socialists want economic equality. Homosexuals want sexual equality. Both hate hierarchies, specifically the “Puritan ‘norm.’” The author could have simply said: the Christian norm, because opposition to homosexuality wasn’t limited to the Puritans. But he knew one important fact: both socialism and homosexuality are part of a larger worldview. That worldview includes egalitarianism.

The Christian worldview (by contrast) is based on hierarchy. The basic hierarchy is God, who is superior to man and woman, created in his image; and man and woman are superior to the rest of creation. If you’ll think about it, the popular anti-Christian worldview (especially environmentalism) completely levels that hierarchy. God is a part of nature, and man and woman are no more important than animals and plants. We might at this point call it the egalitarian worldview. It’s embraced by political radicals — and has been since the French Revolution.

Today the priorities have changed for the egalitarian worldview. This shift first started in the 60s.[2] Until then they wanted economic egalitarianism (socialism). But pretty soon they figured out that what they really wanted was cultural egalitarianism. They didn’t just want equal incomes; they wanted equal morality. And they began to understand that it wasn’t necessity first to capture politics in order to redistribute wealth. All you had to do was capture the culture: the major media, elite universities, prominent foundations, the national legal and medical associations, the entertainment industry, and even the mainline denominations. Then capturing politics would be easy.

This is why homosexuality and socialism need each other. It’s why most socialists and big-state advocates support “same-sex marriage,” and why most supporters of “same-sex marriage,” also support increased government intervention in the economy. They share an anti-Christian egalitarian worldview.

ART’s and Abortion

Let me take another example: ART’s — assisted reproductive technologies. You might know them as artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization and surrogate childbearing. These are all means of enhancing the chances of a live childbirth for people who otherwise can’t have children. Interestingly, however, the leading proponents of ART’s also support abortion. How can this logically be? Abortion snuffs out a life. ART’s foster a life (using the wrong techniques). The two views seem to be mutually exclusive. But they’re not. What holds these apparently disparate views together? Both are committed to individual autonomy, specifically radical sexual autonomy. The pro-abortion vision believes “a woman has a right over her own body,” her own “reproductive rights.” The pro-ART vision believes a person should have the right to a child at any virtually time and under virtually any circumstance. It’s the radical sexual autonomy that’s the commonality.

At least two basic anti-Christian ideas are at work here. Let’s call the first “constructivism.” We might know it best from the famous existentialist philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. He held that since man had, in effect, killed God, he’d also killed God’s morality. You can’t rely on God’s morality if there’s no God. Therefore, a race must emerge that creates, or constructs, its own morality. Nietzsche called this a race of “overmen,” or supermen. The bravest humans create their own morality, their own “values.” This is a root of postmodernism.[3]

The Christian idea, and even the Enlightenment idea, is that morality isn’t created. It’s given by God in revelation — in the Bible and in the very structure of creation. Morality isn’t constructed; it’s recognized. Postmodern man has turned away from revelational morality and devised a constructivist morality.

This means: we’re the makers of our society, of ourselves. And in making ourselves, we make the world.[4] The most popular example of this self-invention is “gender.” This once meant male and female, but gender today necessitates literally infinite variations: transgender to bigender to gender nonconforming to pangender to androgyny. Facebook now offers 51 gender identifications.

Over the last few years, ontology (being) itself has been forced to surrender its God-givenness. As Brian Mattson once commented to me, “Ontology is now a social construction.” Not merely human society, not merely culture, not merely categories of life, but reality itself is up for grabs. Sinful man is the artist, and reality is his creation. Ultimately, this means not simply the reordering of the given reality, but the re-creation of reality. “What imparts order by binding and unbinding,” one writer noted, “is neither something in the cosmos itself nor a transcendent creator and source of being. It is the human mind that defines and creates the order of being it encounters.”[5] Man is himself the creator of the universe.

This leads to the second idea: Gnosticism. Gnostics believe the material universe is bad or inferior, and disembodied existence, release from the body and the material world, is superior. The human body is one of the greatest barriers to re-creation (God, after all, the Creator, is spirit), so the body must be circumvented (remember the movie starring Johnny Depp Transcendence?). But the present human body seems to have been adapted for Earth. Therefore, overcoming the limitations of this planet will become the artist’s latest project. Autonomous human imagination – the body and its earthly environment = a new godless universe.

