The following was submitted as a paper in partial fulfillment of the requirements for a Master of Arts degree through Luther Rice University.
“Take away the heritage of a people and they are easily destroyed.”–Karl Marx
“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.” –Psalm 127:3.
The 1973 Roe v. Wade landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion-on-demand proved to be a dividing line within American culture. Abortion is certainly not a new problem mankind must contend with, but the level of debate and discord surrounding the issues has certainly increased in the last quarter of the 20th Century and first part of the 21st Century. While it is clear to point to a decision like Roe v. Wade as the spark that lit the controversial debate on abortion in America, it is also clear that decisions like Roe do not happen in a vacuum. The seeds that created the culture for Roe were sown decades, even generations before. This course will examine the influence of Marxism dating from the mid-19th Century up to the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, and the Marxist ideology that molded and shaped the American ethos.
Clearly, the topic of Marxism and Socialism fills libraries of writings and analysis, and is beyond the scope of this paper. The focus, instead, will be on the impact of Cultural Marxism and Critical Theory on America, and how this ideology created the seedbed that produced the sexual revolution, modern feminism, abortion on demand, and ultimately brought destruction to the family. Significant to this thesis is the U.S. Supreme Court and its active role it has played since 1960 as a change agent concerning social and cultural issues. Finally, this paper will examine current attempts to solve the problem of abortion through political victories and the historic failure of Christians to recognize the true nature of the enemy it faces.
Part 1: The Seeds of Social Revolution in America
Karl Marx: The Father of Socialism
On Thursday, March 15, 1883, Friedrich Engels sat down to write a friend in Hoboken, New Jersey. Engels recalled the events of March 14, in which his long-time friend and collaborator, Karl Marx, had died:
Yesterday, at half-past two in the afternoon, the best time for visiting him, I went down to see him; everybody was in tears; it looked as if the end had come. I made inquiries, trying to get at the truth of the matter and to offer consolation. There had been a slight hemorrhage, but a sudden collapse had supervened. Our good old Lena, who had tended him better than any mother does her child, went up, came down. He was half asleep, she said; I could go up. As we went in, he lay there, sleeping, never to wake again. Pulse and breathing had ceased. In those two minutes he had gone painlessly and peacefully to sleep….1
For all practical purposes, Marx died a broken man. His wife died two years prior to his own death, and of his seven children, only two daughters, Jenny Carolina and Jenny Laura survived him. At his funeral service in London on March 17, 1883, only a small handful of people gathered to pay their respects. Engels spoke briefly on the life of Karl Marx:
Just as Darwin discovered the law of the evolution of organic nature, so Marx discovered the evolutionary law of human history—the simple fact, hitherto hidden under ideological overgrowths, that above all things men must eat, drink, dress, and find shelter before they can give themselves to politics, science, art, religion, or anything else, and that therefore the production of the material necessaries of life and the corresponding stage of economic evolution of a people or a period provides the foundation upon which the national institutions, legal systems, art, and even religious ideas of the people in question have been built, and upon which, therefore, their explanation must be based, a procedure the reverse of that which has hitherto been adopted.2
Marx died without the worldwide revolution he envisioned in which the working classes of the nations united together, not under the nationalistic banner of king and state, but under the power and unity of the collective. In fact, as the world marched towards the battle fields of the First World War in August 1914, the strength of nationalism was underscored as Marxists stood with the monarchists, conservatives, and other political parties and voted with king and country to go to war. As Barbara Tuchman notes,
When the call came, the worker, whom Marx declared to have no Fatherland, identified himself with country, not class. He turned out to be a member of the national family like anyone else. The force of his antagonism which was supposed to topple capitalism found a better target in the foreigner. The working class went to war willingly, even eagerly, like the middle class, like the upper class, like the species.3
In the years 1916-1924, Communist revolts were defeated in Budapest, Munich, Berlin, and Poland. Only in Russia did the Marxists succeed in the overthrow of the tsarist government during the October Revolution of 1917. On all other fronts, it appeared Marxism had been defeated. Yet, the ideas of Marx had not died. Like a seed hidden in the soil waiting to germinate, Marxism would prove to be one of the most forceful and resilient ideologies of the 20th Century.
Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937)
Cultural Marxism is rooted in the philosophy and writings of Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937). Gramsci was an Italian political leader who helped establish the Italian Communist Party in 1921. Like many of his contemporary socialists, Gramsci sought a less dogmatic form of communism than what the Bolsheviks in Russia had established, and one that was more palatable to the intellectual elite.4 Gramsci was jailed by Benito Mussolini in 1926 and lived the remaining 11 years of his life in prison. During this time, Gramsci wrote his “Prison Notebooks,” which present his theory of hegemony.
In classic Marxist doctrine, the concept of revolution is the core driving engine. This key concept is captured in one of Marx’s axioms built upon the Hegelian dialectic critical to Marx’s thinking: “The State is either monarchical, or, if it is not monarchical, it is no State. Capitalism is either oppressive, or altogether not Capitalism. Socialism is either revolutionary, or not Socialism at all; there is no middle term.”5 Gramsci recognized that broad social change can happen through a much slower evolutionary process. Simply put, “Gramsci defined hegemony as the domination of one social group over others not through coercion, but through civic formation (to which the dominated groups give consent).”6 They key that would unlock a socialist revolution was not to be in the factories and streets of industrialized cities, but in the hearts and minds of the people. Change happens when old traditions, presuppositions, ideas and concepts of ethics and morality are erased over time and replaced with a new, synthesized cultural ethos. To Gramsci, his theoretical reasoning seemed both logical and doable. Walsh explains the login behind Gramsci’s theory:
If instead of seizing the means of the production to (someday) be turned over to the proletariat, they could instead occupy culture, wouldn’t the revolution have a far better chance of succeeding? They had been let down by the grubby, unwashed workers of the world, who largely rejected the great gift they had been offered; now they would approach their equals in the intelligentsia, a far more receptive and persuadable audience. As any con man knows, the easiest mark is the one who wants to believe.7
Like Marx, however, Gramsci was to die in an Italian prison before seeing his theory tested.
Georg Lukács: The Enemy is Christianity
Contemporary to Antonio Gramsci, was the Hungarian Georg Lukács (1885-1971). In 1923, Lukács published History and Class Consciousness, in which he argued and defended his theory that “the proletariat held a unique position within capitalist societies that allowed them, and them only, not only to see but also to resolve the long-standing antinomies inherent in capitalist economies but also in the philosophical theories developed within these economies.”8 Like Gramsci, Lukács recognized a fatal weakness in Marxist strategy: a revolution required the full-throated support of the working class, and as the failed revolutions of the 1916-1924 period in Europe had shown, the working class did not rise in revolt against their capitalists masters. While Gramsci focused on long-term, evolutionary cultural change to bring about socialism, Lukács recognized a powerful counterforce at work within Western Culture: Christianity. Patrick Buchanan observed,
The workers had not risen in revolution because their souls had been saturated in two thousand years of Christianity, which blinded them to their true class interests. Unless and until Christianity and Western culture, the immune system of capitalism, were uprooted from the soul of Western Man, Marxism could not take root, and the revolution would be betrayed by the workers in whose name it was to be fought.9
Lukács identified Christianity as the counterforce within Western Culture that would fight against socialism, and with his enemy clearly identified, set about to destroy it. He believed that the cultural slate had to be wiped clean before a new cultural code could be written on the hearts and minds of the people. Lukács stated, “a worldwide overturning of values cannot take place without the annihilation of the old values and the creation of new ones by the revolutionaries.”10 According to Walsh,
