In my previous post I raised the question of whether or not Christians should support Black Lives Matter (BLM). “Black lives matter” is a true statement in and of itself, and ending police brutality is a righteous goal at face value. But the framework and goals of the movement go far beyond the basic meaning of the expression, and these incited a threefold concern:
1. The moral positions and goals of the Black Lives Matter movement.
2. The cultural Marxism behind the Black Lives Matter movement.
3. The redefinition of racism by the Black Lives Matter movement.
The first concern was examined in my previous post, as the Black Lives Matter movement explicitly identifies some of their goals to be the normalization of transgenderism and homosexuality, and the abolition of the nuclear family. This post will tackle the second concern: the cultural Marxism behind the Black Lives Matter movement.
“We Are Trained Marxists.”
The Marxism behind Black Lives Matter is not mere speculation or name-calling. Several years ago a question was raised as to whether or not the founders of Black Lives Matter had an operating framework—that is, is there any method to what they are doing, or are they just throwing down tracks as they go? Do they have a blue print that determines their activity? Is there a system that informs and influences their goals? To which co-founder Patrisse Cullors assured the questioner, “We are trained Marxists.” They are not Black rights activists who just happen to hold a certain political persuasion, but rather, that persuasion informs and shapes their activism.
This is easy to observe. For example, the Black Lives Matter chapter in Washington DC commits itself to “creating the conditions for Black Liberation through the abolition of systems and institutions of white supremacy, capitalism, patriarchy and colonialism.” The Black Lives Matter organization is a member of Movement for Black Lives (MBL), a coalition which calls for “a radical and sustainable redistribution of wealth” to ensure “collective ownership, not merely access.” They seek to end private education and the private ownership of land and water resources. They demand universal health care, including full coverage for transitioning “Black trans folks” who are trying to “free themselves from the cages of their bodies”, as well as “full reproductive services” (presumably including abortion). These demands require not just government funding, but a “mandate that the wealthy residents pay for a portion of their services.” Those are explicitly Marxist goals. To gain a better understanding of this operating framework, let’s consider the nature and aims of Marxism, how those aims are being applied today, and why this is problematic.
What is Marxism?
Karl Marx was a 19th century German philosopher, economist, and political theorist, among other things. Marx divided humanity into two groups: the oppressors (the have’s) and the oppressed (the have not’s). In his own day he called the oppressors the bourgeoisie and the oppressed the proletariat. Marx saw everything in terms of power, so any disparities between the groups was always an exertion of the bourgeoisie’s power over the proletariat. That some people had more than others was only ever an unjust hierarchy accomplished by exploitation. If there was any difference in wealth or status, it was always due to one group exerting unjust power over the other. Equality of opportunity was not plausible because certain factors always gave one group an unfair advantage (i.e. power) over another, so equality of outcome was the goal. The only way to ensure this outcome was to eradicate all privatization. Marx predicted that the final and inevitable epoch of history was one where all disparities were done away with and humanity entered into the collectivist state—communism.
Contrary to Marx’s ideals, communism was the catastrophic failure of the 20th century. It resulted in unprecedented totalitarianism and death tolls estimated between 65 million to 100 million, if not more. Its most graphic actualization occurred in the Soviet Union. There was zero toleration for any freedom of thought. Citizens could only read and listen to material produced by the state. Schools were state-run and children were forced to join communist youth organizations. Workers could not negotiate their salaries, and extra labor could be demanded with no additional pay. Churches were shut down (Marx had called religion “the opium of the masses”). Authors and artists were forced to depict the state—the great arbiter of equality, after all—in a glorified light. City residents had no control over where they lived. Government-produced housing conditions were subpar, especially in contrast to homes produced by the free market in other Western nations. Citizens were encouraged to report their dissenting neighbors. Agriculture came to a stand-still, and famine killed millions of people. The secret police terrorized citizens even suspected of disloyalty to the state, hauled millions off to labor camps, and executed countless others.
It should be noted that these were not incidental or isolated to Russia. Other nations like China, North Korea, Cuba, and Venezuela tried their own versions of communism, with similarly devastating results. While we rightly lament the evils of 20th century fascism, we’re quick to forget the even more extensive horrors of Marxism. Ideas have consequences, and Marxist ideas can only be ensured when accompanied by a totalitarian hand.
What is Cultural Marxism?
Marx believed that communism was destined to replace capitalism on the world scene. He was wrong. And where his ideals were implemented, as detailed above, they ended in catastrophic failure. Why? Because, it was realized, Marx’s primarily economic theories did not account for the many social issues that also factor into disparities.Certain groups use language and ideas to exert institutional hierarchy over other social groups. Even if the economic field was kept level, a collectivist utopia couldn’t exist as long as certain groups held more cultural power than others. So in the first half of the 20th century an attempt was made to achieve Marx’s original goals through more comprehensive means. This movement expanded his ideas from an economic level to a social level.
