Critical theory is the reflective assessment and critique of society and culture to reveal and challenge power structures. …In sociology and political philosophy, the term Critical Theory describes the Western Marxist philosophy of the Frankfurt School, which was developed in Germany in the 1930s.
Commonly referred to as Cultural Marxists (but only by “conspiracy theorists), although I find Antonio Gramsci to be the more appropriate communist thinker behind these ideas.
To explain, from Gary North:
Gramsci argued, and the Frankfurt School followed his lead, that the way for Marxists to transform the West was through cultural revolution: the idea of cultural relativism. The argument was correct, but the argument was not Marxist. The argument was Hegelian.
And from an excerpt of The Keys of this Blood by Malachi Martin:
While firmly committed to global Communism, [Gramsci] knew that that violence would fail to win the West. American workers (proletariat) would never declare war on their middle-class neighbors as long as they shared common Christian values. So the Italian communist -- a contemporary of Lenin -- wrote an alternative plan for a silent revolution. The main weapons would be deception, manipulation and infiltration. Hiding their Marxist ideology, the new Communist warriors would seek positions of influence in seminaries, government, communities, and the media.
Critical Theory Can't Deliver because it can't make Voltron from its crippled Christian Code, Paul VanderKlay (video; 1 hour, 45 minutes)
Yes, it’s a long video – this is what VanderKlay does, and this one is a real keeper. This post will also run a bit long, but I believe VanderKlay’s video is one of the best examinations of this current culture and these current protests that I have seen…well, given my worldview.
To offer a bit of clarity to the title, Voltron is an animated television show from the 1980s – I won’t spend time on making the connection in my post; if you are interested, I can only offer the video. The Crippled Christian code can be summarized by Nietzsche, in Twilight of the Idols:
When one gives up the Christian faith, one pulls the right to Christian morality out from under one's feet.
This is what makes for the “crippled Christian code” of today’s social justice warriors: a demand for Christian justice without Christianity. As Rene Girard and Tom Holland each offer, they use Christianity to criticize Christianity. With that, on to several points from the video.
He begins with a blog post that he wrote: Beaten Wives Matter. The play on words is obvious, and the point is simple (no, he is not an advocate of wife beating): which oppressed group gets to be on top? He comes to it later in the video: do any of you remember that June is Pride Month? I didn’t – not that I would ever think of it if it wasn’t put in my face, but that’s the point. Not one peep about it this month, as the oppressed Black Lives are higher on the oppression hierarchy than the oppressed rainbow-flag community.
VanderKlay explains: how does someone who voted for Obama twice (him) also find Jordan Peterson worthwhile? To add to this “confusion,” he grew up in Patterson, New Jersey and his father was pastor of a mixed-race Reformed church. It was in this climate that he was raised.
They practiced what Martin Luther King preached, about judging people not by the color of their skin but the content of their character – supposedly a racist dog-whistle today, but a quite Christian sentiment. They practiced love in the body of Christ, learning to submit to one another and serve each other.
Today’s society is significantly more secular than the society in which VanderKlay grew up. We now have ideologies: crippled religions, as Jordan Peterson describes these. VanderKlay understands the “code” of this critical theory; he knows the source code – Christianity – and this is a bad copy, a crippled religion. It must be, per Nietzsche.
But there is truth in it: we are all racists, sexists, wife-beaters. We are all fallen. As Alexander Solzhenitsyn offered: “The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either -- but right through every human heart -- and through all human hearts.” However, without all of Christianity, the code is defective.
He makes the point that this new code has triggered many of the non-woke new atheist tribe. This has drawn many of these together with conservative Christians! How can that be? He doesn’t say it, but I will: the dividing line falls on Natural Law. He sees the “hungry heart of narcissism” on both sides of the political aisle. And this is so, given how we define our left and right with (D) and (R), but this is one reason why I divide left and right differently. The divide rests on Natural Law.
So, what of these protests? Protests take the form of “No,” with the inferior protesting the superior. In a healthy hierarchy, the superior will sacrifice to the inferior just as the inferior will sacrifice to the superior. But even using those words (inferior, superior) is triggering – all such language must be banished. We have to get rid of all hierarchies.
Can you really do that? VanderKlay has his doubts: “In the name of banning hierarchy, they’ve created the oppression Olympics.” He writes: in their attempt to banish hierarchy they manifest it sinfully. They want diversity and they want to ban inequality, yet these are two sides of the same coin, joined at the hip: to be diverse inherently means you will have inequality.
Diversity must result in superiors and inferiors. There will always be hierarchy, but today it is manifest sinfully. Through a Christian lens, the two are always in a dance: the last shall be first, the first shall be last; Jesus (who is God) made himself the lowest, so that we (the inferior) could be made the highest (well, much higher than otherwise). Yet He also said do not lord it over each other like the Gentiles do: equality. Equality and hierarchy, through a Christian lens, are also always in a dance.