Abortion destroys the God-created human body, and ART’s circumvent the God-created human body to construct humanity. Radical individual autonomy is the root of both.

So we have egalitarianism, constructivism, Gnosticism, environmentalism, socialism — and many other ideas all combined to create a (the) prominent worldview. What should we call this overarching worldview? Different people have different names, but maybe we can just call it the elite worldview. Thomas Sowell derisively calls these folks, “The anointed” [6] (self-anointed, of course). They constitute the vast majority of our cultural leaders in the most culturally influential places: mainstream media, Ivy League universities, Hollywood, the American Bar Association, the American Medical Association, the pulpits in mainline denominations — in other words, the “enlightened” ones who are in a position to influence how everybody else thinks and acts. And their view of sex is a critical part of their worldview.

In light of this situation, how do we act?

A Worldview Agenda

First, don’t make the mistake of seeing sexual issues as stand-alone problems. Abortion is a part of a worldview. Socialism, and environmentalism and man-made global climate change and judicial activism are a part of that same worldview. Make no mistake: single-issue campaigns are indispensable. Groups that oppose abortion, surrogacy, same-sex marriage, pornography, socialism, and radical environmentalism play a pivotal role. However they, and we, must never forget that it’s unlikely any of us will win on a single issue for a long without being obliged to address the worldview behind all the other issues. And we should be encouraged that to win on one issue likely signals impending victories on others. These issues tend to stand and fall as a cluster. You only defeat worldviews with other worldviews. Now perhaps you understand why CCL is about Christian culture, not simply about this particular Christian or conservative issue or that one. It’s restoring Christian culture that must be the ultimate objective, the entire cluster. There are always fruit issues, and root issues. Worldview is a root issue.

Second, and finally, our job is to work within our own sphere of influence to press for just this Christian worldview. John M. Frame has spoken about “little transformations.”[7] We sometimes think that there must always be a big transformations or none at all. But most of the time, big transformations are simply a series of little transformations. Wherever God has placed us, we should both declare and model just this worldview, this way of living. I have said that CCL, in our present culture, is an adversarial intelligentsia. Our job is intellectual. We’re a think tank. But everybody has a role, and in the end, every soldier, every calling, is indispensable. You can and will influence people that I never could. And vice versa.

One thing we must make clear. The Christian worldview, the Christian way, is not simply one option among many. We live in postmodern times. This means that people tend to be egalitarian even about the truth (which is really weird, if you think about it). But the fact is, Christianity is not an option. It will be Christian culture or, in the end, it will be death (Prov. 8:36). We’re not simply asking everyone to think that Christianity might be slightly better than the alternatives. Jesus Christ came not to offer the best among essentially good alternatives. He came to declare the only way, that all other ways are frauds (Jn. 10:7–8).

Say it nicely or say it firmly, say it argumentatively or say it diplomatically, but say it: Jesus Christ is the only true way, and Christianity is the only true culture.

And know this. We will win. We will win first because the Bible promises it.[8] And we will win because the universe is God-rigged. God created the cosmos so that you cannot violate his moral law and get away with it. The universe is stacked against the rebels. As Charles Krauthammer reminded some of us in San Francisco two years ago: “If something can’t continue, it won’t.” Man’s successfully breaking God’s moral law can’t continue.

And it won’t.


[1] H. L. Small, “Socialism and Sex,” New Politics, Vol. XI, No. 5 (summer 2008), 18, originally published in the 1952 discussion bulletin, The Young Socialist.
[2] Richard Wolin, The Wind from the East (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2010).
[3] David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity (Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell, 1995), 3–65.
[4] Thomas Molnar, Utopia, The Perennial Heresy (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1967).
[5] Charles Guignon, Being Authentic (London and New York: Routledge, 2004), 63.
[6] Thomas Sowell, The Vision of the Anointed (New York: Basic Books, 1995).
[7] John M. Frame, John Frame’s Selected Shorter Writings, Volume Two (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R, 2015), 315.
[8] John Jefferson Davis, Christ’s Victorious Kingdom (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1986).