What Are We to Make of Cultural Marxism?

"...some terms (especially if they accrue divisive political overtones) can become what the New Zealand philosopher, Jamie Whyte, has called “boo-hooray words”—words that provoke an almost visceral reaction of either disgust or delight, denunciation or celebration. Such is the case with “Cultural Marxism” (also known as Neo-Marxism, Libertarian Marxism, Existential Marxism, or Western Marxism)." - TGC

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Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Read the whole thing. The term has become another weaponized buzzword for shutting down debate rather than evaluating ideas on their merits.

Another excerpt...

So why the commotion? The short answer is, due to its deployment by people like Jordan Peterson, Cultural Marxism has come to function as “shorthand for left-wing ideology,” particularly as this manifests in a range of “progressive” developments and social justice causes. For this reason, most on the “left” side of the contemporary culture war not only hear Cultural Marxism as an accusatory “snarl word” (which it often is) but dismiss its validity, describing it as “a uniting theory for rightwingers who love to play the victim” or “a conspiracy theory with an anti-Semitic twist” or “the ultimate post-factual dog-whistle.” Others still, without disputing the phenomena behind the term, argue that calling it “Marxism” is historically inaccurate and conceptually confusing.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Mark_Smith's picture

but the author, Rob Smith, in an attempt to "justify" it, defines cultural Marxism as "nothing more than the application of Marxist theory to culture."

Well, that's enough for me to know I want none of it. At its core, Marxism is the ultimate "us versus them" worldview. That is the dialectic. All the problems in the world come from group A, and group B needs to rise up and oppress group A for a change. In pure Marxism, that was the bourgeois, and the proletariat. In Critical Theory, that expands to more classes like white/black, white/colored, male/female, west/non-west, etc.

Apparently, cultural Marxism is also the thought that western culture is source of all oppression in the world. It is nice to know oppression did not exist until "the Westerners" foisted it on the unsuspecting world. I still can't believe people get paid for saying this stuff... and worse, others believe it!

Joel Shaffer's picture

The author didn't at all attempt to justify Cultural Marxism. You have brought your subjective spin to the article if you actually think that's what Dr. Smith is doing.  Instead, he actually gives a scholarly overview of what Cultural Marxism is so that serious Christians can bring a Biblical and accurate response to this secularized ideology so that when Christians critique cultural Marxism, they are not accusing it of the wrong thing or succumbing to a plethora of logical fallacies.  By the way, towards the end of the article, Dr. Smith said this about Marxism and Cultural Marxism:  

This highlights the most important issue of all. Alasdair MacIntyre once described Marxism as “a secularism formed by the gospel which is committed to the problem of power and justice and therefore to themes of redemption and renewal.”161  The problem, however, is that its diagnosis is superficial, and its cure fatal. For this reason, Marxism, whether in classical or cultural form, can be viewed as a corruption or parody of the gospel—replete with its own false prophet (Marx), false Bible (Das Kapital), false doctrine (dialectical materialism), false apostles (Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Marcuse), and false hope (a communist utopia).162  Therefore, the fact that Cultural Marxism is a real ideology making a real impact on our world is not good news.

  

Bert Perry's picture

Perhaps the most cogent critique I can think of for cultural Marxism is that for every person who's ever read and imbibed deeply of the writings of Marx, Gramsci, the Frankfurt School, and others, there are probably a hundred who are influenced by them and don't even know it.  I believe Lenin or someone tended to call them "useful idiots", people who didn't understand the theory but did the bidding of Marxists anyways.

So if you take the influenced and tell them they're cultural Marxists, they're going to look at you blankly.  They don't know that's what they're doing.  Those who do know what they're doing are moreover, per Gramsci, going to pretend they don't and mock you.

I don't know a perfect solution, but perhaps a routine questioning "is that true?" might be more helpful.  The libertine doesn't know he's working to undermine the family.  He does, however, know that those sores he got from one of his lovers couldn't be cured by his doctor, and he's getting new opportunities for those very uncomfortable doctors' visits routinely; the CDC estimates an average of four STD infections for each young person.

The person avoiding work doesn't believe, necessarily, that he's working to undermine our economic system.  He does know, however, that he's living from government check to government check, and government cheese and butter gets old after a while, especially if you don't digest lactose well.  

Picture from a house where my brother lived for a while in Berkeley among hippies; they were big into "gardening" and "composting", but in the postage stamp sized plot of land they had, their "garden" amounted to little more than a small dump, and not surprisingly attracted a lot of rats. So Greg cleaned it up, raising the ire of his roommates but....getting rid of the rats.  

When confronted with cultural Marxism that doesn't know the name of its sickness, sometimes we need to ask "how's that working out for you?" or "did you notice the rats have been gone since I cleaned that up?".  I think it might work better than face to face confrontation at times.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Mark_Smith's picture

Joel Shaffer wrote:

The author didn't at all attempt to justify Cultural Marxism. You have brought your subjective spin to the article if you actually think that's what Dr. Smith is doing.  Instead, he actually gives a scholarly overview of what Cultural Marxism is so that serious Christians can bring a Biblical and accurate response to this secularized ideology so that when Christians critique cultural Marxism, they are not accusing it of the wrong thing or succumbing to a plethora of logical fallacies. 

