It is not very often that I depart from a focus on prayer, evangelism and mission in this blog. This week, however, I have been heartbroken, and sickened by the Supreme Court confirmation hearings in the nation’s capital. Kavanaugh and Ford aside, there is something ominous happening to us as a nation.
A few years ago, the late Ted Kennedy, arguably the archliberal on the Judiciary Committee, voted, nevertheless, to confirm Sandra Day O’Connor, Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy, all conservatives. Archconservative Lindsay Graham voted to confirm both of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominees, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. These actions represent a recent period in which there was greater common ground, more bipartisanship among even those on the edges of the right and the left. However, the divide is now so deep, the partisanship so inflamed, that it is doubtful that any of the current democratic members on the Judiciary Committee will support the Kavanaugh nomination.
Consider this. There was this week, from the most extreme members of the Judiciary Committee, a crusade in behalf of old-fashioned morality, specifically, the honor of a woman and the inappropriateness of certain sexual behavior. There was also a relentless tone of intolerance for drinking and drunkenness and its consequences. Supposedly, by Kavanaugh. These questions, this position, if these more liberal senators had been sincere, and if their concerns had been rooted in old-fashioned morality, would have been an occasion for a national evangelical happy dance. However, that was not the case. The questioners held completely contradictory positions. While they roasted the nominee for drinking and for his sexual aggressiveness, seemingly championing morality and sobriety, their support for immorality as a standard, under the banner of personal individual rights had not and will not change. Their willingness to sacrifice him, and berate his alleged immorality, in the public hearing, is strangely, in order to assure the opposite – that, certain features of immorality continue as a national standard.
They will continue their support, for example, of the distribution of condoms to high school students and not only the sale of alcoholic beverages, and their use by adults and college students, a major topic this week, but beyond those, liberals across the nation also advocate the legalization of marijuana. It seems that there are no boundaries. This moral schizophrenia has emerged in the soul of a nation with standards applied only when it is convenient to some cause. The national conscience is divided, if not seared. Spring break and campus wide hedonistic celebrations are no longer hidden. There is no attempt to restrain immoral behaviors. Self-indulgence and decadence is celebrated. It is expected. It is normal. Few in congress lift their voices against such activities – except when they are not supposed to be normal.
This week, the very voices who normally oppose traditional moral standards, imposed them on the nominee. Were the national conscience set on the values of biblical morality, sex as sacred and belonging to the bounds of marriage, against drunkenness, and tilted not only toward sobriety but abstinence, the questions might have been, even with their being four decades old, understandable. However, with virtually no national moral standards or righteousness, this advocacy of morality, the shaming of Kavanaugh for his alleged behavior, seemed strange. These liberals are not the evangelical evangelists who they seemed to be channeling.
Again, Kavanaugh and Ford, aside, the episodic selection of values, the relativism with which they are applied, the weaponizing of values against human targets is the spirit of the Pharisees who were ready to stone anyone caught in sin without any regard for their own sin, without humility or grace.
This was once a nation rooted in Christian values. As such, we believed in redemption. We believed that one could be born again. We believed that the adoption of faith was not merely a matter of a new philosophy of life, but the gift of a new heart. We believed that men and women, who repented of their sin were made new. This gave us hope for humanity.
During these hearings, we demonstrated, as a nation, that we no longer believe in such values. We demonstrated our belief that humans could and should be defined by one moment in their life – the worst moment. That they never change. That we are victims, trapped in behavior cycles, predestined to act on genetic impulse and habituated behaviors. Again, whether or not Kavanaugh or Ford are right, the idea that “old things have passed away,” and the glorious idea that conversion by grace can produce a new man or woman is what we demonstrated that we no longer believe. And that is a tragic loss to the American soul. It leaves us as we are, empowered only by humanistic motives, not by divine intervention. It leaves us cynical and disbelieving that one can be “born again,” from above, miraculously changed, from the inside out, becoming a “new creature” in Christ. The tolerant are no longer tolerant. The cry was, “Stone him!” Caught in a forty-year-old sin, with evidence of change – if he committed the alleged action, which he denied – nevertheless, with a stellar history for three decades, he is unforgiveable.
