“What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?” fulminated Tertullian. At the time Tertullian was sounding off about the tendency to place rationalism and Greek philosophical criteria ahead of the integrity of revelation in the life of the Church.
Times have changed however. The secular intellectuals of our day have recently come to the aid of a demoralized Church. Jordan Peterson and Douglas Murray in particular have tried to reset the relationship between faith and the secular mind.
Over the last few years the Church has had the stuffing knocked out of her. The culture wars are just the latest bruising round. Douglas Murray’s latest book, The War on the West, sets out to document what’s been going on and why.
This is not intended to be a normal book review (no doubt that will follow), but rather an overview of the analysis that secular intellectuals have provided to fill the vacuum of Christian resistance. The intellectual rigour of Athens has come to the rescue of demoralised Jerusalem.
To set the scene, Douglas Murray has collected together some of the most mind-boggling examples of the mass psychosis that has overtaken our culture. In detailing them with such ruthless clarity he raises the question of why our society has capitulated so easily and so completely to the woke assault.
He gives a few recent anecdotes which show how powerful the mass woke psychosis has become.
These episodes make the Salem witch trials look almost sane in their disturbed madness.
For example: the university campus at Indiana was put into complete lockdown one day on 2016 by the rumour that a KKK devotee was walking around campus in broad daylight carrying a whip. Only after the security services did a sweep of the community did they discover that a Dominican monk had been walking about in his white habit. His whip? A rosary. What kind of disturbed mind looks at a Dominican monk and sees a Klu Klux Klan member? Half a dozen variations on this moral panic caused by equivalent misreadings of reality are colourfully documented.
In another example, a contestant in an American game show called Jeopardy named Kelly Donohue won a TV round. He then held up three fingers to the TV camera. Members of the public panicked and freaked out. It was claimed that this was self-evidently a white supremacist signal. 595 former contestants signed a letter of outrage that the TV company had not edited it out. It took some time for Mr. Donohue to convince the world that he had held up one finger the first time he won; two the second; and this was the third victory; and he was not a white supremacist sending out covert signals to stimulate his co-white supremacists. Not everyone believed him.
In chapters on race, history, religion and culture Murray charts the intellectual direction of the way in which Marxism 1.0 had particular aims. It originally sought to bring about an entirely different set of power-relations within an economic and political revolution, setting one group against another, but has now morphed into Marxism 2.0 junking economics as the arena, replacing it with race, but still with the intention of setting one group (anti-racists) against the other (who must by definition be racists).
In a hard-hitting examination of race and the re-writing of history, Murray agrees with John McWhorter of Columbia University that much of the passion and uncompromising energy that “wokeness” displays is because it has become a new religion of anti-racism. “It has original sin (‘white privilege’), judgement day (‘coming to terms with race’) and excommunication of the heretics ( ‘social media shamings’),” (cancellation and so much more).
Murray perceptively suggests that one of its greatest attractions is the opportunity to treat people badly beneath the guise of doing good.
Murray describes himself as a cultural Christian though not a practicing one.
Practicing Christians will be interested in developing a metaphysical analysis of such a complex situation. It is not only that the collapse of Christianity has created the vacuum that provides the space into which the new religion of ‘anti-racism’ flows with such force; but an analysis is needed to account for the ferocious animus directed against Christianity by the practitioners of this new religion.
Murray becomes perceptively discerning when he writes: “it is one of the saddest realisations we have as a species: not just that everything is transitory, but that everything – particularly everything we love and into which love has been poured- is fragile. And that just as the line between civilization and barbarism is paper-thin, so it is a miracle that anything at all survives, given the fragility of all things plus the evil and carelessness of which men are capable.” He goes on to ask what lies behind the evil, and surprisingly but effectively, turns to Nietzsche.
Nietzsche identifies “resentment” as the root of much human evil. “Someone or other must be to blame that I feel ill.” And from Nietzsche comes the startling analysis that the call for justice is in fact a disguise for a demand for revenge.
One question the book raises but does not pursue is “what character does the evil have that is so determined to take revenge on Judeo-Christian values and culture?”.
Is there an antidote to the enraged, resentful, vengeance-filled assault of this new religion on the Christian-formed West?
There Murray turns to Dostoyevsky and the Brothers Karamazov and discovers that the one emotion the devil is incapable of is gratitude.
Murray realises this needs further development, but does not develop the idea. But practicing Christians understand only too well that gratitude and praise are the most powerful spiritual antidotes to self-pity, resentment and revenge.
In this post-modern world of post truth, where few important words carry the meaning they used to have and some even mean the opposite, a working analysis is profoundly difficult to arrive at. Perhaps the most important contribution that Douglas Murray makes, beyond describing so accurately the mass psychosis that has taken hold, is the warning that we are in a struggle between good and evil, and that good and evil most readily make themselves accessible to us in a choice between gratitude and resentment. The forces that range themselves against each other today are not racism v anti-racism, nor woke against un-woke, nor black against white, but in the most accessibly available form, are resentment against gratitude.
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