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The Year of the Politically Aggrieved

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This is the Year of the Politically Aggrieved. For the Democratic Party, the aggrieved have long been racial minorities, women, homosexuals, and union members. For the Republican Party, the newly aggrieved are lower-middle-class whites, unemployed factory workers and manual laborers, and the white undereducated. Their cultural grievances drive their politics, and cynical, demagogic charlatans inflame those grievances. The irony of aggrieved culture is that the West has probably never been healthier and wealthier. It has, however, been more grateful — back when our culture was more Christian, back when there were fewer grievances, and back when there might have been greater warrant for grievances.

 

CCL’s Anti-Grievance Agenda

 

Christian culture stands solidly against aggrieved culture. Christian culture is gratitude culture: “We give thanks to You, O God, we give thanks! For Your wondrous works declare that Your name is near” (Ps. 75:1). Both major political parties have become infected with man-centered ingratitude. A goal of the Center for Cultural Leadership is to revive God-centeredness — and gratitude — in our culture.

 

I hope that you donors have enjoyed reading Holy Week for an Unholy World. I had planned to get Jeffery J. Ventrella’s Christ, Caesar, and Self out this month, but I think it’ll be ready for May. We’re working on the Honorable William Graves’ pro-liberty, content-rich Prudent Jurisprudence: Essays on Law and Politics and on my own The Gospel That Reclaims Culture and Prayer Changes Things. Bill Blankschaen has been doing the radio show circuit (lately with the liberal Dr. Drew) promoting his and Resurgent’s Erick Erickson’s book You Will Be Made to Care: The War on Faith, Family, and Your Freedom to Believe released last month.

 

Sharon and I are headed back to London, England in late May, where I’ll speak again for Christian Concern; I plan to publish my lectures. Christian Concern is standing uncompromisingly for God’s law in the public square and having a striking impact. In early June I’ll be back speaking for the Alliance Defending Freedom, the most prominent and effective Christian legal organization on the globe.

 

Can You Send CCL a Donation Today?

 

If you believe in a God-centered, gratitude culture, can you send a tax-deductible gift accessed at this link?

 

Or you can mail a check to:

 

Center for Cultural Leadership

P. O. Box 100

Coulterville, CA 95311

 

I need each of you to help me.

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Easter Culture versus Death Culture

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It’s easy to think about the implications of Jesus’ resurrection for individuals. It’s especially easy to do this in our time, because we are a highly individualistic society. What’s most important in life is what affects me. I am the sole judge of my “values” and my fate. “No one has the right to judge me.” Or so goes the mantra of pop postmodernity. So when postmoderns in the church think about Easter, they naturally consider primarily, if not exclusively, its implications for them as individuals: what has the resurrected Jesus done for me. Better: what has he done for me lately. This attitude fits quite nicely with the self-centeredness and the downright narcissism of postmodernity.

 

But if we understand the resurrection, we can’t escape the cultural dimensions of Christianity. In fact, it’s possible that there’s no more culturally significant fact in the Bible than Jesus’ resurrection, apart from the creation of the world itself. Easter is all about culture, and it contrasts vividly with the death culture that surrounds us.

 

Progressivism’s Death Culture

 

Secular Western culture is “progressive,” meaning: confident that the measure of linear history is the measure of moral evolution. Barack Obama once said of the Republicans: “They want to take us back to the policies more suited to the 1950’s than the 21st century.” It was apparently so obvious to Obama and his sympathizers that no reasonable person would believe that the 1950’s are preferable to the 21st century that their viewpoint didn’t even need defense or explanation. But this progressivism ironically isn’t committed to what we today trendily term “human flourishing”; all to the contrary. As Michael Walsh writes in his literate, lacerating The Devil’s Pleasure Palace:

 

[L]eftists generally try to live as long as possible themselves; cowards to a man, there is literally nothing they would die for, not even their own alleged principles. Largely deficient in the self-sacrifice gene, and with the word “altruism” essentially foreign to them, they are obsessed with their health, with medical care and coercive government schemes to “provide” such services at someone else’s expense. Always cloaking their demand for larger, more intrusive, and more punitive government in the guise of “compassion,” the only thing they’re willing to fight for (other than the “Fight” itself) is their own survival, even as they declare it to be utterly meaningless.

