Whether Leftism is a Christian heresy

Of course not.  And yet the claim is often heard from groups that otherwise agree on very little.  The neo-pagan and neo-reactionary Right say that Leftism is just the working out of noxious elements present in Christianity from the beginning.  Some say that these were temporarily offset by other, positive, elements of Christianity; others are under the impression that Christianity itself is pure Leftist drivel but only seemed otherwise because of its “Germanization”, i.e. a borrowed veneer of pagan virility.  (Remember, most people don’t know anything about the pre-Constantinian Church or the Christianized Roman Empire, so the idea that Christians were a bunch of pacifist, egalitarian hippies until the conversion of the Germans actually sounds plausible to them.)  On the other hand, we have all encountered Christian apologists eager to claim that, on balance, Christianity has been on the side of “progress”, that democracy, female equality, and anti-racism really are in some profound sense our ideas and could never have taken hold without the Gospel.

Is Leftism a heresy, an outworking, a secularization of Christianity?  Let us first make the question more precise.  It is insufficient to show that Leftism came after Christianity, or else everything would be everything else:  Leftism is the outworking of Christianity is the outworking of paganism is the outworking of animism…  What must be shown is that in Leftism some distinctively Christian idea is being seized upon, made a distinctive part of Leftism, and turned against its parent ideology.  Note two things.  First, the key word is “distinctively”; ideas that Christians or Leftists share with most other groups (e.g. “the sky is blue”) should not be called “Christian” or “Leftist”.  Thus, to identify Christian beliefs, we must have in mind a “control group” of non-Christian beliefs.  Since neo-pagans and Christian apologists both tend to include Judaism within the orbit of “Christian” ideas (e.g. “Judeo-Christian morality”), the only sensible control group is paganism, which fortunately comes in many different varieties.  Second, the question is ideological rather than historical.  How ideas do or don’t match is all that matters, so we can appeal neither to the Left’s post facto appropriation of Christian millenarian or Protestant rebellions nor its vigorous persecutions of real Christians.  JMSmith has addressed the historical question of Christianity’s role in the rise of Leftism earlier on this site, so I will say no more about that.

The claims of continuity between Leftism and Christianity are pretty flimsy.  Just consider a few of the ones I’ve heard:

  • Christianity taught that all men are brothers, which is the basis of liberal universalism.  Except that the brotherhood of man is a Stoic belief, not a Christian one.
  • Christianity taught that all men are equal before God, and liberalism just shifted this equality to this life.  All are certainly not equal before God, as His distinct treatment of predestined and reprobate, baptized and unbaptized makes clear.  Even in the Church, a diversity of roles is explicitly affirmed.  One might say that in Christianity one’s true spiritual worth is unconnected to one’s social status, but would any pagan deny this?
  • Christianity preached individual judgement, reward, and punishment after death, which promotes individualism.  Such beliefs are also common among the pagans.
  • Medieval Christians invented the social contract by saying that government exists for the good of the governed.  This belief is commonplace among all peoples and is neither distinctively Christian nor distinctively liberal.
  • Christianity taught the existence of a single God Who should be believed in by all, which implies that cultural particularity is bad.  Except that it doesn’t.  At least, Christians are in no different position from anyone else in this regard.  Anyone with a belief regards that belief as true, which means it’s true for everybody, which means that people who deny it are wrong.  People who don’t like this have a quarrel with logic, not Christianity.
  • Christianity teaches that it’s wrong to love kin and countrymen more than foreign strangers.  No, it doesn’t, and it never has.  It’s true that Christianity teaches that we have duties to strangers, but would any pagan deny this?
  • Leftism has its own clergy, dogmas, and proscribed heresies.  As must any belief system that finds itself in the role of legitimating a community’s authoritative structures and customs.
  • The doctrine of Original Sin teaches us to mistrust people, which justifies separating the branches of government so that each will check the other.  Again, there is nothing distinctively Christian here, since pagans were well aware that power could be abused, and the distinction of government roles can be found in Aristotle’s Politics millennia before Montesquieu.   During most of the intervening time, the sense of man’s fallenness was thought to justify limiting individual freedom rather than hampering the State’s capacity for unified action.  (Even Christians like Thomas Aquinas who favored “mixed” forms of government didn’t do so in the hope that the different forms would counteract each other.)

In fact, none of the above even attempt to connect a distinctly Christain belief (the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Atonement) to a distinctively liberal belief (private autonomy via public neutrality).

More plausible would be a negative connection between Christianity and Leftism, in that the latter understands itself in terms of its opposition to the former.  Thus, one could say that the ideals of Leftism and liberalism are in themselves too vague to be meaningful guides until the contrast of Christianity specifies them.  Thus, the modern regime is one of freedom despite the obvious restrictions imposed by its administrative-therapeutic state, because people are not constrained by an established Christian Church or according to historically Christian morality.  The modern regime is one of equality despite the obvious hierarchies in business, government, and academia because these are not the historically Christian hierarchies of fathers and priests.  Understood this way, Leftism and liberalism owe their existence to Christianity only in the sense that antisemitism owes its existence to Judaism.

There are, then, two possibilities.

  1. Left-liberalism is a rival ideology, independent of and incompatible with Christianity.  That it first emerged in Christendom (if indeed it did–remember that class warfare was endemic in pagan Rome, and decadence has been the fate of many pagan peoples) is a historical accident.
  2. Left-liberalism simply is the rejection of Christianity.  It cannot exist without Christianity, not because it is in any sense an interior development of Christianity, but just because the rejection of a belief is necessarily consequent to that belief itself.
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105 thoughts on “Whether Leftism is a Christian heresy

  1. The break of 70 AD (rise of Talmudic Judiasm, when the definition of Jewish changed) and of Luther were radical and fundamental. Your analysis should consider these. I would say that leftism has strong Puritan roots.

    • Remember we’re talking about how ideas relate. That Christian ideas and Leftist ideas were jumbled together in the minds of individual Roundheads doesn’t establish anything.

  2. Understood this way, Leftism and liberalism owe their existence to Christianity only in the sense that antisemitism owes its existence to Judaism.

    Yes – to a monumentally lesser extent, that is, than the sense in which neoreaction/alt-right owes its existence to progressivism.

