“Wherever politics tries to be redemptive, it is promising too much. Where it wishes to do the work of God, it becomes not divine, but demonic.” — Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Truth and Tolerance (Ignatius Press, 2004), 116.
On secular religion
That the Woke Movement has become a secular religion is obvious to some and intuited by most. The Church of Woke, in its rapid ascendency, jettisoned reason to lighten the load on its chosen vessel of Sola Fide. In a blasphemous turn, God became the flotsam in Sola Fide’s wake. Wokeness, in its institutional guise of Black Lives Matter and long entrenched in our university system, is now militantly secular. Secularism, by definition, has no basis in spiritual or religious life. As such, it spurns metaphysics because the pursuit of “such nonsense” inevitably leads to contemplation of the divine.
To who or what might the congregation of the Church of Woke, then, devoid of both reason and revelation, profess their faith?
Some of the most influential adherents of Wokeness—academics, politicians, journalists, and entrenched bureaucrats—are extremely cynical. This is evinced by the sheer amount of cognitive dissonance necessary to maintain the Orwellian Newspeak now common in the 24/7 Woke news cycle where all is politicized. A politic that has severed ties from both reason and revelation can have faith in only one thing: earthly power. If the movement can seize the lion’s share of this power (by whatever means available), they will be in a position to redeem what has hitherto proved irredeemable: human society. They intend to create a utopia worthy of Hobbes’ Leviathan. Move over Marx, Stalin, Hitler, Chairman Mao, and Pol Pot—this time it’s really going to work!
In order to achieve this ever-elusive utopia, the proponents of Wokeness must not only ignore the transcendent inherent in our founding documents, they must get rid of it. Though some, such as Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden (who both claim to be Catholic), pay lip service to the transcendent in order to expand their base and establish a moral advantage, in the next sentence they might advocate abortion or defy another primary tenet of natural law. When cognitive dissonance such as this becomes the modus operandi of the Woke, it is grounded upon a deep-seated conviction that reduces the concept of “human” to a technical term. The human, stripped of essence, can then be manipulated by Woke social engineers playing the part of a Deus mortalis. These mortal gods rule with an iron fist from thrones of confusion housed in the Castle of Dissonance.
But what about the young people, those marching through the streets in inebriated Wokeness, some waving Black Lives Matter flags in righteous anger, others trembling with tears of genuine sorrow, and still others blind with rage and bent on the destruction of Western civilization? The passion of these young people is real; you can see it in their eyes. What’s more, you can hear it in their voices, if you care to listen. And listen we must if we hope to understand how they have come to so firmly believe in such glaring falsehoods. Misguided as they are, they deserve our understanding. Shutting them out runs the risk of widening the chasm to the point where voices no longer carry and we are incapable of communication. The impossibility of communication, where Logos is not only silent but extinct, would be Hell. We cannot allow Logos, upon which all communication depends, to be cancelled.
I am trying to listen. I have been reading essays for a graduate writing class this week. One of the papers was written by a student (I’ll call the writer Karl, a White, 40-something graduate student) who, like me, grew up in the Rocky Mountain West among poor, uneducated, colorful characters. In a fictional work, Karl’s essay might be likened to a Western rendition of a Carson McCullers story. But this was not a work of fiction. It was a confessional piece, a pouring over of past sins real and imagined, a crying out for a forgiveness that can never come.
It was an essay about Karl’s journey from being born a racist to becoming a vehement antiracist. I needed to be sure I understood what Karl was attempting to convey by the use of the term “antiracism.” In an internet search for purposes of clarification, I ran across several mentions of the 2019 book titled How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X Kendi. I had never heard of Kendi before reading Karl’s paper. What I found was shocking. The premise of the New York Times bestseller is founded on an elementary logical fallacy that collapses Kendi’s argument from the get-go. Maybe this is why Karl’s essay, from a philosophical reading, made no sense.
