I’m certainly not the first to note the religious nature of the Left’s social justice movement. Whether it’s in the liturgical listen and repeat refrains, the public “floggings” and unacknowledged pleas for absolution, the requisite genuflection, or the recent canonization of George Floyd at his nationally-broadcasted funeral service, the Left has long relied on religious imagery to sell its political ideology. And just as in any religion, so-called progressivism has an eschatology all its own.
Let me first caveat with what is already a given to most people worldwide: what happened to George Floyd was atrocious, the devaluing of human life in a manner most malicious and evil. What has happened since Floyd’s murder has less to do with the crime committed than with a larger proselytism. Long before Floyd or Arbery or even the Black Lives Matter movement, there has been a push in western civilization to adopt the Myth of Progress, the idea that mankind is progressing politically, culturally, morally, even spiritually with the passage of time.
This “progression” started as a hope that science and technology would lift man above his common station and usher in a new utopian era, but that illusion was quickly dashed in the cogs of two world wars. Disenchantment soon turned to cynicism–against democracy, capitalism, but particularly against Christianity. Yet the Myth remained in the hindmost regions of the western mind. Where science and technology had failed, culture and politics would succeed. Man could still march forward; he would simply need to find new means by which to do it. In all the manifestations of progressivism, a new world is always within human grasp; you simply have to be enlightened enough to take it.
I grew up believing in this Myth and I have felt–I still feel–its almost perfect grandeur. To those brought up on the Myth nothing seems more normal, more natural, more plausible, than that chaos should turn into order, death into life, ignorance into knowledge. It is one of the most moving and satisfying world dramas which have ever been imagined.C.S. Lewis Essay Collection: Faith, Christianity and the Church
Instead of being abandoned in the trenches of war, this Myth still lies at the heart of the western subconscious. Take your pick of any number of dystopian post-apocalyptic novels or movies and this is the trope you’ll find: a world broken by chaos to be rebirthed in manmade utopian pockets of civilization. In Bird Box by Josh Malerman, Malorie and the children find the sanctuary, a self-sustaining community of survivors. In Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, it’s the hope of a town with electricity they see from the tower of the airport. In Zombieland: Double Tap, it’s the nonviolent community at the Babylon. In The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R. Carey, Melanie tells Sgt. Parks that the next generation of hungries can never rebuild the world until all humans are infected. Though the narrative may take shape in varying ways, the message remains the same: we are our own saviors. We are the architects of the future, constructing paradise from the rubble. You see, man has always had a craving for Eden, but the Myth of Progress wants it without its true Creator.
The eschatology of the left relies on both tearing down and rebuilding to achieve this ersatz Eden. To rebuild implies that the former must be destroyed; nothing can be redeemed. This is the message we see in the current BLM movement, in calls to defund/dismantle police departments and “dramatically rethink how we approach public safety and emergency response.” While many seek to paint the current conflict as solely racial or political, its roots thrive on the religious delusion of the Myth. The hope is to create utopia from the carnage of unrest. To Lewis’s point, the Myth relies on the assumption that chaos ultimately breeds order. So, the thinking is that once we tear down such-and-such, we can rebuild toward a better future. In this way, the metanarrative of the Myth of Progress is continually recycled in the microcosmic messaging of current events. This eschatology, then, envisions the ultimate destiny of humankind as one where he inhabits a heaven of his own making, distinctly apart from God and reliant on man’s supposed cleverness in orchestrating the upward trajectory of history. It seems little has changed since the Tower of Babel. Man has always foolishly believed he can achieve goodness apart from God.
The desired future of progressivism is therefore Christless and anthropocentric. Even as it crushes those it deems unworthy in its grindstone, the Myth of Progress relies on the inherent goodness of man. Yet Christians understand that it is impossible for fallen, sinful men to make the world a better place without Christ or the gospel. Racism, violence, injustice–none of these can be solved through the strivings of men. Instead, the Christian eschatology relies on the Creator’s choosing of a particular people to set apart for Himself and His work in rescuing those people from their sin through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Christians also look forward to a utopia, the redemption of this fallen creation in the new heaven and new earth, but this will never be achieved through manmade means. Instead, God is building His kingdom through the God-made means of the gospel, through the work of His people in bringing that gospel forth to “every nation, tribe, people and language” (Rev. 7:9).
Our eschatology is inclusivist in the fact that the Kingdom of God will be comprised of people from all races and nations, but it is not the inclusivism of the social justice movement which seeks to perpetuate the unbiblical notion that we are all sons and daughters of God united in a common humanity toward a glorious and harmonious end. In contrast, Christians affirm that there are two humanities of this world, divided not by race but by creed. There are those who believe, have been united to Christ, and thus can expect the coming of a new creation where we will dwell with God (Rev. 21:3-7). The second humanity is comprised of those who refuse to follow Christ or construct false christs to suit their distorted beliefs. Instead of utopia, this humanity can expect only eternal chaos as its final end.
Jesus was clear that if you do not belong to God, your father is the devil (John 8:42-47). In Romans, Paul clearly states that only those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God, brought to sonship through adoption (8:14-17). So then, this is the hope we have as Christians, that we are co-heirs with Christ and will share in his glory. This, not a counterfeit Shangri-La, is our ultimate destiny. In these times of turmoil, we await the redemption of this creation, knowing that only God can restore order amid chaos. We anticipate the resurrection, believing in Him who raised us from death to life.