  3. 1. Pagan cultures, at least at the hunter-gatherer level, are fiercely egalitarian. As you say, why not blame the animists?
    2. Something like liberalism has emerged in cultures where Christianity could not possibly have been an influence. Example 1: Democritus and his atomist followers down to the Epicureans developed a utilitarian morality quite similar to liberalism. Example 2. The Mohists also developed a consequentialist moral system not far off from liberalism.

    • Something very like liberalism arose also among the Zoroastrians of Persia, before their conversion to Islam. Mazdakism was communist, hedonist, egalitarian, the whole nine yards. The wikipedia article suggests that in many ways they were a typical gnostic sect.

      Which is interesting, given that modern liberalism is so often characterized as gnostic by traditionalist writers of today.

      It may be that any sufficiently developed civilization is vulnerable to gnosticism of some sort.

  4. What liberalism has in common with Christianity is its focus on the victim, understood as a guiltless party, rather than as a guilty party, like Oedipus, who, in the myth, deserves what he gets. Where liberalism differs from Christianity is in its reckless ascription of victimization — or guiltlessness. Jesus was truly innocent even though everyone, including Peter, declared him guilty. Pick your media-celebrated pseudo-victim, whom the forensic evidence identifies absolutely as the perpetrator. Liberalism turns the perpetrator-victim relation on its head. It invariably calls the actual victim a perpetrator and the actual perpetrator a victim. “Community organizing,” the “good work” of liberalism, is nothing less than the stirring up of crowds to seek out “guilty parties” who might serve as scapegoats for the cause. Nevertheless, liberal victimology could never have come into being prior to Christianity, the revelator of scapegoating, to which it owes its sensitivity to the victim. Seneca, a Stoic, was appalled by gladiatorial spectacle, but he never pressed to abolish it although he was in a position to do so. Liberalism is the textbook heresy. It takes an atom of Christian epistemology and blows it up into an entire cosmos. In doing so, it reverts to pre-Christianity and begins its implacable regime of making victims, but because of Christianity, the only way it can make victims is by accusing the selected parties of being victimizers. Hence: “racism,” “sexism,” “whatever-ism,” and “insensitivity,” “intolerance,” and “hate-crime.”

    Bonald, I am saying to you in the spirit of Christian brotherhood that your attempt to disassociate liberalism from Christianity is inadvertently un-Christian, in that it exonerates liberalism of its guilt, and thereby abdicates Christian epistemology.

    Sincerely,

    TFB

    PS. Pagan morality and Christian morality are not different. The Golden Rule is already implicit in Hammurabi’s Law, a great diminution of punishments and a great advance in justice. Paganism and Christianity differ epistemologically, not morally.

    • Hello Professor Bertonneau,

      You are presuming, are you not, that Girardism is the authentic interpretation of Christianity? I however am not convinced that Christianity is about victims of society in general being innocent.

      That is a very good point, though, about community organizers existing to whip up mobs against scapegoats. While I do not believe that scapegoating innocent victims has historically occupied anything like the importance Girard attributes to it–I think the ancients killed suspected murderers, blasphemers, and traitors for the obvious reason that they really were threats–aspects like this in today’s world do lend themselves to such interpretations.

      Since you’re a literature professor, I’m particularly interested that I may have been reading Oedipus Rex wrongly all of these years. My impression was that Oedipus was a sympathetic, even admirable character, a victim of divinely-rigged circumstances who is ultimately done in by his virtues (his single-mindedness in tracking down the threat to Thebes) rather than his vices (being hot-headed and killing Laius without knowing who he was). It seemed clear to me in this play and in Oedipus at Colonus that Sophocles himself liked his hero. Were we supposed to find his downfall gratifying? Or has Sophocles “Christianized” the myth?

      • Sophocles has in fact “Christianized the myth.” Oedipus himself calls for two parties to testify in the manhunt for the killer of Laius: The shepherd who rescued the infant-child of Laius and Jocasta and gave it to Polybius and his wife to raise; and the witness to the murder of Laius who can answer the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question whether it was one killer or many who did the deed. As Oedipus tells Jocasta, “If they were many, then it was not I, for I am but one.” The first witness allocutes; the second never shows up. Therefore there is doubt in the text about Oedipus’ guilt even though everyone in Thebes, including Oedipus himself, declares Oedipus guilty.

        Blatant human sacrifice was universal and in some societies it was exceedingly gross. The “exemplar” is Aztec society, which practiced human sacrifice on an industrial scale. The pharmakos festival continued in Athens right through the Roman period. At the beginning of the year, Athenians voted to expel someone from the city — and that person suffered the indignity of being rudely driven out. It is true that the Romans had the Roman Law that we still admire; but they also had gladiation, which is so nakedly sacrificial that it is impossible to deny the attribution.

        Girard does not offer an interpretation of texts. More accurately, he clears away the accreted, myth-like interpretations so that he (and we) can read what the text actually says.

        I could go on, but I prefer to importune you: Read The Scapegoat. It will occur to you when you have done so why Jean-Pierre Dupuy calls Girard the Einstein of Moral Science.

        Sincerely,

        Tom

  5. One of your Pontiff’s first official acts was to go to Lampedusa and blubber over Muslim invasion of the Catholic Christian homeland. Lest anybody misconstrue him, he returned to Italy to bathe and kiss the feet of immigrant criminals. Now he’s blubbering over internecine warfare in the Middle East, from the same location where his predecessors called for the raising up of an army of God.

    The Catholic Church in the US receives billions-with-a-B in transfer payments from the US government to enable its welfare state. The USCCB is the Democratic Party at prayer. It’s pretty hard to avoid concluding that liberal Progressivism is the socio-political expression of modern Christianity.

    The Catholic Church is going to split into its grumpy Sedevacantist wing and its liberal socialist majority. I’m former Episcopalian now Orthodox, and I’ve seen this before (and the Orthodox hierarchy is probably just the tertiary holdout). The Catholic Church is a lot bigger with more properties involved, so it is going to be a very ugly fight.

    Mangan has remarked that these arguments tend to be from a Christianity that only a few idiosyncratic laity espouse.