The essay, overall, was well-written and engaging in that I never could quite figure out why Karl felt like such a miscreant for living an interesting life filled with beauty, violence, temptation, sin, joy, and sorrow. Isn’t that the stuff of human life? There were some unsavory characters in the tale who were either bigots or racists. Karl was guilty of using language that would horrify any school teacher cultivated in public university to be morally and intellectually above such filth. For the most part, however (and here I speak from personal experience), it was kid stuff. Karl had cataloged awkward moments where many youths veer off-track onto a siderail and must then ride a bullet train into the dark. In most instances, the kids return to the light at tunnel’s end and learn from their mistakes. But Karl never came out of the tunnel. I was waiting for the reveal as to why.
Maybe if I understood antiracism a bit better the essay would make sense. I resumed my search. The Guardian was clear in its take on How to Be an Antiracist:
Kendi’s argument is brilliantly simple. An idea, action or policy is either racist – that is, contributing to a history that regards and treats different races as inherently unequal – or it is antiracist, because it is trying to dismantle that history. There is nothing in between.
I have to agree that the argument is simple—as in simple-minded. Kendi wastes no time in revealing the premise of his argument as a textbook logical fallacy most first-year philosophy students would spot at a glance. The premise of the argument is based on a false dilemma, an either/or demand where other options exist. The Guardian reviewer goes on to paraphrase Kendi: “Everyone says they are not racist. Few actively self-identity as ‘antiracist.’” If someone asked me if I was a racist, I would answer, “I consider individuals according to their character.” Would such an answer garner the label of racist or antiracist? Neither? Nor?
The either/or fallacy is simple at its best, insidious at its worst. Karl, a graduate student with an undergraduate degree in philosophy (from state university far, far, away) fell for it. The question is, “How could this happen?”
Another bestseller currently adopted by corporate and government training circles, Robin DiAngelo’s 2018 best-selling White Fragility, provides further clues to Karl’s despair. Matt Taibbi, the well-known liberal writer, captures the book’s message:
White Fragility has a simple message: there is no such thing as a universal human experience, and we are defined not by our individual personalities or moral choices, but only by our racial category. […]
DiAngelo instructs us there is nothing to be done here, except “strive to be less white.” To deny this theory, or to have the effrontery to sneak away from the tedium of DiAngelo’s lecturing – what she describes as “leaving the stress-inducing situation” – is to affirm her conception of white supremacy. This intellectual equivalent of the “ordeal by water” (if you float, you’re a witch) is orthodoxy across much of academia.
The last sentence proved to be the catalyst for my epiphany regarding Karl’s essay: Karl found a calling for incurable guilt in a college course. The turning point in Karl’s essay, the reveal I had been searching for, was hiding in plain sight. As an undergraduate, Karl had enrolled in a class titled “The Philosophy of Race.” The professor of the class convinced Karl, in the course of a single semester, that Karl was evil because Karl was White. In embracing the burden without complaint, Karl was awarded a distinguished service sticker. In accepting the prize, Karl was able to claim the title of “The Greatest Victim of All.” By burrowing to the bottom, Karl was back on top.
In a culture that peddles victimhood as moral excellence, Karl has become the ultimate martyr, a victim of Western Civilization personified in none other than Karl. The unapproachable Other that Karl can never fully fathom (the God which forgives but we can never fully understand) is for Karl human beings of a color other than White. The multitude of minority victims tortured and spit out by the monster named Western Civilization, however, have to be held at arm’s length, for Karl desires no forgiveness. If Karl was to be forgiven for the sins of Western Civilization, Karl could no longer lay claim to the title of “The Greatest Victim of All.” Nice work, Professor! Cancel Logos one student at a time!
Master or Slave?
Nietzsche’s theory of master and slave morality posits that slaves resent their masters (no real insight here) and over the course of time these resentments gestate into hatred. The transformation comes when the hatred, like the small white circle in the black half of the standard yin yang symbol (Taiji), gains enough momentum to transfigure the slaves into masters; the white overcomes the black as the black overcomes the white in the other half of the circle in a perpetual cycle of master and slave transformation. Karl, made to believe that Karl was master, became slave to Karl’s guilt.
