Archive for October, 2021

If you are paying attention to the news, school board meetings are quite volatile these days. It isn’t just the issue of masks (and soon vaccines). It isn’t just CRT. It is about sex.

There are a number of places where the issue is books in the library like The Lawn Boy which contain graphic depictions of children engaged in sexual activity. Oh, and there are pictures in many of these books depicting sexual acts involving children. Our kids are learning about more than the basics of sexual reproduction in and through our educational system.

Before Covid, the city school district (I live in the county) was fighting with parents about a controversial sex ed curriculum that included oral and anal sex, homosexuality and other controversial issues, particularly when you consider this all begins to be taught in kindergarten.

How did we get here? Why does the government run school seem so hellbent on teaching our most impressionable citizens the most intimate of knowledge?

Carl Trueman addresses that very question in Part 3 of The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, Sexualization of the Revolution. We’ve seen how the very concept of self and its relation to society has fundamentally changed. The social imaginary, the assumptions we made as a culture that direct us, has shifted considerably.

The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution - Trueman, Carl R; Dreher, Rod (foreword by) - 9781433556333

The revolution is on-going. There are still those who hold to a 2nd world culture that views God as the foundation for our identity, morals and more. God is part of the church’s social imaginary and informs much of life.

But an increasingly large portion of our society now has a 3rd world culture in which God has been removed from the social imaginary. They have fallen prey to the psychologization of man, emotivism and a materialist and Marxist view of world history in which the Church and family are institutions that perpetuate the oppression of individuals by forcing them to conform to repressive forms of morality. So, how did sex become such a big part of this cultural revolution?

Sigmund Freud, Civilization, and Sex

Among the “poets” we saw a rejection of the monogamy and other aspects of Judeo-Christian sexual ethics. But it was Freud who brought sex to the center of the revolution and in fact our conception of self which society needed to accept and affirm.

Trueman will note repeatedly that many of Freud’s teachings have been debunked, but this focus on sexuality as central to human identity has entered the social imaginary. Sex has shifted from something we do (procreation and marital bonding) to something we are which must be expressed. The restrictions people like Blake hated were not yet seen as restriction our essential being or identity. This new way of understanding sex and sexuality was joined to Marxist thought in the creation of the “New Left” of the 20th century.

Sigmund Freud - Wikipedia
Sigmund Freud (credit- Christy’s)

For Freud the human goal was not to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever” but to be happy. Here he agrees with Rousseau and Hume, but the source of that happiness is different. Freud introduced a decidedly sexual turn into the pursuit of happiness. Hugh Hefner became one of Freud’s greatest disciples or salesmen.

The myth that Freud propagated is that sex “in terms of sexual desire and sexual fulfillment, is the real key to human existence, to what it means to be human.” People are now categorized by sexual orientation or preferences. Gender has shifted from biology (chromosomes) to how one feels about one’s self which must be affirmed by one and all.

“Man’s discovery that sexual (genital) love afforded him the strongest experiences of satisfaction and in fact provided him with the prototype of all happiness, must have suggested to him that he should continue to see the satisfaction of happiness in his life along the path of sexual relations and that he should make genital eroticism the central point of his life.” Sigmund Freud in Civilization and Its Discontents

Freud subordinates procreation to pleasure. Freud contrasts the “natural authentic self” and the “civilized inauthentic self”. Our “natural” sexual desires conflict with the sexual restrictions of life in society. There is no original sin for Freud, even though he was pessimistic about change. Freud sees us as “dark, violent, and irrational.”

Furthermore we are sexual from birth. From this premise we are intended to conclude that to be human is to be sexual. Sexual desire and satisfaction are fundamental to our happiness. Sexuality is the most important aspect of being human. Since children are sexual beings, and their sexual desire is so important then obviously we should teach them about sex early and often. Schools are able to respect the reproductive rights of students without the knowledge of parents.

