Recently I and a staff member in our ministry met with others to plan a summer program in a black community where I serve as a domestic missionary. The program was open to all children. We were invited to do faith-based programming, but when its supervisors saw our curriculum and its clear presentation of Jesus Christ, they asked us to steer more toward character-building and moral lessons.
Keep out “titles,” they said. They were concerned we would perpetuate the perception that Christianity is a white man’s religion used to keep blacks dependent on the white man. The program’s theme was to be about self-reliance rather than reliance on a white man’s God.
To be fair, this opinion was not held by everyone involved in the program, and we now happily contribute our portion, with titles and all, problem-free. But the accusation lingers because of the paradox it unmasks in leftist thought.
Progressivism’s Gnostic Solution to Their ‘Liar’s Paradox’
For instance, the view that religion is a tool of oppressors used to keep the oppressed in line is taught by…a white man named Karl Marx. Or again, who wrote a book called “Self-Reliance” but a white man named Ralph Waldo Emerson? Who influenced him but a white man named Immanuel Kant? And who was re-reading Emerson when he penned his anthem to the self, “Thus Spake Zarathustra,” but…a white man named Frederick Nietzsche? Shall we go on about all the white men whose thoughts have colonized the black minds who were concerned about our white God?
This goes back to the nagging paradox of the postmodernist epistemology that founds so much of the progressive cosmic architecture: How can thought—which is claimed to be socially determined—itself escape that very determination when it is progressive? A Marx or Weber or Foucault will make claims about the absolute subjectivity of human thought, claiming it’s determined by economics, culture, power, or whatever, while somehow he exempts himself from the forces he claims tyrannize others’ thinking.
The answer: they think they’ve beat the Liar’s Paradox. The Liar’s Paradox ponders whether you can believe a Cretan who says all Cretans are liars. How do you beat this unbeatable paradox? You do it by transcending the rules of logic to which us plebs are subject. Ultimately it’s a Gnostic position, that a certain select few have been granted a bird’s eye view of the cosmos and can see everything sub species aeternatitas. (Meditate on this image to understand how progressives think vis a vis the rest of us earth-bound masses.)
Thus Weber can transcend his own culture and recognize the overpowering nature of culture on thought, or Marx can disconnect his theories from the regular rules of economic determinism, or Foucault can scribe language free of his own will to power, or sociology departments can claim the mantle of objective science without any sense of irony.
Yet the Whiteness and Maleness of Leftist Thought Lingers
But here’s the thing about Marx, Weber, and Foucault. They were lily-white and—how do we put it these days—humans with penises. So are the entire stable of modernist and postmodernist thinkers who have crafted the cosmic architecture that has spawned, to pick a few relevant categories: feminism, LGBT thought, Occupy Wall Street, and Black Lives Matter.
The irony is that the very thought giving life to the accusation of Western colonialism—that dead, white Western males have constructed power structures around the globe that serve only to advance their power—is itself a colonization of black, woman, and LGBT minds by dead, white Western males! I challenge anyone to follow the history of ideas back from a modern leftist movement and not end up in a northern European cesspool of testosterone-permeated whiteness.
This isn’t an issue for conservatives, who grant truth to be objective, able to be sought, discussed, and not socially determined. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I guess we should be flattered when progressives confidently present their thought as objective and universal. Because, don’t look, progressives, but you’re imitating conservatives in handling your first principles.
Hey, don’t feel bad. Come join us in our defense of Western Civilization as a core of university education. If the white, male West has struck “truth gold,” then by all means we should expect a gold rush from all parts of the world. Christian missionaries evangelizing the unwashed third worlders, sociological professors schooling traditionalist international students on the mysterious ways of their oppression—what really is the difference when you know you’ve come upon (cue reverb effects) the truth?
Truth-Lovers Are the Real Ethnic Diversity Team
Well, there is one teensy difference. Christians teach ultimately Northern African, Middle Eastern, and Greek thought and sociologists teach stuff from dead, white males. Consider the stable of Western philosophers who have constructed the cosmic architecture of the progressive mind: Hegel, Kant, Marx, Comte, Darwin, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Sartre, Foucault, etc. If we were to locate “ground zero” of their epistemological universe, it would be somewhere in northwestern Germany. Sieg Heil!