And yet Death fascinates them. Whether it is the death of society (think of Lukács’ constant invocations of “destruction” and “annihilation”) or the deaths of millions of innocents in the purges and atrocities of National Socialism and the Soviet-style communism (can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs), death is a constant feature both of their philosophy and their political prescriptions, which include not only abortion but, increasingly, euthanasia. Wearing their customary mask of solicitous compassion, they can’t wait for you to die to steal your stuff.[1]

 

Today’s death culture is palpable. It is far wider than understandable grief over death. Rather, it is the perverse glorification of death. The slaughter of pre-born children, the mercy killings of the infirm and elderly, Lady Gaga’s pop lyrics about death and suicide all testify to death culture. “All they that hate me [divine wisdom] love death” (Prov. 8:36). A culture that knows nothing of Easter knows of nothing more significant than death.

 

Vivifying Culture

 

In sharp contrast, Easter culture is vivifying culture. What is resurrection, but life from the dead? But apart from resurrection, death abounds. When Adam and Eve were driven from the Garden of Eden because of their sin, they began experiencing the horror of death around them. Plants died. Animals died. Their son Abel died, at the hand of his sinful brother Cain. We can only imagine the shock — genuine culture shock — when they first observed death. This wasn’t how things were from the beginning. This wasn’t as it was meant to be. This wasn’t a design flaw. This was a user flaw.

 

In John 11:33 we read that as Jesus contemplated the death of his friend Lazarus and all of those in the house weeping at his death, he was indignant, angry. He was angry at the dreadful consequence of sin: death. “This is not right,” Jesus must’ve been saying to himself. “I must do something to stop this. All of this sadness, all of this weeping, all of this wailing are not my Father’s intention for this good, beautiful world.” Jesus did raise his friend Lazarus that day, as a sort of down payment on his own resurrection and the future,  Final Resurrection of the redeemed. That day, his “This is not right,” became “I refuse to let this stand.” Jesus was indignant at death culture. Easter culture overturns death culture.

 

The Young Messiah

 

The current movie The Young Messiah highlights in the most graphic way the healing, life-bestowing obsession of even the boy Jesus. God’s chosen One, even before he grasps his own significance as God’s Son, cannot help but exhibit God’s vivifying, healing love to those plagued by the enervating, death-dealing effects of sin. Wherever the Messiah goes, there goes life. Wherever the Messiah goes, death and sickness recede. Easter was simply the final exclamation of an earthly sojourn that relentlessly pursued the death of death and disease.

 

Easter culture relishes life. Easter culture rejoices when children are born into a family, relishes the laughter of God’s good provision in friends and love and food and wine and planting and harvest and new inventions and discoveries that enhance man’s good life on God’s good earth. Easter culture is optimistic. Easter culture is faith-infused and future-oriented. Easter culture knows that hardships are only steppingstones to future blessings. Easter culture looks death in the face and laughs (1 Cor. 15:50–58).

 

God’s Global Vivifying Operation

 

When Jesus rose from the grave 2000 years ago, he didn’t simply rise in order to take a few souls to heaven. He inaugurated his great global vivifying operation. His goal is nothing short of banishing sin from his good world, a condition that, while not entirely completed in this life, is well underway.

 

This Easter, while celebrating our Lord’s resurrection, we are equally celebrating our culture’s resurrection, its vivification, its life.

 

Our Lord’s resurrection creates a culture: Easter culture.

 

Easter culture is Jesus Christ’s declaration to death: “I refuse to let this stand.”