With the decline of belief in original sin, the focus was on the innocence of children and affirmation of common sexual practices among children, particularly masturbation. It is not a moral problem that arises from within the child, but rather something to be encouraged (for a time it was a medical problem and treated by medical methods during the transition from sin to virtue).

During that transition it was considered “self-abuse”. It contributed to later sexual deviancy. Parents looked to doctors rather than pastors. This is part of the larger shift of sexual problems from the sphere of morality to medicine. What we see most clearly with HIV and teen pregnancy began with childhood masturbation.

Albert Moll created a study which learned that masturbation had no causation of homosexuality. Freud built on this to assert that masturbation was a normal part of growing up. This should not be repressed so the person can mature and enjoy a normal sexual life rather than one distorted by societal repression.

Freud asserted that sexual development took place through stages, each fixated on a particular part of the human anatomy: oral (breast feeding, thumb sucking), anal (potty training), phallic (marked by masturbation), latency (our sexuality gets a break), genital (finding a sexual partner). How we express our sexuality changes.

As we think about sexuality, the problem was the superego which internalized societies expectations and restrictions. The ego negotiated a balance between the desires of the id and the consequences of personal behavior. When the superego dominates, the restrictions of society repress and distort our desires and therefore us.

Like many of the other philosophers we’ve looked at, Freud saw morality as irrational and subjective. We internalize social conventions through the superego. So we are good with kissing our spouse but generally shudder to think of using their toothbrush.

Trueman notes that the Supreme Court has followed this line of thought in seeing objections to homosexuality as being rooted in hatred: irrational prejudice. Morality is removed.

Freud seemed to think that the social consequences of traditional sexual morality was better than the chaos that would arise from rejecting them. But they were problematic due to individual consequences. They destroy our personal happiness.

Religion was an issue of psychology, a form of wish fulfillment. He advanced this in The Future of an Illusion. Religion brings our childish hopes and fears into adulthood. He saw it as infantile neurosis. Religion, therefore, is a form of mental deficiency. People like me are emotionally immature. Religion isn’t based on rational proof but irrational desire.

This doesn’t mean it is all bad. It has kept many from indulging in every dark and destructive desire they experience. Yet it does not provide happiness for people. He saw greater hope for humanity to be led by science, including psychoanalysis. Through science we can be reconciled to society without the burdens of guilt and anxiety produced by religion.

Fulfilling all our sexual desires may seem to make us happy. In practice this would be short-lived as the more powerful and aggressive would dominate social arrangements. My mind went to a recent viral video of gorillas. Trueman mentions gorillas on the next page. The dominant male will drive away the other males and have all the females to himself. It’s good to be the alpha male, so to speak. In the zoo setting the other males must be subservient, even performing sexual favors for the alpha. For humans we can easily see this in Negan who had a small harem of women at the expense of their (former) husbands and lovers. The imaginary world of primitive humanity would not result in unlimited pleasure and satisfaction but a new set of discontents.

The New Left and the Politicization of Sex

Freud’s thought, as we saw with others, became the impetus for newly synthesized ideas. It would eventually be synthesized with critical theory particularly through the work of Marcuse of the Frankfort school.

Critical Theory believes that “the world is to be divided up between those who have power and those who don’t; the dominant Western narrative of truth is really an ideological construct designed to preserve the power structure of the status quo; and the goal of critical theory is therefore to destabilize this power structure by destabilizing the dominant narratives that are used to justify- to “naturalize”- it.” And so Trueman looks at Critical Theory and how Marx and Freud were joined together.

Marxism struggled in places like Russia which never quite experienced the necessary capitalist development and destruction Marx thought would usher in Marxism. It was still a peasant society. Lenin revised the theory so the Party which was led by the bourgeois intellectuals who would stir up the proletariat to revolt. Stalin would purge the Bolsheviks. Meanwhile in Italy, Antonio Gramsci theorized the revolution would begin with transformation of cultural institutions: particularly the schools and media. (heads up, this is what has been happening here).