But there is more at play. Nietzsche’s scheme fails to take into account the empty circle placed in the center of the ancient Taiji symbol (it rarely is depicted in contemporary renditions, i.e. the Forgotten God of the Woke). The empty circle represents the Absolute. This is the metaphysics that secularists necessarily ignore, the same metaphysics that lead to the contemplation of God. To recognize or even intuit the Absolute would jeopardize human absoluteness (never mind the oxymoron).
The Absolute, for the secularist, must be brought down to earth and broken. The immortal Other then becomes a mortal human slave to the human master who broke them. These are the masters who have created morality, and the world, as they saw fit (so the story goes), the Masters of Western Civilization. The Woke, buying into the Nietzschean scheme, realize the slaves must eventually overthrow the masters. In an attempt to manipulate the process, to control the outcome and position themselves as masters-to-be, the Church of Woke molds its members into ultimate victims. In a mad dash for the pit of despair, they fail to realize that the Nietzschean project is nothing more than a hatred of the Absolute which is God, nihilism disguised as creative force. They fail to understand that the scheme is untenable and doomed to fail.
Incubators of hate
That many of the courses offered in our universities have become incubators of hate is obvious to insiders and is becoming clear to Western society at large. This brand of hatred is nothing new. It played itself out in the real-world in more than one grisly theatre in the twentieth-century. Civilization has always been a violent affair and, in a fallen world, dreams of utopia, of heaven on earth, transmogrify into nightmares of reality. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who survived the nightmare of the real, drawing on one of the greatest Christian writers ever to live, put it best:
It was Dostoevsky, once again, who drew from the French Revolution and its seeming hatred of the Church the lesson that “revolution must necessarily begin with atheism.” That is absolutely true.
That Karl has been brainwashed by his Woke professors is clear. Woke professors are now minion. Logos in the full sense of the term has been sidelined in the unhallowed halls of the academy. It is being erased outside the academy as well. One example of this is the growing number of required corporate and government trainings based on White Fragility. These trainings can be likened to soft versions of Chinese re-education camps where an attempt is made to reprogram through social engineering that which cannot be reprogrammed: the human longing for the Absolute.
Solzhenitsyn went on to say:
But the world had never before known a godlessness as organized, militarized, and tenaciously malevolent as that practiced by Marxism. Within the philosophical system of Marx and Lenin, and at the heart of their psychology, hatred of God is the principal driving force, more fundamental than all their political and economic pretensions.
We are now witnessing a glut of economic and political pretensions. Throw into the mix a virulently vacuous use of the term “racist,” and we begin the emotional descent into a tribalism that can only lead to chaos. Chaos, when the smoke clears and the blood has been washed off the streets, has been historically replaced by totalitarian regimes. And so it begins…again.
Time to get real … again
What can be done to stave of this blasphemous madness? It is high time to get real. Real in the tradition of Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas. This brand of Realism provides a stable foundation on which all humans can thrive. We must employ the wisdom of the past to recognize our sins, both mortal and venial, in an attempt to tune-in to contemporary rhythms of Logos. We must eliminate sophistry from education and return to the pursuit of the same Truth for which both Socrates and Jesus sacrificed themselves.
The basic premise that Reality exists independent of human perception might be a good place to start. But it might be a hard sell. Admitting that each individual exists inside reality and that reality is not conjured inside each individual mind would require abdicating our status as reality-gods. This might lead to the question of what, then, created reality, if not humans? Nothing? God? This is the question students must consider in depth if they seek to be educated rather than indoctrinated. It is the question on which each individual human life turns. The current system has swept the question under the rug in an attempt to create a world that has forgotten God. We are just beginning to reap the whirlwind of such a world…once more and again. Beware the Master of Victims.
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Ive been watching some BBC videos on George Orwell and his perspective on these kinds of power struggles is really relevant today.
Everyone quotes Orwell but I don’t know how many have actually read his works or learned about his life.
