I was sitting in the living room after dinner watching what passes for news these days. A long-time family friend, who had been helping with the dishes, walked in, stood in the center of the throw rug in the center of the room, and placed a hand on her hip. She asked, “Are people suing the colleges yet?”
Our friend has always had a thing about professors. This has put me in a peculiar position over the years as I happen to be just that, a full-time humanities professor. I admit that this can be an embarrassing thing to admit. Humanities professors are often characterized as political activists of the worst sort. Our friend is fond of pointing out that too many professors, regardless of discipline, come off as condescending even when they have no other claim to fame than they managed to conform to the current academic orthodoxy. Today, this means they are in bed with left-wing ideologies. That I am of a conservative-ilk is neither here nor there. Most colleges and universities are dominated by leftists. This is nothing new.
“Why should they be sued this time?” I asked.
“For turning students into racists,” she replied matter-of-factly.
Staring into an abyss
I could see where it was headed, as we’d been down this road before. Critical race theory (CRT), linked to the Neo-Marxist Frankfurt School, has been slithering like the snakes on the scalp of Medusa through our education system for decades. Too many continue to avert their eyes from the monster for fear of being turned to stone in their tracks. Not me. CRT is a familiar topic in my house. It is also at the heart of what ails this country.
I imagine a lot of parents are talking about CRT. If not, they should be. As an offshoot of the Frankfurt School, which developed in the 1930s to produce a Neo-Marxist political philosophy influenced by Hegel, Nietzsche, Freud and others, it has chewed into the frame of American society, our education system, like a host of angry termites. A wide range of practitioners—Horkheimer, Adorno, Fromm, and Marcuse to name a few—applied the theory to gender studies, religion, and other areas of sociology and culture. They were troubled by the fact that Marxism ran into a dead end in Western Europe after WWII. Their conclusion, in large part, was the Protestant ethic. They were appalled and blamed it all, either directly or indirectly, on God.
Juggling competing versions of critical theory made the Frankfurt School a convoluted affair from the get-go. Its foundation was built on a bed of shifting sands and because of this ignored critical aspects of reality that undermined its basic premises. When you mix-and-match the likes of Nietzsche, Marx, Freud, and Hegel in an attempt to generate a coherent theory, what do you get? Incoherence and a mockery of reason that have been at the core of the movement since its beginning.
Unperturbed by the absurdities in its reductionist approach, however, critical theory is now employed by groups such as Black Lives Matter and other “anti-racists,” where all is reduced to the color of skin one happens to be born with. They are rather dull lot and so mimic tactics that have failed repeatedly in the past. Possibly their most innovative turn was to add the term “race” to “critical theory.” Vive la revolution! The basic premise of this tired movement is that the only way to combat discrimination, in this case racial discrimination, is by way of even more racial discrimination. In other words, their idea of a cure to the disease is to introduce a variation of the same pathogen.
This seems crazy until you realize they aren’t attempting to rid America of racism; they are looking to spread it. Why? Divide and conquer, the old Marxist stratagem. It’s that simple. And it’s not very clever, though proponents like to think it is. In fact, it’s boring. People all across the political spectrum are tuning-out the noise. But this is just what they want. Left to their own devices, they gain political power and seek a tyranny of the minority in which they will reign by terror.
“You’re absolutely right,” I said.
“What?” the family friend wasn’t accustomed to my agreeing with her so quickly.
“They’re right, too,” I added.
She stood looking at me.
“It’s time to quit denying it,” I continued. “Systemic racism exists. It’s in our schools, the government, the military, the CIA. It’s in our justice system. It’s everywhere.”
“Wait a minute. Aren’t you the one always saying that systemic racism is a myth?”
“I was wrong. It’s real”
“Yep. These American Marxists have been studying monsters for so long, they created their own. They’re the ones that unleashed racism and now it is systemic. Look around. White Fragility and Anti-racist trainings are government-sanctioned indoctrination camps that produce division and hatred. They go under varying titles, the current favorite being Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, the old DEI, because it sounds benign. Who could be against that?”
Our friend smiled. “It depends on what you mean by equity.”
“Exactly. Or diversity or inclusion. Good luck getting definitions. When asked, they’ll fall back to a default position claiming it all depends on context so there can be no stable definition. It’s all relative. Whoever is in charge can employ the terms as they see fit. Reason be damned.”
She nodded. “It’s all about power. They’re trying to make a reality out of ghosts from the past.”
It was my turn to nod. “More like demons. They want us to believe we live in a haunted house.”
“It really is getting bad,” said our friend. “These American Marxists, as you call them, don’t seem to believe in forgiving, only revenge. It’s like we’re regressing into the primordial muck.”
“Chaos,” I said, “that’s what they want.”
“They forgot something.”
“What?” I asked.
“Order arises out of chaos.”
“But what strange beast will slouch out of that muck?”
In 1983, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, in his acceptance speech for the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, observed, “More than half a century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: ‘Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.’” He went onto repeat the phrase. “Men have forgotten God,” numerous times during the speech. As it was, so it is.
I have been rereading Solzhenitsyn. His work is as relevant today as it was when he wrote it. As shown by the governmental targeting of churches during the COVID scare (SCOTUS has been pushing back), and ploys like the debunked 1619 Project that are designed to re-make American history in order to subvert America, in Solzhenitsyn’s speech we find a warning:
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. 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.