Lukács dreamed of creating a void in the soul of humanity, in a world that supposedly had been abandoned by God, a collectivist world in which there would be no room for the individual— which is to say an ant farm that would admit of no heroic Siegfrieds or supermen. He wrote of the necessity of an Aufhebung der Kultur— an abolition of culture, specifically Judeo-Christian Western culture, although the word “Aufhebung” might be better translated in this instance as the “uprooting.”11
In truth, Lukács was not too far removed from Marx’s original teaching concerning religion. In A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, published in 1844, Marx wrote:
“The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call upon them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call upon them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.” (Emphases are Marx’s.)12
The Frankfurt School: Cultural Marxism Comes to America
Consequently, as the 1930s approached, the focus of Marxists intellectuals in Europe was changing from violent revolution to cultural evolution with Christianity identified as the beating heart of a decadent Western Culture. Into this environment was created the Institut für Sozialforschung (Institute of Social Research) at University of Frankfurt in 1923. The Institute’s mission was established by its first director, Carl Grünberg, who declared the Institute as a “center for research in philosophy and the social sciences from a Marxist perspective.”13 In 1930, Max Horkheimer (1895-1973) became its director, a role in which he served from 1930 until 1958. Joining Horkheimer at the Institute were Theodor Adorno (1903-1969), Walter Benjamin (1892-1940), and Herbert Marcuse (1898-1979). Together, they developed a version of Marxism known as “critical theory.”14
With the rise of the Nazis in January 1933, the Institute and its members were forced to leave Germany due to their Marxists beliefs and Jewish ethnicity. The Institute landed in New York and eventually found a home at Columbia University. Three of the original four members emigrated to America with the Institute—Horkheimer, Adorno, and Marcuse. (Walter Benjamin initially emigrated to France, but when France was defeated by the Nazis in 1940, he attempted to move to Spain. He was denied entry by the Spanish Government, and committed suicide.14) The Institute became known simply as “the Frankfurt School” within American society. Following the defeat of the Third Reich, Horkheimer and Adorno returned to Germany in 1948 and continued their work; Marcuse stayed in America, where he became a leading thinker and spokesman for the emerging New Left.
Critical Theory: Question Everything, Especially Authority
The influence (and culturally destructive force) of the Frankfurt School cannot be underestimated. While Gramsci provided the “why” (evolution vs. revolution), and Lukács provided the “what” (the Christian soul of Western Culture), the Frankfurt School provided the “how” (critical theory). Again, a full understanding of critical theory is far beyond the scope of this paper, but in simplest terms, critical theory teaches adherents to question everything, but especially authority. Remember, the ideology driving critical theory is a Gramscian version of Marxism in which the seeds of cultural change lie within the hearts and minds of the people, and over time cultural values and identity can be erased and replaced with a new set of values and identity. The Frankfurt School taught Americans to question their own culture and the authority which was behind this culture, which, in the eyes of the New Left, was inherently evil. And nowhere is authority more suspect than within the male-dominated, patriarchal family structure.
As an example, in an essay called “Authority and the Family,” Horkheimer states,
When the child respects in his father’s strength a moral relationship and thus learns to love what his reason recognizes to be a fact, he is experiencing his first training for the bourgeois authority relationship. The father thus has a moral claim upon submission to his strength, but not because he proves himself worthy of respect; rather he proves himself worthy by the very fact that he is stronger.16
The father, in Horkheimer’s illustration, is not one to be respected because of his position, but instead, establishes within the child a learned response to obey a strong, authoritarian figure; not because of a relationship established and founded upon love, but instead established because the father is stronger than the child.
