Progressivism: Salvation through Politics

A few weeks ago, after my recent pieces on mass shootings my mother noted she was concerned that several political posts on truth in the trenches that I was moving away from my central mandate; I certainly can understand this point, the gospel and the Christian faith is my bedrock and center. I also have another blog that I am looking at using for non-apologetic pieces on issues that have philosophical and theological elements to them, and unfortunately too many of these are political for my tastes.

This raises the question, why deal with politics on an apologetics blog at all? This is a valid question, but my answer is going to be a bit different from past thoughts. My reasons are that I think progressivism (as well as the predominate form of libertarianism, such as is found in the writings of Ayn Rand) should be treated as a religion, not merely as a political philosophy. As such, I am ultimately demonstrating the unreliability of a religious sect, rather than defending a political opinion. I will not expound on the entirety of my case at this time (four earlier versions of this article have been deleted, because trying to make that case quickly started turning into blog posts that are both too complex and too long—even for me). Rather I will note two points of a larger case that will come together later, Lord willing in a journal article. First, from the standpoint of philosophy of religion, new atheism, communism Nazism and other movements have been described with terms such as “pseudo-religions,” because when criteria for defining a religion are laid down, these movements are inevitably similar. Second, historically, I believe the 21st century, like the age of exploration, is demonstrating that the traditional taxonomy of religious beliefs is inadequate, and the distinction between religion and worldview even less adequate. I’ve seen some commentators refer to progressives as “fundamentalists,”[1] in describing the way progressives seek to use social and economic force to destroy those they deem enemies, my suggestion is that they are doing so because they are enacting on their religious beliefs.

But why treat progressivism as a religion rather than deal with the philosophies associated with progressivism? The answer is that much of what we think of as post-modernism changes the structure of western philosophy through ideas that were made popular by Michael Foucault in the academy, which in turn were derived from Nietsche and Marx. In most of western philosophy, ethics, the answer to questions related to “How then shall we live,” are rooted in metaphysics and epistemology. But Foucault instead argued that it all really come down to power, not truth.[2] For modern progressive, political power and identity take on the role that drives the rest of the philosophical and religious agenda.

But not only does political theory become the basis for their worldview, it becomes the means of salvation, as well, an eschatological hope founded by remolding society through the removal of all privilege, both those considered unjust (a justice that lacks any sense of merit other than holding progressive ideals) but also those inherent in giftedness. Progressive views are incommensurable with the classical liberalism that is typically called conservatism in the United States.

The problem with seeking heaven on earth, (besides other problems that are subjects of other columns) is that such a thing requires a view of human nature that is untenable. Such ideals and dreams have turned into the nightmares of the Soviet Union or Jonestown, precisely because the one undeniable truth of Christianity (by anyone who has done a half-way competent reading of history) is that the core problem in human civilization is that human beings are universally bad, and cannot be trusted with universal power. The problem with building a perfect civilization is that it will instantly cease to be perfect the moment a human being is included. Scripture warns, that a man who trusts in flesh, is cursed, history would seem to affirm Scripture’s judgment. The reason why so many projects like that of progressivism leads to totalitarianism is because it seeks perfect society without perfecting the human heart. Removing power from one person and giving it to another only leads to something better if the person gaining power is more virtuous than the person losing power, but the history of revolutions would tend to indicate that the bitterness and anger which lead to revolution only multiply sufferings, they do not alleviate them. It is only Christianity that offers a hope for a more just society by offering a more virtuous ruler in a future eschatological kingdom, a ruler for whose virtue is so great that He is able to communicate that virtue into his supplicants.



[1] This shows a general ignorance of the Christian fundamentalism but, again, that is a topic for another day.

[2] There are other essential ingredients and interpretational issues, but these are not listed to maintain some semblance of simplicity will be discussed later, perhaps. The can be understood by noting the role of power as the central concern in political theory.