In parallel, the Frankfort Institute, particularly Eric Fromm, Max Horkheimer and then Marcuse, fused Marxism and Freud. Fromm saw the dynamic nature of human nature as a point of contact for them. They differed in that Marx viewed it in terms of material social conditions and Freud in terms of psychological development. Marx was an optimist and Freud a pessimist.

Wilhelm Reich’s The Mass Psychology of Facism used Marx’s class conflict to develop Freud’s sexual repression for political ends. Sexual codes are how the ruling class to maintain the status quo. Sexual repression becomes political repression. The prime suspects are authoritarian patriarchy and the church.

“Thus, the authoritarian state gains an enormous interest in the authoritarian family. It becomes the factory in which the state’s structure and ideology are molded.” Wilhelm Reich

Christians who argue for the traditional nuclear family and heterosexual monogamy become the primary villans. The family is a unit of oppression. Marx’s friend and co-author Friedrich Engels focused on women rather than children. The family turned women into chattel, property. They were only liberated when sent into the workplace.

This leads left-wing politicians and groups to call for the dismantling of the nuclear family as part of political liberation. We see this in the “trained Marxists” of BLM. We see it in policy moves by left-wing politicians.

In his book, The Sexual Revolution, Reich argues for sex education and freedom among children and teens. What he argues for sounds very much like Aldus Huxley’s Brave New World.

Wilhelm Reich in his mid-twenties.JPG
Reich in his 20’s

“The free society will provide ample room and security for the gratification of natural needs. Thus, it will not only not prohibit a love relationship between two adolescents of the opposite sex but it will give it all manner of social support. Such a society will not only not prohibit the child’s masturbation but, on the contrary, will probably conclude that any adult who hinders the development of the child’s sexuality should be severely dealt with.” Wilhelm Reich

He argues that dissent to the ‘agenda’ be actively punished. Parents and groups that stand in the way of the education complex are to be punished, similar to what we see happening now. We even see a man arrested because the board refuses to admit his daughter was assaulted because it isn’t politically convenient. The problem is the parents who stand in the way of the “revolution” rather than the revolution. This oppression becomes largely psychological, and therefore arbitrary and subjective.

Trueman notes that “sex is no longer a private activity because sexuality is a constitutive element of public, social identity.” Our sexual activity is now political since it is about our identity. There are no longer differences of opinion about sexual activity: those who restrict particular kinds are oppressive. Mostly.

Reich did arbitrarily restrict sexual freedom. He’s not a sexual anarachist. He focuses on consent (good) and avoiding the exploitation of children by adults (good). Trueman notes these are assertions, not the making of arguments. He asserts such people who transgress by lack of consent or age differences are neurotically inhibited. How does he know his objection to pedophilia is not simply one more aspect of the capitalist sexual oppression enforced by the family and church?

There is also an attack on modesty. Reich and Del Noce believed that to be human is to be immodest. Trueman promises to pick this discussion up when he discusses pornography in the next part of this book.

Reich was loosely connected to the Frankfort School, but Marcuse and Theodor Adorno was two of the main figures seeking to reconstruct Marxism. Marcuse’s One-Dimensional Man addresses the problem of consumerism, and his Eros and Civilization appropriates Freud for their Marxism. Reich wanted sexual liberation as an element of political freedom. Marcuse considered sexual freedom to lack needed nuance. He introduced the distinction between “domination and the rational exercise of authority.” In any group authority must be exercised lest it lapse into chaos. It should be rational, based on knowledge and reasoning. Domination is power exerted by one group over another group to maintain its own privilege. He connects domination with Freud’s reality principle which tamed the pleasure principle. Marcuse applies this to history so the reality principle becomes domination in various forms. With Reich, Marcuse wants the “oppressive” family unit to be destroyed by destroying the sexual regulations that hold it together. He doesn’t describe what this sexual freedom would look like.