This movement was called the Frankfurt School, a group originating in the 1920’s and 30’s who applied Marx’s theories to social research in order to identify and change systems of “oppression.” The Frankfurt School produced the philosophy known as Critical Theory, which has led to an abundance of schools today such as critical race theory, feminist theory, gender theory, and queer theory. In Marx’s original system, the oppressors had economic capital; in Critical Theory, the oppressors had social capital. Whichever groups hold the largest influence on society are seen as exerting control—that is, power and exploitation—over all other groups. In classical Marxism, humanity was divided into the basic groups of oppressor and oppressed based on material factors, such as means of production. Critical Theory preserves that basic categorization, but on the basis of factors such as race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. If you belong to a group that has traditionally held cultural prominence, you are an oppressor. If you belong to a group that has traditionally been culturally marginalized, then you are oppressed. Your categorization depends on your group identity.
Of course, not everyone neatly falls into one of these two categories. The same person may be an “oppressor” in some areas (e.g. white) but “oppressed” in others (e.g. female, lesbian). The grading system for these complexities is called intersectionality. The goal of intersectionality is to examine various aspects of a person’s identity in order to compare their privileges on one hand and their disadvantages on the other. A person’s victimhood can be determined by which categories of disadvantage (i.e. oppression) overlap—or, “intersect”, and hence the name of the theory. A black man can be considered oppressed. But a black, lesbian woman has more notches of victimhood that intersect, and therefore she is even more oppressed. So Marx’s original ideas about the the bourgeoisie exerting economic power over the proletariat was expanded to include an endless bevy of social factors. Given this shift, the name of the ideology as it exists today can rightly be called cultural Marxism.
Similar Themes and Structures.
Like classical Marxism, cultural Marxism is not interested in equal opportunity. It requires nothing less than equal results. Just as Marx believed that all material disparities were the product of unjust exploitation, cultural Marxists hold that all social disparities (representation, influential voices, etc.) are also the products of exploitation. Marx believed the only inevitable way to overcome this was through revolution—tearing down the whole system itself. The means of production had to be seized and equally distributed, including any and all factors that could give one person an economic advantage. This accounts for cultural Marxism’s fixation on dismantling Western civilization, as the historical ideas of a predominantly white, male, heterosexual, cisgendered society are perceived to be nothing more than unjust abuses of power. Societal capital (the “means of production”) has to be seized and equally distributed. And like economic Marxism, the proposed solution is to tear down the entire system and eradicate any means that provide a cultural advantage. This is where the expression “social justice” comes from—there must be an equal distribution of social opportunities and privilege, or else an injustice has supposedly occurred.
Like classical Marxism, cultural Marxism does not identity a person’s virtue by personal conduct but by group identity. In Marx’s day, even a rich factory owner who treated his employees fairly would still be a guilty “oppressor” by the very nature of the group he belonged to. Even if you didn’t actually mistreat anyone, your advantaged position within the system made you corporately guilty of oppression. Cultural Marxism, and Critical Theory in particular, likewise considers people on an advantaged spectrum (white, male, etc.) to be complicit “oppressors” regardless of individual behavior. Simply by belonging to your group, you share in corporate guilt. If you have benefited from the oppressive system in any way, you’re complicit in the exploitation of the oppressed. This is the reason behind the widespread insistence that white people are racist whether they realize it or not (which I’ll address more in the next post). The only way to be free of this guilt is to confess, renounce your privilege, and surrender societal capital to the other groups. If you question this methodology, even in the most humble or rationalistic way possible, it’s only because you’re trying to preserve the power of your group.
This explains why one group can be considered “racist” and another cannot—it all comes down to which group is perceived to be in power. Racism, it is now claimed, is a one-way street, only capable of being transmitted from the cultural oppressors to the culturally oppressed. This explains why a riotous mob can be justified for anarchy and the destruction of personal property, while a group that questions the mob is villainous—because the mob is an oppressed people group rightly resisting social injustice, while those disagreeing with the mob are simply trying to assert their privilege and power.
This also answers the question I raised in my last post: what on earth does the value of Black lives have to do with the normalization of transgenderism, homosexuality, and the destruction of the nuclear family, as Black Lives Matter seeks to do? Because for a cultural Marxist this is not principally about stopping unjust treatment of Black persons. It’s about tearing down an entire system that is supposedly oppressive of anyone who is not white, male, heterosexual, etc. and redistributing the societal capital. From this perspective, racial and sexual marginalization go hand-in-hand. You can’t try to liberate one without liberating the other. This mission is ultimately one of tearing down all the perceived power groups of Western civilization. As I previously wrote, “The emphasis on black lives is a Trojan horse, and in its belly is an army of larger priorities being sneaked through the gate. These priorities are not limited to race. They are far-reaching, and will revolutionize every sphere of government and culture.”