CRT may be less than original in its mode of hatred, in fact it is banal, but it is still evil. Hannah Arendt, in her case study Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, concluded that Eichmann, one of the major organizers of Hitler’s Final Solution, was not an amoral monster but, rather, merely shallow and clueless, a ‘joiner’, in the words of one contemporary interpreter of Arendt’s thesis: “he was a man who drifted into the Nazi Party, in search of purpose and direction, not out of deep ideological belief.” Evil favors bureaucratic collectivisms populated by shallow and misinformed joiners. A government that allows, even nurtures, an education system that promotes and idolizes mediocrity in it students signals a country ripe for destruction. That’s the aim of CRT: destruction of America.
When God is forgotten, or, at best, placed on the back burner in the shadows of consciousness, He becomes a vague notion, a testament void of conviction, “Yeah, sure, I believe in a higher power. Now pass the joint, lift a beer, and turn on the music.” This attitude, over time, creates a vacuum. Nature may abhor vacuums, but evil relishes them. Rioters looting stores in Minneapolis and Chicago are joiners, people adrift seeking to fill a void that is striving to devour them. They have been taught that hate, not love, will fill the chasm gnawing at the center of their being. This is the essence of evil: God Forgotten.
We must separate from CRT. The primary reason is that America is founded upon a Judeo-Christian ethic and the two cannot co-exist. This country was founded on belief in God. When God is forgotten, through a combination of neglect and lies, we are no longer America.
Founding Fathers and dirty dishes
“Okay,” said the family friend, “you’ve made your point, but what to do about it? Christianity is on the decline in the West and has been for decades. Young people are simply not interested in what they have been taught is an impossible fantasy invented by a people afraid of death. God is being forgotten in America, slowly and surely. Seeing a problem and solving it are two different things. What can one person do, or even a thousand?”
She was right. It’s like a bad day fly fishing when no matter what fly you cast, no fish rises.
“Good question,” I said after a moment’s pause. “I’m not sure how to answer.”
Vatican II, lauded by some and maligned by others, saw the problem clearly and sought to address it by applying the truth of Christ to modern life. One way of doing this is by bringing the Church Fathers into contemporary discourse. We might gain insight, for example, from reading Tertullian (155-220 AD), who has been called the “Father of Latin Christian Literature.” Tertullian argued that many people of his time hated Christians simply because they were ignorant of Christ. In the first chapter of his Apology, he asked, “For what is more unfair to hate a thing of which you know nothing?”
Though most people today do not actively hate Christ, or will not voice such a feeling publicly, far too many are indifferent to Christ and therefore know little to nothing about Christianity. As St. Maximilian Kolbe observed, “The most deadly poison of our times is indifference.” As in the hatred Tertullian’s time, people today are indifferent because they have been conditioned to be so.
“Maybe the best we can do,” I continued, “is to stand for truth.”
Our friend grimaced. “If you start talking about Jesus to a bunch of college kids, most of them will go glassy-eyed in the first minute. You know that. You’d alienate them more than they already are.”
“How do you know?” I asked.
“Have you tried it?”
She shrugged and looked at the floor. “I work in a grocery store. It wouldn’t be appropriate to give sermons to the customers.”
It was my turn to shrug. “Who said anything about sermons? I said we need to stand for truth. People act like they need to convince people about truth. They don’t. The truth is the truth whether people believe in it or not. It’s enough to uncover it in a world where others are doing their best to cover it up.”
Tertullian, in the same argument, wrote, “The proof of their ignorance is this, that those who once hated Christianity because they new nothing about it, no sooner come to know it then they lay down all at once their enmity. From being its haters, they become its disciples.”
“I wouldn’t know where to start,” said my friend.
“I don’t either, not really. Why not have some fun with it? Ask somebody in your grocery line if they believe that dinosaurs, gargantuan lizards with long, gnashing teeth, some of which could fly, once roamed the earth. Isn’t that outlandish? It’s crazy when you think about it, right? Then ask them if it isn’t it miraculous that anything exists at all, the sun and the moon, rocks and water? If they believe in dinosaurs, and there is plenty of evidence they existed, why is believing that Jesus once walked the earth and performed miracles such a leap? There’s ample evidence for that too. Ask which they think is more improbable, something out of nothing by chance or by creation. See what they have to say.”
“Some of them would say it’s not the same,” said our friend, “that bones from the earth and words from a book are different. What then? Wouldn’t they have a point?”
“How would they know about dinosaurs if not from words in books or movie scripts? How do they think the paleologists learned about them? Words. Communication. Tell them they might want to look into both sides before jumping to a conclusion on something this big. Leave it at that. Tell them what they owe, give them the receipt, and wish them luck. You wouldn’t want to hold up the line.”
“Some of them might complain to my manager.”
“Take the chance. Plant the seed. In some it might just take root. Whatever the case, you’ve stood for truth. If you cause people to wonder, some, maybe most of them, will realize it’s hard to believe that all the problems in the world can be reduced to the color of one’s skin. The universe is too big for that. Humans are too complex.”
“Philosophy begins in wonder,” blurted my friend. “Who said that?”
“I think it was Aristotle. He might have added, ‘as does the love of God.’”
Our friend paused for a moment and smiled. “Where are my manners? I abandoned that mess in the kitchen to your lovely wife.”
“Thanks for helping. We made quite a mess of things in there.”
She removed her hand from her hip, turned around, and walked to the kitchen.
I stood and followed her. The trashcan was overflowing last I looked. Time to take it out.
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