 

[1] Michael Walsh, The Devil’s Pleasure Palace (New York and London: Encounter, 2015), 124.
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Cultural Egalitarianism: Enemy of Christian Culture

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St. George and His Dragons

If you want to understand cultural egalitarianism, you might want to think of the legend of St. George and the dragon.[1] St. George devoted his life to killing dragons, and when he’d killed them all, he lost his life’s passion, so he invented new dragons. St. George, you see, needed his dragons. In the same way, the Left began by killing the dragon of arbitrary state authority, but quickly moved on to slay alleged arbitrary church authority and fascist authority and, more recently, Caucasian authority and family authority and paternal and maternal authority and capitalist authority and, in these last decades, male and heterosexual authority. The Left are liberators eternally in search of the oppressed whom they must liberate. They are on one huge liberation crusade, and if there are no oppressed, they must invent them. This is what Kenneth Minogue terms “the oppression-liberation nexus.”[2] While the right in recent times has won political elections, the left has won the culture, and this means, above all else, an eternal liberation crusade. Communist Revolutions are simply one major example: to liberate workers from employers. The broader agenda is cultural liberation of all kinds, and Western leftist elites differ from Lenin and Mao only in degree and in methods employed, not in principle. Mao used the end of a gun barrel; Western elites use public schools and major foundations and TV and art and music. The objective is identical: liberation of the oppressed, “oppressed” meaning any class that can claim social inferiority.

In this liberation crusade, classical liberalism has been gradually transformed in its views of equality, from equality of processes to equality of results.[3] The early liberals, influenced by Christianity and its view of law, wanted a level operational field. The law cannot privilege once class over another. This is just what the Bible teaches. You aren’t penalized or rewarded for being white or black, or rich or poor, or young or old, or male of female. You get equal treatment under the law.

Dragon-Slayers of the Left

The Left soon discovered that this procedural equality didn’t create equal results. If procedural conditions were equalized, some people got more than others. They knew the reason for this: the law may treat people equally, but people are not equal. That is, equality isn’t a fact of nature. To a dragon-slaying liberation crusade, this natural inequality was unacceptable, so they declared war on nature — the real enemy is reality, so reality must be altered. They did this by equalizing results. They used confiscatory taxation to equalize economic results, hiring quotas to equalize sexual and racial results, non-winnable games to equalize youth athletic results, abortion to equalize childbearing-responsibility results, and, now, same-sex “marriage” (SSM) to equalize marital results.

SSM isn’t the ultimate battle in the Left’s liberation crusade. It has been discovered that while homosexuals (for example) can be given the legal freedom to marry, they can still suffer social rejection or opprobrium. This inequality cannot be permitted. So, long-oppressed classes must have the right to approval. This is where speech codes and criminalization of “hate speech” come from. If you have a right to approval, you don’t have a right to disapprove of other people. This right to approval, like all rights, must be legally enforced. The rub comes when this right conflicts with other rights, like the right to religious expression:

The conflict between sexual liberty and religious liberty is unlikely to be one the religious will win, in large part because of the broad and increasing acceptance of an idea President Obama has espoused more than once in public: that the religious have a freedom to worship, and that’s where it ends. When you leave the pew, you must leave your faith there.[4]

This was the Marxist approach. One of its maxims was, “[R]eligion is a man’s private concern.”[5] And it has increasingly become the Western democratic approach: your religious convictions regarding human sexuality are fine, just as long as you keep them in church, or, more preferably, between your two ears.

Rousseau’s Ingenious Deal

The mechanism for securing this liberation from disapproval is the state. It derives from the 18th century French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, whose influence on the modern world has been incalculable. Rousseau made an interesting and novel proposition: “My views will liberate you from all the traditional authorities to which you have been subject. The only authority to which you have to be subject is the state.”[6]

In the medieval and Reformation worlds, there were all sorts of social institutions to which men belonged — the family (meaning the extended family, not just the “nuclear” family), the church, guilds, clubs, schools, and so forth. These had rules that bound individuals (non-coercively). While the state (usually) did not and (could not) enforce those rules, they were strong rules. For example: the church. The church had the power of excommunication. By the 18th century, many individuals were a little sick of these institutions, and they wanted “liberation.” Rousseau basically appealed, “Give me a state strong enough to wipe out the authority of these institutions, and I will give you individual liberty — except, liberty from the state itself.” This, in fact, essentially happened during the French Revolution. The Roman Catholic Church was gutted, the medieval guilds were destroyed, and the family was diluted.   What became all-powerful was the state.