By contrast, the conservative worldview arguably has as its ground zero somewhere in the Near East. Its architects range from Moses to Aristotle, from Jesus to Augustine. Augustine was an African, as was Athanasius—the “black dwarf”—who was instrumental in laying down the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation, so extremely influential in establishing Medieval theology. I suppose certain Anglo-American thinkers—Locke, Smith, Burke, Jefferson—would tug that ground zero northwest a bit, which would happily put us in Cyprus.
But the leftism arising from modern thought is squarely a white, male, Euro-centric thing. Wasn’t one of the big complaints of the Enlightenment how stuck the Medieval tradition was to the ancients? Modern leftist thought can truly boast being a Western white male phenomenon, breaking free from ancient constraints.
Meanwhile, the same cannot be said of Christian and Medieval thought, which was dependent on Greek philosophy and Near Eastern/Northern African theology. The extent to which conservatives do reflect anti- or even pre-modernism—an ongoing and valid observation of the progressive Left—is the extent to which they have retained the earlier tradition against the Western colonization of the mind. You might call them insurgents.
Or again, perhaps progressives could decry the prior colonization of the white mind by Near Easterners, Greeks, and Africans. Perhaps the rise of modernity and its rebellious child (postmodernism) is a triumphant ascendency of white males against a more ancient colonialism on the part of Greeks, Near Easterners, and Northern Africans. Again, Sieg Heil!
What a coup, too. White males come up with the thought that all thought is determined by things like whiteness and maleness, deploring along the way how white males have a history of imposing thought structures that enhance their power, and they convince the world that nothing less than History is on the side of their white male thought, and no, that sort of thought coercion is not imposition of a thought structure! Satan couldn’t come up with better legerdemain.
What can it be but projection when leftists accuse a tradition rooted in African, Near Eastern, and Greek thought of being exactly what leftists in fact are?
The Dark Side of the Gnostic Solution
I’m having a bit of fun in the house of mirrors that is progressive epistemology. But there’s an underlying horror show suggested by my reference to the Gnostic solution to the paradox. By the standards of logic, you can’t wriggle out of the Liar’s Paradox. But if you’re the one Cretan who can escape your Cretan-ness, you can.
Yet this shouldn’t be possible. According to the various social theories—all claiming to be scientific—it is an ironclad law that to be human is to have all your thought and thinking inescapably determined by whatever structures you’re born in. A Cretan can’t stop being a Cretan any more than an apple can stop being pulled to the earth by gravity. At least that’s the pretense of the sociologist (who fantasizes he’s doing science, but that’s another story.) The only escape exists in something transcending the physical nature of the subject, something outside its earthy, physical nature. Thus, if you wished to escape your human-ness, you’d have to be supra- or trans-human.
This was the exact position of the Gnostics. A Gnostic believes our flesh imprisons us in various fleshly designations—our place in space and time; our sex; our family and culture; our race and country, the language we grow up with. An elite few, however, are able to escape the tyranny of flesh and its various institutions and systems. They are able to see things purely, free of the various constructs established by life in a physical world.
This sets up, in effect, a radically binary world. Where the non-Gnostic (traditionalist) understanding of human thought invites a host of thinkers to discuss and strive for objective truth—yielding a form of federalism that when working best begets humility, tolerance, and curiosity as each deals with other seekers of the truth (i.e., what a university education used to be)—the Gnostic says all these posers are blinded by social forces they don’t perceive or understand. They’re all just on power quests, one blind thinker imprisoned by social forces leading another, all living the delusion they are pursuing the truth.
But he, the Gnostic, is not blind. Coupled with evolutionary thinking, the Gnostic is one who has “progressed” to the next age, who is on the right side of History, who is on the verge of trans-humanism, and who is charged with shepherding us benighted folk into the bright future. The program can’t be federal—a bunch of blind idiots leading other blind idiots in random circles. It must be universal, the enlightened leading the benighted out of systemic darkness into systemic light.
This is, needless to say, terrifying, because it dabbles in the idea that those not properly advanced in their thinking are of a lesser species, stifling the progress of the earth. And we’ve seen where that idea has led before. Sieg Heil!
In any event, leftists need to answer why the white males who have outlined their thinking are so special, having been granted Gnostic enlightenment and anointed by History to school the world. Short of doing so, they are nothing more than posers and oppressors themselves, according to the very premises they’ve set up.
I can’t wait to see the answer.