Oct 20 Written By Fr. Gordon J. MacRae
There are subtle and overt signs in our culture of a ‘woke’ agenda to revise our history, transform our values, and filter our ideas. Resistance is not yet futile.
October 20, 2021
There is a new feature on the menu of Beyond These Stone Walls called “Voices from Beyond.” The photo atop the new page is a radio astronomy telescope from the Very Large Array National Radio Astronomy Observatory near Socorro, New Mexico. I chose the image because I spent some time studying there long ago. My adventure in radio astronomy was a happier time for me, but by “Voices from Beyond,” I didn’t mean quite that far beyond.
I meant the dozens of articles, editorials and other commentary about my situation and this blog that have been published in various other venues from the Prison Journal of George Cardinal Pell to The Wall Street Journal. We decided to collect some of them in one place, though it is a hefty task. We hope to add one or two examples each week. I hope you will check it out on occasion.
The “Voice” the new feature presents this week is that of Rod Dreher from The American Conservative for which he is an editor and major contributor. His commentary is about a “blood boiling” review of my trial by Dorothy Rabinowitz in The Wall Street Journal. We chose it even before I planned to write this post which also happens to feature the voice of Rod Dreher on a topic he calls “soft totalitarianism.” Coincidence is sometimes not very subtle.
Totalitarianism is an ideology in which all social, political, economic, intellectual, cultural and spiritual information is subordinated to a central authority. But before I get back to that and Rod Dreher, I must first explain what prompted this post. Even from behind these high walls, I see daily signs that our culture is being subtly molded to a radically revised agenda. It is chosen for us, and imposed on us, by an elitist few who require our conformity with it. Sometimes the nudge toward that agenda is so subtle that we barely notice and feel little pressure to resist.
“Woman, Behold Your Son.” (John 19:26)
Here’s a recent example that bows to the so-called “woke” cultural agenda to revise and impose new, and sometimes bizarre, language rules about gender. The American Civil Liberties Union has decided that the word “woman” no longer belongs in any reference to gender.
In a September 18, 2021 tweet about a pro-abortion quote from the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the ACLU took it upon itself to edit out the word, “woman,” and replace it with “person” using editorial brackets. The ACLU, the guardian of civil liberties, also neutered the related pronoun from “her” to “their”:
“The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a [person’s] life, to [their] well-being and dignity.”
Setting aside the fact that the ideology behind the Ginsburg quote disregards the “well-being and dignity” of the child’s life, the editing out of “woman” by the ACLU renders it ridiculous. Would any “person” other than a woman bear a child? Also, the gender neutral replacement pronoun, “their” instead of “her” adopts the rules of “wokeness” while discarding the rules of grammar. Is the denial of gender differences worth destroying the English language? Charles Cooke, writing at NationalReview.com, protested:
“[The ACLU] is an organization that once understood that even viewpoints widely considered odious deserved to be defeated in the marketplace of ideas, not with redaction tape. But it now seeks to retroactively alter the speech of public figures with whom it shares common cause to avoid offending those who deplore the idea that only women can have babies … . This kind of thinking requires ‘the acceptance of the Soviet-esque idea’ that history ought to be revised to serve the current definition of ‘progress.’ ’’
The push now underway to eliminate gender distinctions is only just beginning, but the concerted effort to revise and replace the word “woman” only gets worse. The U.S. Justice Department under Attorney General Merrick Garland (who was President Obama’s last minute, mercifully defeated, nominee to the Supreme Court) made a notation in a brief filed to combat a new Texas abortion law by substituting “women” with “any individuals who become pregnant.”
The White House budget proposal also replaced the word “mothers” with “birthing people.” In a September bill, House Democrats defended the use of “birthing people” by saying that it “reflects the majority of people” who might seek an abortion citing that …
“… it is intended to protect all people with the capacity for pregnancy — cisgender women, transgender men, non-binary individuals, those who identify with a different gender and others.”
It gets even worse. The distinguished British medical journal, The Lancet, published an article on problems with menstruation by replacing the word, “women” with “bodies with vaginas.” After some people whose bodies fit that description objected, Richard Horton, The Lancet Editor-in-Chief, defended this as an attempt to reach “maximum inclusivity of all people.”
How far will we go to allow these substitutions for traditional terms that, for thousands of years, have described our identities and distinctions as human beings? Sacred Scripture has 4,976 references to man or men and 710 references to woman or women. In a very popular post awhile back, “In the Absence of Fathers: A Story of Elephants and Men,” I wrote that the word, “father” appears 1,932 times in the Bible while the word “mother” appears 354 times. “Father” is how God identifies Himself. The differential is only because Scripture has its own inclusivity: Human-kind = “mankind” which was never understood as a value statement about gender differences.
Caving in to this redesign of language about our identities and faith requires our abandonment of both. It also demands that we radically re-edit and reinterpret Sacred Scripture, the story of our lives in the Presence of God. Are we prepared for this divisive adventure in nihilism, the belief that the destruction of our existing political, social, and religious institutions and traditions is necessary for a just society?
