Does anyone else think the current American regime is veering into a theocracy?
No, I don't mean Donald Trump. He's probably about as religious as this chocolate biscuit next to me. I mean all the fashionable people. I totally get that you might not be able to see this religiosity, though, because it hides pretty well. But you can see it scribbled on the whiteboard.
The material of this theocracy comes from a strain within English nonconformist, low-church Protestantism. "Low-church" or "Calvinist" refers simply the side of modern Christianity that reconstructs the obvious Scriptural traces of the primitive revolutionary cult and/or mutual benefit society.
These people, called "progressives" today, used to be known as "secular puritans," and can trace their ancestry to New England. To them, the Civil War was best described as the conquest of America by Massachusetts. Although, they don't like to talk about this today because it's embarrassing, regardless of how perfectly true it is.
After all, progressives do seem to believe in the universal brotherhood of man ("All men and women are born equal"); the futility of violence ("Violence only causes more violence"); the fair distribution of goods ("From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs") and the managed society ("Public servants should be professional and socially responsible") which are all remarkably Christian ideas.
I think this overlap of ideas proves ideological continuity between the pseudo-Christianity of the Social Gospel and the Progressives, but I submit there might be very good reasons for not calling it Christian. Very importantly, it isn't recognised as Christian either by its adherents or the vast majority of its opponents. Unlike crypto-Christians in China, for instance, these progressives aren't surreptitiously praying the rosary or receiving the sacraments. Their ideas clearly originated, at least in part, with Calvin, the Puritans, on through the Unitarians, but they have evolved into something else.
But denying their Christianity gives progressives two major advantages they don't deserve. One, secularists can present their worldview as universal (a kind of uber-ecumenicalism), and more pregnant with power. Note the victory of Marxian ("scientific") socialism over Tolstoyan (explicitly Christian) socialism, largely for this reason. Two, they can deploy "freedom of speech" against their non-progressive adversaries, as they did starting in the 1950s, and then claim "hate speech" when the Trinitarians do the same. A kind of "pulling up the ladder" which is quite adaptive and exactly what is happening in universities today.
(By the way, I think it's more accurate to see the current progressive regime as a fusion of Bismark's system with Christianity than as a natural evolutionary development of Christianity.)
Whatever you want to call it, I am 100% convinced that its resemblance to mainline Protestant Christianity is not an analogy (like the resemblance between a bird and a bat) but a homology (like the resemblance between a bird and a dinosaur). My problem is that this belief system is stuffed chock-full of bizarre received assumptions, not just unverifiable metaphysical claims, but thoughts about the real world, that are unjustifiable at best and malignantly delusional at worst. And these are being taught to children not as thought problems, but as doctrine.
The role of a university professor is not to indoctrinate his or her students, but to present them with divergent opinions in a fair-minded way. The task is to teach students how to think, not what to think. But over the last 60 years since winning the last major world war, rather than head out into the world a lot of progressives stayed in the universities and pursued academic careers to avoid the draft and fighting communism, with which they sympathised. They have reverted the citizen-training aspects of the universities to their 19th-century origins. Back then, universities were doctrinal institutions and almost entirely religious controlled by Trinitarian Christians.
Today power in the universities has shifted to the progressives, teaching multiculturalism, cultural Marxism and identity politics.
In the early 1800s, the main theological controversy in Massachusetts was between Trinitarians and Unitarians. Unitarians had become ascendant in the churches, and often put Trinitarian ministers out of their benefices. One such was the Reverend Abiel Holmes (1763 - 1837), an orthodox Calvinist, the father of the "autocrat of the breakfast table" and grandfather of the associate justice of the US Supreme Court. Trinitarians, on the other hand, controlled the state legislature, and, failing any other means of curtailing Unitarianism in the churches, disestablished them in order to cut off their funds. Disestablishment happened in Connecticut at about the same time and for the same reasons.