Trading Mature Liberty for Immature Sex

Why were so many individuals willing to make this trade?   That’s simple enough. These other institutions, like the family and the church, demanded morality.   The state doesn’t demand morality; it only demands subservience. Individuals were willing to give up political liberty in order to gain moral (=immoral) liberty. Or, more accurately, they were willing to enslave themselves to the state as long as they could emancipate themselves from moral standards. (This is the theme of Jeffery J. Ventrella’s new Christ, Caesar, and Self: A Pauline Proposal for Understanding the Paradoxical Call for Statist Coercion and Unfettered AutonomyThis, I suggest, has been the course of political liberalism over the last 200 years in the West. The state is the enforcer of the “oppression-liberation nexus.” Your freedom to practice homosexuality (including SSM) is protected; your freedom to start a degree-granting Christian college is not protected. Your freedom to abort an unborn baby is protected; your freedom to pass on all your wealth to your heirs is not protected. Your freedom to produce and disseminate pornography is protected; your freedom as a pastor to endorse a Christian political candidate is not protected. Virtually any sort of sexual “preference” is permitted, just as long as you acquiesce to the state’s power.

Rousseau was willing to get rid of the family community, the church community, and the business community by empowering the political community. He was a communalist, but the only community he cared anything about was the state.

The Christian Message of Liberty, Not Egalitarianism

This is in sharp counter distinction to the Christian view of things. In the biblical Faith, the family and church and business are rather strong, but the state is rather weak.   These so-called “private” institutions — family, church, business, friendships, and so on — are “buffers” between the individual and the state. They are institutions that rival the state and compete for the individual’s allegiance. This is why a Rousseauian view of the state (that is, the leftist view) despises these institutions. If people start relying on the family and the church, for example, for moral instruction, for health, for education, for welfare, and so on, if they commit themselves to these communities — they will not need the state. But the state is exactly what Rousseau’s view of the “good life” is all about.   The state guarantees everybody’s “good life.” This is why political liberals, following Rousseau, want to subordinate all other communities to the political community. This is why they love politics. It gives them freedom from other communities that demand morality.

It should now be clear why egalitarianism is such a hindrance to Christian culture. Christian culture is all about various independent but overlapping God-created spheres (like family, church, school, business, arts, sciences, technology, and so on) each operating to glorify God in culture under his authority.[7] Egalitarianism prohibits by political coercion the life and development of these separate spheres like the family and church. And there can be no Christian culture apart from the freedom of these institutions.


 

[1] Kenneth R. Minogue, The Liberal Mind (New York: Vintage, 1968), 1.
[2] Kenneth R. Minogue, The Servile Mind (New York and London: Encounter, 2010), 296.
[3] Thomas Sowell, A Conflict of Visions (New York: William Morrow, 1987), 121–140,
[4] Benjamin Domenech, “The Future of Religious Liberty,” http://www.realclearreligion.org/articles/2013/06/26/the_sexual_revolutions_consequences.html#.Ucvh4aEmFKM.facebook, accessed June 27, 2012
[5] Owen Chadwick, The Secularization of the European Mind in the 19th Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975), 81.
[6] Robert Nisbet, The Social Philosophers (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1973), 148, 268.
[7] Herman Dooyeweerd, Roots of Western Culture (Ancaster, Ontario, Canada: Paideia Press, 2012), 41–61.
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Evangelicals: Stripping God’s Gold to Panel Trump’s Tower

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The number of evangelicals supporting Donald Trump is a complete surprise. They are not a majority, but they are a large minority; and they have delivered him victories in several Southern (and other) states. Apart from the evangelicals, it’s possible Trump wouldn’t be leading the GOP presidential race.