Herbert Marcuse in Newton, Massachusetts 1955.jpeg
Herbert Marcuse

Rousseau made identity psychological. Freud made psychology sexual. Marx made identity political. Oppression is seen not simply in economic terms but now also psychological and sexual terms. Educational institutions became key for dismantling this oppression. This is because the government can’t be expected to dismantle the system it supports (though …. it supports the educational system. Go figure!). In this endeavor, words are weaponized as part of the oppression, which leads to the restriction of speech. Free speech becomes dangerous and oppressive in the hands of the Frankfort school and its disciples of Critical Theory.

Trueman also notes the shifts in feminism over time, as influenced by these societal changes. Early 20th century feminism was part of economic man. It was about economic equality. The focus was on labor law, pay scales and voting rights. Now feminism is part of psychological man as seen in the quote here:

“One is not born, but rather becomes woman. No biological, psychic, or economic destiny defines the figure that the human female takes on in society; it is civilization as a whole that elaborates this intermediary product between the male and the eunuch that is called feminine.” Simone de Beauvoir

Feminist Simone de Beauvoir with Jean-Paul Satre

Human identity is now formed by social relations, including how you want to interact in society. You can choose to act as man or woman. The achievements of transgendered women become the achievements of women which would seem to nullify the value of biological women. We’ve entered a horrendous maze filled with dead ends intellectually (because it no longer is rational) and morally (because the socially constructed morality changes rapidly). It is not about anatomy, chromosomes, genetics, biology or other scientific matters, but whether your feel like a woman or not. One is free to pursue the sexual activity they want (free from personal and public consequences) but also free to pursue the gender one wants free from consequences.

This means we no longer submit to reality (our biology) but reject it in favor of our desires. We now overcome it via technology. As all this continues, we see the norms changing. Heterosexuality is a form of oppression and we are to be freed for polymorphus pansexuality (but what if I only like women? and particularly my wife?). The tyranny of the biological family, they say, must end. Through bad government policy (welfare rules), court rulings on same sex marriage and parental rights, and the activist groups like Black Lives Matter (they removed the end of the nuclear family from their About) it is.

This is a section that is LONG though only two chapters. Trueman covers lots of ground, and I tried to do it justice but all of the connections may not be there. That’s my fault, not his. I wrote this in at least 3 or 4 sessions, so it may be disjointed at points.

This section describes how we have gotten to where we are in our the cultural struggle. We are on the path, so it seems to Brave New World. Huxley’s dystopian book describes the fulfillment of these philosophical commitments currently at work to destroy the world as we knew it. Was it perfect? No, it clearly wasn’t. But it seems like a better world than the one we are descending into.

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Crossway has been releasing short books by David Powlison for the last few years. That they are short may have had something to do with his battle with cancer. But that they are short is also a great blessing as they tend to be geared toward those who are suffering and don’t have lots of bandwidth for long chapters and books. They are also a great blessing in providing short books to give or recommend to members or friends who are struggling.

One of those great little books is God’s Grace in Your Suffering. It reminded me of Sinclair Ferguson’s By Grace Alone: How the Grace of God Amazes Me in that it is structured around a hymn that expresses the biblical theology the author wants to express. Ferguson expounded upon the hymn “O How the Grace of God Amazes Me” by African pastor Emmanuel T. Sibomana. It made for a great book that worked through the gospel and its implications.

God's Grace in Your Suffering By David Powlison cover image

Powlison expounds on “How Firm a Foundation”, an anonymous hymn that applies good biblical theology to the subject of suffering. Powlison wants us to consider this book more like a workshop. In the beginning he wants us to choose an experience of suffering and at the end of each chapter brings us back to that to apply the lesson to our particular suffering.

Powlison also connects the theology to his own story. He brings some of his experiences of suffering into the book. One of the more helpful portions of the book was an experience of suffering that connected with the last 3-4 years of my life. He was able to say things far more helpful than others I have talked to about this period of affliction. More than worth the price of the book to me. He’s the counselor I wish I could have had as a result.

This book, and the hymn, addresses the relationship between God’s grace and our troubles. He wants us to know that suffering both “reveals and forms faith” as well as “exposes and destroys counterfeit faith.”