Walsh levels his own criticism against the impact of this kind of ideology and teaching:
Few of these ideas have proven more pernicious than those of the so-called Frankfurt School and its reactionary philosophy of “critical theory.” At once overly intellectualized and emotionally juvenile, Critical Theory— like Pandora’s Box— released a horde of demons into the American psyche. When everything could be questioned, nothing could be real, and the muscular, confident empiricism that had just won the war gave way, in less than a generation, to a fashionable Central European nihilism that was celebrated on college campuses across the United States. Seizing the high ground of academe and the arts, the new nihilists set about dissolving the bedrock of the country, from patriotism to marriage to the family to military service.17
The Authoritarian Personality
One of the seminal writings produced by the Frankfurt School was The Authoritarian Personality published in 1950 and authored by Adorno, Frenkel-Brunswik, Levinson, & Sanford. Written from a Marxist perspective, this book sought to identify and explain the societal forces within Europe that led to the rise of fascism. The authors identified four major characteristics, which taken together form an authoritarian personality. In an article for the Baker Encyclopedia of Psychology & Counseling, D. E. Anderson outlines the four characteristics:
- The first is that of fascism. They [the authors of The Authoritarian Personality] define fascism as a trait in which a person focuses upon the importance of demonstrating respect for and showing obedience to established authority persons and structures. The leader or master is all-important, all-powerful, and all-good and should be accorded due honor and respect. A person with fascist tendencies is likely to show blind and unquestioning devotion and loyalty to his or her leader (whether it be a führer, president, premier, king, commanding officer, or an older sibling) and to be outraged at hearing criticism of this leader. The fascist person is overly influenced by the position of authority itself. No honor can be greater than to have served the authority well and to have been faithful to the end to all of the leader’s commands and wishes; the virtue comes in having served authority for authority’s sake. Another tendency of fascist individuals is to divide the world’s people into two rather simplistic groups. The “good” group serves authority well and is physically, spiritually, and morally strong. The “bad” group consists of immoral, crooked, and feeble-minded people who can never be trusted, who never learned respect and reverence for tradition, and who are responsible for most of the world’s problems. Finally, there is a tendency in fascism to enjoy and respect symbols of power, authority, and mass conformity—guns, swords, flags, insignias, uniforms.
- The second major characteristic of the authoritarian personality is the tendency toward ethnocentrism. An ethnocentric attitude holds that one group or culture or nation is best, and all others are inferior. Political pluralism and ethnic or religious diversity are not societal qualities to be admired or desired.
- Third, the authoritarian personality tends to be quite anti-Semitic.18 Such an individual is likely to possess many stereotypes of Jews (e.g., “Jewish power and control in money matters is far out of proportion to the number of Jews in the total population”) and is likely to blame “the Jewish element” for a myriad of social and economic problems.
- Fourth, the person with an authoritarian personality is seen by Adorno as being politically and economically conservative. This person will believe in the notion that determination and hard work are the only requirements for success in life (ignoring racial or gender barriers), that “children should be taught the value of money,” and that tradition is usually superior to innovation in both the political and economic arenas.19
Christianity Equals Fascism
One of the areas where The Authoritarian Personality has received its sharpest criticism comes, not surprisingly, from conservative, biblical Christians. It’s difficult to read the characteristics of an authoritarian personality and not see a biblical Christian. Consider just the first characteristic in which Adorno, et al define a fascist from their perspective:
Fascism & Christianity
Tim Keller makes the following observation concerning the impact of The Authoritarian Personality on American Culture:
There is no more unpopular teaching in a place like Manhattan today I think than this whole passage when it says, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men …” It says, “Respect civil authority. Respect your masters, slaves.” Now what does that mean?
First of all, there is a tremendous anti-authority spirit in our society today. A book was published in America in 1950. It was very influential. It was called The Authoritarian Personality. The thesis of the book is there are people who need to be strong because they’re afraid they’re weak.
Because they feel that they’re weak, they have to lord it over people. They have to gain power over people. The thesis of the book is authoritarian people create, especially in their own children and in people around them, authoritarian people who either need to be authoritarian or they need authoritarian people over them.
This was very, very influential. In the 60s, for example, the thesis behind this book laid behind a lot of the parent effectiveness training and a lot of the books on parenting that came out in the 60s and have continued on through because the books on parenting say parents should never, ever use authority in trying to raise their children. Never. Never say, “Do this because I’m the parent.” Don’t say that. You have to reason. You have to try and persuade. Never use authority. Authority is out….
The fact is, as the passage tells us, God instituted human authority. It says. “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted …” by God, sent by God. God created human authority. He established it. You see it in the church. You see it in civil government. You see it in the family. There are all sorts of various institutions. Why? You can’t live without authority.