Let's skip forward to the 1970s. The progressives saw the universities as instruments of power and began to purge the schools of their political enemies (who were, of course, simply the previous generation of Christians) and their books from the libraries and curricula. A student can go through four years of courses and never encounter a conservative adult nor read a book by a conservative author who hasn't been dead for 100 years. Progressives then swamped the courses by inventing new "studies" such as black studies, gender studies, women studies and others. These are all political fields, not scholarly, and are meant to indoctrinate. Women's studies, for instance, is not about the academic study of women, it's about training Marxist feminists in the thoroughly discredited idea that the environment determines everything and that people are socially constructed.
You might think people who believe they are in a war for society would want to learn what their opponents thought. But neither the students nor the professors attend university for learning. The goal of universities in 2018 is cadre. Teaching people that biology doesn't exist or that the "patriarchy" is a real entity might sound pointless, but it has its uses. After all, if you can get people to believe in crazy things, and if those ideas can be recited using simple shorthand or codewords, those people will be wearing an ideological uniform. If you have a uniform, you have an army.
I mean, just look at this guy:
If you want to understand why there's this concerted effort to shut down the other side of the debate, it's because universities are religious again. These people don't see opposite opinions, they only see heresy. What do you do with heretics? You burn them at the stake if you have enough power or you shun them from society if you don't. It's not personal, it's religious. Christians always scream bloody murder and "oppression" when they're out of power but the moment they get a whiff of that juicy fruit, oh boy, you better watch out.
There is a common thread between the universities of the 19th-century and today's mutated beasts. Not just historically but also in ways of seeing the world, which I feel too few people understand. Most probably think the folks who gave America Prohibition were the intellectual ancestors of Jerry Falwell, not Hillary Clinton. they would be wrong about this. In my opinion, 19th-century Unitarians/progressives tended to support Free Trade and small government simply because they were a) merchants, and b) divorced from political power. Neither was true for their expensively educated intellectual grandchildren of the Bloomsbury set, and the many seductions of Boromir beckoned. But the Bloomsburies, Fabians, etc, continued their feud with the old aristocracy and Trinitarians, which they won in such devastating style after WWII.
I'm sure Wesley would be horrified by today's Methodism, and I'm sure Calvin wouldn't be too happy with his lineage of progressives. In fact, the feature of all mainline Protestant sects today that has really erased their difference is the doctrine of universal salvation, which they basically all hold in practice. Hellfire sermons are no longer a mainline trait. Every Christian of 200 years ago, and most of 100 years ago, would be horrified by what today's mainline Protestants believe - if nothing else by the deletion of hell
But the key for today's universities is that all the controversies of salvation through faith, predestination or works fold up and merge in the warm bath of progressive love. And, of course, these are the lessons taught to university students every year.
But don't mistake these people are "liberal" in the sense that a person in New Zealand or Britain might use that word. "Liberal" is both a cultural descriptor, meaning roughly "intellectual," and a description of economic and political policies supported by this caste in the 19th century (classical or Manchester liberalism). In the first sense, its modern meaning is unchanged, in the second it has entirely reversed. That makes it a particularly treacherous term.
Don't get me wrong, I don't think the problem in the universities and across Western society is Christianity per se, as many strains of Christianity are socially harmless or even (gasp) productive. It wasn't so long ago that I noticed - quite an odd realisation for an atheist - that most of the 20th-century writers I like best were Catholics. René Girard foremost among them.
We cannot ignore the "communist" or "hippie" elements of the New Testament, but we can reason around them by treating them figuratively, just like some Muslims treat the word "jihad." In any case, what corrupted Christianity in the 20th century was, I think, simple: power. The people who designed religious tolerance were thinking the right thoughts, they just made an engineering mistake. Power snuck back in, calling itself "reason."
And yet, the secret of government is that government is incredibly boring. Government has three proper tasks: a) enforcing the law, b) collecting taxes, and c) defending itself. There is no (d), and if there was it certainly wouldn't include caring what people thought. Once a state embarks on a career of managing the psychology of its subjects, the abyss is never far away. Maybe universities as an institution of learning will survive if they escape online, but the corruption in the physical buildings is so pathological the patient cannot be saved.
I do think Oxford University will make for some beautiful ruins, though.