“Affliction itself is not good, but God works what is very good, bringing the ignorant and wayward back home.”

Powlison notes how our fathers in faith spoke freely of their afflictions, particularly in the Psalms. We tend to hide our afflictions. We can’t walk side by side with one another when we hide our afflictions. We not only want to be honest with God but need to be honest with one another. Honest fellowship is another means of grace as God uses them to uphold us in prayer, speak truth to us, and bear our burdens with us.

Powlison notes that the hymn begins in the third person. It is addressed to the saints, those whom have fled to Jesus for refuge. The rest of the hymn is in the first person as God speaks to us. It speaks to us of God’s promises and commands to those who suffer. It speaks of different times or types of affliction. One of the beauties of hymns (and other songs of worship) is that they express our faith to God, one another and ourselves. Some, like this hymn, also call us to faith. God is calling us to trust Him in the midst of our afflictions.

Afflictions reveal our lack of power. They don’t just make us weak, they reveal that we are actually weak. While others may despise our weakness, God does not. He invites us to seek refuge in Him. His primary promise is the be with us, even in the most perilous of times. This is our existential struggle. Satan lies and says that God abandons us in affliction. Faith says that God is with us, upholding us, purifying us. God uses our suffering for our good.

Powlison had counseled people for decades. He knew that in our anguish we stop paying attention to God. We want to avoid pain, and when we experience it we turn inward. We quickly obsess over our pain. It is like a splinter we keep picking at. We are so focused on getting it out we lose sight of what is going on around us. Too often our friends focus on the problem, not us. Job’s friends focused on his suffering and their bad theology meant that they simply accused Job and called him to repent. They missed Job and his pain. They stopped being with Job and helping to bind his wounded heart. We are changed when God finds us in our suffering.

Powlison also wants us to see God’s sovereign care for us in our suffering.

“God himself calls you into the deep waters.

God sets a limit on your sorrows.

God is with you, actively bringing good from your troubles.

In the context of distressing events, God changes you.”

God ultimately wants us to know Him more thoroughly through our suffering. He wants us to trust Him more thoroughly, and love Him more completely. In this chapter he speaks of a time when some people became his enemies. He then discovered the enemies in his own heart. He found himself craving vindication, obsessing over the self-righteous judgment of others. The inability to be at peace with them was eating him up. He needed to know God’s love and care for him in that situation, a care that didn’t yet include reconciliation or vindication.

“One of the surprises that came with becoming a Christian was the discovery that there were people who hated me because of what I believed. One of the surprises of growing as a Christian was the discovery that some of the people who hated me were professing Christians.”

Not all of our suffering will end until this life ends. This is a hard word to hear, but an important one. As Newton would say, they are needful for us. They are the best way for God to use us, to transform us. The unremitting nature of some afflictions test and try us in ways we can’t comprehend even when we are in them.

“We face certain inescapable afflictions that will prove insoluble until tears are wiped away when we see Christ face-to-face.

Many afflictions are momentary, or last for a season, and then we are restored.

God is at work in us, both when our sufferings have a remedy and when they do not.”

One thing God works in us is our need for mercy and to give mercy or compassion. God’s work in our live is often slow, incremental rather than catastrophic. Powlison likens it to “agricultural time and child-rearing time.” Our transformation can’t be rushed. This is true about the enemy within, the flesh.

The hymn also addresses enemies without: particularly death and the Evil One. I joke with one of our senior saints in his 90s that his new job is to go to doctor appointments. Aging is difficult and can involve the great suffering of loss (other’s you love dying), physical disability, loss of memory etc. In Psalm 23 the road home leads through the valley of the shadow of death. There is also a predator along the road. Satan seeks to destroy us in our suffering, even as God seeks to transform us.

While this is a short book, it certainly covers plenty of territory. There is a good blend of the hymn text, biblical texts and personal stories. This makes for a book that is not simply addresses suffering theoretically but personally and meaningfully. Powlison wants to help others mired in the muck of suffering by reminding them of God’s covenantal commitment to them:to be with them and to purify them through the suffering. He has given us a meaningful and helpful book.