This is just one example of the influence of the Frankfurt School on American life and culture. The impact of the Frankfurt School and Critical Theory on the New Left within American politics and American culture is well documented. Roberta M. Gilbert, in her journal article on societal regression and the clergy, provides a good summary of the Frankfurt School’s impact and influence:
The Frankfurt School began, in the 1920s, to actively try to turn Western society toward the world revolution dictated by a Marxist philosophy. They sought a different kind of revolution than the labor movement that Marxists had used in Russia. Realizing that Western labor was too well paid to revolt, a cultural revolution was advocated instead. So they planned what is commonly referred to as their “long march through the institutions” in order to destroy the underpinnings of the culture. They actively infiltrated the education system (with teacher training programs), rewrote history and advocated student, racial, and women’s revolts. An attack on religion as one of society’s institutions was carried out through their “critical theory.” It was not much of a theory. It was more a method that criticized and attacked all institutions, be they religious, educational or societal (such as the family itself).
The first part of this course has established the Marxist ideology and strategy that serve as the basis for the culture war that has gripped America since the mid-1960s. The concepts that originated with Marx and Engels in the mid-19th Century were modified and repackaged in the 1920s by Gramsci and Lukács and then carried to America in the 1930s by the members of the Frankfurt School. By the 1950s, the concepts of Critical Theory were starting to show up in the key American institutions that would mold and shape the cultural narrative over the last half of the 20th Century–education, the media (starting with Hollywood), and the church. While nothing was sacred—sexuality, parental authority, patriotism, American exceptionalism, gender roles, etc.—there was one clear target, and this was the family. As Walsh notes,
Therefore, it’s no accident that one of the chief targets of the Unholy Left is the family— just as the nascent family of Adam and Eve was Satan’s target. The family, in its most basic biological sense, represents everything that those who would wish “fundamental change” (to use a famous, curdling phrase) on society must first loathe. It is the cornerstone of society, the guarantor of future generations (thus obeying nature’s first principle of self-preservation via procreation), the building block of the state but superior to it, because the family is naturally ordained, whereas the state is not. Against the evidence of millennia, across all cultures, the Left hurls the argument that the family is nothing more than a “social construct” that we can reengineer if we choose.
Part II: Social Revolution Comes to America
1964: Baby Boomers Enter the Culture
Something else happened in the Fall of 1964 that would prove to have great consequence for the remainder of the decade. In August 1964, the first Baby Boomers (born in 1946) entered college. This was the first of the post-war generation to enter adult life. From the beginning, they had been taught to question everything, including the stability and happiness of their own family. Over the next decade, the full arsenal of the left would be unleashed on the unsuspecting American family–the birth-control pill; no-fault divorce; radical feminism; rising numbers of women in the workforce; declining moral standards in pervasive media; stereotyped or inadequate portrayals of marriage in television programming. In 10 years, Leave It To Beaver and Father Knows Best had been replaced by All in the Family and Maude.
1968: Revolution Comes to America
By 1968, American college campuses were in complete uproar and leaders of the New Left talked of open rebellion and even revolution. Herbert Marcuse, for example, in a lecture titled “On the New Left” delivered in December 1968, declared:
We are faced with a novelty in history, namely with the prospect of or with the need for radical change, revolution in and against a highly developed, technically advanced industrial society. This historical novelty demands a reexamination of one of our most cherished concepts. . . . First, the notion of the seizure of power. Here, the old model wouldn’t do anymore. That, for example, in a country like the United States, under the leadership of a centralized and authoritarian party, large masses concentrate on Washington, occupy the Pentagon, and set up a new government. Seems to be a slightly too unrealistic and utopian picture. (Laughter.) We will see that what we have to envisage is a type of diffuse and dispersed disintegration of the system.