  6. Pingback: Whether Leftism is a Christian heresy | Reaction Times

  7. “Christianity teaches that it’s wrong to love kin and countrymen more than foreign strangers. No, it doesn’t, and it never has. It’s true that Christianity teaches that we have duties to strangers, but would any pagan deny this?”

    I’ve been talking to Christians about their taking in and supporting the large group of barbarians that are currently invading the US through the southern border. While I haven’t talked to anyone who’s directly taken in one of these barbarians, every Christian I talk to supports and defends the Christians who do so. They take these actions without thought or concern to what happens when the invaders’ numbers are such that their kin and countrymen are out voted, out gunned, and out numbered. This demonstrates that Christians value the foreign invader over their countrymen and kin, or they’re too terminally stupid to maintain a civilization.

    Your words about doctrine mean nothing compared to the actions of the church and its believers. Any church or Christian who aids or supports those who aid this invasion are traitors on the order of the progressives who organized the invasion. You’ve picked your side as surely as if you’d sworn allegiance to the progressive movement.

  8. How about this, Christianity teaches not judging and plants the seeds of trying not to hate, not to judge intolerantly, not think any evil and to try to do good to the point of self sacrifice. It does teach equality and justice tied together with a willingness to love those who are evil while trying to maintain proper judgement and hate the evil not the person.

    In the end some people who have not the Spirit of truth to guide them through these otherwise muddy waters turn it into a form of leftism. I do think there is a connection. These ideas are not found anywhere else to such a degree as they are in formerly Christian countries.
    One can say that it is an attempt to live Christian ideals according to the flesh not the Spirit.

  9. This demonstrates that Christians value the foreign invader over their countrymen and kin, or they’re too terminally stupid to maintain a civilization.

    Both. It’s like that here, in Europe, too. This is how decadent societies commit suicide.

  10. This demonstrates that Christians value the foreign invader over their countrymen and kin, or they’re too terminally stupid to maintain a civilization.

    Both. It’s like that here, in Europe, too. This is how decadent societies commit suicide.

    • The point is is why do some or many of those who call themselves Progressives or Leftists behave and think this way and some or many who call themselves Christians as well. The question was is there a connection and if there is, should it be called a form of Christian heresy. I would affirm that idea.

      The question and point was not what is true Christianity or what do Christians do but whether progressive leftism is a bastard child of Christianity unguided by the Spirit of truth and as such a form of Christianity derived confusion.

      I would say it is obvious many on the left derive their ideas from purely secular and political communist ideals while some get it from a loosely based Christian association or heritage without true knowledge and are easily led to believe that Christianity can best be expressed through a secularized form of social justice for they see no other way or valid form of giving it meaning and expression in their lives. This is because of a lack of connection to the spiritual realities which it is the purpose of the church to put us in touch with.

      Therefore I don’t blame “Christians” in general or Christianity for Leftist craziness, because I am a Christian and I find its true scripturally understood expression to be conservative and traditional and its notions of mercy, tolerance and love to be geared towards redemption of the straight path and conservative values not to their negation.

  11. “distinct treatment of predestined and reprobate”

    And who may the predestined be? Is it not true that all humans are predestined to heaven?

    • It is not. Only the elect will go to heaven. Matthew 25:31-46 makes this clear: Jesus will separate the people as a shepherd separates sheep from goats. One group will be welcomed to heaven, and the other will go to eternal punishment.

      That it is the elect that will go to heaven is also made clear in Scripture. Here are a couple of verses on that.

      For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. — Romans 8:29

      Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied. — 1 Peter 1:2

  12. Overall this is convincing. From my own halfway lapsed Catholic perspective, leftism retains some passing resemblance to Christianity because of its origins in Christendom, but other several other societies have developed similar incipient ‘liberalisms,’ though never reaching the levels of literacy and economic and technological development that provided favorable conditions for liberalism.

    One of your points seems quite wrongheaded, however:

    “Christianity taught the existence of a single God Who should be believed in by all, which implies that cultural particularity is bad….Christians are in no different position from anyone else in this regard. Anyone with a belief regards that belief as true, which means it’s true for everybody, which means that people who deny it are wrong….”

    The exceedingly vast majority of non-Abrahamic religions past and present disavow this, from the ancient Mediterranean to modern India. Our gods are true, but there’s no great concern or interest in what an outsider thinks or his ‘conversion.’ This is really a Christian, Jewish, and Islamic particularity. The supermajority of modern Catholics including the pope ( “no Catholic God” ) don’t believe this either.

    • I would disagree with the Jewish part. The Jews and the Pagans didn’t care about converting others and I think the Jews completely turned away all converts except for one time in the ancient past.

      • Under the Hasmoneans, the Jewish Establishment forcibly converted the Edomites/Idumeans to Temple-cultic Judaism … and the end-result was Herod the Great.

  13. @Bonald – This is terrific!

    Needed doing, and done well.

    I do find this ‘Leftism is a Christian heresy’ meme to be maddening – but then I can perceive why it is seized upon and propagated, despite being ignorant or incompetent nonsense.

    It is most popular among the (Moldbug-influenced, HBD-influenced) Neoreaction/ Reactosphere/ Dark Enlightenment/ Manosphere secular Right grouping – which is (pretty much) those chaps who are against almost-all of Leftism *except for* the sexual revolution.

    Specifically: they reject Leftism except for extra-marital sex for men – which practice they wish to retain (or, to put it more negatively, which practice they do not want to repent).

    • Leftism is not Christian ‘heresy.’ Rather, leftism is nothing less than the socio-political expression of modern Christianity. We are much further over the cliff than the author can apparently imagine.

      The hierarchs of every Christian sect–possibly excepting the Orthodox, who are probably just the tertiary holdouts–espouse egalitarianism, open borders, secular democracy and public or private transfer payments. Even Bruce’s Mormons are working on their transformation into a Protestant book club.

      The author is furiously dissecting doctrine when the results are staring him in the face: institutionalized Christianity has turned out leftist, every single time. We have gone from Pope Urban calling for an army of God to Francis of Lampedusa, bathing the feet of immigrants with his holy tears. I hope the man lives forever, because his funeral is going to be nauseating, and his successor will issue bulls calling for outright democratic socialism.