Jesus had the highest status yet did not use that status, instead taking the nature of a servant. He is the picture of the perfect leader, performing the dance of superior and inferior, equality and hierarchy.
This current movement is full of Christian symbolism. The foot washings, for example. What is being symbolized? It is what Jesus did. Jesus washed Peter’s feet. Yet who was the superior and who was the inferior in the Biblical example? This symbol is bastardized today – or those demanding their feet to be washed don’t understand that they are putting themselves in the place of the inferior, to be served by the superior.
What does a man do to woo a woman? Who is the superior and who is the inferior? How much does this really change after marriage? Why do men hold the door open for women? Is it the patriarchy showing who is in charge, or is it to serve – the dance of inferior and superior?
“Men are always taking the superior role?” Said by those who have never been the pursued or pursuer in the dance between male and female.
How God thinks of us is not only more important, but infinitely more important. Indeed, how we think of Him is of no importance except in so far as it is related to how He thinks of us. It is written that we shall “stand before” Him, shall appear, shall be inspected. The promise of glory is the promise, almost incredible and only possible by the work of Christ, that some of us, that any of us who really chooses, shall actually survive that examination, shall find approval, shall please God.
We stand in front of an audience of one, and though the world condemn me, He must I follow. Is that dangerous when we’re wrong? You bet it is. It’s also a power that everybody putting signs up so as not to lose status with others…that’s not something they’re fully thinking through.
My take on this: It is exactly here where one can separate true virtue from virtue signaling. No, we cannot know a man’s heart, but we can know his actions. What is being proposed as the antidote for (insert your favorite oppression here)? Is it oppression against the other, or is it love – Christian love, in doing and acting? The dance of the inferior and superior, the dance of equality and diversity? Or is it all just power – the power of tearing others down so I may be built up?
Critical Theory, like all of Enlightenment thinking, wishes to keep all dramas on this stage. VanderKlay suggests this is a foolish dream: “When you try to bring heaven down to earth, you pull hell up with it.” Here again, is the crippled Christian code. The stage is too small; we are locked into our misery; everyone dies unfulfilled.
VanderKlay then cites Miraslav Volf, who finds the United States is losing both self-control and consciousness, just as Germany and Europe did in the 1930s and Croatia / Serbia / Bosnia did in the 1990s. Volf hopes he is wrong.
VanderKlay then offers a long cite from Volf:
One could object that it is not worthy of God to wield the sword. …[yet] if God were not angry at injustice and deception and did not make the final end to violence God would not be worthy of our worship.
And to drive home the point, Volf offers what prompted him to write these words: a lecture he gave in a war zone. Among those listening were people whose homes were pillaged and burned, whose sisters and daughters were raped, whose fathers and brothers had their throats slit.
Soon you would discover that it takes the quiet of a suburban home for the birth of the thesis that human nonviolence corresponds to God’s refusal to judge. In a scorched land, soaked in the blood of the innocent, it will invariably die. And as one watches it die, one will do well to reflect about many other pleasant captivities of the liberal mind.
Here is the cost of the Enlightenment, not in the politically incorrect “black and white,” but in the blood-soaked black and red. By removing Christianity, we lose the right of Christian morality – so says Nietzsche; we avoid the troubling truth that it is right that God judges.
Just when the best of Classical Liberalism and Enlightenment reached its pinnacle in the time known as La Belle Époque, the Western world exploded in 1914, and it has been dying a death ever since.
Our modern definition for religion has no need of the “supernatural,” or, if you prefer, the metaphysical. Our reason has been divorced from God, tradition, and history; which also means reason has been divorced from considering man’s imperfect nature. “We can shape man into our image.” So say the enlightened supermen of Nietzsche. How has that worked out for the last 100 years?
In Critical Theory, is there any chance of atonement? Jordan Peterson once asked: can you give us a dollar figure that will atone for America’s racial history. No answer came, because there is no answer. The dollar figure is infinite. VanderKlay suggests:
Where can you find a sacrifice of infinite value to atone for these sins? The Heidelberg Catechism knows; the book of Hebrews knows. Critical Theory will never know. That means there is no redemption, no atonement, no resolution. This religion cannot bring peace and it never will.
VanderKlay lays a burden on the Christian church – as is justly deserved:
Church leaders need to figure this out and create language rather than repeating worldly boilerplate in a sycophant’s quest for legitimacy from the zeitgeist.
The problem is that there’s no atonement here. No justice, no peace? How about no atonement, no peace. If the price to be paid is infinite, there is only one place where atonement will be found. The church has this message; it should use it. Instead of pandering with the same slogans that those who are out to destroy the church are using.
But sure, if you think respect for property rights in this world lies at the end of a path where the price to be paid for sin can never be paid by you, go for it. I say – and events since the Enlightenment prove this out – you are wrong.