Uncategorized

Cultural Marxism, Simply Explained

I am increasingly using the expression “Cultural Marxism,” and it occurred to me that I shouldn’t simply assume readers and listeners know what it means. I will try here as simply and briefly as I can to explain the basics. If you have questions, please pose them in the comments section or on Facebook.

Karl Marx, Leon Trotsky and V. I. Lenin saw the basis of all human existence as economic. This was the social and political philosophy of the old Soviet Union. It is called classical or economic Marxism. This form of Marxism is not nearly as popular today (except in North Korea). By contrast, you might have heard of Marxists like Gramsci, Lukács, Sartre, and Marcuse. They are among the first cultural Marxists. Their view of Marxism was designed to appeal to and succeed in Western societies. They knew that economic Marxism would likely not win in the West. (This is why their revision is sometimes called Western Marxism.) For one thing, they doubted that the working class would rise up in violent revolution as they did in Russia in 1917; the workers in the West were mostly satisfied with life most of the time. To win in the West, you needed a Marxism suited to the West, one that took into account Western ways of thinking. Freedom, liberty, and equality, watchwords of the West, were ideas they could commandeer to win the day. They would engage in the “long march through the institutions,” words wrongly attributed to Gramsci but rightly describing the strategy of cultural Marxism. They would reinvent the meaning of liberty, freedom, and equality to seduce Westerners and gradually capture their culture.

Human Liberation

Unlike the original Marxists, they held that humanity’s main problem isn’t economic. It’s that society’s ideas and institutions prevent us from fulfilling the Good Life. What is the Good Life? It is being able to be exactly what we want to be, to live exactly as we want to live — maximum autonomy. Every individual should be an artist, but in a very basic and profound sense. Every person should be able to paint his own life, his own meaning, his own reality. The world should be the canvas on which the person paints himself.

61YVpu5O1hL._SX336_BO1,204,203,200_Unfortunately, our society conspires to restrict our autonomy. Traditional institutions like the family and church and business command our allegiance. Husbands lead families, parents direct children, clergy disciple laity, employers make demands of employees. This means they crimp our autonomy. It really means these institutions crimp our autonomy. Therefore, we live artificial, unreal, and unhappy lives to conform to these cultural institutions and expectations. We are alienated from our “true selves.” Marxists have always been very concerned about liberating the true, real self from the cultural environment suppressing it. That self might be atheistic, exhibitionist, homosexual, transgendered, bestial, or solitary; but in whatever form it takes, that self meets resistance in traditional culture. To be truly free, traditional culture must be marginalized or crushed.

An extended metaphor might help. Imagine thousands of tiny seeds, full of flourishing, fruitful potential, but they can never fulfill that potential because they’re submerged beneath hard, frozen, nearly impenetrable soil. Imagine further a sympathetic farmer who comes with a massive plow and cracks the soil and waters and fertilizes it so that the seeds can finally sprout upward.

The seeds in this metaphor are humans as we enter the world. But we’re stifled by the hard, frozen soil, which won’t allow us to unleash the potential of our real selves. That soil is our society, especially the chief cultural institutions like the family and church and business.  We should be free to sprout and grow upward and exhibit to the world all of our autonomous beauty. What we need is a plow to break up this hard soil and get it out of the way.

In our metaphor, that plow is the state. This is why cultural Marxists are statists. It’s not because they simply love power. They want state power so they can destroy traditional authority, and especially Christianity, which justifies and produces that authority. For cultural Marxists, what has been called liberty in the West, defined as absence of political coercion, becomes true liberation, the imposition of political coercion to guarantee human autonomy. Liberation becomes liberty from the institutions that our society grants the liberty to enslave us. The state must pulverize every barrier to our true selves.

Class Consciousness

How do cultural Marxists instigate this liberation? How do they get the state involved in their liberation crusade? Mainly by divvying up people into different classes and fomenting conflict, claiming that all classes must fight for equality. This is called class consciousness. In Marx’s day, the oppressors were the bourgeoisie (elites, business owners), and the oppressed were the proletariat (employees, “wage slaves”), who demanded equality. By equality, the cultural Marxists do not mean equality of condition — that is, they don’t mean everybody must play by the same rules. Rather, they believe in equality of results — the rules must be bent to make everybody get the same things. Today class consciousness is known as “identity politics,” and the battling classes are expanded — men versus women, whites and Asians versus blacks and/or Hispanics, children versus parents, millennials versus the middle aged, wealthy versus poor and “middle class,” cosmopolitans versus nationalists, and other binary categories. Cultural Marxists portray one pole of the binary (women, homosexuals, millennials, blacks) as oppressed, and demand that the state liberate them from their oppressors. Oppression here almost never means literal enslavement, abuse, or assault. Rather, it means disrespect, disapproval, or social inequality. If, for example, homosexuals are not as respected as heterosexuals, they are oppressed and deserve state-coerced liberation. This is also where the new campus speech codes come from. The newly defined oppressed (millennials) are entitled not to be offended by words from the oppressing class (older whites, teachers, men).