      The end result of universalism, infinite grace and unconditional love appears to be institutionalized leftism. I wish it were otherwise, because when or if the Orthodox fall to it, there will be nobody left.

      • But, if you are going to accept arguments like these, then you get conclusions like “leftism is the expression of the modern academy” or “leftism is the expression of the modern military.” There is no basis for singling out Christianity. Liberalism is pervasive in modernity. It’s in everything. Institutionalized everything has turned out liberal. As has non-institutionalized everything.

      • The Anti-Gnostic seems determined to have a conversation other than the one I initiated, but his argument does deserve a reply. While I was away, DrBill anticipated mine. I was going to point out how odd it is that the political expression of Christianity is identical to the political expression of atheism, the political expression of Judaism, the political expression of Deism, etc. Also how odd it is that Christianity never showed its true colors when it was a dominant social force, but only after anti-Christian social elements gained such ascendancy that Christians have been been under intense pressure to prove their moral status to these hostile ideologies.

      • The Catholic Church is following the arc of most Christian sects, like the Episcopalians and the COE have already done. When the winning team was feudalism and monarchy and ethnic nation-states, that was what the Church espoused. Now the winning team is social democracy and multiculturalism, which the Church has discovered (to the tune of billions of taxpayer dollars I’d add) what a great fit this is with the Church’s teachings on charity and the plan for universal salvation.

        I think your ideological thesis is less important than immanent reality: the Church has turned out Leftist, and things like infinite grace, universalism and equality probably have a lot to do with it. I hate to think institutional Christianity carries the seeds of its own destruction, like liberalism unable to figure out a liberal way to keep out the non-liberals, but I’m not optimistic.

      • Anti-Gnostic,

        Perhaps a better way of stating your thesis: cowardice is the political expression of Christianity.

      • When the winning team was feudalism and monarchy and ethnic nation-states, that was what the Church espoused. . . . the Church has turned out Leftist, and things like infinite grace, universalism and equality probably have a lot to do with it.

        Did infinite grace, universalism and equality also cause the Church to embrace feudalism & monarchy?

      • The hierarchs of every Christian sect–possibly excepting the Orthodox, who are probably just the tertiary holdouts–espouse egalitarianism, open borders, secular democracy and public or private transfer payments.

        What a load of nonsense. Half the “orthodox” hierarchs around the world today are likely former or still active KGB agents. Were it not for the benevolence of emperors (and sultans) the eastern schismatics would not exist. You guys wrote the book on cozying up to political power despite whatever fantasies you and a handful of other convertdox like Rod Dreher or eccentrics like Charlton might think.

        All of the orthodox countries suffer the same problems and in some cases are far worse off. Russia is an absolute basket case despite Putin and all that “symphonia” nonsense.

        An engagement with the left (classical old-left, i.e. left on economic issues, moderate to conservative on social issues) is one route of engagement that I think could bear fruit. It is not as far fetched as one might initially think. Most of the best traditionalist thinkers in the past 40 or so years have come out of the Marxist milieu, thinkers such as Christopher Lasch or Alasdair MacIntyre. While these thinkers are not in every way perfect, they offer powerful (and too often neglected) critiques of liberalism, much more so than the libertarians and right-liberals who dominate the conservative movement today, including among neo-reactionaries.

        It is time for a new paradigm.

      • @ Ita Scripta Est

        I am very glad to see that I am not the only one who is advocating an alliance with the Old Left. You could also add Eugene Genovese and James Burnham to that list. The Old Right has much in common with the Old Left and we personally have much more in common with the likes of Huey Long, Ernest Hemingway and H.L. Mencken that we do to George Bush or Bill O’ Reilly.

        Really, I think that an Americanized version of the German Revolutionary Right (Conservative Revolutionarism: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conservative_Revolutionary_movement http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edgar_Julius_Jung) is what we would need here to have any real sort of effect. The working man and the farmer (the backbone of the nation) are extremely disgruntled by this current zeitgeist.

        There are lot of good ideas here but there needs to be a point where they must be implemented.

      • @ Ita

        Were it not for the benevolence of emperors (and sultans) the eastern schismatics would not exist. You guys wrote the book on cozying up to political power despite whatever fantasies you and a handful of other convertdox like Rod Dreher or eccentrics like Charlton might think.

        All of the orthodox countries suffer the same problems and in some cases are far worse off. Russia is an absolute basket case despite Putin and all that “symphonia” nonsense.

        I agree with the first part but I don’t see what is wrong with the second. Russia is a basketcase but what is wrong with Putin, Dugin, the 4th Political Theory or Symphonia? These things could all be inspiration for an American Revolutionary Right.

      • Svar,

        I am not anti-Putin in the Fox News sense, but I just can’t buy many paleo-cons and convertdox who see him as Constantine 2.0. Here in America, our politicians routinely co-opt Christianity for their own selfish ends. Perhaps Putin is above that but I doubt it.

      • @ Ita Scripta Est

        I am not a convert to Eastern Orthodoxy but converts like Rod Dreher who is both a paleo-con and a convertdox is strangely anti-Putin and I am not sure why.

        Regardless, I do agree that most individuals of the two groups(which have significant overlap) are pro-Putin and as someone who considers himself a Catholic paleo-con I am amongst them. Now, I don’t think that Putin is some sort of Constantian savior but I think that Putin, Dugin, and the National Bolsheviks could be a good counterpoint against America’s unchallenged liberal democratic global hegemony. America has been far more destructive to the West than the Soviet Union ever was.

        From what I see, Dugin and Putin and their ilk tend to be Russian Orthodox Christians but are heavily influenced by Perennial Philosophy.

      • Leftism is not Christian ‘heresy.’ Rather, leftism is nothing less than the socio-political expression of modern Christianity.

        Substitute ‘Catholicism’ for ‘modern Christianity’ and the statement becomes more accurate.

  14. In the gospels we see Christ attracting great crowds, many of whom were under the mistaken impression that he was founding a political movement; and we see these crowds dwindle when he made it clear that he was not. It is reasonable to suppose that this same disillusionment drove Judas to betray Jesus. Leftism is, ostensibly, a program to establish the Kingdom of Heaven on earth by political means, which means that it is Christianity of a sort that Judas would approve. We could call it the gospel according to Judas.