Much of the media attention during the last half of the 1960s focused on the war in Vietnam. Indeed, with a casual overview of the 1960s, one could conclude that opposition to the Vietnam War was at the root of the social and cultural upheaval. In fact, a 1988 poll by Rolling Stone magazine identified the Vietnam War as the source of the Baby Boom generation’s cynicism. Others argue, however, that this simply is not the case. Robert H. Bork argues that there were, in fact, two conflicts at play during the 1960s–the American government was at war with North Vietnam and allied with South Vietnam; the Liberal left was at war against American culture and allied with Marxist radicals in France, Germany, and Italy, each of which saw serious student rebellions during the same period. Only in the United States was the war with Vietnam a factor. In each of the European countries, it was not. Student radicals in the 1960s were not just agitating for America’s withdrawal from Vietnam, they were hoping for America’s defeat in Vietnam. (Evidence of this can be found as recently as May 2016, when a former Vietcong guerrilla leader, Madam Nguyen Thi Binh, sent an open letter to American anti-war activists thanking them for their help in defeating the United States and its ally, the South Vietnam government.)
The Praetorian Guard of the Left: A Court Without Limits
As the 1960s came to a close, the culture was in turmoil. Yet, carefully and quietly working behind the scenes of public chaos was the United States Supreme Court led by Chief Justice Earl Warren throughout the 1960s before Chief Justice Warren Berger took his place in June 1969. From a constitutional perspective, the Supreme Court, established under Article III of the U.S. Constitution, is a court with limits, and those limits can be established by the Congress. Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution states, “In all the other Cases before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.” This provision is termed the “exceptions clause” and allows Congress to pass laws which simply remove an area of jurisdiction from the Court. Yet, in many cases, the Court has taken an activist role, in deciding cases of great societal and cultural relevance. Bork states,
The Court today is, as it always has been, a legal institution, but it also undertakes to decide hot button questions of culture and politics that are, strictly speaking, none of its business. In its cultural-political role, the Court almost invariably advances the agenda of modern liberalism.
Bork quotes Lino Graglia, a professor of law at the University of Texas, on this issue:
The thing to know to fully understand contemporary constitutional law is that, almost without exception, the effect of rulings of unconstitutionality over the past four decades has been to enact the policy preferences of the cultural elite on the far left of the American political spectrum.
1973: Roe v. Wade and the Abandonment of the Constitution
Perhaps no decision has highlighted how far the Court has transgressed from the original intentions of the founders and progressed as an activist arm of the American liberal elite than the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. Again, Robert Bork:
I objected to Roe v. Wade the moment it was decided, not because of any doubts about abortion, but because the decision was a radical deformation of the Constitution. The Constitution has nothing to say about abortion, leaving it, like most subjects, to the judgment and moral sense of the American people and their elected representatives. Roe and the decisions reaffirming it are equal in their audacity and abuse of judicial office to Dred Scott v. Sandford. Just as Dred Scott forced a southern pro-slavery position on the nation, Roe is nothing more than the Supreme Court’s imposition on us of the morality of our cultural elites.
While Roe underscored the “radical deformation of the Constitution,” as Bork put it, Planned Parenthood v. Casey gave the individual supreme rights over his or her concept of life itself. Said to define “personhood,” the Court stated, “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” One can hear the voice of Søren Kirkegaard with a hearty, “Amen!” as those words were delivered by the Court. In his book, Works of Love, Kierkegaard wrote, “What, after all, is the Law, what is the Law’s requirement of a person? Well, that is for people to decide. Which people? Here doubt begins.” As Robert Jenson observes, Casey is when man became “a torah to himself.”
There had been a voice that addressed us from beyond us, and since it was one voice for all, it bound us together in shared obedience or disobedience. And indeed its echoes and whispers haunted us for a long time; even Kant listened for them. But with someone like Emerson, the identification of the individual as the sole source of his own torah was complete. It remained for the American Supreme Court to produce what must surely go down as the classic example of obliviousness to any word from an Other, in the majority opinion for Casey: The essence of liberty, it reads, is the freedom of the individual to decree for herself what her liberty is to be.
What Does the Lord Require of You?
There is always a risk to make too simplistic of an argument out of a complex issue. This, too, is the risk for the historian. Beliefs and values that take decades, even generations, to take root and bear fruit can often appear perfectly sequential in hindsight. Clearly, life does not happen this way. The greatest changes in history often appear as non-linear events at first, and it is only after seeing events with the clarity of hindsight that these events begin to connect with the greater historical narrative that happens over long periods of time.