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As I noted, I was fascinated with the first part of The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self. It was largely describing the shifts that had taken place to find ourselves with a third world culture, psychological man and the expressive self. This week I began to read Brave New World by Aldous Huxley which seems to describe the very culture Trueman discusses but one in which the first and second world cultures no longer exist like they do now because Christianity is a thing of the past in Brave New World.

The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution - Trueman, Carl R; Dreher, Rod (foreword by) - 9781433556333

The second part of Trueman’s book focuses on the thinkers who laid the foundation for a third world culture and the expressive self, dismantling the idea of a transcendent morality. This is not as fascinating though certainly not boring. It covers a variety of major thinkers in the 18th & 19th centuries.


First Trueman addresses The Other Genevan, Jean-Jacques Rousseau. John Calvin was the first Genevan (he was actually French but in exile in Geneva for the vast majority of his adult life), one of the most important Protestant Reformers whose writing also influenced politics, helping set the stage for Democratic Republics like the United States.

Our world currently reflects the influence of Rousseau more than Calvin. He was greatly influential for Sigmund Freud who will show up in the third part of Trueman’s book. Rousseau sought to find reality by looking within instead of looking outside of himself. Trueman characterizes him as one of the “strangest geniuses in the history of Western philosophy.” He is like the anti-Augustine with his own autobiographical Confessions.

“I want to show my fellow-men a man in all the truth of nature, and this man is to be myself.”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau: as relevant as ever | Theo Hobson | The Guardian

Augustine posited evil within through humanity’s fall into sin through Adam’s disobedience as our covenant head. Augustine points to the theft of some pears “for the hell of it” since he and his friends had no need of the pears.

Rousseau points to being forced (from his perspective) to steal asparagus from a man’s mother so the man could sell it to make money. He was not greedy, but was obliging another (who was either needy or greedy though hadn’t grown asparagus of his own). He uses this to posit evil in society. He had not desire to steal, but felt social pressure. Like Adam when questioned by God, Rousseau began to see his deceit and laziness as the result of his master treated him poorly and his manipulation and covetousness resulting from his father’s severe punishment. He shifted blame for his sin onto corrupting circumstances.

While on a journey from Paris to Vincennes in order to visit a friend, he came across a newspaper sponsoring an essay competition. He decided to submit an essay on the subject of whether or not the restoration of the sciences and arts has improved morals. In putting his thoughts together he developed the basic framework of his philosophical system.

Man in his primal state is innocent and good. It is society that corrupts us. They shape us, not to restrain our darkness, but rather to corrupt us. Society rejects the authentic human being and forces people to live a lie. It condemns our self-love, our self-preservation. Costanza throwing women and children out of his way to escape the fire is understood as a good thing.

The moral and virtuous person is one who follows their instincts. Their sentimental or emotional response are correctly in line. It is not about thought, facts and the impact on others, but being yourself in all your glory (or infamy). Ethics becomes rooted in sentiment, providing the seed for MacIntyre’s emotivism. Ethical standards are not objective standards, but personal sentiments though he tried to reject that idea that this results in moral relativism. He wanted people to act according to their nature- which is good. Augustine’s “love God and do what you want” becomes “love self and do what you want.”

This all means that society tries to put you in its box and that is wrong. History becomes about how societies corrupt human nature so we cannot be who we were meant to be.

At the end of the chapter we see how the meaning of empathy shifts as a result. Empathy shifts from compassion or understanding of another’s circumstances to wanting others to be happy on their own terms. In Doug Wilson and John Piper’s war on empathy they are arguing against (capitulating to?) this contemporary perversion of empathy instead of arguing for the biblical use of the term. Just a thought.