I’m from the UK and I studied both Animal Farm and 1984 at school. Both are on my bookshelves over 40 years later. I re-read 1984 at least twice a year with increasing horror. Orwell was spot on in so many respects. I beg anyone reading this to lay aside any issues regarding his politics (he was a socialist) and focus on what both these books are trying to say. Your lives will never be the same.
Within a bubble that excludes the Logos, today’s closed loop destruction of “racism” and “anti-racism” finds historical precedent in the history of Logos-free Islam…dar al-Islam (the House of Islam) and dar al-Harb (the House of War).
Early Islam sometimes worked to understand allegorically its many descriptions of a God (READ rainbow coalition) who stands above all else. Al-Ghazali (1058-1111), the greatest theologian of Islam, wrote against any such opening toward natural philosophy in a work entitled the “Destruction of Philosophy.” And then in the back-and-forth sequence came the “Destruction of the Destruction” by Ibn Rushd (also known as Averroes and an influence on Thomas Aquinas).
But Ibn Rushd’s thoughtful work was followed by the “Destruction of the Destruction of the Destruction” by Hodia Zada (d. 1487), who at the command of Mohammed II again wrote against philosophical inquiry. This following the successful siege of Constantinople in 1453. With this historic victory over Christianity, Islam (READ Woke) had no need for philosophy. Muslim ideology was fully vindicated once again by the direct action of Allah (READ mobs) in history.
So, on our streets of Woke, we have nothing more interesting than Logos-free mimicry in a new idiom: the “religion” of torched cars, graffiti, feces on sidewalks, and smash-and-dash window shopping—-and very unwittingly, “pluralism” of equivalent religions!
Excellent precedent, Peter. The Logos-free forces have been around a long time.
A study of literature, and you will see up until the 18th century, it was unanimous in Western thought that there had to exist universal truths. The founding fathers and the French revolutionists were clear about that in their founding documents. But after the Romantics and Marx, this all falls down and everyone becomes individualized, master vs slave. I am glad my undergrad professors taught me this.
A most superb and thoughtful article by Professor Gist. Perhaps not intended to provide any support for any aspect of the protests, one short declaration by Professor Gist caught my eye because I still see too many people who understand that the organization and mission of the organization Black Lives Matter is Marxist and anti-God to its core, but at the same time they believe it is just fine to support and promote the unjust slogan with the words ‘black lives matter’.
Gist writes…”some waving Black Lives Matter flags in righteous anger”….
This is where I part company with all of the protesters and rioters. Their anger is not righteous because it is based on a fundamental lie as I have written in many places, and I do so again to try to further make clear that when an otherwise benign phrase is converted into a false and unjust slogan, that slogan and all who promote the slogan’s narrative must be rejected.
Indeed, the phrase ‘black lives matter’ when it is used as a slogan in protests and riots is not nearly as benign as many people ignorantly claim and/or believe it to be. Why? Because the primary/basic interpretation insisted upon by those who promote the slogan falsely maintains that black lives are abused and killed in large numbers and/or too often by police officers and white racists, and white people en masse and the legal system do not really care when these particular black lives are abused or destroyed. In this regard, then, the slogan means basically this: ‘Hey, white people and legal authorities! Stop ignoring and not caring about the ongoing slaughter and abuse of black people by racist police officers, the legal system, and white racists in general. Black lives matter, you immoral racists.’
However, this is an egregiously false and unjust narrative that is not backed up by any objective data and other facts about such killings and abuse that the protesters and rioters and fellow travelers intentionally ignore while also declaring that they want justice as they robotically chant a call for immoral violence in the form of ‘no justice, no peace’, but they refuse to act justly toward police officers and white people in general. As such, they either participate in immoral violence or encourage it from others, all the while pushing false narratives to support their actions.
Accordingly, anybody who supports the ‘black lives matter’ slogan (The hideously immoral, Marxist organization with the same name is of course even worse in many ways.) is intentionally or unintentionally guilty of adopting a bigoted narrative toward white people, the legal system, and police officers based on the fundamental lie at the heart of the slogan.
