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Banned Books: Pushing back against the new ideology

Throughout the country, great books and humanities programs are being shut down for their emphasis on the Western tradition.

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How would you know if you were being brainwashed? When something plainly false — contrary to common sense and right reason — is so constantly forced on you and you are not allowed to question it, it’s a good indication. This is the nature of ideology: imposing a position without truly establishing it or allowing it to be criticized. We have seen that something clearly opposed to the basics of scientific fact, such as the nature of sex as male and female, can be forced quickly upon American society through the influence of media and public education. And, perhaps not too surprisingly, even something as clear as 2+2=4 has been called into question by progressive educators, such as Dr. Rochelle Gutierrez, turning it into a sign of alleged oppression.

In our time, dystopian novels have become reality. George Orwell best described the use of ideology in modern political regimes through doublethink, newspeak, and thoughtcrime. In Nineteen Eighty-Four, the main character, Winston Smith, is coerced to accept that 2+2=5, showing his allegiance to ideology over reality. Orwell speaks of the way ideology gains power over the mind: “The Party is not interested in the overt act: the thought is all we care about. We do not merely destroy our enemies, we change them.” This domination does not broker any opposition: “It is intolerable . . .  that an erroneous thought should exist anywhere in the world, however secret and powerless it may be.” If the truth can circulate freely, then ideology will fail.

You might ask how the acceptance of ideology differs from accepting the mystery of faith, which requires our obedience to God. A key difference is that God’s revelation makes sense even while beyond reason. God does not shut down our thinking but wants us to ask questions and continue to come to know him and his creation throughout our lives. Faith cannot contradict reason because they both come from God, from his gifts of revelation and creation. You know you are facing ideology, however, when it refuses any discussion of contrary views. Catholics have been accused of hate for refusing to go along with the new ideology of human sexuality. This ideology claims to speak truly of the reality of human life, although it doesn’t add up, contradicting itself and the clear facts of science. The fight for the future focuses on speaking the truth. Without the ability to think, discuss, and read freely, it will be hard to respond to the ideological wave overwhelming us.

Throughout the country, however, great books and humanities programs are being shut down for their emphasis on the Western tradition. Cornell West, an African American philosopher at Harvard, writing with Jeremy Tate, speaks of the spiritual tragedy of one American university closing down its classics department:

Yet today, one of America’s greatest Black institutions, Howard University, is diminishing the light of wisdom and truth that inspired [Frederick] Douglass, [Martin Luther] King and countless other freedom fighters. . . . Academia’s continual campaign to disregard or neglect the classics is a sign of spiritual decay, moral decline and a deep intellectual narrowness running amok in American culture.

For West and Tate, cancelling the Western canon shuts down the central conversation of the pursuit of wisdom that touches every culture.

Canceling the pursuit of wisdom hits at the integrity of our culture itself, as Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, another dystopian novel, focused on saving books from the fire set on wiping them out, explains: “If you don’t want a man unhappy politically, don’t give him two sides to a question to worry him; give him one. Better yet, give him none.” Books proved hostile in this all-too-real futuristic American society portrayed by Bradbury, undermining the state of contended distraction provided by an omnipresent virtual reality. The fight for truth necessarily entails the books we read and teach.

In our current cancel culture, Catholics too are being silenced for speaking about reality. Amazon recently cancelled Ryan T. Anderson, who studied at Princeton and Notre Dame and now directs the Ethics and Public Policy Center, blocking the sale of its book on its platform for questioning transgender ideology. The book, When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Movement (Encounter Books, 2018), provides a well-researched and thought-out response to the movement overturning common sense and millennia of acquired wisdom.

Even more than that, Anderson shows how we are experimenting on our children, subjecting them to practices of hormone therapy and surgery that have not been proven safe or effective. Anderson provides evidence of ideology at work, through its coercive attempt to force us to accept what contradicts clear scientific evidence: “At the heart of the transgender moment are radical ideas about the human person — in particular, that people are what they claim to be regardless of contrary evidence” (29).

Anderson does not deny the need to help those who suffer from gender dysphoria, although the heart of the books focuses on whether or not we are willing to accept reality and to help others to do so. As Anderson explains,

determining reality is the heart of the matter, and here too we find contradictions … Is our gender biologically determined and immutable or self-created and changeable? … At the core of the ideology is the radical claim that feelings determine reality. From this idea come extreme demands for society to play along with subjective reality claims. Trans ideologues ignore contrary evidence and competing interests; they disparage alternative practices; and they aim to muffle skeptical voices and shut down disagreement. The movement has to keep patching and shoring up its beliefs, policing the faithful, coercing the heretics and punishing apostates, because as soon as its furious efforts flag for a moment or someone successfully stands up to it, the whole charade is exposed. That’s what happens when your dogmas are so contrary to obvious, basic, everyday truths.” (47-48)

Not only philosophers like Anderson, but many educators, doctors, scientists, and politicians have been cancelled for standing up to the blatant falsehoods of this ideology.

Does 2+2=5? Is a man a man and a woman a woman? No matter the effect of hormones and surgeries, every cell in the body points to the biological reality of sex, along with a myriad of other physical and emotional traits. Shutting down study and debate does not get to the heart of the matter, the truth of reality and the way to help those who suffer. The ideology does not truly focus on tolerance of others or creating reasonable accommodations, as it seeks to impose itself and coerce us. The reinterpretation of Title IX manifests an “Orwellian fiat” by which sex discrimination, meant to protect women, now becomes a means to discriminate against them: “The Women’s Liberation Front highlights the strange transformation of Title IX into a means to deny privacy, safety, education opportunity, and equality to women” (190). Anderson’s book provides an essential overview of the goals of the transgender movement and how to respond to it from a philosophical and scientific perspective. We should not allow the book to be cancelled!