Like a Colonization of the Mind
“Totalitarianism” as both an ideology and a system of government is unique to the 20th Century. In its practice, people become wholly dependent on and subjugated to the whims of a political party. Among its typical features are a monopoly of media and mass communication, a centrally controlled economy, and an enforcement arm in service of the ideology itself and the party it represents. Every totalitarian system has begun with re-education on acceptable language and thought. As for enforcement, consider the recent U.S. Justice Department decision to send the FBI to investigate dissent over mask and vaccine mandates in local school districts.
The ruling ideology assumes control of the news, social media, and publishing, as well as radio and television broadcasting. Social media especially lends itself to totalitarian controls dictated by a “woke” agenda. Recent examples are too many to fit into a single post:
An elected president’s Twitter account was permanently suspended while he was still in office; Twitter, Facebook and most print and broadcast news media removed or suppressed content about evidence of influence peddling by the ethically-challenged son of a presidential candidate during an election season; Amazon removed books from its catalog based upon conservative political views; An editor of The New York Times was forced to resign upon the demands of a “woke” newsroom when he allowed a conservative Republican senator to publish an op-ed. This list could go on for many pages.
I experienced a personal example recently. Catholic author Ryan A. MacDonald wrote about it in these pages a week ago in “Fr Gordon MacRae in the Prison Journal of George Cardinal Pell.” When our editor published an article at the r/Catholicism page of Reddit, I was permanently banned by an unnamed Catholic moderator from future participation in the site. It was not because I am in prison nor was it because I am an accused priest. It was because the article called into question claims of victimhood that are considered sacrosanct for the far left, and never to be questioned.
In 2020, Rod Dreher responded to this not-so-brave new world by publishing a brave new book entitled, Live Not by Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents. In a review in Chronicles magazine (“The Soft Revolution,” September 2021) C. Jay Engels wrote:
“Dreher maintains that our soft totalitarianism is ‘metaphysical’ in the sense that it spreads like a colonization of the mind, infecting our everyday language and behavior, in turn shaping governmental policy … . If we are to effectively resist, we must understand the crucial importance of religion. A vague resistance unmoored from that bedrock is not only incapable of endurance under totalitarian conditions … . To cultivate cultural memory as a method of resistance demands that we rediscover, and spiritually dwell within, our Christian historical reality.”
Rod Dreher warning of “a colonization of the mind” captures exactly what I have written above about imposed gender-related language. It is intriguing that resistance requires cultural memory and assent to the truth that Western Culture is a product of Christian religion. I believe this to be true, and its most direct evidence is the vehemence with which the socialist left seeks to marginalize and diminish Christianity and its role in society.
In light of this, it is troubling that Pope Francis imposed severe restrictions on more traditional forms of liturgy, a deeply felt suppression of a tradition cherished by many that I wrote of in “A House Divided: Cancel Culture and the Traditional Latin Mass.”
“Islam Would Never Stay Silent!”
No one should feel helpless to respond in the face of all this, but response is a long effort that requires commitment. Rod Dreher described the necessity of regaining and maintaining our religion. Historical and cultural awareness of Christian traditions is our best and only hope for “woke” resistance. In the 20th Century, Pope John Paul II and President Ronald Reagan literally brought down history’s most oppressive totalitarian regime, the Soviet Union, through their teaching and promotion of Christian ideals.
I hope readers did not choose to skip over my recent post, “Left in Afghanistan: Taliban, Al Qaeda, ISIS-K, and Credibility.” It was a hefty dose of history, but only 30 years’ worth. The catastrophic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan would have gone quite differently with a better understanding of that culture’s historical and religious context. Our culture marginalizes religion to its peril.
Islam is currently the fastest growing religious faith on the planet. That is so only because it has its own “woke” extremists who demand totalitarian compliance. I have to give the last word to Jamil Malik. That is not his real name. Jamil was Coptic Christian university student when he began writing to me after the famous public ISIS beheading of Coptic Christians on a beach in Libya in 2011. Due to the grave danger he faced for “visiting the websites of the infidels” he adopted a screen name. I have not heard from him for a decade. His last message to me was this:
“Americans and American Catholics seem divided over many issues, but they are mostly the issues of the elite while most of the rest of the world’s people struggle to survive and preserve their lives and freedoms and basic human rights.
“My struggling Christian friends in Iran and Syria have something to say to American Catholics ready to leave their faith over the latest demands of popular culture. I have friends who have been killed for their faith in just the last few months.
“Over here, Catholic priests are sacrificed by radical Islamic fundamentalists seeking revenge over the 1,000 year old Crusades. In America, priests are sacrificed by lawyers, the news media, and Catholic bureaucrats. Most Catholics stay passively silent. Islam would NEVER stay silent.’ ”