The misuse of the word progressive is an example of what the late great C.S. Lewis, in his “Studies in Words” called verbicide.
In “The Abolition of Man” he warned of so called progressive governing schemes wherein a collectivist ideology built upon moral relativism is unleashed. He claimed, “A dogmatic belief in objective value is necessary to the very idea of a rule which is not tyranny or an obedience which is not slavery.”
In an essay contained in “God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics” entitled “Is Progress Possible? Willing Slaves of the Welfare State,” Lewis further warned, “Let us not be deceived by phrases about ‘Man taking charge of his own destiny.’ All that can really happen is that some men will take charge of the destiny of others. The more completely we are planned the more powerful they will be.”
Lewis was a man who understood the lessons of history. He prophetically warned the West of what would happen if we veered away from the moral foundations of an authentically free society. We have done so and the decline is evident everywhere. Progress has been placed in peril under the banner of a progressive movement.
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There is an unrelenting propaganda effort to portray those who adhere to the Jewish and Christian vision of the dignity of the human person, the primacy of true marriage and family and the necessary moral foundation for a truly free and just civil society – as backward.
We are portrayed as proposing a return to some perceived “dark age”. In fact, we offer the path to real and true human and social progress. Let’s examine just two examples of where our claim to progress and the claim of those calling themselves progressive are in conflict.
Abortion on Demand
Abortion on demand is the current state of the law in the United States since the infamous decisions of Roe and Doe. Our youngest neighbors in the first home of the whole human race can be killed by surgical instruments, chemical weapons or suction, at any time, for any reason. While restrictions on the practice are being slowly enacted in the States, the current state of the federal law has not changed.
However, medical science has now advanced. We routinely reach into the womb and offer surgery to these same children in order to help them live fuller lives after birth. Our criminal codes have also advanced, at least as it relates to children in the womb.
We prosecute a criminal offender who, in the course of committing another felony, takes the life of a child along with the life of his or her mother. We take 4D and 3D images of these beautiful children and send them to our friends. Sadly, the same technology guides the abortionist in his or her execution of those children who are unwanted.
We know the truth, that child in the womb is our innocent first neighbor.
We also recognize the Natural Moral Law written in every human heart which gives us the basis for our criminal codes – it is always and everywhere wrong to take innocent human life. The real right which is being denied is the first and fundamental human right, the right to life. Without life there can be no other rights. The right to life is the moral foundation of the prohibition against killing any innocent human person.
Those now using the label “progressive” for their political movement have manufactured a counterfeit right to reach into the womb, for any reason, and kill an innocent child. They also use the police power of the State to secure this counterfeit right.
Is reaching into the first sanctuary of the human race and killing our first neighbors really a sign of progress? The same little boys and girls whose picture now adorns many of our greeting cards? We all know the answer. We all know the truth.
Defending the intentional killing of children in the womb at any time and for any reason is grounded in a counterfeit notion of freedom as a raw power over those who are vulnerable and not wanted. Those who defend this practice are not progressives, they are regressive. In fact, they are barbarians.
Marriage, Family and Society
The leaders of a homosexual equivalency movement are now also called progressives. These progressives are committed to ensuring that homosexual and lesbian sexual practices are considered to be morally equivalent to the sexual expression of marital love between a man and a woman.
They insist that anyone who disagrees with them be persecuted or prosecuted by the State. They demand that homosexual and lesbian relationships, which are ontologically incapable of achieving the ends of marriage, be given the same legal status as a marriage.
They insist that the positive law of the Nation be used to compel everyone call a marriage what can never be a marriage. If we refuse, and we must, they want us to face the punitive police power of the State.
That use of the police power of the State to compel adherence is now codified in Federal Law and regulations. It is also being used to force classical Christians and other people of faith or good will – anyone any who refuses to redefine marriage – out of engaging in commercial enterprises if they refuse to violate their conscience.
Marriage is not simply a “religious” construct which is malleable and capable of being changed by those who hold secular power. The Natural Moral Law reveals – and the cross cultural history of civilization affirms – that marriage is between one man and a woman, open to children, intended for life and formative of family.
The marriage bound family is the privileged place for the formation of virtue and character in children, our future citizens. The family is the first society, first economy, first school, first civilizing and mediating institution and first government.
Defending true and authentic marriage as solely between one man and one woman is defending the common good of society and promoting true social progress. Undermining it is regressive and will never serve the real common good.
In 1996 Congress overwhelmingly passed the Defense of Marriage Act. It was signed into law by President Bill Clinton, a Democrat. Similarly, states have passed similar laws.
However, President Barack Obama unilaterally simply ordered the US Justice Department to stop defending marriage under the Federal Act. Attorney General Eric Holder sent a five-page letter announcing the President’s decision to the Congress.
No debate, no vote, no pretense of any form of democratic action. Rule by executive fiat, the separation of powers be damned.
In 2008 President Obama said, “I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman. Now, for me as a Christian it is also a sacred union. God’s in the mix.” President Obama later “evolved” to support what I call a cultural revolution.
The effect of redefining marriage will ultimately be to eliminate marriage as a favored and unique institution and the first cell of civil society. This begins by opening the definition of marriage to include cohabiting heterosexual or homosexual groupings.