Liberation becomes liberty from the institutions that our society grants the liberty to enslave us.

Screen-Shot-2016-04-06-at-11.56.02-AM.sized-770x415xcOver time, this human liberation sees even nature itself as an oppressor. Like the Gnostics of old, creation is evil and a barrier to the good life. Male or female body parts are oppressive. “Sex-reassignment surgery” must become “gender-affirmation surgery.” A man becomes a woman who then becomes a dragon. This is an extreme case but not an inconsistent one. It’s simply the latest example of liberation, and, unless this grand social march is arrested, we should not expect the dragonization of man to be the most extreme example of liberation in the future.

Progress by Conflict

It is this class conflict that produces cultural progress. Marxists have always believed that life is everywhere filled with opposing forces, and the collision of these forces brings a higher, better reality. Today’s liberals like to be known as “progressives,” and the progress they want is human liberation ( = autonomy). That progress comes about only by conflict. So conflict is a good thing, and the elites should be fostering conflict everywhere. If you want a better society, you need to spread conflict to get there — unremitting conflict, violent if necessary. The objective of launching rallies and Twitter campaigns to challenge the “hegemony” (a favorite word of Gramsci) of men, parents, whites, straights, Asians, and Wall Street is to create a conflict that ends in the liberation of the oppressed classes and a better world, all (except the previous oppressors, who will be dispossessed and de-privileged) enjoying the Good Life.

And all led, of course, by the cultural Marxists, magically at the very top of the egalitarian heap.

Standard
Uncategorized

Karl Marx Meets the Gospel Coalition

Both classical Marxism (Marx, Engels, Trotsky, Lenin) and cultural Marxism (Gramsci, Lukács, Sartre, and Marcuse) assert that social progress is the result of conflict between humans. Man is a product of nature, “a three-dimensional lump of flesh, blood, and bone,”[1] on which the iron laws of nature do their irresistible work. The difference between humanity and the rest of nature is that he is a toolmaker; he fashions tools for his survival and enjoyment within nature. Those tools can be anything from a primitive club to an advanced iPhone. For classical Marxists, the people who get control over the tools dominate those who do not control them. They even create ideas (“ideology”) to justify their domination and to pacify those whom they oppress. In Marx’s day, the oppressors were the bourgeoisie (elites, business owners), and the oppressed were the proletariat (employees, “wage slaves”). But since the law of history is on the side of the oppressed, who will eventually overthrow any oppression that keeps them alienated from “their true selves,” the days of bourgeoisie dominance are numbered. They will increasingly initiate conflict — unremitting conflict, violent if necessary — until the oppression stops. This is a feature of “dialectical materialism”: inherent imbalances at all levels in society mean that constant change and conflict are necessary. Conflict = progress. Because Marxists have commandeered the progressive agenda of liberalism in the last century, all leading progressives today revel in conflict. Fostering conflict is the name of the game.

 

Western Marxism

 

The cultural (Western) Marxists like György Lukács extended this philosophy to include noneconomic features, which generate groups: sex and race, for example. Oppression is everywhere. It is pervasive and systemic. The goal of the progressives, who are the best of us, of course, and therefore hating all oppression, is to stamp it out everywhere. Women must be liberated from men, children from parents, homosexuals from heterosexuals, blacks and Hispanics from whites and Asians, laity from clergy, students from teachers, the mentally “challenged” from the allegedly sane, and convicts from law-abiding citizens. Hierarchy itself is oppression, so war on hierarchy is a war for the Good Society.[2] This is the Marxist agenda.

 

Racial Conflict as Gospel Progress?

 

In the United States, with its tragic history of black slavery, the appeal to racial liberation is especially attractive. Christians are perhaps the most sensitive to the Marxist message because they know the Bible’s abomination of man-stealing (Ex. 21:16) and its teaching that in the gospel of Jesus Christ, race is vanquished by grace (Gal. 3:28). Antebellum slavery, like the slavery in Africa today, is reprehensible. Redressing the grievances of that massive sin is an agenda for which Christians should quickly line up.

