Leftism’s cult of youth is coming out in glorious display by showcasing Stoneman Douglas High School students and their pending movement for severe gun control measures. Yes, “cult” perfectly suits a media rendered awe-stricken and rationally stunted by the shrieks of children. They share a psychological profile with historic cultists, from Adolph Hitler’s Nuremberg crowds to Jim Jones’ flock: the mind shuts down and rewires itself to make rational—in a democracy!—such Manichaean claims like “You’re either with us or you’re against us.”
But so much of leftism makes sense when you realize it’s a species of Christian heresy, gnostic millenarianism to be exact, that perverts so many of orthodox Christianity’s fundamental teachings. In this case, it’s Jesus’ teaching, “whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”
Christians have never taken Jesus’ words to mean children should govern the church, administer pastoral oversight, do theology, or conduct worship. His attention to children’s faith is more about their complete dependency and passive reception of his gifts. Still, this hasn’t stopped errant Christians and their leftist kin from granting to youth an angelic, untarnished, innocent wisdom.
In the church, this errancy takes the form of “youth services” or the like, those annual events in which titillated adults grant raw authenticity to the nervous pleas of confused youth awkwardly on display in the sanctuary. Always it’s the same message: “You old-timers are complacent and hypocritical! Church for you is just a social club and dead rituals! You have to change!”
The sly among the adults will chuckle and foresee Miss Impassioned Teen 20 years hence, with coifed hair, a clique of friends, and forced smile after a weary week of mothering, looking complacent, social clubby, and awfully hypocritical while she mouths her hymns. And the beat goes on, a perverted ritual marking Christianity’s own present demise into gnostic millenarianism.
Leftism, as a species of Christian heresy, retains this same cultish regard of youth, but freed from any pretense of being Christian, takes it to the extreme. What explains it, and how do we parse it?
When History Is God, Future People are More Divine
Ground zero for the claim that leftism is a species of Christian heresy is eighteenth-century political philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Hegel feared what English Enlightenment thinking would do for Christianity’s ethical claims on the western mind. He feared English empiricism, with its materialism and focus on economy, would give no moral grounds for the good society and undo what Christianity could do under new theological direction.
Good pietist that he was, Hegel held the millenarian view that the Kingdom of God would be inaugurated through the cooperation of good Christians with the divine. His project was to give scientific voice to this millenarian sentiment, to transfer (through what Eric Voegelin smartly called a magical process) the locus of regeneration from homo religiosus to homo economicus. Through a historical process, he argued, the just society Christ promised would emerge through “woke,” regenerated consciousnesses, as each new generation came to heightened consciousness about what is just and good. This process could happen with God in the distant background, unnoticed (or in Karl Marx’s case, eliminated), just as all other laws of nature play out.
You can see here how youth are granted a privileged place in his system. If history is God, and progress toward betterment is its work, the future is by definition more divine than the past insofar as it is populated by heightened consciousnesses. Who are these heightened consciousnesses of the future but the woke youth of today? By these terms we can understand why, when a cranky Baby Boomer media personality hears the youth cry out, “We are the future!” it is theophanic.
Education Is the Grace in the Cult of Youth
Education is central to Hegel’s project, the means by which history works its pedagogic purpose in bringing about the Kingdom of God through political economy. God had, after all, revealed his plans “by means of a series of educational experiences”—the Greeks through philosophy, the Jews through the Law, and the Christians through the gospel. As history progresses into a new age of empiricism, education must likewise advance beyond what preceded it.
Philosopher John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) echoed Hegel’s influential view of education and called for “a system of education, beginning with infancy and continued through life, geared toward training the human being in the habit, and thence power, of subordinating his personal impulses and aims, to what were considered the ends of society.” New Republic founder Herbert Croly baked this view into Progressivism’s DNA, saying “The real vehicle of improvement is education. [The] work of education leavens the actual social substance.”
In each of these views education serves as a tool not for forming the individual, but for advancing the “ends of society” or improving the “social substance.” Youth are the subject material most freshly minted from today’s education mills, best primed to be change agents for what any leftist knows is history’s predestined course.
Logic be damned. Critical thinking be damned. Diversity of thought be damned. The secularist, demythologized inauguration of God’s kingdom on earth is all that matters. And in this world, as the prophecy declares, the guns are beat into plowshares.
The New Age Replaces Rational Thinking
There’s one final piece to parsing of the cult of youth, and that is sacralizing their emotionalism. As Ben Shapiro points out, youth are not rational actors. “The whole reason that young people are generally less capable of strong decision-making is that the emotional centers of the brain are overdeveloped in comparison with the rational centers of the brain. And it requires training to fully utilize what psychologist Daniel Kahneman calls System 2 – the analyzing portion of the brain.”
This is one of those areas where the Right and Left simply speak past each other. The Right is frustrated by the leftist tendency toward emotion, images, narratives, “penumbras” of constitutional authority, tones, symbolisms, as well as their obsession with the icons of music and movies. From a leftist perspective, this isn’t a bug in its system but a feature.
As heirs of the Hegelian lineage, they believe we’ve moved into a new age in which the “paradigms” of the past—with its logic, legal clarity, argumentation, grammar-obsession, and propositional language—are seen as hopelessly rectilinear and patriarchal, a product of a white, Eurocentric, phallo-centric world. Most significantly, it’s a relic of the past to be replaced by the new ways of thinking, where grammar-less and logic-less outbursts are seen as the very oracles of God, er, history.
The Left would cry, “But science!” and assume this settles their superior rationality, all the while ignoring the irony that this actually proves the point. Throwing out “power words” in an attempt to hypnotize the hearer into a glazed-eyed acceptance of whatever follows is exactly the sort of magic Voegelin accused Hegel of. It is into this new age of magic that the Left purposely aims to take us, so we should expect language aimed at dialogue and mutual grappling with objective truths to be replaced by manipulative forms of one-sided communication, as all media and leftist communication ends up being.
Symbolism Trumps Reality
A youthful person of color with ambiguous gender identification (but leaning toward the feminine) screaming out impassioned leftist pleas checks all the Left’s boxes and imbues its message with divine authority. If she’s undocumented, all the better.
She’s not the source of a thought, but the symbolic representation that the old order with its language, logic, boundaries, borders, and classifications is coming to an end. The numinous quality of what she represents is almost an incarnation of history’s future itself.
Too bad for the poor, white Reserve Officers’ Training Corps’ football player who says, “I believe if we did bring firearms on campus to teachers that are willing to carry…and they got their correct training for it, I think that would be a big beneficial factor for school safety.” He’s on the wrong side of history. Everything about him symbolizes an un-woke stooge of the past. Evolve or die, my friend.
It has been a fascinating several years seeing the installment of the leftist religion bit by bit. We go down a wrong path thinking the media showcases the youth just because they’re mouthing leftist opinions. No, lots of old people mouth leftist views and no one cares. It’s the sacralizing of youthfulness, and why it is being sacralized, that gives us an insight into the dawning new religion.