Among many possible sources of valuable information, I recommend a few very short, freely available online videos (~5 minutes) that clearly expose the lie behind the false police brutality narrative and widespread racism narrative behind the ‘black lives matter’ slogan and movement, and they do this by presenting objective facts and data that can be easily checked and confirmed. For instance, see the video by H. MacDonald entitled “Are the Police Racist?” After that, try another short video by Larry Elder entitled “The Ferguson Lie.” This short video conclusively demonstrates that the rise of “Black Lives Matter” protests and rioting that followed the Ferguson incident is based on yet another lie.
In the meantime, recognize that the slogan ‘black lives matter’ fundamentally represents a racist narrative that wrongly accuses others of being bigoted toward black people. It should not be seen as expressing anything that can be agreed with because of its inherent immorality in its basic interpretation. And if you wish to test this claim, simply respond to anybody who chants ‘black lives matter’ as part of a protest with the highly moral ‘all lives matter’ declaration that does express a legitimate sentiment, and if you are not accused of being racist and dismissed or accosted, you will be quickly told what ‘black lives matter’ really means, and then you will be treated to the bigoted and false narrative set forth above while also being told that ‘all lives matter’ misses the point and is also racist because it refuses to acknowledge the “real message” of ‘black lives matter.’
Bravo. I also agree that this narrative of Black suppression in this day and age is FAKE. I am white and grew up lower middle class in a blue state.I wore hand me down clothing as did my white friends and none of us felt especially “privileged”. Had anyone suggested that to me I would have doubted their sanity. I got where I am today because of my own hard work, getting my first minimum wage job at age 16. Segregated neighborhoods were still the norm when I was a teen in the late 60’s and early 70’s and I met my first black friends in my Catholic high school. None of us in the high school had a problem with this new racial mix. We all got along. Have things improved hugely for the black community in the last 50 years? Yes, indeed they have, deservedly so. Blacks now go to the same colleges, have the same govt and private industry jobs, are doctors, lawyers, executives. Intermarriage is up and many whites now have persons of color in their own families. Its hard to be a bigot under those circumstances. Statistics show that FEW people of any color are killed by police each year. Indeed most of us know that most blacks are shot to death by other blacks, yet that fact is resolutely ignored as the media and the left continue to focus on alleged police brutality and white racism. Personally I am tired of being lectured on “suppression” and white racism by black multi-millionaire actors, sport figures and politicians. Many of them have earned their millions because of a white fan base. I think they must forget that fact. I do think its too bad that anyone who succeeds in America is blind to the opportunity given to them by the country, which is often NOT available elsewhere. And I find the attempts to re-write American history as founded on racism as a primary motivation to be despicable. I have a similar lack of tolerance for those who judge past American historical figures by ONE aspect of their lives, while ignoring the great good they may have otherwise accomplished for ALL Americans. Anyone expecting me to falsely denigrate the country or apologize for my own skin color will be waiting until hell freezes over.
I sometimes try to show the futility of the whole woke movement with regard to black lives matter by posting that “black cat lives matter!” Although it’s meant to be a humorous put-down, many of these humourless lefties take offence.
This was a very informative piece that had me riveted in that Gist pieced together historical philosophy and its clear embrace of good vs. evil, yin vs. yang, master vs. slave, and applied that enlightened thinking to the problems of our age. One of the problems in today’s society, which is clearly again being ravaged, is that the “Masters” have incredible tools at their disposal that make their creation of confusion and the undermining of individual discernment extremely efficient (and effective). I hope this author will continue to expose the problems of our age through a very insightful basis of historical/philosophical knowledge and a willingness to offer solutions.
Thank you Dr. Gist. Funny that you mentioned Dostoevsky because in reading of the account of Karl I was thinking how self-absorbed he was (is) just like Raskolnikov.
rather then rewriting a one page statement I titled ‘the yin yang interplay’, I wrote many years ago, I ask you for an email address to send it to,, it offers my understanding of the framework this article ‘master of victims … truth’ sets forth . from , Paul J.S. Beaubien
Secular Humanism to its logical end
“The professor of the class convinced Karl that Karl was evil because Karl was white.”