The hearings thundered, “We no longer believe in redemption!” We believe in unpardonable sin.
Liberalism is classically a relative term. If one is ideologically liberal, it is in relationship to some center, some principle or standard. The conservative is the one that supposedly tows the line and stays inside the boundaries, protecting the ideal. Classically, the liberal lived at the edges, daring the standard and sometimes crossing the line, but not destroying the standard. The classical liberal was the one with grace, ready to move the fence and be more inclusive acting with greater mercy. Classical liberalism was loving. But, classical liberalism was also respectful of its relationship to an anchoring absolute. What is happening in our culture is a new kind of liberalism. It has no respect for the old standard, the absolute. It is not liberal in relationship to a given conservative principle; it is unhinged liberalism. It is liberalism tethered to desired non-negotiable social outcomes that are forever changing. Unhinged from conservative absolutes, the new liberalism needs a new fixed point of reference. It is emerging now as ideological totalitarianism.
What we saw displayed in the judiciary hearings, wonderfully demonstrated before the nation, is the ideology of identity politics. This philosophy, being taught fervently in modern universities, is also trickling down into our high schools. Jordan Peterson, a foremost expert on the matter, and a Canadian University Professor, describes identity politics as “power games based on their [the actors] identity, and there’s going to be no cross-talk between the power hierarchies.” This calcifies differences. It is non-negotiable. The new liberalism is not liberal at all. It has no grace. It is not forgiving. It takes no prisoners. Its only goal is its own outcome objectives to be achieved at all cost. With absolute truth, the anchoring center is gone. The only the truth is that which accomplishes the social-cultural objective of power and control. “Your truth,” the post-moderns argue, “is not my truth!” All is relative. The moral absolute that once defined classical liberalism, the center from which it retreated to some edge, has now been destroyed.
Class warfare is the technique of the post-modern liberal – and every class asserts its rights, grasps for its power, and destroys others to accomplish its goals. This is not merely humans acting badly; there is a spirit of division that has been loosed on the nation from hell itself. There is an anointing to divide and destroy. This is a spiritual matter.
Christ, who could bring us together, is not welcome at this party. He offers new life, personal and cultural redemption, but on terms, that the post-modern can’t accept. He calls all to repentance. He champions the rights of women without displacing or destroying men. He unifies. He plays no favorites. When Peter spoke presumptuously, tempting him to avoid suffering, Jesus renamed him ‘Satan,’ or adversary, and told him, “Get behind me!” In essence, “I don’t want to see your face.” He was and is gloriously objective. He embraced repentant and heart-hungry sinners, and rebuked Pharisees, and sometimes his own disciples.
If Ted Kennedy had risen from the dead and sat before the Judiciary to be nominated for the Supreme Court, it is doubtful that anything, including the Chappaquiddick incident in 1969 which resulted in the death of Mary Jo Kopechne would prevent his successful nomination. Those who oppose the current nominee would nevertheless support him wildly. This crusade that we have watched over the past ten days may have appeared to be about morality, but that concern was only superficial.
By identity politics, post-modernism creates a “communitarian doctrine” that drives “racial identity or sexual identity or gender identity or some kind of group identity [as] paramount.” Each group jockeys for power and rights. Jordan Peterson says, “…they’ve got control over most low-to-mid level bureaucratic structures, and many governments as well.” [i]
Peterson asserts, “Today’s identity politics… teaches the exact opposite of what we think a liberal arts education should be.” It isn’t open in its exploration; it is closed. It doesn’t look for ‘whole’ truth, but for preferred slices of truth. Finding it, it doesn’t then explore additional truth, or admit contradictory truth, it defends the piece of truth it worships.
The goal is a new order – it is Marxism rolled out with a new face. Socialism, or people power, so-called, is at the root. It is not constructive. It is deconstruction by the use of selective truth. Since all truths and value systems are relative, to the postmodern, the only ‘real’ good is the destruction of power hierarchies that have been using their ‘truth’ to create inequality. The only truth worth believing is the truth that leads to the destruction of power hierarchies. Truth is not then, as Christians believe, life-giving. Rather, it is vicious and injurious, capricious and destructive. Truth is not an ideal, but a utility. It is not a goal, but rather, it is an end to a goal. Only a slice of truth is desired – the truth that will lead to power.