    This is not to say that there are no genuine Christians on the Left. There are, I don’t doubt, Christians who believe in the Tooth Fairy. Grace does not make one omniscient. But the Christian who believed in the Tooth Fairy would not, I trust, seek to show that the existence of the Tooth Fairy was proclaimed in the penumbra of the Nicene Creed. Speaking of the Nicene Creed, this strikes me as the best touchstone of Christianity. However lavishly it may deck itself in Christian symbols, an organization that does not assert these propositions, without using esoteric definitions of the words in which they are expressed, is not a Christian organization.

    Leftism can be said to have “come out of” Christianity, but when we say “come out of” we mean abandoned, vacated, or left behind. It is a rejection or repudiation of orthodox Christian doctrine in the manner of Judas.

    • Leftism is, ostensibly, a program to establish the Kingdom of Heaven on earth by political means,

      And the Catholic Church, the largest Christian sect on the planet, is quite comfortable with that, as with their Holy Roman Empire. Secular democracy is the new Empire, and the Catholic Church is enthusiastically signing on.

      You’re debating doctrine and ignoring the facts on the ground. Leftism is modern Christianity’s socio-political expression.

      • Anti-Gnostic, I don’t think the facts on the ground are being ignored, I would say you fail to identify and thus make a real factual distinction between a real Christianity and an heretical aberrant mutant distinct outgrowth. One does not call cancerous tumor an expression of a healthy organ but something entirely different. The political left is not the political expression of Christianity though there might be coincidental alignment. Just like homosexuality is not an expression of Christian sexuality though there be some who now claim to be homosexual Christians.

      • The Catholic Church was largely unenthusiastic to outright condemnatory of republican revolutions and the sentiments and ideals that motivated them until about 50 years ago. So to make the case that leftism is a straightforward application of Catholicism at least, you’d have to make the case that the Popes, bishops, priests, and laity of the last 50 years or so represent a more authentically Catholic Catholicism than the Popes, bishops, priests, and laity of the preceding 1,950. I guess I’m open to that case being made but I’ve never heard it made convincingly.

      • Yet I consider the Catholic Institution heretical as well and not a true expression of the teachings of the New Testament. As Jesus didn’t come to preach the teachings of the Catholic Church but deliver, announce and inaugurate the new spiritual covenant built upon better things, a better foundation and promises through the sprinkling of his blood

      • The Catholic Church is devoted to the State, which used to be the Catholic monarchs and emperors. They’re gone now, so the Church is devoted to secular democracy, which is to say the Church is no longer a conservative institution. I’m not as interested in the underlying issue–whether this naturally follows from Christian doctrine–as the mere fact that the transformation seems practically complete.

        The thesis which Boland is trying to refute is that concepts like universalism, unconditional grace, infinite love, equality in Christ, are not per se what has brought us to this point. But I’m not sure Boland has made his point, given that just about every hierarch of every major sect–including the Evangelicals–is now a leftist.

        IOW, what is being argued for is a particular, idiosyncratic Christianity which is not shared by the Christian hierarchs, who will ultimately declare it schismatic or heretical.

      • No, it’s the Christian religion as it has come down to us in its authoritative version via divinely inspired texts and infallible dogma. You want us to define Christianity based on the personality of current officeholders.

        By the way, the historic relationship between the Church and the Holy Roman Empire in particular is not what you are saying. You also may want to look into the history of Renaissance neo-platonism, enlightenment occultist secret societies, marranos and the Reformation, and various other anti-Christian sources of modernity before you call leftism the political expression of Christianity.

      • You also may want to look into the history of Renaissance neo-platonism, enlightenment occultist secret societies, marranos and the Reformation, and various other anti-Christian sources of modernity before you call leftism the political expression of Christianity.

        Or, instead of spending a week in a university library and dancing on the heads of ideological pins, I can just observe the fact that practically all hierarchs of every major Christian sect are now enthusiastically and overtly leftist.

        Yes, I suppose once you refine things down to the fundamentally pure Christian doctrine, Christianity is not leftist. Christianity’s hierarchs and institutions, however, are wholly leftist, and they will not hestitate to condemn you as the heretic. Golden Dawn is fighting for Greece for the Greeks; they are condemned by, who else, the Greek Orthodox Church.

      • You are not getting it. It is not about ideological purity. Look at the original question. Nobody here is defending the current state of the Catholic hierarchy. If you want to have some separate argument to make some separate point, state what that point is clearly. As to whether leftism is per se Christianity, your point is irrelevent or is dealt with in Bonald’s point that we can’t simply be talking about ‘that which comes after’.

    • Well, the distinctively heretical aspects of Catharism have their root in neo-platonism and the Lurianic Kabala, so, in that sense, it is not a Christian heresy. However, they did call themselves Christian and while they did not believe in the trinity and the eternal divinity of Christ, they were still more Christian than modern leftists.

  15. Third possibility: Leftism is a mock Christianity, a mirror image. Something like a black mass. As Augustine said, “Even those who who set themselves against you do but copy you in a perverse way.”

    • Yes, but in order to mock something, the something has first to exist, in which case Christianity is still the cause of liberalism and liberalism is still a creature of Christianity albeit a rebellious one.

  16. This is an intelligent take on the controversy.

    The only possible counter would be an argument that all of the elements you identify, though not unique to Christianity, are unique in all being present in Christianity, and that leftism without all of them would not be the dangerous beasty that it is. This argument would probably fail, but it’s the only one you’ve left available.

  17. Mr. Proph, I too would like to read a good intellectual argument to the effect that the post-VII RCC is more authentic than what came before. I’m pretty sure it can’t be done with even the slightest verosimilitude. But that loads the dice in the direction of intellectual argument about textual criticism, which is important but not everything.

    I read the Orthosphere and other such sites, and read in them about this wonderful tradition-laden Christianity, the creator of our civilisation and mainstay of social order. I do believe it did exist. But it just doesn’t exist anymore. I get the feeling that you cling to the notion that you are the true Church and the rest are either misguided, or heretics, or what have you -and you may well be right.

