There are three responses to the cultural unrest we find in America today: fight alongside those trying to correct what they perceive to be the wrongs inflicted on them by the current cultural system; resist those in the first group, or; act as a follower of Christ.
What is Cultural Marxism?
There is no agreed definition, particularly among those on the left who endorse its goals while denying its existence. What I am calling Cultural Marxism is characterized by a worldview. The bedrock worldview of the cultural Marxist is that there is a privileged class of people in the West and they are the Caucasian, male, heterosexual, cisgender, able-bodied, native born, American, family man, having religious faith. Everybody else (including women who are the majority gender) are the “under-privileged”, and those who are “oppressed” by this privileged class.
The oppression the privileged wield need not come from their overt actions. They oppress because of who they are as a class. This worldview holds that, by definition, they are patriarchal, racist, homophobic, gender-intolerant, nationalists intent on preserving their privileged status by oppressing those who aren’t them. How oppressed are you? You are oppressed to the extent that you do not share those privileged categories. This is the concept labeled “intersectionality” – the idea that if you don’t share in two or more of the privilege categories, you are exponentially more oppressed than just the absence of those two or more categories might otherwise imply.
So where did this worldview come from? As the name implies, it is an adaptation and outgrowth of classical Marxism.
Economic Marxism is the theory of the oppression by a privileged class of a less privileged class based on the economic hegemony of the economically privileged class (the “bourgeois”) against the economic underclass (the “proletariat”). The best-known result of the theory was the 1917 revolution in Czarist Russia, whose purpose was to not only overthrow the Czarist system but to undo capitalism. And not just in Russia, but worldwide (“Workers of the world, unite!”).
One of the questions that had to be answered by Marxists after their revolution failed to achieve its broader objectives was why it failed. For many, the answer was that it ignored the effects of culture and the ability of the privileged class to promote their agenda and values through the media (control of the “narrative”). Another answer was that those of privilege were in and thereby controlled positions of power within the society – judges, teachers, business leaders, and government officials.
From these realizations, the Frankfurt School formed as a body of Marxist scholars in Frankfurt, Germany between the world wars to develop and express a philosophy of critical social theory to identify ways societies could be developed and advanced toward Marxism. Its dissident and political activist members sought to identify methods and dynamics of social development that would lead to societies in which there was no privilege (egalitarianism). Their thinking has had a huge effect on thought leaders now dominant in US universities and those of the students they teach[i], including those who have gone on to hold positions of leadership and authority in US Public Education, the law, journalism, and politics.
These are the origins of the attitudes I’m calling Cultural Marxism (CM). What is different about it from traditional Marxism is that the identity group (e.g. Blacks, LBGTQ, women, etc.) has taken the place of Marx’s class. No longer is the cause to unite an economic class (e.g. “workers”) across national boundaries in revolt against the ruling class. It is to unite an oppressed identity group against what they perceive as the hegemony of the white male identity group. The advantage identity groups have over economic class is that, unlike economic class, identity designation is forever. A Black will never work his way out of being black to become a white male.
What’s also different about it lately is that it has acquired some perverse bedfellows – the anarchists (“Antifa” and its kindreds) who, seeing the opportunity presented by the recent racial unrest in the States, have hooked their wagons to the CM horse to bring violence and destruction to vestiges of traditional society they seek to disrupt. Some in this latter category are just undisciplined hooligans – mad at a society that has deprived them of what they see others having. But many of their leaders share in the goal of destroying the US and indeed all Western democracies, to be replaced by what seems less clear.
This characterization of Cultural Marxism, for me at least, answers a lot of questions. Among them:
- Why are otherwise ‘privileged’ white kids and young adults so passionate about what they have been told is “systemic racism” in the US? Because they have been indoctrinated with the CM worldview by their teachers from the very beginning, and they are normal, compassionate human beings interested in righting wrongs (whether true or imagined). These people have been programmed into a state of guilt and self-loathing (not unlike young Germans following the war.)
- Why are people suddenly motivated to destroy, among other things, historical statues, be they of Abe Lincoln, Christopher Columbus, or George Washington? These men were all members of the privileged group. So they have to be torn down.