 

Exploiting this vulnerability has long been a tactic of Marxists, for whom persistent social conflict, “permanent revolution” (Trotsky), is the mechanism of progress. Black pastor and member of the Gospel Coalition Thabiti Anyabwile (aka Ron Burns) ignited a firestorm when he wrote in an article commemorating Martin Luther King’s assassination:

 

I’m saying the entire [white?] society killed Dr. King. This society had been slowly killing him all along. … . My white neighbors and Christian brethren can start [repenting] by at least saying their parents and grandparents and this country are complicit in murdering a man who only preached love and justice. [emphasis original]

 

Pastor Anyabwile is a professed evangelical, but he puts into motion Lukács’ thesis that people must think in terms of “class consciousness.”[3] Today we call this “identity politics.” Martin Luther King, Jr., famously said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character,” but Pastor Anyabwile demands that that we judge people by the color of their skin. Because skin color (like creational sexuality) cannot be changed, it is a suitable subject for Marxism’s program of progress by conflict. The progress toward the Good Society can never end. There will always be oppressors to upend. Since neither whites nor blacks can change their skin, racial conflict will be part of the permanent revolution.

 

Inherent imbalances at all levels in society mean that constant change and conflict are necessary. Conflict = progress. Because Marxists have commandeered the progressive agenda of liberalism in the last century, all leading progressives today revel in conflict. Fostering conflict is the name of the game.

 

Pastor Anyabwile, rebutting those of his critics pointing to his cultural Marxism, reminds us that racism preceded Marx. How this assertion has any relevance whatsoever he does not explain. The issue is not that Marx invented race or racism (which has plagued human history as long as race has been around) but that Pastor Anyabwile exploits race in a manner consistent with cultural Marxism. He complains that racism is a unique sin among whites in that they refuse to confess it as sin. He trumpets:

 

I cannot think of a single particular sin people would encourage someone to avoid confessing except for the sin of racism…. There’s another reason we should be specific: the Bible is specific. Consider the places where the Bible gives us a catalogue of particular sins (Rom. 1:28-32; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; Gal. 5:19-21; and 1 Tim. 1:8-11). Why does the divinely inspired Word of God give us so many lists with such specificity? It’s not solely that we might conclude we are sinners in general but that we might also know what sins threaten our souls or our sanctification and repent of them specifically.

 

The Bible is truly clear in calling specific sins what they are, but interestingly, Pastor Anyabwile does not show us where the Bible specifically declares racism a sin. There is a good reason for this. The Bible doesn’t. That racism is a sin must (and should) be inferentially derived. Pride is a sin (Pr. 16:18; Rom. 1:30). Merriam-Webster defines racism as “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.” Racism fundamentally is a belief, not an act. It is rooted in pride, which is a grievous sin. It would have been helpful if Christians who (rightly) decry racism show why it is specifically a sin. The depth of this sin rests in pride. Pride, not the amount of melanin in human skin, is the culprit.

 

The gospel is a peace-creating message. It creates harmony among individuals, families, sexes, races, and nations. The gospel is a conflict-reducer, not a conflict-creator. In sharp contrast with Paul, however, Pastor Anyabwile employs race as a tool by which to perpetuate conflict.

 

Since racism is a belief, it is a sin of the heart, like lust or covetousness. It cannot be seen. It can only be objectively detected by others when manifested in one’s actions. Apartheid in South Africa was such a sinful manifestation. So is today’s post-apartheid state-sanctioned murder of white farmers by blacks. To call for repentance of the sin of racism is to call for a humble heart. That repentance can only be ascertained by changed (non-racist) actions.

 

The call by Pastor Anyabwile to white Christians to claim their “parents and grandparents and this country” were complicit in murdering MLK is so obviously ridiculous that we can only assume he was employing hyperbole for shock value. The Bible does teach collective guilt for ancestors’ sin but only among those who presently agree with that sin (Mt. 23:35), or who have not yet confessed ancestral sin for godless actions, like idolatry (2 Kin. 22). There are, to my knowledge, no examples in the Bible of a godly preacher’s assigning collective guilt for ideas or sins of the heart. This assignment is God’s province alone.