    But, besides the shenanigans of the current Bishop of Rome, we have the fact that only 0.23% of Catholic priests in the world today are card-carrying traditionalists. We’re talking about professionals of religion, people who took it up as their calling, and knowing it is a very difficult and usually quite poor life unless you’re one of the few who rises up the hierarchy. They live to study and expound their religion, or must at least make it appear that they do. And out of 410,000 active Catholic priests worldwide, less than one thousand cares about to the True Faith to the extent of joining one of the active traditionalist fraternities.

    So, when I read the arguments of traditionalist Christians about the wonders of their religion, the question always appears, “just what, exactly, is that religion they’re talking about”? If Catholicism is that wonderful True Faith, why so few of those who have made their life’s aim to learn and expound it follow your version of the religion? Why can’t I turn to the Holy Father to learn about this religion? Why can’t I turn to just about any priest to learn about it? Why do I have to read about it in half-obscure corners of the Internet, if this is supposedly a religion with two billion adherents? If True Catholicism is reflected, say, in the Syllabus errorum and Pascendi Domini gregis, why aren’t these documents compelling – or even known – to more than a small minority?

    Is it unreasonable of me to suppose that, in fact, Catholicism actually is what the Catholic hierarchy and the vast majority of individual Catholics think and say it is, and that it is you that are misguided?

    And yes, I know there are many non-Catholic Christians here. I think most Protestants are even worse than Rome. I don’t know much about the Orthodox, but my guesses ain’t the best about their resilience. If the Mormons are Christian then so are Muslims. Finally, the numbers I quoted I took from this traditionalist website:

    http://centurioweblog.blogspot.ch/2014/07/forecast-for-number-of-active.html?m=1

    • Two things worth noting about Catholics: 1) We are the new Israel, the continuation of God’s promise to Abraham. 2) We are a conquered people.

      There is plenty of precedent for this in the Old Testament. Mass apostasy is pretty much what one would expect from a conquered people.

      • On the contrary, you’re a billion strong all over the globe, extracting billions of dollars in taxpayer tribute from secular governments to build housing for single moms and import Third World people into First World societies. Congratulations are in order.

    • You are asking many big questions all at once, some theoretical and some empirical. If you look at new ordinations instead of all priests (i.e. if you compare flows instead of stocks), then you get different answers. In France, almost half of all new ordinations are for one traditionalist group or another (or diocesan priests ordained specifically to say the old Mass). In the US, the correlation between right-wingedness of bishops/orders and new ordinations looks real to me and to most people. Much as I am generally annoyed by ConservaCaths, they are right that young priests are better than old priests. Not good, but better, even much better.

      This gets to the response I would offer to your larger question,

      Is it unreasonable of me to suppose that, in fact, Catholicism actually is what the Catholic hierarchy and the vast majority of individual Catholics think and say it is, and that it is you that are misguided?

      How do we know what an institution’s telos is, empirically? I’d say we know what an institution’s telos is, empirically, by looking at what it seems drawn to return to. How do we know that red rubber balls are round, when we are looking at the flattened red ovoid under Michael Moore’s left foot? Well, when Mike shifts his weight off, it suddenly starts looking round again. That’s how we know it’s round even though it, you know, isn’t round right now.

      For example, look at what happened in the Catholic Church under Benedict XVI. No matter what the blabbering buffoons say about him, Benedict was no traditionalist. All he did, along those lines, was to scale back the active persecution of tradition within the Church. And, bang! The red rubber balls started getting rounder all over the place. The current Bishop of Rome has, of course, put the weight right back on the rubber ball. So, we’ll have to wait.

      One could make the same kind of argument historically. Under the weight of the Protestant rebellion, for example, the Church’s liturgy mutated in many places in Europe. And then Trent and the Counter-Reformation restored a more typical expression. Anyway, that’s a gesture at an empirical reply.

      • More DrBill, please!

        The fact that many high-ranking Church officials have tried and are still trying to fit the square-shaped peg of Catholicism into the round-shaped hole of leftism does not make the peg round-shaped.

  18. Libertarianism is far more adverse to what Church stands for than Leftism. Leftism does not deny human solidarity and is merely an error in political philosophy.

    Whereas, libertarianism does deny human solidarity fundamentally, it teaches that man is made to live alone and to be afraid of one’s neighbor. That’s why recent Popes have focused on singling out the libertarian error as the Defining Error of Modern Times.

    • Libertarian ideals run across a spectrum, as do leftist ideals.

      I’m not a libertarian. Libertarianism is for hermits and small, self-sufficient groups of intelligent white people. (Who would also need barbed wire fences and machine guns to keep out the non-libertarians, and there goes your libertarian experiment).

      Having said that, who do you think has the higher body count: leftists full of the zeal to do good or high-g loners?

      The Popes are focusing on libertarianism because they are doubling down on social democracy. They are, in a word, Leftist. Comment after comment concedes this, with everybody arguing like a fundamentalist preacher that if you just get down to the pure doctrine, why it’s as plain as day that Christianity is not Leftist!

      To which I respond, then why is it that without exception, other than fringe outliers like the Amish, the hierarchs of every Christian sect are Leftist?

      I guess it’s something in the water. Like, the whole planet’s water.

      • Toll of libertarianism: Aborted Unborn

        This.

        I find Pope Francis’s condemnation of capitalism mild compared to that of some his of predecessors. His condemnations of capitalism is one of the few areas he is actually unambiguously in line with Church tradition. In fact many of the great reactionary authors like Louis Bonald, often saved their harshest criticism for economic liberalism. To be against capitalism does not necessarily make one a leftist, but to be a traditionalist it is a prerequisite in my opinion.

  19. Pingback: Lightning ROund – 2014/08/13 | Free Northerner

  20. James Russell’s “Germanization of Christianity” idea would have been more plausible if he had made it “Romanization, then Germanization of Christianity.

  21. I’ve seen the argument that Professor Bertonneau describes above. It’s something like “deification of the victim is at the heart of both Christianity and leftism.”

    • Yeah, but it argues further that deification of the victim is at the heart of all cultures that practice sacrifice – i.e., of all cultures. In other words, liberalism is in this respect not at all special.

