By Gary DeMar (American vision. org), May 2, 2019
Near the mid-point of the 21st century, writing in the Introduction to Carl Henry’s The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism, Harold J. Ockenga wrote the following: “A Christian world- and life-view embracing world questions, societal needs, personal education ought to arise out of Matt. 28:18–20 as much as evangelism does. Culture depends on such a view, and Fundamentalism is prodigally dissipating [wastefully spending] the Christian culture accretion [buildup] of centuries, a serious sin. A sorry answer lies in the abandonment of societal fields to the secularist.”1
The controversy over the role that religion plays in culture and politics is an old one. Jesus was accused of subverting the political order by “misleading [the] nation and forbidding [people] to pay taxes to Caesar, and saying that He Himself is Christ, a King” (Luke 23:2). Christians were accused of promoting the idea that there was “another king, Jesus” (Acts 17:7).
The designation of Jesus as “Lord” had significant political implications in the Roman Empire since the Emperor held the title of Dominus et Deus, “Lord and God.” Rome permitted and promoted religious diversity, just like today’s liberals, but it did not allow religious competition with the State, just like today’s liberals.
For more than 50 years, from the Scopes Trial in 1925 to the presidential candidacy of Jimmy “Born Again” Carter in 1976, conservative Christians did not develop a discernable social or political philosophy.2 The secularists took advantage of the indifference and moved the country in a decidedly anti-Christian direction. The major institutions were captured—courts, schools, seminaries—and turned into secular advocacy groups churning out disciples for the humanist agenda. As Christians observed this happening, they concluded that (1) they are just pilgrims passing through, (2) Jesus is going to rescue them through a rapture, (3) and it’s the Christian’s lot in life to be persecuted for Jesus.
Those pushing for an overthrow of the establishment in the 1960s learned a lot when their radical and often times violent agenda failed to accomplish their stated goals and turned the majority of the population against them. In his Rules for Radicals, Saul Alinsky (1909–1972) understood the futility of their tactics and suggested a different path:
“Power comes out of the barrel of a gun!” is an absurd rallying cry when the other side has all the guns. Lenin was a pragmatist; when he returned . . . from exile, he said that the Bolsheviks stood for getting power through the ballot but would reconsider after they got the guns. Militant mouthings? Spouting quotes from Mao, Castro, and Che Guevara, which are as germane to our highly technological, computerized, cybernetic, nuclear-powered, mass media society as a stagecoach on a jet runway at Kennedy airport?”
The radicals knew it would be necessary to capture the institutions without ever firing a shot or blowing up another building. Roger Kimball captures the tactic well in his book The Long March: How the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s Changed America: “The long march through the institutions signified in the words of [Herbert] Marcuse, ‘working against the established institutions while working in them’. By this means—by insinuation and infiltration rather than by confrontation—the counter-cultural dreams of radicals like Marcuse have triumphed.”3
Pat Buchanan described the tactic is a similar way. To change the culture, Gramsci argued, “would require a ‘long march through the institutions’—the arts, cinema, theater, schools, colleges, seminaries, newspapers, magazines, and the new electronic medium [of the time], radio.”4
The Left learned this from what took place in the 1960s when their radical political agenda failed to accomplish its stated goals. Their radical agenda was shot down politically because the majority of Americans still retained a remnant of the older Christian worldview. The Left knew it would be necessary to capture those institutions that shape and mould children who would one day become cultural leaders. Once the heart and mind are captured, everything else follows, including politics. This is a major tactical manoeuver that most on the Right did not understand.
Antonio Gramsci’s philosophy for cultural and social change was the model for the new Leftists. Gramsci (1891–1937) considered Christianity to be the “force binding all the classes—peasants and workers and princes, priests and popes and all the rest besides, into a single, homogeneous culture. It was specifically Christian culture, in which individual men and women understood that the most important things about human life transcend the material conditions in which they lived out their mortal lives.”5 Gramsci broke with Marx and Lenin’s belief that the masses would rise up and overthrow the ruling “superstructure.” No matter how oppressed the working classes might be, their Christian faith would not allow such an overthrow, Gramsci theorized. Marxists taught “that everything valuable in life was within mankind.”6