From the beginning of the hearings, the chair had not even finished his opening remarks before the calls came to be heard, and they persisted. Only in America’s courtroom is respect and protocol demanded, even more so than High-Church. In the courtroom hats are off, cell phones are silenced, all rise and sit on command, and remain in absolute silence at the threat of contempt. Justice is treated as sacred. There is reverence for the rule of law and order, of power and position. Yet, at the Senate Judiciary hearing, a circus erupted. They should have set a tone for the entire nation while confirming a nominee to the Supreme Court, but they trampled on order and protocol. There was complete contempt for order and disrespect for the chair of the committee from the outset. This was not a ceremonial lapse. This is a picture of the soul of the nation. This is a snapshot of the tactics of post-modern deconstructionism, at work in the sacred halls of Washington, DC.
Jacques Derrida, who is seen as one of the sources, perhaps the primary source of deconstructionist theory admitted, “Deconstruction never had meaning or interest, at least in my eyes, than as a radicalization…” [ii] It is a means to an end. It seeds frustration. It foments division. It rationalizes its own class and cause as noble, above all others, even if rules must be broken to achieve the desired end. It is about cultural revolution.
Lurking in the room, during the hearings, was the great concern about the abortion rights of women, the possible overturn of Roe verses Wade. Abortion has become a cherished national value. It is, bluntly stated, the right to terminate a pregnancy, ending the life of a pre-natal child, for any number of reasons. Those reasons might include convenience, not being burdened with the responsibility of raising a child; guilt, not wanting the child as a reminder of a bad decision; secrecy, not wanting to be open about actions with consequences to parents and others; continued sexual liberty, and more. What we as a culture are not willing to admit, is that the sacrifice of children, for all the above reasons and more, are ancient practices of almost every pagan civilization.
Abortion clinics don’t resemble the ancient temples of the gods, where children were sacrificed and sexual liberty was celebrated, but they are temples nevertheless. The gods of medical science, money and personal autonomy, driven by hedonistic pleasure and self-idolatry, all conspire to invite and enable us to kill our own unborn children, conceived in our image, flesh of our own flesh. The government is a primary sponsor of this new national faith and all the values that dance around it. It is a faith that champions hyper-individualism, not covenantal relationships. It is self-centered and not sacrificially others conscious. It is destructive, not nurturing. It is the right of a woman, for example, not the responsibility of a family. It is the choice of death over life. It excuses and enables bad behavior, now rationalized as personal choice, rights and sexual liberty. It is secretive, not confessional. What we saw, in the judiciary hearing, are the priests of the new national religion, on a crusade against change.
Whenever a culture rejects creationism, and with it, the idea that we are all in the image of God, not only do we descend to the status of animals, becoming graduated primates, we also lose our divinely given dignity. We diminish ourselves. And ultimately, not seeing ourselves in God’s image, we fail to see his image in others. Moses instructs us, “Show your fear of God by not taking advantage of each other. I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 25:17, NLT). That is, God seems to stand behind the ‘other’ measuring our respect and sensitivity to them as respect for Him. The ‘fear of God’ promotes respect for the other; and the absence of respect for the other is due to the absence of genuine respect for God. To say it differently, respect for God extends to respect for humans, the only creatures in the universe that are made in His image. Where there is widespread disrespect for God, human life is devalued and dishonored.
What we saw this week was a widespread disrespect for God and others. What we saw was post-Christian America.
Our only hope is a Great Awakening!
P. Douglas Small is founder and president of Alive Ministries: PROJECT PRAY and he serves in conjunction with a number of other organizations. He is also the creator of the Praying Church Movement and the Prayer Trainer’s Network. However, all views expressed are his own and not the official position of any organization.
[i] Joshua Philipp, “The Epoch Times,” on Jordan Peterson, Ibid.
[ii] Derrida. See: https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/postmodernism?page=2.