People, place and prayer

Some time ago, Elon Musk retweeted a doodle to his massive Twitter following. The drawing was sketched by biologist Colin Wright and illustrated his feeling that culture has shifted leftward, leaving him in a place he no longer recognizes. The sentiment must have resonated with a lot of people and it went “viral”, as they say. 

While there have been evil schemes afoot since mankind rebelled in the Garden, this leftward-lurch has not been of the violent overthrow variety. In modern times, Antonio Gramsci popularized the notion that there were other ways to take power than just brute force. His ideas have been used to formulate the idea of a cultural hegemony – using education and media to “manufacture consent”. The call for a “long march through the institutions” was raised and progressive ideals that dominated the academy and newsrooms now shape the arts, law and science. 

In a thought-provoking essay, Paul Kingsnorth has observed something curious about the last few decades. The rapid dissemination of progressive politics into every sphere of our lives is not just a testament to the determination of everyday Marxist ideologues, desperate to see their utopia realized. Contrary to what you may hear in the Twitterverse, ideas of intersectionality, identity politics, and anti-racism are not products of a grassroots movement being embraced by the working classes and marginalized groups. Enthusiasm for electric vehicles and plant-based meat is not bubbling up from Middle America. 

Rather, this revolution is cascading relentlessly over all in its path, top down, with the help of Big Money. As Kingsnorth asks, “What kind of ‘revolution’ would be sponsored by Nike, promoted by BP, propagandized for by Hollywood and Netflix and policed by Facebook and YouTube?” Far from being in competition with each other, Kingsnorth argues that the progressive Left and the capitalist Right actually have the same goal. 

“Both are totalizing utopian projects. Both are suspicious of the past, impatient with borders and boundaries,…hostile to religion…and the limits on the human individual imposed by nature or culture. Both are in pursuit of a global utopia where, in the dreams of both Lenin and Lennon, the world will live as one.”

Most readers will have noted the “flattening” effect of globalization, the “monoculture” of the Davos set who wish to see everyone owning nothing and being happy. Kingsnorth says the two sides of Left and Right act in a pincer move where “one attacks the culture, deconstructing everything from history to “heteronormativity” to national identities; the other moves in to monetize the resulting fragments.”

The categories of “left and “right” can admittedly be a little fuzzy, but Kingsnorth is correct – it suits elites of all persuasions to have a regulated technocracy, where distinction and free thought are denounced and human units float in a rootless unreality, grounded nowhere and attached to no one. But you will be happy.

Perhaps the technocrats have won this battle. Philosopher Hannah Arendt wrote about the way bureaucracy leads to violence. When people feel that they are being pushed through a system, or when they wake up to the reality that a governing technocracy benefits from having them dependent on The Machine, they are angry and dismayed. Ask a Dutch farmer. 

Arendt writes: “In a fully developed bureaucracy there is nobody left with whom one can argue, to whom one can present grievances, on whom the pressures of power can be exerted. Bureaucracy is the form of government in which everybody is deprived of political freedom, of the power to act; for the rule by Nobody is not no-rule, and where all are equally powerless, we have a tyranny without a tyrant.”

That seems an apt description of our time. There is no one at the wheel. Even the occupant of the White House may not be in charge! So who you gonna call? The police? The FBI? There may be no visible tyrant, no führer whom one could terminate and thus fix everything, but Christians know there is an enemy. So while the puppet-masters sit in anonymity, thinking they are pulling the strings of the system, we know it is they who are being played. They will be accountable for their actions but the wicked ancient serpent, the father of lies is the one who deceives the nations and he is furiously destroying everything—he knows his time is short.

So, we may find that all things are arrayed against us, the invisible principalities and powers, but as St. Paul reminds us all things must work together for our good. Kingsnorth recognizes there is something that will stand against the faceless enemy, “a tradition that crosses all the modern divides, because it is older than all of them”, He characterizes it as “people place prayer” – living “under the sky, surrounded by people who know where the sun rises in the morning, where they come from and who they are”. 

Christians will know what he means – faith, family, church and community. Not only do we know where we came from, but we know where we are going. More than that, we know Whose we are. He is risen and will soon roll up the sky like a scroll. The schemes of the enemy will fail and Christ’s kingdom will be realized. We take heart, knowing that what God builds is forever and no evil arrayed against it will prevail. 

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