Few would argue that the mid-19th Century gave mankind two concepts that would profoundly shape the future. Both concepts are the antithesis of a biblical narrative and openly seek to remove God from His place as Author and Creator of this universe and life itself. The first–the theory of evolution presented by Charles Darwin in 1859–and the second–the theory of the collective or socialism–presented by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engel in 1867. While these two theories have interwoven in many ways to create a secularist (and atheistic) worldview in the time since they were first published, it has been the focus of this paper to examine the role of Marxism in molding and shaping our current cultural ethos.
Ethics and morality are often confused in our society and used interchangeably. It is important, however, to have a clear understanding of what ethics means. James Eckman, in Biblical Ethics states,
Ethics is what is normative, absolute. It refers to a set of standards around which we organize our lives and from which we define our duties and obligations. It results in a set of imperatives that establishes acceptable behavior patterns. It is what people ought to do. By contrast, morality is more concerned with what people do. It describes what people are already doing, often regardless of any absolute set of standards.
We now see the problem of the modern human condition. When ethics and morality are confused and mixed, the result is that the culture makes the norms. The standards become relativistic and changing. That which is the norm is identified with that which is the absolute. The absolute standards are destroyed by the fluid nature of the culture. Relativism triumphs over the absolute.
There Is No Transcendent Authority
This is the culture we find ourselves in today. We live in a time when there simply is no transcendent “ought,” no acknowledgement of an authority outside of ourselves, and every man does what is right in his own eyes (Judges 17:6). If we doubt this, we only need to look to the one (supposed) final authority in our land—the Supreme Court—for confirmation. Again, in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the court declared, “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” We are our own gods.
It is the assertion of this author that the culture we live in today is the result of a century-long infusion of Marxist ideology that effectively erased the innate Judeo-Christian values that governed America until the 1960s. While the risk for a paper like this is to make too simplistic of an argument, it is countered by Christians in America who falsely believe that the solutions to our problems are equally simplistic. Every election cycle voters are faced with “the most important election of our lifetime.”
In 2016, this choice came down to Hillary Clinton (D) and Donald Trump (R). As if on cue, Christian leaders lined up to support the Republican candidate, Donald Trump. One example was Richard Lamb, who served for 25 years as president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention. Arguing why Christians should vote for Donald Trump, Lamb declared,
Frankly, I think we’re dealing with a choice between a lesser evil and a greater evil, and Mrs. Clinton is the greater evil. That’s my personal opinion, and if we don’t help the lesser evil prevail over the greater evil, we become responsible morally for helping the greater evil to prevail.
There are many Christian leaders who echo Lamb’s opinion.
One of the consistent arguments Christian leaders offer in justifying their support for Donald Trump (or any of a number of Republican candidates) is the future of the Supreme Court. At issue, in many cases, is the pro-life cause. The argument is often presented as a binary choice with the life of unborn children hanging in the balance. As we have seen in this paper, the Court does play a significant role in determining many cultural “hot button” issues. The most recent was the Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage. As with Roe v. Wade, the Court found in Obergefell v. Hodges that the right for same-sex couples to marry is guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution. Writing his minority dissent, Chief Justice John Roberts stated,
If you are among the many Americans — of whatever sexual orientation — who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today’s decision. Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it.
Those who argue that the Court is too important of an issue, and that Christian votes must vote for the “lesser of two evils” in order to affect change on the court, are ignoring the historical reality of the past 50 years. Robert Bork quotes Lino Graglia on this issue:
The hope that this situation can be changed by shifts in personnel on the Court has been shown to be futile. Eleven consecutive appointments to the Court by Republican presidents pledged to change the Court’s direction have not resulted in the overruling of a single major ACLU victory or even halting the flow of ACLU victories…. The Court will continue to serve as the mirror, mouthpiece, and enacting arm of a cultural elite that is radically alienated from and to the left of the ordinary citizen. … Judicial activism presents the … currently crucial question whether and how we can return to the federalist system of representative self-government that the Constitution contemplates, a return which is necessary if we are to reverse the socially destructive policies that judicial activism has imposed.