 

Racial Peace as Gospel Blessing

 

Assigning guilt to an entire class (like whites) by which to perpetuate conflict is a quintessentially Marxist technique. The biblical gospel, by contrast, creates peace (Col. 1:20–24), including peace among races:

 

Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands— that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. (Eph. 2:11–16)

 

The gospel is a peace-creating message. It creates harmony among individuals, families, sexes, races, and nations. The gospel is a conflict-reducer, not a conflict-creator. In sharp contrast with Paul, however, Pastor Anyabwile employs race as a tool by which to perpetuate conflict. He calls white Christians to repent of sin of the heart that he cannot possibly detect, and he blames their ancestors for complicity in a murder they obviously did not commit. He does this in the name of the gospel — The Gospel Coalition even.

 

It is not actually the gospel that Pastor Anyabwile is advocating. Rather, it is the gospel fused with dialectical materialism, the gospel of conflict. There is little hope that the conflict will end:

 

This is a sick society. And we kid ourselves if we think all the sickness gets healed just by time and rest. Racism, prejudice, hatred and bigotry is not a cold. It’s a cancer. It mutates. It metastasizes. And despite our protest and insistence otherwise, this sickness gets passed on in a kind of social hereditary action, sometimes unconsciously and unsuspected, sometimes systemically, and sometimes intentionally and virulently.

 

In short, Pastor Anyabwile holds out little hope in the power of the Gospel. The gospel abolishes (Paul’s language) racial enmity, “creat[ing] in [Jesus Christ] one new man.” Pastor Anyabwile declares that racial conflict is “a cancer. It mutates. It metastasizes”; but this conflict is precisely what the gospel will abolish. Stirring up racial conflict by recklessly and ridiculously suggesting that “[m]y white neighbors and Christian brethren can start [repenting] by at least saying their parents and grandparents and this country are complicit in murdering” MLK is the opposite of gospel peace making. If individuals are racists, they should indeed repent, but assuming an entire race is racist is itself a racialist interpretation of history championed by cultural Marxism.

 

That, too, is a sin worth repenting of.


[1] Isaiah Berlin, “The Philosophy of Karl Marx,” The Power of Ideas (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2002), 116.
[2] Kenneth R. Minogue, The Servile Mind (New York and London: Encounter, 2010), 296.
[3] Georg Lukács, History and Class Consciousness (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1968, 1971), 46–82.
Standard
Uncategorized

Reforming Only the Family and Church Won’t Suffice

We live in transformational times for the Christian faith. The last vestiges of Christian culture are waning. Until recent decades, Christianity shaped the West. This doesn’t mean all or even most people were Christian; it means that the basic Christian gospel and ethic had historically rooted society’s institutions, and were recognized by most people (including unbelievers) to do this. At worst, the West was “vaguely Christian” in most people’s minds.[1] All that has changed. Today, Christian businesses are assaulted for simply acting on biblical, family truth, which had been practiced freely in the U. S. for over 240 years. Church attendance is declining. Millennials reared in the faith are leaving it by many thousands; they are more likely to be “Social Justice Warriors” than soldiers for Jesus Christ. Same-sex “marriage” is increasingly accepted among evangelicals. The social elites embrace and impose Cultural Marxism.[2] This is the ideology that adapts Marx’s classical ideas to the West. Armed revolution won’t work here, but the “long march through the institutions” will — and has: All hierarchies are evil. Individual autonomy, guaranteed by an iron-clad state, is the highest good. The courts must be used not to lay down impartial legal decisions but to secure the “just society,” as interpreted by “progressive” dogma. The previously marginalized in society (women, homosexuals, criminals, the poor, racial minorities, children, the disabled) must be exalted and championed, and the previously exalted must be humiliated and brought low: Christians, white males, fathers, the wealthy, and intact traditional families.

Amid this apostasy, unprecedented in the U. S., older, devout Christians are at a loss. The world is shifting under their feet. The 2016 election of Donald Trump was a welcome respite for them, not because his life and language have been exemplary, but because he represented a bulwark against this tide of politically correct unbelief. They still feel beleaguered. What is the remedy? Many are calling for revival and reform in the church and family. This idea is understandable. The church is Christ’s body in the earth. The church is the custodian of orthodoxy (right belief).

 

Think of it this way. Almost everything Christians encounter when they leave the safe haven of the family and church is at war with almost everything they encounter within the family and church.