The reasons for Marxism’s failure in the 20th century—and why we ought be averse to it’s resurrected forms—should be obvious: it is an impossible, self-defeating system. It’s impossible because if disparity is only ever the result of exploitative power structures, then the potential claims of victimhood are limitless. I can look around my own little world—at my family, friends, neighbors, co-workers—and if I detect any benefit in their life that I do not possess, I can cry, “Oppression!” But when everything becomes oppression, nothing really is. Furthermore, this would require me to suddenly reconsider those same friends and neighbors as villainous—not on the basis of how they’ve actually treated me, but on the basis of their group identity and whether their economic or social capital is higher than my own. This wreaks havoc on meaningful relationships in two ways. First, because the slightest difference in outcome between me and someone else creates a looming suspicion of injustice. Second, because we judge others not on the basis of actual conduct but by group identity (as I’ll discuss in my next post, this is actually the crux of the very racism that is supposedly meant to be overthrown).
It’s an impossible system because the tentative “advantages” that give one group “power” over another are also limitless. For example, one person might have more loving parents or receive a larger inheritance than another. One person might be physically stronger than another, have a greater mental capacity than another, or possess a skill or interest in a more lucrative field. The myriad of other social factors you would need to account for is dizzying. Who were their friend groups? How big was their family? Did they grow up in the country or in the city? What were the values of their local culture? What kind of businesses operated in their community? What were their school teachers’ strengths and weaknesses in comparison to every other teacher in every other school? These factors, and countless others, can all impact a person’s experience and success. In order to ensure that no tentative advantages exist, you would need to control every micro factor that could ever potentially give someone a one-up.
Diversity—whether it be a diversity of family, culture, ideas, pursuits, lifestyles, or location—is not a plausible concept when economic and/or social equity is the end goal, because any kind of diversity will always produce variable outcomes. You can have diversity, or you can have equity. But you can’t have both. No equal result can be guaranteed unless all persons are cookie-cutter copies of one another in every sphere of life, or unless a strong hand domineers the result.
Marx knew this. Which is why he taught that children should be raised by the state, because some parents might raise their children better than others, creating an unfair advantage for the children from better homes. He also believed that the estates of dead persons should be handled by the government rather than passed on to children, because that would create an unfair advantage for the offspring whose parents left more. Marx also popularized the expression, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” That is, while each person was required to give the fullness of what they had to offer (strength, intelligence, skill sets, etc.), no one would receive more than what they needed in return. This was meant to ensure that a disparity of ability did not produce a disparity of result. The diversity of people resulted in a diversity of results, so people either had to all be made the same, or their diverse results had to be controlled by a heavy hand. You would need an all-encompassing force to account for, and manipulate, the countless factors that could provide every person from every conceivable demographic an advantage over every other person. The state would need to control every minuscule detail of society to ensure that no privileges—and therefore no hierarchies—exist.
And that brings us to why this is a self-defeating system. It’s self-defeating because such thorough micro-managing would require a heavier hierarchy than the initial one you’re trying to overthrow. This was the point made in George Orwell’s classic novella, Animal Farm. In the beginning of the story the farm animals drive out their oppressive master, Mr. Jones, and establish a communistic society in which “All animals are equal.” As the plot progresses, the pigs expand their power and become more oppressive than the original villain they overthrew, yet do so in the name of ensuring everyone else’s equality. By the end of the story, the maxim has been changed to, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” In order to eliminate and ensure the non-existence of all hierarchies, you need an authoritative hand—the ultimate hierarchy.
There are many complex factors that determine a person’s development and advantage/disadvantage. The demands of groups like Black Lives Matter and Movement for Black Lives (the coalition to which BLM belongs) require that control be exerted over all such advantageous factors. The only way to ensure the erasure of all “privilege” is to micromanage these factors. This is an impossible task that will only result in a bloated, intrusive, and ultimately ineffective big brother—an explicit hierarchy far bigger than all the subtle ones you were trying to overthrow in the first place. For who determines what is and is not “advantageous”? And who regulates those things? The strong hand of a group with ultimate privilege. So the only way to accomplish your goal is to proliferate the very problem you’re trying to solve.
Incompatibility with Christianity.
All this should warrant a rejection of Marxism from anyone. It is not only ineffective, but detrimental. For Christians, however, there an additional objection to be made, and that is its contradiction with a biblical worldview. Neil Shenvi did a fantastic presentation on this very topic that, if you have about an hour to listen, I cannot recommend enough. He points out that the metanarrative of critical theory diverges sharply from the metanarrative of Scripture. It has a fundamentally different view of creation, sin, redemption, and restoration. It is also man-centered, viewing all the above categories chiefly in reference to humanity and not in reference to God. Let’s briefly consider them.