      Christianity, however, *is* special, because of all the sacrificial cults it is the only one that insists that its victim is, not just one god among others (like Herakles, Adonis, or Dionysos), but the Eternal One and God of all the gods, incarnate in time and space, whose sacrifice is as infinite therefore all-sufficient, thus obviating any requirement for any further vain repetitions of bloody sacrifice.

      • Very good reply. It was Steve Burton at WWWtW who I saw made this argument. I wish I had your writing skill.

  22. Its truth aside, I don’ think the “leftism is a Christian heresy” argument is necessarily an anti-Christian argument even though some people treat it like it is. A Christian heresy is, by definition, false and could even be characterized as Satanic in some cases. Neo-reactionaries might say that “this could happen again so we shouldn’t go back to Christianity” but who cares what they say if we know Christianity is true.

  23. Leftism is Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité, right?

    It seems like these ideas are part of the faith for those who are in Christ (not necessarily for non-believers).

    Christian liberty is freedom from the yoke of the law and, ultimately, from sin, death and hell. There’s a sense of equality for those who are in Christ. See 2 Corinthians 8:14, for example. Brotherhood is definitely an aspect of Christianity for those who are in Christ.

    Leftism removes these ideas from their true context and also expands and perverts them. So it seems like a heretical, secularized Christian theology to me.

    • I could just as easily show that liberty, equality, and fraternity *of some sort* are integral parts of paganism, Stoicism, neo-Platonism, Buddhism, Deism, or anything else.

      • Yes, but those weren’t THE Western religion. I’m talking about what actually did happen not what could have happened. Leftism actually did develop from something in some particular setting and context.

      • But liberty, equality and fraternity did not become The Western religion they were imported from foreign elements after 1000+ years of non-egalitarian, non-libertarian, ethnicification-laden Christian civilization.

  24. I think a case can be made that part of leftism’s roots are in the Methodists’ “Social Gospel” theology; that mainline, liberal Protestantism is a source of social democratic leftism, but that’s about as far as one can go. One can also find some sources of Latin American leftism in the region’s ‘Liberation theology’, but that is quite localized, and hardcore Latin American leftists draw more inspiration from Marx and Mao than from any ‘liberation’ theologians.

    The neo-reactionary crowd go way too far in their attempts to directly tie Christianity as a whole to leftism.

    • The other thing neo-reactionaries love to do is claim leftism is descended from Puritanism, and while there is more reason to think so, the fact remains, that the only kind of Puritanism from which leftist, progressive strains have been derived, is apostate, deformed Puritanism, from the strains that went either Congregationalist or Unitarian first, then more or less morphed into mainline Protestantism or universalist Unitarianism, thus joining in with apostate Methodism and the Social Gospel proponents.

      But as I’ve said, blaming parents of a child taught properly but who still ran away and rejected everything his parents taught him for his actions, is absurd; and likewise, blaming Christianity for the apostate descendents of Christians is equally absurd.

      • A wide variety of European-Christian societies seem to have developed a flavor of leftism so even though it’s popular to do so, I don’t think it’s accurate to say that any one denomination is responsible. There’s Puritanism in New England, Catholicism in France, Marx’s father was a Lutheran convert , Russia pre-revolution was Orthodox, etc.

      • It’s not just neo-reactionaries who make that claim however. I think that they are actually getting that claim from Paul Gottfried as well as from Catholic thinkers who have both been saying that for years.

        That’s the deal with the Neo-Rxn, they rehash old ideas and pretend like they just came up with them.

  25. I guess I can’t help but get the impression that there’s a fear here that the Leftism is a Christian heresy argument is either anti-Christian or supports liberalism or liberal-Christianity simply because of who’s making the argument. I think a reactionary can make the argument as long as he emphasizes the heresy part.
    I could be mistaken, but I think Jim Kalb has made the argument. I think I remember a debate between Jim and Bruce Charlton on this but my memory may be faulty.

    • The argument is wrong no matter who makes it, so long as the only continuities between Christianity and Leftism are things that they share with every other ruling ideology mankind has ever held. If one plays that game, than anything that follows Christianity could be identified as a heresy of Christianity, and we are back to identifying everything with everything else: Leftism is Christianity is Judaism is paganism is animism…

  26. I’ve had a recurring thought that maybe leftism arose as a response to certain intellectuals’ perception of Christian hypocrisy i.e. the failure of individual Christians and the Church to live up to Christian ideals. It’s something I don’t have a strong conviction about, just something that keeps popping into my head.

  27. @ Bonald

    Everything you posted actually points to Leftism being a Christian heresy which is not an indictment against Christianity but against Leftism. Hilliare Belloc, the great Catholic apologist believed that Islam was a Christian heresy but he didn’t believe that meant that Christianity must be thrown off.

    “Christian theology is the grandmother of Bolshevism” – Oswald Spengler

  28. James Kurth, Reformed political scientist:

    We will argue that American foreign policy has been, and continues to be, shaped by the Protestant origins of the United States. But the Protestantism that has shaped American foreign policy over two centuries has not been the original religion but a series of successive departures from it down the scale of what might be called the Protestant declension. We are now at the end point of this declension, and the Protestantism that shapes American foreign policy today is a peculiar heresy of the original religion, not the Protestant Reformation but what might be called the Protestant Deformation. With the United States left as the sole superpower, this Protestant Deformation is at its greatest, even global influence. But because it is such a peculiar religion, and indeed is correctly seen as a fundamental and fatal threat by all the other religions, its pervasive sway is generating intense resistance and international conflict.

    [...]

    Expressive individualism — with its contempt for and protest against all hierarchies, communities, traditions, and customs — represents the logical conclusion and the ultimate extreme of the secularization of the Protestant religion. The Holy Trinity of original Protestantism, the Supreme Being of unitarianism, the American nation of the American Creed have all been dethroned and replaced by the imperial self. The long declension of the Protestant Reformation has reached its end point in the Protestant Deformation. The Protestant Deformation is a Protestantism without God, a reformation against all forms.

    The deformation is not the Reformation; it is a bastardization of it.

