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I posted a link in the Link Library to Naomi Wolf’s latest Substack piece, Have the Ancient Gods Returned?
I was interested in the Naomi Wolf piece because it is startling that someone who was, at least in the popular mind, associated with some of the late 20th Century cultural trends, finds herself quite at odds with what is going on today. Wolf, like most of us I imagine, is trying to understand how things have gotten so out of whack. As the saying goes: failure starts slowly, then quickly. Wolf operated in social, political, and professional circles that were very comfortable, until they weren’t. And, from this and other pieces she has written, her perception of a sudden shift has been very devastating to her.
Reading Wolf is less like drinking a cup of water than it is taking a bath, less of a direct ferry trip across a lake and more like a leisurely exploration of every bay and cove. If you don’t like that, let me try and summarize the piece’s main points as I see them:
- It is hard to see events since 2020 as being merely coincidental. The global sweep of totalitarian practices justified by a health “emergency” came too quickly to be an organic evolutionary movement.
- Absent an effective and obvious global organization working in concert with governments, how do you explain it?
- The rights that have been lost since 2020 were a reflection of a robust Western Civilization based on Judeo-Christian principles. Those rights could not be lost without a rejection of Judeo-Christian principles.
- Judeo-Christian principles reflect a covenant, or contract, with a monotheistic G-d. That G-d supplanted the pagan gods that were to be individually propitiated and who seemed to have an unquenchable appetite for sacrifice, violence, abasement, and turmoil. Belief in that monotheistic G-d, and conducting oneself as an individual and a society in accord with the principles He set down, delivered us from the power of the pagan gods and the troubles that they promoted in and amongst mankind.
- As a society, we have violated the contract with G-d. This has been happening for a while, but until recently our institutions retained the forms of a Judeo-Christian system even as the internal framework decayed or was dismantled. But now we can see the consequences of such decay and dismantling as these institutions, one by one, cease to operate within their earlier forms.
- While Judeo-Christian belief is not the exclusive preserve of any religion, it has identifiable elements: respect for individual sovereignty; a rule of law resistant to political favor and preference; a subordination of government to G-d and His creation, the individual; the concomitant empathy and action required by individuals toward one another; the acceptance of personal responsibility and accountability, not assigning those obligations to the state.
- In breaking our covenant with G-d, His ability (?), willingness (?) to protect us from the pagan gods of old is diminished or withdrawn. As a society, we are left to live again in a world dominated by those gods and with all the consequences therefrom.
- If we want to make the pagan gods retreat, we must, as a society, embrace the covenant again.
I do like her description of the Covenant in what are quite understandable contracting terms. In law each contract to be binding and enforceable requires “consideration.” Most of the time, one party’s consideration is money, but the law does not require that it be so. Consideration can be anything that someone does to fulfill their end of the bargain.
Most people see contracts as highly transactional. But my own background in law involved long-term contracts with many subparts but always operating within what is more fairly described as a “relationship.” The contract document itself created many ways the parties could seek remedies without completely breaking off the relationship. And so it is that Wolf’s description of the Covenant resonated with me in ways that might not resonate with someone who more typically engages in single sales transactions.
It is easier to imagine an evil genius behind the problems in our society — national or global — than it simply being the natural consequence of changes that have been coming for some time. Wolf sort of concedes this as she leaves the demons as spirits of various malignities rather than persons. But her tendency toward drama does make her overstate: the success of censorship and control has tended to obscure the real resistance that in fact did occur although uncelebrated and, for the most part, unsuccessful as yet. Thus her argument — “How could this have happened all at once without something resembling a conspiracy?” — is a bit overwrought.
But her broader point is still interesting if you abstract it: Judeo-Christianity is the foundation of what we call Western Civilization. That civilization not only made the societies that follow it economically successful, but had the broadest sharing in safety, security, and peacefulness (notwithstanding horrific wars and despotisms). Even though I am personally agnostic I do believe that the belief in G-d as the Creator, humans as creations endowed with rights, the state as subordinate to G-d and His creation, is extremely important to maintain the power balance between the citizen and the state. And when we depart from this belief, a power hierarchy asserts itself to the detriment of mankind; the individual is respected only to the extent he/she can subordinate another; the application of law is only supportive of the power hierarchy. And that is where we are today in too much of our society. Not completely — here and there the forms remain, and some jurisdictions are more respectful of Judeo-Christian values than others.
If we are to reverse the Obama-promised “transformation,” we must whole-heartedly re-embrace Judeo-Christian principles. If enough of us do, and do so persistently, the fallen institutions can be rebuilt and the covenant restored. It may not be a covenant with G-d, but it is a covenant with our fellow man — to live peaceably, to do unto others as they would do unto us, to take accountability for our government and demand that it be accountable to us all, not just to a minority working a power hierarchy against the rest of us.
[L]ove your neighbor as yourself…
See you in them and respect them as a means of gaining respect for yourself.
Move over Asbury University, we have a bigger revival to perform.Published in