Call it “Cultural Marxism”, call it something else, there can surely be no doubting that there is a particular wave of Marxist-influenced leftism that is coursing through much of Western society today. While it may not be on the lips of everyone who is currently holding a protest banner, it’s proponents are obviously working away in the organisations that propel those protests forward.
One of the main avenues in which this move progresses is through the deconstruction or “queering” of long-established cultural norms. As Daniel Patterson so helpfully points out, while “queering” is difficult to understand it is necessary for us to be clear on what is happening here:
The term queer is difficult to describe, explain, and comprehend because it, by definition, resists definition. In brief, queer describes an action, something done, a method of action that undermines institutions which perpetuate norms. Queer-ing produces “outcomes” through a process of deconstruction or breaking down. These outcomes are not, however, the positive production or creation of something in particular, but what is left over after bringing down a system that determines what is normal.
A Brief History of Gender and its Significance
As we’ve already demonstrated, for the Marxists there are a some notable institutions that they see as fundamentally harmful and dangerous. These previously-agreed norms must be removed and replaced with, well, whatever the individual decides is “normal” for them. That such a movement exists is surely undeniable, the real question for us is how we are to respond to this desire to deconstruct.
The Queering movement seeks to tell a different story, indeed any story will do once the deconstruction is complete; just not the story that most people told before.
American Evangelicals of the 1980s were criticised for their involvement in the “Culture Wars” as they fought back against this new narrative. The question for us today is whether the same is happening. But first we need to understand whether or not there is even a war going on.
A War on Created Order
Allow me to set out my main thesis here. The leftists/Marxists/progressives/[insert your descriptor here] have a very, very dangerous agenda that everyone ought to understand. It is the age-old story of sin with fresh expression. It’s novel and yet timeless. Their war is on God’s good created order.
I’ll use one example to set out the argument. BlackLivesMatter tell us all boldly that:
We dismantle the patriarchal practice that requires mothers to work “double shifts” so that they can mother in private even as they participate in public justice work.
We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and “villages” that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable.
Now of course at first sight there is much here we could affirm. I trust nobody is happy with a situation where both husband and wife work a full day’s paid employment but it is only the mother who then cares for the children when they get home. Except of course that’s not actually what is being argued here. It’s not paid employment that BLM have in mind but “public justice work”. I’ve had a good look at their website and I don’t see that term defined anywhere (or “justice work”) and so the best guess I can make is that they are referring to any of their campaigning and advocacy be it street protests or otherwise.
So how will a woman “mother in private”? Well the next paragraph goes some way to explaining. They “disrupt” the “Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement”. Again, the language is soft. This will be “to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable” (what of the fathers?). But consider what is actually being claimed here.
First, the “nuclear family structure” is a “Western-prescribed” “requirement”. Now to some extent this is true. In the “West” we have particular ways of “doing” family. People from very different cultures may do things in very different ways. My wife’s Chinese-ancestry family structured their common life differently to how I grew up. Even amongst the “West” there is certainly no homogeneity. Some “Western” cultures have far more of an embrace of the extended family than others.
But this is not what BLM are talking about. By “nuclear family structure” they mean the basic notion that a father and mother ought to be the primary caregivers of their own children and that there will be a distinction of roles between father and mother. This is what they seek to disrupt because they see the institution itself as harmful.
It’s initially easy to agree with BLM that it takes a village to raise a family. But first we would have to agree on what a family actually is and on that we are miles apart. That they advocate consent (“to the degree that [they] are comfortable”) is neither here nor there. BLM, entirely consistently with the Marxist framework they are operating in, think that the notion itself of the “nuclear” family and its inherent roles is the problem that must be addressed, not simply the abuse of those roles.
In taking this stance they demonstrate the true nature of their position. It is a rejection of the story of God’s good created order.
What is remarkable about so much of the modern [use your preferred term here] movement is that it presents as an overt repudiation and attack upon very good things that God has given us in the Creation. Think of all the key norms under pressure today; marriage, gender, family, and now government. What is striking is that Scripture names them as things created by God. And not just parts of the creation but, in one way or another, integral parts of it.