- Why are churches being burned and destroyed? What do they have to do with racism? Well, nothing really, other than many served as facilitators of the ‘underground railway’ that helped former slaves escape to safety during the Civil War. But today, they are symbols of two major negatives: 1) The morality presented in the Bible that is founded on family, sexual fidelity and faith – these violate the CM worldview that rejects the ‘tyranny’ of the nuclear family — and 2) They represent the set of beliefs the privileged group has traditionally held.
- Why are so many politicians across the country embracing, at least publicly, protests and symbols associated with CM (e.g. releasing convicted felons who fall into one or more of the oppressed classes), in some cases including violence and property destruction? Two reasons: 1) They’ve been taught and accept as truth the same CM worldview as the protestors, and 2) It’s an election year and the issue is at the top of voter’s awareness. Better for them to be seen at least placating rather than resisting this currently popular movement.
- Why do Black Lives Matter members think it valuable to drive into a peaceful, non-threatening, largely white suburban neighborhood (as they did mine this week) and create a protest and disruption (featuring circling police helicopters)? Because I’m their perceived “enemy”. Notice that the sympathetic premise of BLM is assumed to be correcting police (and other institutions’) racism against blacks. This is what people agree with. But that doesn’t seem to be what its followers think it is about. To them, harassing their perceived (though uninvolved) “enemy” to make them uncomfortable is a sound tactic and one they must think will lead to more converts than more resistance.
- Perhaps the greatest assault on the common man’s sensibilities is the hypocrisy of those involved in overt, rampant looting of property from overrun stores in the name of whatever CM goal. What could this behavior possibly have to do with social grievance? The stuff looted is what the privileged group enjoys every day and prevents the oppressed from acquiring. Why shouldn’t each of us enjoy it too? And for free. (It’s not just looting. There are some truly horrific videos of unprovoked assaults on innocent people who are beaten without mercy now circulating on social media that are not being shown on national TV. But they’re there, and they’re happening.)
The takeaway from all of this is that we, at least in the US, are now engaged in classical class warfare – the oppressed and their sympathizers against their perceived oppressors, a reprise in many ways of Russia, 1917.
How Should We Respond?
The question I’m interested in is what should our response be? How do you preserve a country that a significant proportion of its citizenry wants to dismantle? And, in particular, what should the response of the Christian be? And are these two things different?
The typical response by a country to insurrection against it and its institutions is the enforcement of law and order. This seems appropriate, inasmuch as law and order results in less property destruction and less in the way of injuries from violent protest, as well as a higher general standard of living.
Few dispute that the expectation and practice of the law in America is one of the lynchpins that has led to its economic success. (For example, people expect that by paying their mortgage, they’ll one day end up owning their home, not have it seized by their corrupt, lawless leaders. People expect that if they pay for a car it won’t be burned out or destroyed by roving bands of lawless thugs.)
At the moment, however, there seems to be very little enthusiasm for law and order. Rather, the reaction by those in authority seems to be one of a kind of cowering inaction, a variant of Political Correctness. Is this in the best interest of all involved? I wouldn’t think so. Insurrection, left unchecked will ultimately lead only to more aggressive, more destructive insurrection leading to increased levels of destruction and personal harm.
It seems that escalating levels of violence inevitably will lead to escalating levels of a forceful response. This is the risk. The CM aggrieved will view and characterize this forceful response as Nazism or similar, not national self-preservation, further fueling their hatred and violence. And even if successful at restoring “order”, it will have failed at restoring a sense of community in which the vast majority of citizens seek the same things: peace, security, some semblance of prosperity, and freedom.
So how does the US recover a degree of unity? (Note: Unity does not require uniformity.)
How do you go about healing the US? And, what would Jesus do? As remote as the possibility is that such efforts will ever be tried, let alone succeed, nevertheless it seems to me we should at least have an outline of what to do – a roadmap, if you will. I say it’s a remote possibility that anything will be tried because, at the moment at least, I don’t believe there is any agreement that a substantial majority cares if the country continues, at least as currently constituted. So the minority’s political resistance will be emboldened by its desire for the collapse of the country, not its desire to negotiate measures designed to enable its continuance.