Creation and Sin.
Christianity understands humans to be creatures made in the image of God, and sin as a transgression of the creature against the Creator. Marxism understands humans to be rival social groups, and sin as one group subjugating the other. The essence of sin is oppression. This is expressed in explicitly theological terms, with racism now referred to as America’s “original sin”, including in a bestselling book by Christian activist Jim Wallis. “Original sin” is a Christian doctrine. It refers to the sinful nature we inherit from Adam; we are innately born with a corrupted moral disposition. As American schoolbooks in the 17th and 18th centuries put it, “In Adam’s fall, we sinned all.” This is a loaded term, now reapplied to forms of oppression. And like the biblical doctrine of original sin, we are said to be intrinsically born bearing the guilt of oppression. While Christians should be the first to agree that genuine oppression is sinful, we understand it to be a result and category of sin, not its essence. In the Christian worldview the essence of sin is man’s rebellion against God. Sin is transgressing His laws and person. Sin is first and foremost a vertical problem. In Marxism, it is chiefly a horizontal one.
If sin is the problem, then what is the solution? Since Christianity chiefly understands sin as estrangement from God, redemption comes through the sacrificial atonement of Jesus Christ whereby we are reconciled to God. The benefits of this redemption are received through repentance and faith. Since cultural Marxism chiefly understands sin as social injustice, they prescribe awareness and activism. Terms such as “educate yourself” are used to call awareness to ideas like systemic racism. The oppressor group must silently listen and learn. To be “woke” is to become alert to societal inequity, using the imagery of a sleeping person now awake (such as the 2016 documentary about the Black Lives Matter movement, entitled “Stay Woke”.) This is enlightenment, a born-again, scales-falling-off-your-eyes kind of experience where I once was blind but now I see. This must include an awareness and renouncing of one’s own privilege—akin to a sacramental act of penance—and a pronouncement of solidarity with the oppressed group as an ally.
But you can’t just be enlightened on the issues; you must speak and act on behalf of the goals of cultural Marxism. To do otherwise is to be complicit in the system of oppression because, after all, silence is violence. So awareness must lead to activism. Activism is the equivalent of evangelism, and all non-believers are threatened with damnation—that is, getting “cancelled.” Your only hope is to renounce your privilege and, like the apostle Paul, join the marginalized cause you once persecuted (even if you didn’t know it).
What is the desired end? What is the teleos, the end game, the eschatological hope? For Christianity, it is God’s restoration of the fallen created order in a new heaven and earth. For cultural Marxism it is equality of result and the reversal of power structures. In contrast to the biblical teaching of a divine recreation, Marxism holds out the dream of man-made utopia on earth. In each of these categories, the Marxist metanarrative shifts the emphasis from the divine to humanity. Sin is not primarily something against God, but against man. Redemption and restoration are not accomplished by God, but by man. Man occupies the chief seat of the Marxist worldview.
In summary, Black Lives Matter is a self-identified Marxist organization—Marxism is their framework and operating system. Karl Marx taught that humanity could be fundamentally divided into oppressor and oppressed groups, and he called for a radical redistribution of economic capital. The 20th century saw this system of communism wreak unprecedented devastation in places like the Soviet Union. Starting in the 1920’s and 30’s, proponents of Critical Theory called for Marxism to be extended to social factors and not just economic ones. Critical Theory, or cultural Marxism, does not see people as individuals but as members of groups. A person’s innocence or guilt depends on their group identification. Its aim is to tear down any group that has more perceived social influence than any other group—to create total cultural equity. Although done in the name of dismantling hierarchies, this equity actually requires the most absolute kind of hierarchy, one that is far-reaching enough to control every conceivable social aspect. This is an impossible task, and one that inevitably leads to totalitarianism. Finally, Marxism views categories like sin, redemption and restoration in radically different terms than biblical Christianity. It is thoroughly man-centered rather than God-centered.
Marxism has proven disastrous results time and time again. Enlarging its scope from the economic to the social will not help—if anything, that will broaden the scope of its disaster. A repackaged bad idea is still a bad idea. We know how this plays out. To have those consequences before us, and try it again anyway, makes us bigger fools than the fools who first tried it. Although movements like Black Lives Matter may initially appeal to Christian compassion, we must love God and others with both our hearts and our minds. Not only is the Marxist worldview incompatible with Christianity, but it does greater harm than good by creating the ultimate hierarchical oppression. If we love our neighbors, and our Black neighbors in particular, then we would do well to steer clear and seek other solutions.