An increasing number of legal authorities now acknowledge that polyamorous relationships will soon be included in this redefinition. The figurative genie is out of the bottle. The same legal arguments which were used in some courts and legislatures to redefine marriage, make it increasingly hard to stop the decline.
The political winds are clearly blowing away from the recognition of marriage as what it is, a union between one man and one woman, intended for life, open to life and formative of family.
For example, the following words were a part of the 2012 Democratic Party Platform: “We support the full inclusion of all families in the life of our nation, with equal respect, responsibilities, and protections under the law, including the freedom to marry.”
Notice the use of the buzzwords of the progressives of our age. They use terms like marriage equality to hide their actual intention to eliminate the unique role of marriage. They have committed what Lewis called verbicide – by redefining the word to included cohabiting heterosexual or homosexual partners.
Further, they have laid the groundwork for other relational groupings and living arrangements being called marriage. In effect, there will be no such thing as marriage, at least in the civil sphere. There will only be State recognized living situations.
In a May, 2012 article in Catholic World Report entitled “Gay Marriage-Nothing New Under the Sun” Benjamin Wiker, Ph.D., cited facts and sources which affirm that none of this is new. In fact, the contemporary situation in the West has parallels to the cultures into which the early Christians were sent on mission. He writes:
Gay marriage was-surprise!-alive and well in Rome, celebrated even and especially by select emperors, a spin-off of the general cultural affirmation of Roman homosexuality. Gay marriage was, along with homosexuality, something the first Christians faced as part of the pagan moral darkness of their time.
What Christians are fighting against today, then, is not yet another sexual innovation peculiar to our allegedly “enlightened age,” but the return to pre-Christian, pagan sexual morality.
He is correct. The contemporary progressives of this age are, in effect, regressives, attempting to turn the West back to pre-christian, pagan sexual immorality. They are promoting a social order which will increasingly lead to degradation and a loss of human flourishing and true freedom. .
From its birth, the Christian Church went into cultures and societies filled with people who prided themselves on being advanced in light of the arts and sciences of their day. Some of the most barbarous of peoples and Nations saw themselves as Progressive.
They resented Christians who challenged their claims and upset their social order – just as they do today. the animosity grew, just as it is growing today. However, the truth prevailed, and it will once again.
The early Christians went into a world which was enslaved by disordered passions, just like the world in which we now live. Many of those cultures practiced primitive forms of abortion and even infant exposure, a practice of leaving unwanted children on rocks to be eaten by birds of prey or picked up by slave traders.
We have our own equivalently evil acts masquerading as free choice and being called progressive in our current culture.
To those primitive societies freedom meant having power over others who were weaker. The human person was not an end but a means; treated as a commodity to be used to further another end. The leaders of those societies were threatened by anyone who challenged their claims of progress.
Does this sound familiar?
Ancient Christian manuscripts such as the Didache (the Teaching of the Twelve), the Letter to Diognetus, or the accounts of Justin Martyr – as well as other early historic sources, such as those which were cited by Benjamin Wiker – all reveal that these were cultures like our own.
They were cultures of use, where people were treated as property – cultures of excess, where freedom was perceived as a power over others and unrestrained license masqueraded as liberty.
There is nothing either new or progressive about the current moral decline we face.
The word pagan was not used as a disparaging term in those accounts, but represented a pseudo-“religious” worldview. I use it the same way in referring to our contemporary age as increasingly pagan and not progressive at all.
Many of the “gods” and “goddesses” of this pre-Christian worldview promoted lifestyles of selfish excess, homosexual practices, and hedonism masquerading as freedom.
The myths concerning them had them acting in much the same way. Their lies have simply been reintroduced today, in our neo-pagan age. Only the myths and statues are different. They still purport to be “progressive” when, in reality, they are regressive.
Who are the true progressives?
What is happening in our nation is a clash of worldviews, personal and social, and competing definitions of human freedom, human flourishing and human progress. The positions being espoused – and lifestyles being affirmed- as progressive by those currently using the term as a political label are anything but a sign of progress. They turn the clock back on true human progress.
It is the promotion of faithful, monogamous marriage and family, the recognition of the moral foundation of authentic human freedom, the recognition of the dignity of every human person and the insistence that there are objective truths and unalienable rights which have guided true progress in history.
They can do so again in our own age.
The Jewish and Christian worldview presents a true humanism, insisting that every human person has an inherent dignity because they are all created in the Image of God. The human person is never to be used as a means but is always an end.
It is not hesitant to insist that there a moral foundation to a free society and affirm that some choices are always and everywhere wrong; that the exercise of human choice must must be directed toward the true, the good and the beautiful.
This worldview and ennobling social vision has helped to overcome the various kinds of slavery which have resulted from flawed ideologies that treat people as property to be used and manipulated.
This classically Jewish and Christian vision of true progress has inspired leaders to speak truth to power, condemning the lies that elevate power and function over the primacy of the person, thereby suppressing the deeper and higher values that civilize and set people and Nations free.
We must sort through the current Newspeak which is currently flooding our discourse. We need a glossary which will enable us to take back the language and build a future of true progress. The Progressives of this age are not progressive at all, they are regressive.
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.