Some Ideas for Healing and Reunifying
On my list, the top priority for building a reunified country is education reform. While it could be debated, in my judgement the institution that has had the most profound effect on the spread of the CM worldview is public education – Universities and the public schools. We cannot hope to achieve any sort of national unity when all of our children are being taught/indoctrinated to despise their country. Much of this animus is predicated on the sins of our past – slavery, excesses of capitalist economic disparity, perhaps treatment of women, etc.
This is history. And it’s not going to change. So we need to teach it clearly and honestly as such – the past, as well as the corrective measures that the country has implemented to reform those practices. It makes no sense to continue to hate the current country for things that occurred hundreds of years ago. The emphasis of a new history message and curriculum should be: “What can we learn from the errors and successes of our ancestors that we can apply today?” It cannot be: “What can we find in our history to hate about ourselves?” If we continue to allow schools to teach hatred of the country per se, the country simply will not survive.
Public schools should also be required to teach work-life and household economics. This curriculum should spell out such things as the various types of personal and mortgage debt and their costs – particularly student debt (so that it’s cost and value can be intelligently compared), techniques for saving, the economics of child-rearing, etc. Too many of today’s young seem completely taken by surprise when starting out to find that they have a mountain of debt to crawl out from under, leading to anger against the system responsible for their indebtedness. This is a senseless, avoidable point of disunity.
We need to get serious about the problems of the black community in the US. For too long we have allowed its leaders and politicians who prey on it for votes to portray them incessantly (both to themselves and the rest of the country) as helpless, disadvantaged victims, unable to make their own decisions for good or bad, and lead their own lives. Institutionalized racism was, indeed, prevalent as recently as 60 years ago. But, its practices have since been outlawed. Blacks today in America enjoy many benefits above and beyond the rest of society, such as preference in college entrance, qualification for scholarships, and preferences in hiring.
Yes, there are still individuals in the US who are racists. But today they are a tiny, isolated minority, in contrast with the popular narrative. Yet, the “US is racist” narrative (by which is meant the privileged group in the US) is as pervasive as ever. Nothing, for those promoting this narrative, has changed in 60 years, and if we never talk of the progress made in those years, especially in our history classes, then there will be no awareness that things have indeed dramatically improved, leading to yet more hopelessness and anger.
The acidic effect of this narrative is that blacks grow up expecting to fail. (This is a broad generalization, to make the point. Obviously, some blacks are motivated to escape their circumstances and go on to lead full, happy, and productive lives.) If they do fail, they’re assured it’s not their fault – it’s the fault of the privileged group “holding them down”.
Here is where I think churches, and black churches in particular, can take the lead in working with black youth from single-parent households (some 61.3% of black households with children) to instill a sense of expectation for their future if they will just (like everyone else) work hard, take responsibility for themselves and their future, and treat others as they would like to be treated[ii].
Why is this a response to CM? Simply because a large part of the negative reaction by the general population to black demographic statistics (among them children in single-parent households and the high % of crime and drug use they are statistically destined for) is attributed to “systemic racism”, and therefore elicits support for various organizations like BLM (who advocates for suspending policing these same black communities). Until the kids in these households can catch the vision of overcoming their situation and can be convinced that they have what it takes, leading them to expect to succeed, they will remain trapped in the same grinding pattern of few legitimate opportunities and the temptations to try for easy rewards involving crime[iii].
These churches need also to instill in these kids the value of the stable family environment[iv] – how they are more prosperous, how their children are several times more likely to succeed academically and avoid drugs, addiction, arrest, incarceration, and suicide than children from unstable, single-parent households[v],[vi],[vii]. The abandonment of a commitment to marriage and fostering a family in which both parents are present who nurture their children is the cultural catastrophe of our day. And nothing tells the alternative story like the lives of those in their own community who have a lifetime of experience within such nuclear families.
These churches can also be sources of mentors for young black boys who have never had a father in their home, and so have never intimately seen how a responsible adult male conducts himself. This is a critical need today. It’s utterly unrealistic to assume that this role can somehow be magically filled by public education or the government.