The Poets

Trueman then shifts to Wordsworth, Shelley and Blake calling them Unacknowledged Legislators. He doesn’t spend much time on Blake, which I found disappointing since some Christian musicians referred to some of his poetry in their music (and he briefly makes an appearance in The Frankenstein Chronicles). These poets were leaders in Romanticism which largely was about how to communicate truth. Gone are logical premises and conclusions and in come meter and verse. They were about feelings. Poetry wasn’t simply sharing one’s thoughts on a relationship, a tree or sunset, it was a political and possibly revolutionary act. Shelley called poets “the unacknowledged legislators of the World.”

Wordsworth argued for expressivist poetry, focusing on emotion and the ordinary which was typically rural as subject matter. The feelings make the actions described significant. It builds on Rousseau’s innate goodness, emotion and sentiment as ethical mile-markers, the pursuit of authenticity and society as corrupting.

“The fall of humanity into the inauthenticity that Rousseau posits with the rise of inauthentic social existence is for Wordsworth that which takes place with the dramatic rise of urban life in the late eighteenth century.”

He wanted a return to the rural, the supposedly natural, simple and less corrupt. As a former local talk radio host would say, “Nature is not nice.” Mountain men, seeking to escape the confines of society often led brutal lives, not simply lonely ones. Many are fascinated by Into the Wild about a young man who forsakes civilization to live in the wild of Alaska. His death is somehow seen as heroic instead of a pointless tragedy. The quest just seems to be an escape from responsibility and mutual obligations.

But for Wordsworth, civilization corrupts and hides true humanity from our eyes. He forms an antithesis between nature and culture or society.

Shelley saw poetry as a result of the forces of nature moving the poet. It is about the impact of nature on one’s soul. Story, narrative, is about facts which are often detached from meaning and significance. They are but they don’t reveal our true nature. Poetry helps us to see beyond our experience to the harmony of nature that exists. Rational argumentation is a corruption from society, Authenticity is about aesthetics. These emotion stirring words lead to one’s moral improvement. They exalt intuition over reason. Shelley laments, oddly, that the writers he most admired (despite using reason)- Locke, Hume, Voltaire and others- did not impact the world because of how they wrote. They didn’t liberate humanity. Rousseau alone, he thinks, was a poet, not a mere reasoner. Like Wordsworth, “true morality is always built on a foundation of sentimental morality.”

These poets, particularly Blake, hated the church in particular. The church restrained “natural desires”. For Blake this apparently included inhibiting free love with a requirement for monogamy. So we find poetry subversive toward the church, traditional morality and marriage. The church is seen as an enemy of authenticity and therefore natural morality. It inhibits the purpose of life, personal happiness, with talk of glorifying and enjoying God forever.

The Emergence of the Plastic People

The final chapter in this section deals with Nietzsche, Marx and Darwin as philosophers who furthered the destruction of the 2nd world culture through the rejection of Christianity through existentialism, materialism and evolution. They helped create plastic people. “Psychological man is also a plastic person, a figure whose very psychological essence means that he can (or at least thinks he can) make and remake person identity at will.” His/her identity is a putty nose, reshaped according to the desire of the moment.

Consumerism, a product of late capitalism, supports the idea that what we buy and use is central to who we are. We deserve a break today. We can have it our way. If we use this toothpaste we’ll “get lucky”. The same is true if we chew the right gum. This is the notion of self-creation. It is wishful thinking, obviously, but it is the message used to sell all kinds of products. Our desires change over time, and even though the previous set were not fully satisfied, we hold out hope the newest set will be. Until recently we’ve realized that our bodies, not our desires or psychology, has the final say. No matter how hard I tried, I could not be like Mike.

“All three in their different ways provided conceptual justification for rejecting the notion of human nature and thus paved the way for the plausibility of the idea that human beings are plastic creatures with no fixed identity founded on an intrinsic and ineradicable essence.”