  

Joel,

Granted I am sure... but it's a Gospel Coalition article... wrong audience. 

I object to "serious-minded Christian" though. I am very serious. I just couldn't care less what a bunch of Marxists or neo-Marxists think, and I am not going to give them a single ounce of intellectual credit for the drivel they have unleashed on the world. You go ahead... I am sure the academicians are panting for your analysis. 

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

It's an important audience. Christians are as prone as anyone (more prone?) dismiss ideas they don't understand by attaching an ugly label to them. The article aims to encourage people to use the term more thoughtfully. 

A recent example: some on social media slammed J.D. Greear for "cultural marxism" when he recently argued for using the preferred pronouns of trans persons (under some circumstances). Rather than engage with his supporting reasoning, they basically said "you're just a cultural marxist so shut up."

Stephen Covey had it right: "Seek first to understand" (I'm sure he was quoting/paraphrasing someone else, but he was still right.)

TGC may have the wrong audience in one sense: I'm not sure the lump and dump reactionary crowd reads thoughtful articles like that. ... but I'd like to be wrong.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Mark_Smith's picture

nice attack on me.

 

Look, I work with worldly academicians all day long. I have to put up with it 8-5. If you want to debate them... go ahead.

Who called JD Greear a cultural marxist? Anyone that mattters? I've never even heard the word until this article! The only concern of Greear I've heard is centered more on the CRT issue. BUt moving over into LGBTQ would not surprise me.

Jay's picture

Who called JD Greear a cultural marxist? Anyone that mattters?

Well, Founders Ministries and most of their affiliated friends are making a lot of hay out of this terminology for starters.

I objected to something on Twitter just last week and was attacked as a "pro-abortion, pro-LGBT, Cultural Marxist" within two tweets or so.  It amused me so much that I took the accusation and ran with it.

I don't even remember what the issue was, but the term is clearly used as a club by more than a few men, particularly those who are concerned about the direction of the SBC.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I've wrestled to identify specific expressions of anti-intellectualism, but this puts me on to one of them: We rightly think a man who doesn't provide for his family is unacceptably lazy, but why is it OK to be intellectually lazy? We can't all be Aristotle, obviously, but we can all be the best we can be with the critical thinking faculties God gave us. It's not any more OK to be lazy with that than it is to be lazy with relationships, or work, or prayer, or worship.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Mark_Smith's picture

Jay wrote:

Who called JD Greear a cultural marxist? Anyone that mattters?

Well, Founders Ministries and most of their affiliated friends

And... who cares?

The point is, I think you are more concerned about one group's reaction than you are to "cultural marxism" itself! And also, when did you all get so concerned about the dark corners of the SBC? Don't you have enough to worry about in your life than trends in a group you don't even belong to! I know I do.

Mark_Smith's picture

then get a PhD in philosophy and go teach at a secular university. Then you can write all the articles you want battling Neo-Marxism and Critical Theory you want. Of course, you'll never be hired if you do that, but go ahead. Short of that, is wringing you hands over what some member of the "Founders" said about J D Greear all that important?

See, this is how our fundamental Baptist forefathers got accused of being anti-intellectual. Non-fundamentalists  want to use aspects of Critical Theory. They are convinced there is something there to help reach the millennials.... Others look at that and see the folly in acknowledging these humanist ideas and get labeled "anti-intellectual."

TylerR's picture

Editor

Shouldn't pastors/elders want to understand, REALLY UNDERSTAND, the forces shaping our culture and our young people so we know how to bring the Scriptures to bear on that context? It seems we should.

I just finished reading a book by a gay Episcopal priest on why homosexuality is ok. It was ... an experience.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Jay's picture

You asked who was using the term "Cultural Marxist". I gave you an example.  Why are you coming back at me about it?  What I choose to engage with online is my business.  If some knee-jerk weirdo from cyberville decides that I'm a "Cultural Marxist" and yells at me about it, then I'm going to reply with Nehemiah 6:8 and mute them.

Aaron asked this:

We rightly think a man who doesn't provide for his family is unacceptably lazy, but why is it OK to be intellectually lazy? We can't all be Aristotle, obviously, but we can all be the best we can be with the critical thinking faculties God gave us. It's not any more OK to be lazy with that than it is to be lazy with relationships, or work, or prayer, or worship.

My experience with people using the term "cultural marxist" is that they generally want or need a quick and lazy way to shut down discussion by 'othering' opponents into submission / compliance.

If you don't agree with me, you're clearly a Cultural Marxist Social Justice Liberal!!11! Biggrin

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Mark_Smith's picture

TylerR wrote:

Shouldn't pastors/elders want to understand, REALLY UNDERSTAND, the forces shaping our culture and our young people so we know how to bring the Scriptures to bear on that context? It seems we should.

I just finished reading a book by a gay Episcopal priest on why homosexuality is ok. It was ... an experience.

Because if you follow the thread people are NOT complaining about Neo-Marxism, or cultural marxism, or whatever, they are complaining about Christians who use that label against other Christians. It has nothing to do with knowledge. Its about arguing amongst ourselves.