We need also to challenge the current “racist” rhetoric since factually it is largely incorrect and also, potentially, quite counterproductive. Increasingly these days, if one is a member of the privileged group (see above) he is seen as by definition a racist. If all I ever hear is that I’m a racist from those who don’t even know me, at some point I may begin to resent my accusers and their slander – a phenomenon known as backlash. And if those accusers are minorities, it will not help us to reconcile and build unity. I have written elsewhere about the deceitful motives of those seeking to maintain this racist narrative, since they make their livings, all or in part, by continuing to have a grievance to decry or its story to present. Unlike Martin Luther King and the other civil rights pioneers whose cause was righteous and just, the current generation seems less sincere about the cause than they are in preserving their own careers. Their livelihood needs these grievances, even if they have to be manufactured. If we all expressed common respect instead of finding reasons to mistrust each other, these people would be out of a job.
What would Jesus do?
And what should the Christian, as His representative, do? Perhaps some of us would say “Turn the other cheek” to the CM’ers. In other words, do nothing. But does this reaction honor God? If, as a Christ-follower, I sit silently by as some people destroy the lives of other people, does that honor the God I love and serve? If Jesus were among us, would He be silent? Somehow I doubt it. But, of course, He would only condemn that which was not of His Father. In other words, His reaction would not have any hint of pettiness or be in any way dismissive of the persons engaged in these acts against their fellows. But He would obviously condemn their “sins” — those things like stealing that have been forbidden by God from the beginning. And after this, He would call them to repentance and to Himself, something we too can do on His behalf.
I have found during this pandemic and time of social upheaval that many Christians have a confused view of Paul’s message in Romans 13, concerning obeying “authorities” (brought about largely by the great mask and stay-at-home debate). Peter sets the stage for Paul’s verses in 1 Peter 2:
 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme,  or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.  For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.  Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.
The overarching idea here is that the authorities that God “appoints” are there to act for God in punishing evil and rewarding good. (This straightforward idea highlights the utter madness of those calling for policing to be terminated in some of our cities.) To the extent authorities do the job they have been appointed by God to do, they are, in fact, being faithful to their duty and are to be obeyed.
For his part, Paul elaborates on this theme in Romans 13 saying:
[13:1] Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.  Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.  For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval,  for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.  Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.
Neither Peter nor Paul are saying you are under obligation to obey the edicts of rulers who act on their own, secular authority or who do not carry out the job God appointed them to. It’s not that simple, and such an understanding demeans God.
By the same token, neither says we are to actively disobey the ruler’s un-ordained orders (although logically you could make the case that this is valid if their edicts are anti-God’s will.)
So we’re left in a position of needing to choose a response that will honor God, and figure out what actions we can take to accomplish it. Certainly participation in violent demonstrations, even as an observer, does not honor God. Nor, it would seem, would engaging in caustic social media arguments (in addition to being a colossal waste of everybody’s time).
I think we can all agree that the overriding admonition to love our neighbor, as well as our enemies, applies here. And this divine love is an activity that seeks the best for the loved. What is best for the indoctrinated young, suburban housewife may be considerably different than what is best for the avowed, Molotov cocktail-wielding anarchist. Both need to be given information that has been passed over or ignored in their understanding of the history of the country. Both need repentance and Christ. But the method by which they are presented with the information and the Gospel will drastically differ.
We briefly discussed the need for the Church (by which is meant followers of Christ) to step in and support, through teaching and mentorship, the kids of single moms. This need is color blind and universal. Perhaps no other single act of love could have more positive effect in redeeming and building up these at-risk kids than this simple act of giving away some of God’s love (and your time).
Cultural Marxism (which its advocates deny, calling it a myth) is an acid eating away at the core of the United States – its economy, polity, security, and peace. It is today the dominant cultural force (not belief) in America. Continuing to promote its narratives in public schools and our universities is a national death wish. Continuing the rancorous discourse in the media re: flagrant and unsubstantiated charges of “systemic racism” or “he is a racist” continues to eat away at the goodwill of common people. There is some left. But it’s in increasingly short supply and getting dangerously low.
Churches can play a hugely significant role in the care and nurture of the children of single mothers. God will supply the needed love. All we need to spend is our time.
[ii] After writing this piece I came across this interview with Thomas Sowell, in which he argues compellingly for many of the points I raise here concerning social and economic real outcomes. It’s well worth the hour of your time. If you listen, pay particular attention to his analysis of the “constrained” vs the “unconstrained” view of social progress.