Bork later notes that,
The Court has departed from any plausible meaning of the Constitution or a statute. We have, then, national law with respect to our culture that has nothing to do with the Constitution or statute but everything to do with the captious ponderings of a majority of the Justices, led in turn by the latest visions of the self-anointed intellectual elite.
The Fallacy of “Conservative” Judges
Christian leaders today see the Supreme Court as the last firewall against the complete secularization of America, and, therefore, it is worth investing the resources of the church in the election process in order to elect political leaders who can affect change on the Court. Unfortunately, the blaze of secularism and socialism has already overcome the culture and the Court.
Consider the three Court decisions examined in this course:
- in Roe v. Wade, the majority opinion was written by Justice Harry Blackmun, a Nixon appointee;
- in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Justices Sandra Day O’Connor (a Reagan appointee), Anthony Kennedy (a Reagan appointee), and David Souter (a George H. W. Bush appointee) wrote the plurality opinion;
- in Obergefell v. Hodges, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion.
These are all justices the Christian Right fought for during the last quarter of the 20th Century, yet when it comes to the most critical Court decisions of this generation, to a man and a woman, the justices advanced the cause of socialism one more step away from Judeo-Christian values.
Christians living in the 21st Century live in a time when there is no transcendent ought. There is no ethical standard apart from one’s own beliefs that guide and direct our morals or our decision making. This is not by accident, but by design. The seeds were sown 150 years ago and nurtured by men with a clear vision and plan for a world and for the culture that governs the world. They were willing to take the long road and look clearly beyond their own lifetime to see the desired change. The fruit of this investment is a secular/socialist culture that is now affirmed and progressed by the very pillars of our society—our schools, our media, our government, our courts, and, sadly, many of our churches.
Christians must not forget, however, that we do believe in a transcendent “ought,” a divine voice calling from outside of ourselves, and He is telling us what we “ought” to do:
He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?
1 Max Beer, The life and teaching of Karl Marx (Kindle Locations 1030-1035). Kindle Edition.
3 Barbara Tuchman, The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World Before the War: 1890-1914 (New York: Ballantine Books, 1993), p. 462.
4 Paul Lagassé, Columbia University, The Columbia Encyclopedia (New York; Detroit: Columbia University Press; Sold and distributed by Gale Group, 2000).
5 Beer, Kindle Locations 124-126.
6 Allen Dwight Callahan, ed., Semeia 83/84 (1998).
7 Michael Walsh, The Devil’s Pleasure Palace: The Cult of Critical Theory and the Subversion of the West (p. 72). Encounter Books. Kindle Edition.
8 Craig A. Phillips, “Literary Criticism,” The Encyclopedia of Christianity (Grand Rapids, MI; Leiden, Netherlands: Wm. B. Eerdmans; Brill, 1999–2003), 293.
9 Patrick J. Buchanan, The Death of the West: How Dying Populations and Immigrant Invasions Imperil Our Country and Civilization (p. 75). St. Martin’s Press. Kindle Edition.
10 Michael Loewy, Georg Lukács from Romanticism to Bolshevism (Patrick Caniller, Translator (London: NLB, 1979), p. 112.
11 Walsh, pp. 72-73.
12 Ibid, p. 39.
13 Lagassé, The Columbia Encyclopedia.
16 Max Horkheimer, Critical Theory: Selected Essays (translated by Matthew J. O’Connell and others), Continuum, New York, 2002, p. 101.
17 Walsh, pp. 1-2.
18 Anderson notes in another portion of the text that “anti-Semitic” has in subsequent years been broadened to include the scapegoating of any cultural, religious, ethnic, or gender group, be they Catholics, blacks, illegal aliens, gays, feminists (p. 112).
19 D. E. Anderson, “Authoritarian Personality,” ed. David G. Benner and Peter C. Hill, Baker Encyclopedia of Psychology & Counseling, Baker Reference Library (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), 111–112.