It’s true. America’s troubles are due to lack of religion.
And it’s not true as well.
The wokists have little use for Christianity or Judaism or any other traditional religion, at least in the terms of their institutions and comprehensive traditions. They do not appeal to a sacred text or a figure of authority and saintly reputation. True, the woke have not yet duplicated the Jacobins’ slaughter of the French priesthood or Stalin’s torture, murder and enslavement of priests and devoted lay-people. We are still at an early stage, when the toppling of statues and the burning of businesses and federal buildings will have to do.
So what is untrue about saying that this plague of incuriosity and intolerance and of systematic racism passed off as anti-racism is springing from a lack of religion? At least there is a correlation, isn’t there?
What is untrue about the above claim is that the wokists are indeed deeply religious. It’s just that their religion is just not very traditional.
There is the division of the world into the Children of Light and the Children of Darkness, with the latter denied all rights and all love.
By not naming any traditional religion as the beneficiary of religious freedom, the First Amendment displays deep insight into the human condition. Religion can truly be defined as our human attempt to deal with a reality that by nature we only grasp in part. We rely on things beyond our knowledge and control, no matter who we are or what we believe. As Bob Dylan put it, “You’re gonna have to serve somebody/ It may be the devil or it may be the Lord/ But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.”
For all its pretensions to originality, wokism picks up a great deal from classic traditions though it scarcely acknowledges them. In its constant focus on climate disaster, there are evocations of the Flood from Hebrew Scripture and later visions of Armageddon. In preaching that some people are inherently and incurably racist, wokists preach a version of original sin, in which people are damned forever for something they never chose and are (as the practitioners insist) incapable of shedding. There is the violent intolerance to dissent that manifests in inquisitions and fatwas through the ages. There is the reduction of all the world’s complexity to a simple formula and the reduction of all moral choice to simple compliance with the one saving doctrine. There is the division of the world into the Children of Light and the Children of Darkness, with the latter denied all rights and all love.
The advantage that the great religious traditions have is that they have been around long enough not only to make grave errors but to learn from them and to change for the better. Those whose allegiance is to a belief so new and so convinced that it alone has truth do not see how they engage repeating very old and very destructive practices while believing that every excess is required and justified by truths only they realize.
Having absolute truth and seeking unlimited power to execute a program that needs neither amendment nor discussion, the wokists are utterly uncurious about any aspect of history that does not comply with their holy narrative. But there is plenty of precedent for what they are doing. Two of the most important events of modern Western history show the forebears of wokism.
Both the French and Russian revolutions addressed societies riddled with terrible inequities and in need of severe correction. But as each revolution proceeded, it was taken over by people of increasingly greater fanaticism and intolerance. At first, the way was led by liberal members of the upper class, such as Lafayette. But soon they were pushed aside. Then even the staunchly revolutionary Girondists became anathema to the Jacobins, who seized power from them. The Jacobins began to devour their own, with Robespierre sending even Danton to the guillotine. The Russian Revolution proceeded in a similar way, until only Lenin was left and then Stalin.
In both France and Russia, traditional religions were suppressed, their leaders destroyed, and their followers persecuted. Those religions speak of obligations older than the new rulers and of allegiances stronger and more binding than those impressed from without by government force. The new religions of the Jacobins and of the communists had themselves established by that governmental force and allowed no free exercise of any rival system.
Wokism embraces this model. And it is hell-bent on destroying the other model of serious, even revolutionary change, the one exemplified in the English revolutions of the 1600s and our own American Revolution. Central to both of these was a clear understanding of faithfulness to the traditions of liberty of the past that had been dishonored by those against whom the revolutionaries had fought. These revolutions both had a sense of constitutional continuity, that meaningful change had to be done in reference to what was true and enduring in the past in order not to go round and round in circles, always repeating past mistakes.
The First Amendment is a living monument to all that is good in this approach, and its light shames the wokists and all of their ilk. The great questions of final truth are not for a government to impose. Its work is to guard the freedom of all its citizens to pursue those questions on their own and in such associations as they choose and using the words they find most appropriate. Only in that freedom is there the promise of increasing knowledge and of self-correction rather than the imposition of new and graver societal sins by force.
Acts of free worship and of free expression defy the new intolerance of the woke. Wokism will not survive the free inquiry of men and women who base their own lives on a continuous search for the deepest and best relation with the Source of their lives and the life of the universe. With love and resolution, defy the would-be tyrants.
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