Nietzsche spoke of the death of God, killed by us. We did this with Enlightenment philosophy which rendered God unnecessary and intellectually implausible. To have removed God, one then destroys the “very foundations on which a whole world of metaphysics and morality has been constructed and depends.” With religion have been “proven” false, the influence of religion should end as part of the social imaginary. People need to be consistent, and stop keeping God as part of the equation. The universe has no intrinsic meaning, and neither do any of us. Meaning must be created and becomes personal and culturally relative and constructed.

Morality, for Nietzsche, becomes “herd morality.” This was a response to Kant and his ethical imperatives. He wants Christians and Kant to realize their truth claims are not objective but about how they want the world to be. He sees Christianity as exalting weakness over strength, and Kant as exalting his moral preferences to categorical imperatives. The psychology of our values must be examined. This is essentially the abandonment of moral theory, according to MacIntyre. Christianity and Christian morality is not simply indefensible, but for Nietzsche they is disgusting.

The same holds true for human nature. We are free from essentialism, the idea of intrinsic value and meaning or purpose. We are free to create our own value, meaning and purpose. The authentic life is lived for these values, meanings and purposes YOU hold dear. He doesn’t collapse into nihilistic despair but calls us to live in a way that maximizes personal satisfaction. It boils down to “you do you.”

Marx stood opposed to Hegelian thought. Hegel viewed human nature as in process, changing over time. Marx rejected idealism to focus on a materialist approach. The intellectual struggle of Hegel is replaced by material conditions that shape our ideas and self-consciousness. He saw the industrial revolution as transforming social structures and remaking society. Nobility was replaced by rich capitalists as the agrarian culture was replaced with the industrial, urban society. Humanity changes over time with these material changes. It is not simply that people adapt to new circumstances while maintaining human nature; their nature changes. All human organizations are therefore implicitly political.

When it came to religion: “Man makes religion, religion does not make man.” He saw it as “the sigh of the oppressed”. Religion prevented people from being fully and truly human. It contributes, like capitalism, to our alienation. Capitalism, he argued, alienated us from our work and its produce. Religion alienates us from ourselves and others.

He viewed technology as shaping human nature, not human nature using technology. Technology makes it possible for a man to become a woman (and vice versa). Our ideas of gender become putty noses we can put on and take off at will.

Morality, like religion, supports the status quo. The political struggle will necessarily change morality to establish a new (presumably better) status quo. In the history of revolutions the new status quo is often more horrifying than the previous status quo, particularly as we witness the French revolution, the Bolshevik revolution, Third Reich and the Cultural revolutions in China, N. Korea and Cambodia. All of these tossed religion and traditional morality aside and destroyed all who disagreed. The utopian ends that Marx envisioned became a nightmare for all but the elites, the Party.

Marx was dependent on Darwin and his view of evolution. Engels noted as much at Marx’s graveside. Darwin separated humanity from any meaning, value and significance with his theory of evolution. He was not the first to advocate a form of evolution, but he removed God from the equation and with God a purpose. He tried to bring human nature under the realm of science. To remove an end or purpose is to require a new understanding of who and what human beings are. We are now a cosmic accident, and there is no such thing as transcendent ethical standards beyond that which furthers the survival of the species (though one is not sure why this is important).

Trueman notes that the social imaginary is permeated by the ideas of these three men. In the case of Darwin, the simple ideas persist despite changes in scientific understanding and theory. Darwin for one has facilitated a faith in science and scientists as our new priests who teach us the sacred. More importantly, the idea of human nature as foundational for human purpose has been eliminated. Pop culture communicates Nietzsche’s ideas for living for the now and for pleasure. Self-creation leads to expressive individualism since the self I create is assumed to be good since morality is oppressive. They all argued for poiesis, and demantled mimesis. History and culture must be undone, overcome, removed and replaced.

All three reject the idea that we were created as righteous, and in the Garden our forefather Adam disobeyed plunging us into ruin resulting in the very oppression, violence and sexual immorality they see and at turns reject and yet affirm (on their own terms).

And so we see the stage is set for the therapeutic and expressive set cut free from traditional morality. In the third section we will see how sexuality became central to the understanding of the self.

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