The goal of this new ideology is not simply to accept and tolerate a particular position, but, as Orwell recognized, to change us. It constitutes an attempt to redefine what it means to be a human being and to change the way we think about reality. Anything standing in the way will be cancelled or even burned. The quick success of this movement, and other ideologies as well, should make us pause. Do we want our children to think freely and wisely or simply to conform to what is imposed on them without question?

As Catholics, we are called to think in conformity with faith and reason, upholding the truth, even when inconvenient. We are called to continue to form our own minds and accept the reality of how God made us and how he calls us into relationship with him, as the true source of overcoming suffering and difficulty. If you are uninformed and unable to judge rightly and logically, you are more likely to become prey to the new ideology, especially as enforced by government control and big business. We need Catholic freedom fighters, those willing, with charity, to stop the burning of the great ideas and the cancelling of our own faith.


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About Dr. R. Jared Staudt 13 Articles
R. Jared Staudt works in the Office of Evangelization and Family Life Ministries of the Archdiocese of Denver. He earned his BA and MA in Catholic Studies at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN and his PhD in Systematic Theology from Ave Maria University in Florida. Staudt served previously as a director of religious education in two parishes, taught at the Augustine Institute and the University of Mary, and served as co-editor of the theological journal Nova et Vetera. He and his wife Anne have six children and he is a Benedictine oblate.

13 Comments

  1. Thank you, Dr. R. Jared Staudt. We must all be willing to stand for truth in our limited circle of human contacts as well as in the larger society when we are able. Mother Teresa was correct when she said that we do little things with great love. Standing up for God where we are is the most important activity in which we can engage. Thanks, again, for this reminder!

  2. I struggle with the idea a person can decide if they are a man or a woman. What’s next, a person deciding if they are a human or a horse? Obviously, we must spend our time and resources spreading the Good News of God’s Kingdom and get these people to convert to Christianity. The Church is the answer and using the federal government is not the answer.

  3. Good article. Be alert—speak up—-speak out for the truth. Don’t place a leaf in front of your mouth when the truth needs to be spoken—all in charity, of course.

  4. Mark Steyn:
    “The ruling class tries to keep racial and other forms of division stirred up in our politics so that we don’t notice the class protection racket they are running. Look at that guy from Twitter, Jack Dorsey, who wears a beard like he’s playing the hobo in Charlie Chaplin silent film. Our elites have become incredibly good at theater.” See:

    https://imprimis.hillsdale.edu/
    Sadly many of our church leader are right in lock-step.

  5. Dystopia is commonly perceived as antithetical to what should be by those who find oppression in the reality of natural law. Example, “Even something as clear as 2+2=4 has been called into question by progressive educators, such as Dr Rochelle Gutierrez, turning it into a sign of alleged oppression” (Dr Staudt). Now there is an anomaly in this antagonism between reality and the imagined. Insofar as nature it’s more apparent, theologically perhaps not. The 2+2=5 Fr Antonio Spadaro SJ ‘outrageous’ proposition actually references instances when the good, say mercy may surpass what justice demands. David says, Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputes no guilt (Ps 32, 1). Paul repeats in Rm 4, 8 Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him. Fr Spadaro applies the same formula insofar as mercy as does David and the Apostle. Although faith is what allays justice in Amoris Laetitia as well as for David and Paul, justice the common denominator for both is also the double edged sword that severs faith from mercy absent of repentance in Amoris and is satisfied by faith that compels repentance for David, who repented after adultery with Bathsheba and murder of her husband Uriah, and Paul after his conversion. Fr Spadaro’s error instead is the dystopian fancy that the demands of justice are rigid and unjust for those oppressed by hardship. Both Spadaro in the analogy of 2+2=5 and Francis in Amoris Laetitia omit the fulfillment of mercy in Christ’s gift of grace. As Augustine rightly identified Christ’s resurrection as God’s most marvellous work, by it he redeemed an unworthy Mankind deserving of condemnation, Christ justly requires universal repentance to be preached by the Apostles at the ascension.

  6. If I may add to complete my thought on utopia imagined and utopia realized, that is, in social interaction, in this life. Insofar as Man the fulfillment of justice is the forgiveness of the offences we suffer, unlike divine justice regardless of the offender’s repentance. Reason is that justice for Man fulfills the law, that is justice understood in its essence as that which is owed to another. As Aquinas simply put it, justice is ultimately love of neighbor. Love then is its own justice requiring no external rationale because it certifies in our lives that which is the essence of the Creator.

  7. We must speak up for the Truth, but we must also do it wisely. Be as shrewd as serpents and as innocent as doves.

  8. Four or five years ago a Norwegian woman claimed to have been “born into the wrong species” and said she was a cat.

    There was also a man who tried to change have his date of birth revised on his birth certificate. I don’t know if his wish was fulfilled, but do any of us doubt that such objective lies will continue to be denied their subjective ‘truth’?

  9. The leaders of the Church have been a faithful Catholic’s worst enemy. For decades they have tried to transform us by their ideology, they forget the Omnipotence of God the Holy Ghost. It all started at Vatican ll when it was decided by Council Fathers to end the Old Theology in which they named St. Thomas Aquinas by name, they decided to adopt the New Theology. I say this is the crack in the Church that allowed, “The smoke of satan to enter the very house of God” as said by St. Pope Paul Vl. Modernist ideology is the new false religion in the Church that has tormented the Church founded by Christ for over 50 years.

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