 

Why are so many supporting him? The best explanation, offered in mid-January by David Brody of CBN and more recently by politically conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer, is that they are looking for The StrongMan to protect them from an increasingly hostile society. As I wrote recently:

 

Why would evangelicals flock to the candidacy of Donald Trump, a philandering, thrice-married, profane Manhattan businessman? One chief reason is that many of them have given up on the “culture wars”: they just want a president who will protect their religious liberty in a time of rising persecution (if you don’t believe it, just try refusing as a business to bake a cake or create a flower arrangement for a gay wedding). Evangelicals of the 70s – 90s were “values voters” — they wanted a Christian candidate who championed life, family, and civic virtue. They longed and worked for a national revival and reformation, and politics did not exhaust but was included in that program. That program is changing. Feeling they’ve lost the culture (the Obergefell decision was a tipping point), evangelicals simply want a “strongman” who will keep the secular statist wolves out of their flocks and families.

 

This mad evangelical rush to the foul-mouthed, fornicating, non-forgiveness-seeking StrongMan says more about them than him.

 

A Political Lesson from Back in the Day

 

In the Old Testament (2 Kings 18) we encounter a historic event whose lesson it would behoove the Trump-ite evangelicals to learn. The Jewish kingdom, because of King Solomon’s idolatry and immorality, had been divided into the north (Israel) and south (Judah). Israel was fully apostate, and Judah was only mildly more faithful to God. God finally sold Israel into the bondage of Assyria, who repopulated it with foreigners. By contrast, Hezekiah, the God-fearing king of Judah, abolished public idolatry, restored godly worship, and would not be intimidated by the Assyrian king at his border. For his obedience, God blessed Hezekiah.

 

But a few years later a new Assyrian king, Sennacherib, arose, and in his territorial expansion moved against Judah and laid siege to it and captured its outlying cities. Hezekiah, rather than calling on the Almighty God of heaven and earth, apologized to Sennacherib and agreed to pay tribute to him to avoid capture. The tribute? Silver and gold ripped from the furniture and walls and doors of the holy temple of the Lord.

 

Hezekiah was willing to trade away the precious metals sanctified to the Lord God in order to buy some time and protection from a pagan king.

 

The Evangelical Hezekiahs

 

Like King Hezekiah, Trump’s evangelical supporters are running scared. They are willing to dismantle and sell off their sanctified testimony to buy a little time and protection from a depraved, narcissist, greed-driven playboy (in biblical terms, as Brian Mattson, notes, he is a fool). Observing the rapacity of secular progressivism (Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton) that, far from committed to neutrality, wishes to bulldoze Christian culture, the family, the church — anything Christian except what goes on between Christians’ two ears — too many Christians succumb to the fear of man. In times of trials of faith, the people of God are tempted to pay the depraved protection racket — the ungodly getting rich off the fear of the godly. In actuality, at this very point they should blurt to their secular political enemies:

 

Why do the nations rage[a]

and the peoples plot in vain?

The kings of the earth set themselves,

and the rulers take counsel together,

against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,

“Let us burst their bonds apart

and cast away their cords from us.”

He who sits in the heavens laughs;

the Lord holds them in derision.

Then he will speak to them in his wrath,

and terrify them in his fury…. (Ps. 2:1–5)

 

God finds the rebellious, power-mad politicians amusing. History is littered with the defeat and destruction of political rulers with the audacity to unrepentantly defy God. God always wins. They always lose.

 

Evangelicals should indeed fear a mighty political ruler. They are simply fearing the wrong one.

 

Is it too late for them? Maybe not. In 2 Kings 19 we learn that Hezekiah, after discovering that Sennacherib wasn’t satisfied with God’s gold but lusted for even more of God’s inheritance, turned to the Lord in great humility, and God executed a great deliverance to Judah as a result of his agonizing prayer.

 

It was the message of God’s prophet Isaiah to Hezekiah that gave him courage finally to rely on the Lord God and resist Sennacherib:

 

When the servants of King Hezekiah came to Isaiah, Isaiah said to them, “Say to your master, ‘Thus says the LORD: Do not be afraid because of the words that you have heard, with which the young men of the king of Assyria have reviled me. Behold, I will put a spirit in him, so that he shall hear a rumor and return to his own land, and I will make him fall by the sword in his own land.’” (vv. 5–7)

 

Brothers and sisters: we serve the sovereign God, the great God of heaven and earth, for the nations are a drop in the bucket” (Is. 40:15).

 

Trust God, not Trump. The Trumps of this world rise and fall. God alone — and his people— abide.

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