So gender and marriage lie at the heart of the creation (and the gospel). It’s no accident that Jesus fuses two primary statements in Genesis 1 & 2 when he teaches,
“Haven’t you read,” Jesus replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ (Gen. 1:27) and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? (Gen. 2:24)
These statements in the creation narrative of Genesis, which Jesus puts on the lips of God himself, come at the climax of each of their sections. First we see humanity created as “male and female” as the very pinnacle of created order, it’s most clear expression. Next we have a definitive statement about one key intended purpose for that man and woman as we consider the very first marriage.
These descriptions are not one amongst many, they come at a key point in the narrative. What the scientists have long told us, that humanity (along with almost the whole of creation) is binary-sexed, is something the Scriptures affirm. Not only do they affirm it, they place this truth at the heart of the understanding of Creation.
No wonder, then, that when the Apostle Paul sets out his theology of human rebellion against God he chooses to return to this axiom. His summary statement about human sinfulness,
They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
is demonstrated in the first instance with examples he gives: a rejection and twisting of the very binary gender structure of humanity that the first Creation accounts place at the heart of their story.
It’s also widely recognised that the image of a husband and wife is one regularly used to speak of the relationship between Christ and his church (so Mark 2:19, Eph. 5:22ff etc.)
Even the idea of “family” itself has divine origin. The Apostle Paul writes of,
…the Father [patera], from whom every family [patria] in heaven and on earth derives its name.
The point he is making is more striking in the original greek (transliterated above). The notion of a family and a father were inextricably linked and there is something about God being the “Heavenly Father” on which all families are based.
Or what about government? Good or bad, they are all established by God with a specific purpose:
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.
Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.
Romans 13:1–4, see also John 19:11
Let’s not be naive, as the leftists/Marxists/progressives/[insert your descriptor here] prosecute their case against simply institutions that perpetuate norms they are not just engaging in a little creative writing. They are seeking to do away with good God-given structures. But why should we care? Surely God can look after himself?
Same Old, Same New?
Now at this point we need to acknowledge that ancient truth that “there is nothing new under the sun” (Eccl. 1:9). Idolatry has always existed because, as Paul noted above, it is the heart of the human condition (so also Col. 3:5). Until the New Creation every culture will be in a war because every culture is a unique expression of life in the Creation.
There will ever be those who gladly accept the good things that God has always given (James 1:17) and those who reject and distort them. Idolatry takes many forms. Infants are thrown to Molech, killed in the womb or stuck in front of screens for hours all because we want a better outcome for ourselves. Men sleep with other men and then the man that decries such behaviour abuses his own wife.
More than that, our embrace of the good things from God can be done in an idolatrous way. BLM are right to point out that the “Western nuclear family structure” can at times be wrong. In particular men have long mistreated women and children within it.
As Christians we can place our own cultural wrapping around something and then insist upon it as “God-given” and before we know it we’ve moved into legalism. The Scriptures call us to wisdom in living in the Creation, not simply rules. The Church is constantly in danger of this. So, for example, we defend marriage and may even find it necessary to divide with others over the issue but we can also idolise marriage so that every non-married person in our congregation doesn’t feel a part of the body either. Let’s not kid ourselves that far too often the “values” that we defend go beyond the boundaries that the Scriptures have set.
Given the complexity of it all, should we still enter the fray when some would have us “stay out” of another Culture War? What’s so important about one particular story that we should defend it so strongly?
Stepping into a Culture War
We ought to step in and speak up, not out of a misguided allegiance to moralism (which inevitably seeks to conform those around us) but because as a minimum we want the best for our neighbour. The Christian response to the current wave is to tell the better story because it really is better for the people around us.
Every time I marry a man and a woman I say the following:
In marriage a new family is established in accordance with God’s purpose, so that children may be born and nurtured in secure and loving care, for their well-being and instruction, and for the good order of society, to the glory of God.