So ALL of us white folks are evil – inherently so – we are BORN that way. There is nothing we can do about it, so we are sentenced to a perpetual guilt trip, meaning – among other things – that there can NEVER be a real conversation about race. No thanks.
MLK Jr. once said “I have a dream that the day will come when my children are judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
That day is here and has been for some time now. In a supreme irony we white folks are being judged by the color of our skin by those whom we judge by the content of their character, and it ain’t pretty.
Thanks Jack, good article, let’s reflect in the quote of our Pope Benedict XVI : “Wherever politics tries to be redemptive, it is promising too much. Where it wishes to do the work of God, it becomes not divine, but demonic.” That is exactly what “woke movement” is. First, it appears to articulate forces with different objectives, but they converge for now, “anti-racists” BLM, LGTBs, radical “squad” related people, middle class marxists, anarchists, and even people like the white student Karl, “honest anti-racist”, probably brainwashed. Second, the previous government strengthened particular political forces , like never before in the history, redefining what is a family, marriage between one and one woman. Something that in broader context , it actually represents an advance and consolidation of radical feminism forces that oppose the right to life of the unborn, but it goes further. Third, even during this government, as some sort of reminder that the consequences of not preaching the truth and good theology for this time, the redefinitions of our existence continue , this time, what is a man and a woman, not as biology says, but as one wants it. Fourth, as society, the redefinition of such fundamental truths of our existence as human beings and our inability to stop these forces by continually defending our faith, is at the root of the problems of the Church and society. The woke movement does not want only a more emphasis of the church in social justice or antiracism, that is only the beginning, they have already announced for decades their “pride to sin” and that they are “in the right side of the history”. They want to abolish God. Fifth, let’s be aware that when the woke movement protest in the streets for their “rights”, they seem not to be afraid of the covid 19 infection that likely will suffer, they do that as if they had to “sacrifice” for a “greater good” as “martyrs ” do. They are unafraid and proud children of the darkness who try to “liberate” us, promising a “redemptive society ” without racism, or discrimination. Unfortunately, when no one is strongly enough defending truths that are worth it to fight and suffer for, more “honest anti-racist” people may believe in woke ideologies. Sixth, let’s not be naïve, they are not interested in fair public discussions to arrive at reasonable, civilized consensus for the good of all. At this point, they may not even be interested in the traditional result of the elections. If they believe what they say, and Tweeter has a sample of it, and surely they do otherwise they would not be in the streets in the mid of a pandemic, then , they, according to themselves would have the “right” to use any means to protect their “rights”. Seventh, such are the forces that the Church confront today, they not only use any means to defend their “rights” but also they have not stopped trying to expand them even more, like with the “Equality Act”, which includes broader redefinitions. They know that the best defense is the attack, and they have already had successful “social engineering” experiences before. It is good somehow, however, they were never able to publicly defend their “truth” , “rights” or ideas, plus, they appear not to have a leader able to . But, we do. That’s why I dont understand why the Church leaders do not preach the doctrine, but try to please the woke movement. It is not the way. The first to do is not allowing that our core beliefs be “ settled laws” by the Court nor that the theology of St John Paul II be cancelled out in seminaries or parishes. And, in political elections vote for the candidate that is the “less of the two evils” as St John Paul II exhorted us.
Professor Gist’s perceptive article offers an insight into the contribution of the PC-Woke-BLM movement to the deterioration of Academe and its production of ill-trained students. I too have witnessed the hapless Karls of the world pine for meaningless forgiveness. Are students so empty? Have our educational institutions failed us so entirely? In addition, the consequences of ignoring “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” explains the pervasion of this value-less zeitgeist into governmental and corporate environments. Professor Gist’s voice calls for a return to the substantive thinking inherent in Western Civilization. Were it not for the sensible search of a Higher Good, man would consider himself the premier being of the universe. God help us!
Just when I think they can’t get any dumber, they – prove me wrong – again.
And yet – again.
I get SO tired of saying that.