    It makes no sense to hold the ancestors responsible for the wayward descendants…

  29. Rethinking this, you have me (partially) convinced.

    Maybe leftism can be derived from the distortion of various philosophical or religious beliefs and the modern incarnation of leftism just happens to have its origins in a distortion of Christian belief because that’s what Leftists had to work with in the existing society. But it could have been derived from another religion in different circumstances. I think leftism can be seen as the political manifestation of certain sinful tendencies that men have. Maybe something like disobedience, idolatry and envy.

    As an aside, of the elements of the left-wing trinity (liberty, fraternity, equality) I think “liberty” has the weakest link to true Christianity.

  30. Pingback: Contra Bonald, Leftism is a Christian heresy | More Right

  31. That is to to say it is not enough, I think, to argue about the respective essences of Christianity and Leftism; one must also make an accounting of the essence of heresy.

  32. Bonald, going through the laundry list of comparisons you’ve “heard” strikes me as particularly weak argumentation. First, you don’t link or cite, so the reader has no way of knowing you’re stating each similarity at its greatest strength. And second, since the list does not purport to be exhaustive, the reader does not know if this is the strongest possible set of alleged similarities.

    But the entire line of argument, i.e., on supposed or demonstrated dissimilarity, seems ignore the strongest bases for the equation of (Western) Leftism as a Christian heresy: That it appears to have arisen within nominally Christian ecclesial communions; remains at home in many of them; and is well if not principally propagated by them.

    Of course revolutionary egalitarian fervor, deriving from the sin of envy, is a universal temptation among all peoples. But only once did it manage to take root on a continent and eventually take over the world (well… at least the “International Community”). Of all the leftisms that could have existed and indeed might yet exist, only one, Anglophone (Puritantical and Quietist) Leftism seems to predominate today. That is the particular Leftism which appears to be a uniquely Christian heresy.

  33. The “Protestant Deformation” is probably the best way of linking the rise of Modern Leftism to Christian roots. That’s not to say that Protestantism invariably leads to leftism. “Sound” Protestantism is profoundly anti-Left, the problem is that it is very difficult to have “Sound Protestantism” when every prole can be his own pope.

    • Indeed; hence the importance of creeds, catechisms, liturgy, to ground Protestantism within tradition, and to ideally prevent anyone from self-appointed leadership, rather than by being vetted by church elders.

      IOW, down with unmoored, unanchored evanjellyfish foolishness, and up with historic, confessional, Reformational Protestantism.

      • Will S,

        IOW, down with unmoored, unanchored evanjellyfish foolishness, and up with historic, confessional, Reformational Protestantism.

        I agree and think it would be huge boost to traditionalism in America, if Protestants went “Paleo” and returned to the historical religion of their ancestors on this continent, (the reformed theocracies in New England etc.) and stopped with the America-worship. If that means less “tolerance” and “alliance building” with us Catholics, I would still be in favor of it.

        The question of why liberalism seemed to first take hold in Protestant countries is an interesting and important question. Note I am not saying the two are synonymous or that Protestantism deserves all the blame but the Enlightenment was essentially a movement that grew up in Protestant northern Europe, and it was from there that liberalism spread through revolutionary or colonial expansionism to the rest of the world. Liberalism more or less dominates the world today, there is no a country that is not in some way touched by it, even countries ostensibly “anti-liberal” (a country like Iran for instance, relies heavily on the neo-liberal economic order to maintain a modern standard of living, without which their regime would collapse).

      • It is my hope, as a Reformed traditionalist reactionary, that notwithstanding my desire to see my fellow Prots join me in returning to our roots, that we can still work together with trad Catholics and Orthodox, like we do at my blog Patriactionary, and like the Orthosphere fellows do here.

        I think we can all hold to our respective traditions strongly, yet recognize matters of common interest and concern to all of us. I think we all gain thereby, rather than sniping at each other over grievances of five centuries ago, real as they may be (which is why we should each hold to our respective traditions, and not try to paper over very real differences, but instead be able to get along in spite of them).

        We do have bigger fish to fry, in terms of our post-modern, post-Christian ‘progressive’ society, which hates us all, don’t we? And then there’s resurgent Islam, which is another kettle of fish, entirely…

      • I dunno, ISE. The French Enlightenment was just rabid, and France was a pretty intensely Catholic country at the time, wasn’t it? Honest question; not my area. But given Voltaire & alia, it seems a bit facile to point only to Protestantism as the seed bed of liberalism. There’s something else at work. I’m not at all sure what it might be, but none of the theories I have yet heard quite cut the mustard.

      • Kristor,

        I think a close look at the ideological origins of the French Revolution strongly supports my thesis. The French philosophes sought to make France like America, Britain or Prussia. They were all uniformly hostile to the Catholic Church, some like Rousseau were Calvinist and most others were deists or atheists. When the revolutionaries took power they massacred tens of thousands of Catholics, desecrated and destroyed churches and monasteries and saw to the complete destruction of the old Catholic order. In the Protestant countries, liberals often worked arm and arm with protestant religious groups, this is seen mostly clearly in America, where both the more radical and smaller dissenter sects allied with Enlightenment thinkers like Madison and Jefferson to help pass religious toleration laws. In Northern Europe, some of the great Enlightenment thinkers like Hume and Kant were not only not censured, but were rather often promoted in their respective societies. In Catholic Europe, the philosophes, while often being men of means, they were typically persecuted and isolated from the rest of society by throne and altar. There never was some kind of grand contienda between enlightenment and religious forces in Prot countries the way there were in Catholic or Muslim countries for that matter. Of course Catholicism has now lost that war but it did for a time win some battle.

        I also don’t see how the French Revolution particularly appropriated Catholic principles in the same way Anglo-American liberalism appropriated elements from Protestantism. The Declaration of the Rights of Man was heavily based on our Declaration of Independence.

        Again I am not saying that Paleo-Protestantism, is synonymous with liberalism, I agree with Bonald that many of the elements that would come to comprise liberalism had pre-modern, even pre-Christian origins.

      • ISE makes a good point that Leftism in Catholic and Orthodox countries lacked even the facade of continuity it had in England and America. It was a rejection of the previous civilization in appearance as well as in fact.

        By the way, when we say “Protestant”, how often do we really just mean “English”? In France, the mania was to make France more like England, rather than any other Protestant place.

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