 

The church monopolizes the sacraments or ordinances. The church holds the earthly keys to the kingdom — who is a Christian and who isn’t. There is no Christianity, no Christian culture, without the church. The family is similar, and even more foundational than the church. The family is a creational norm. It was around before the Fall. Had the Fall never happened, there would have been a family, though not a church or state, at least not as we know them in God’s redemptive order. To preserve the family is to preserve God’s basic unit of human society. To lose the family is to lose the human building block of God’s created order.

But society is much larger than these institutions, and therefore the apostasy of today’s world is much larger. Reforming only the family and church won’t suffice. It’s necessary, but not sufficient. Think of it this way. Almost everything Christians encounter when they leave the safe haven of the family and church is at war with almost everything they encounter within the family and church. Family and church teach: “Put God first. Jesus is Lord. Obey the Bible. Trust God to provide. Sacrifice for others. Marriage is sacred. Sex is for marriage. Be careful of your words. There is a Final Judgment.” The surrounding culture teaches: “Put yourself first. You are lord. Obey your own impulses. You must make your own success happen. Your priorities are most important. Marriage is an informal, temporary arrangement. Sex is a malleable social construct. Say whatever you want whenever you want. You’ll never be required to give a final account for how you live on earth.” Of course, an anti-Christian worldview isn’t new. It’s been pervasive in other times and cultures. What is new in the West is that this secular worldview has consciously abandoned Christianity and Christian culture. In other words, what is historically unprecedented is a civilization that in sequence has consciously (1) embraced Christianity, (2) abandoned Christianity, and (3) embraced anti-Christianity. This is what is new: self-consciously anti-Christian culture. This is what devout Christians must contend with.

Because today’s secular culture is almost all-consuming, Christian young people are easy prey. It is a well-intentioned, self-assuring error to assume that if we can just get the church fired up for God and restore godliness to the family, we can restore a large number of devout Christians and Christian culture. A plethora of devout Christians require a cultural canopy of Christianity, which reinforces everywhere the most basic Christian belief: “Jesus is Lord!”It’s impossible for a virile Christianity to survive for long institutionally in such a hostile climate. Yes, devout individuals can. Noah, Moses, Daniel, the apostles, and the primitive Christians did. But since Christianity by its nature is a world-dominating faith, it suffers greatly when its cultural surroundings are not Christian. This is one chief reason that so many children reared in devout Christian families are drifting from Jesus Christ. The faith in which they were reared is an inherently cultural faith calculated by God himself to be reinforced in all of life. The radical disconnect between a God-loving family and church on the one hand and God-defying popular music and education and science and technology and art and architecture on the other creates spiritual schizophrenia.

Because today’s secular culture is almost all-consuming, Christian young people are easy prey.

Because today’s secular culture is almost all-consuming, Christian young people are easy prey. It is a well-intentioned, self-assuring error to assume that if we can just get the church fired up for God and restore godliness to the family, we can restore a large number of devout Christians and Christian culture. A plethora of devout Christians require a cultural canopy of Christianity, which reinforces everywhere the most basic Christian belief: “Jesus is Lord!”


[1] Francis A. Schaeffer, The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer (Westchester, Illinois: Crossway, 1982), 5:423.
[2] Roger Scruton, Fools, Frauds and Firebrands (London: Bloomsbury, 2015).
Standard
Uncategorized

Unbelief in the Guise of Prophetic Piety

Dear —–,

I agree with you, of course, and find little in this article to commend it. I do not reflect on the author’s sincere intentions. I also agree with much of his diagnosis, and his description of the church as prideful and prayerless, e.g.

But here are a couple things to consider. Why adopt the sinking of the Titanic as the church’s governing paradigm? Why not adopt as the paradigm a few frightened, and embattled Christians praying in an upper room after their Lord’s resurrection and just before the rapid dissemination of the gospel?

My greatest objection, though, is a severe verdict: diagnoses like these are suckled on unbelief. Do we believe the promises of the word of God that if His people truly repent and turn to Him, He will heal them? Do we believe in the power of prayer to shake not just individuals and families and churches but entire nations and civilizations? Do we believe that God uses fully surrendered men and women to reverse apostasy just when it seems at its apex?

The Bible does offer a theology of surrender: surrender entirely to God, and not to a depraved and apostate culture.

Let us live in the promises of the word of God, and not according to the circumstances, which we likely misinterpret.

Feel free to share this, my friend.

Much respect, in Him,

P. Andrew Sandlin, S.T.D.

Founder & President

Center for Cultural Leadership

Standard