There is a a very Christian statement which addresses much of what we’ve looked at above. (I might even argue that the fact that I am making such statements as an agent of the government shows that Romans 13 is encompassed as well). Please do note the rationale given. These things are in accordance with God’s purpose which is for the benefit not only of those who are directly encompassed within the specific structures but also the wider society. We all win when things are done the way that God intended them to be and we all lose when they’re not.
A basic love for neighbour ought to therefore impel us to action. Could it be that to not do something is to abandon our neighbours to the storm and allow these movements to increasingly shape things so that increasingly the most vulnerable are not in secure and loving care, their well-being is neglected and ultimately God is not glorified? We should at least consider the possibility. Maybe there’s a war already underway and not to take sides, as the saying goes, is to have already decided which side you’re on.
Some Closing Thoughts on Taking Up Arms
Perhaps you think a piece like this ought to end with a strident final call to take up arms in this culture war. I will disappoint you because I think it’s more complex than that.
We all come to this question with our various concerns and priorities. We’ve seen others mess things up and there are patterns of interaction that we therefore don’t want to play into. It is not enough to denounce the revisionists, we need to also re-tell the good and true story.
The question before us is whether the particular movement that we’re seeing at the moment is so concerning that it requires a response. I think it is, for the reasons set out above and this piece is part of an attempt to persuade you of the same.
With that said, here are some closing reflections where I upset everyone, (not least by using the metaphor of battle to communicate).
- It is certainly true that the generals of these movements are distinct from the foot soldiers who get conscripted. The answer is therefore to point out what the generals are doing, not necessarily to get into the trenches along with those who we might share some basic concerns with. We might agree with their complaint but their howitzers are still being directed at the foundations of our city, whether they’re aware of it or not. There’s an irony in telling people not to pick sides in a culture war and then picking a side.
- At the same time there’s no point opposing one solution if you don’t provide a better one. Our better solution is clear, it is categorically not moralism. It is the far better story of the gospel of genuine forgiveness and redemption and the related wisdom that comes from listening to the Creator as we live in God’s creation. It is one thing for us to say that we trust and follow Jesus, but another to seek to consistently put it publicly at the forefront of our proposed solution. I trust davidould.net is somewhere where I have consistently tried to do this.
- I most certainly am my brother’s keeper and so I should seek his (and her) very best. This surely requires me to speak out when they are endangered. I don’t get to shrug my shoulders at the pool of blood in front of me.
- We’re going to get it wrong. We’re going to say things wrong. But better, I reckon, to say something even if I get the words incorrect. And if I think someone did it poorly then the answer is to do it better.
- Don’t think it should be called “Cultural Marxism”? Fair enough, find the better label and then use it please because whatever you call it, it’s out there.
- Don’t think #blacklivesmatter is something you can affirm because of the association? Well, what will you say when you see racism and have an opportunity to speak up? We can’t pretend it doesn’t exist even if we might argue that some of the BLM claims are clearly unproven.
- Don’t think Izzy should have said it the way that he did? You’re probably right, but which divine truth will you not speak out about because you’re worried what will happen to you? Maybe sometimes it takes an ass or an ineloquent heretic to say what we’re not willing to.
- Don’t think two men should marry? You might be right but what have you done to hold up and affirm marriage (beginning with your own) as a God-given good and a beautiful picture of Christ’s love for his church?
I reckon there’s more than enough there to challenge all of us. If you’re still reading along and haven’t now decided to silence or deplatform me then thank you. I trust my main thesis is clear, even when I acknowledge the complexities of the topic in general.
I’m guessing that most of my readers, not least those who don’t agree with me, genuinely want to honour Jesus in all that we do and find some right way of responding to what we see around us. We hold a shared conviction that there is a good God who made a very good Creation in a particular way and continues to pour out good things upon us. That is a story that is today under attack in a particular way that we haven’t see before. You might even say that it’s a form of book-burning. I contend that it needs to be responded to, because when the story contained in that book is eradicated then there are no happy endings for anyone.