Our Universities Are Incorrigibly Religious
If he could’ve seen what has happened in many American institutions in the last half-century, especially the university, Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937), the famous Italian Marxist and co-founder of the Italian Communist Party in 1921, would be beaming.
World War I was a major disappointment for him. Rather than unite against their wealthy “oppressors,” the proletariat seemed more than happy to fight against each other during the Great War. Nationalism trumped the class struggle. For Gramsci, the revolution wasn’t happening fast enough, and reality was tumbling short of his utopian dreams.
What was needed, he concluded, was a “long march through the institutions,” in which Judeo-Christian culture would be eradicated in such powerful precincts of power as the judiciary, education, the media, politics, and the churches, in order to make way for the revolution.
Gramsci wrote over 2000 pages devoted to this agenda, and his influence was profound, but much of the intellectual heavy-lifting would be done by the Frankfurt School, founded, not surprisingly in Frankfurt, Germany in 1923 by the Hungarian Communist Georg Lukacs.
Lukacs would be joined by such notable intellectuals as Herbert Marcuse, Max Horkheimer, Jurgen Habermas, Theodor Adorno, Erich Fromm, and Leo Lowenthal. Marcuse would leave the greatest legacy.
With the rise of Hitler they were forced to leave Germany and moved to America where they took positions in influential American universities. At the top of their agenda was to translate the economic terms and ideas of Marx into cultural ones. This became the matrix of Critical Theory.
Every aspect of Western civilization rooted in the Judeo-Christian heritage was attacked as benighted and destructive—Christianity, capitalism, authority, patriotism, the family, patriarchy, traditional sexual morality, etc. The West was viewed as a bastion of all kinds of evil: sexism, racism, imperialism, colonialism, nationalism, homophobia, etc.
The Religious Motivation Of Frankfurt School Disciples
The seeds that Gramsci and the Frankfurt School sowed have come to full flower. In fact, anyone who takes more than just a cursory glance at the American university today will discern a religious fervor among the children of Marcuse. This is not to overlook the influence of post-modernism on campus. It has its own pantheon of deities and deserves its own essay, but, for now, we’re looking at the legacy of the Frankfurt School for the university and in the broader culture. Consider just two incidents chronicled byKatherine Timpf that happened in 2016:
A group of student leaders at the University of Oregon debated removing the famous “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. I have a dream…” quote from a wall in the student center because it only talks about racial discrimination and not discrimination based on things like gender identity … and that’s just not inclusive enough.
A school cancelled a performance of The Vagina Monologues because a white lady wrote it. The cancellation happened at Southwestern University in Texas. American University cancelled their performance of the show, too, but for a different reason: It was not inclusive enough to women without vaginas.
A third incident: in December of 2016, students at the University of Pennsylvania, without permission, removed a portrait of William Shakespeare and replaced it with a portrait of black feminist poet Andre Lorde.
Many other recent examples could be furnished. Notice how, in all three examples, both the student leaders and the administration lay prostrate before the god of equality, who, like the God of the Christian religion, is a sacred trinity: race, class, and gender.
We’re in the Lenten season and the first two stories especially make me think of an earnest Catholic, who, in taking serious spiritual inventory of his or her life, realizes something is missing: “I’ve prayed and fasted but I haven’t given any alms. Who should I give to and how much?”
The descendants of Gramsci must always be vigilant to give religious sacrifices to race, class, and gender. They offer oblations to deities that are never satisfied but efforts to propitiate them confer virtue on the worshipper with his fellow parishioners nonetheless. This is what many observers describe as “virtue signaling.”
Leaps of Faith Taken By The Children Of Marcuse
Practicing Catholics and other devout Christians are often denigrated for making leaps of faith in the face of reason and the findings of science. When I was in seminary, I received a letter from a friend, who I would describe as a lapsed Catholic and “cultured despiser.” He went to the “best schools” and was concerned about me “buying into all the silly biblical myths and exaggerated claims about Christ’s divinity.”
Christians should admit that we do take certain beliefs on faith. Take the historicity of the Exodus. I think the unflattering portrayal of the Israelites in the Torah (like the portrayal of the very flawed disciples in the Gospels) is evidence against it being myth, and, yet, I must admit that believing that the event really happened, in light of the lack of historical evidence, takes faith.
However, the children of Marcuse take leaps of faith that would make Kierkegaard blush. Counterfactual dogmas abound at the American university that are accepted a priori. One is the myth of “white privilege” that is based on blacks having higher poverty rates than whites.
The evidence reveals that family structure, rather than racism, plays the biggest role in poverty rates among blacks. The poverty rate among two-parent black families is only 7 percent compared with 22 percent among white single-parent homes.
The scion of the Frankfurt School would be better served talking about “two-parent privilege” than white privilege, and, with Asian Americans surpassing whites in so many significant ways, one wonders why they never talk about “Asian privilege.”
Another counterfactual article of faith zealously affirmed by the religion of Marcuse is the alleged pay gap between men and women. This doctrine even has its own corresponding mantra chanted by people as diverse as comedian Sarah Silverman and former president Barack Obama: “Women make 77 cents for every dollar men make.”
No one has studied the issue more than Claudia Goldin, professor of economics at Harvard University, who concludes that, though there may be isolated episodes of sexism here and there, there is no longer a “smoking gun” of discrimination in America. Much of the gap can be explained, she asserts, by choices women make concerning careers, number of hours worked, and time off.
In 2010, Time, no purveyor of political conservatism, reported that “according to a new analysis of 2,000 communities by a market research company, in 147 out of 150 of the biggest cities in the U.S., the median full-time salaries of young women are 8 percent higher than those of the guys in their peer group. In two cities, Atlanta and Memphis, those women are making about 20 percent more.”