Christian Leaders Must Resist Propaganda And Stop Apologizing for Christianity

In a chilling treatise on the nature of propaganda, 20th-century French philosopher/theologian Jaques Ellul emphasized the ultimate goal of the propagandistic state, in particular the Soviet Union:

The ultimate was achieved by Soviet propaganda in the self-criticism of its opponents. That the enemy of a regime (or of the faction in power) can be made to declare, while he is still the enemy, that this regime was right, that his opposition was criminal, and that his condemnation is just—that is the ultimate result of totalitarian propaganda. The enemy (while still remaining the enemy, and because he is the enemy) is converted into a supporter of the regime.

Jaques Ellul, Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes, 11-12. Emphasis in the original

According to Ellul, the triumph of the Soviet propagandist (or any propagandistic endeavor) is complete when the enemy of the propagandist’s position admits their own guilt and affirms the justice of their opponent’s condemnation of them. This is done even though they, the propagandized, may not really be on board with the regime’s agenda. They become supporters of the regime because they no longer have the will to resist its unceasing messages and endless activism; and even though they still retain a form of their prior traditional beliefs, they now see the regime as just and themselves, their own views, and their fellow compatriots as unjust. The propagandized now act as tacit supporters of the regime and its project.

For decades, the Evangelical church in America has fallen under a sustained attack from its enemy, an explicitly anti-Christian intellectual movement that can be traced back as far as Rousseau and the French Enlightenment, but more recently derives its societal will from the Sexual Revolution of the 1960’s and 70’s. For much of the 1980’s, 90’s and even early 2000’s Evangelical churches, seminaries, and universities were able to resist this emerging message of socialized justice, group identity, and the concurrent call for total sexual liberation from any semblance of a religiously grounded sexual ethic. Now, however, that resistance is no more, and the propaganda of a radically Leftist regime that now also acts as “the faction in power,” has infiltrated every corner of evangelical Christian thought: in our schools, our pews— even in our private thoughts and public deeds.

For evidence of this, one need go no further than the now commonplace public apologies made by well-known pastors and Evangelical figureheads who, like athletes and politicians before them, must make public atonement to the cultural elite for exactly that which they admit to believing (perhaps unlike the politicians in this sense). Admissions of guilt by ordained ministers like Max Lucado for giving sermons on the sanctity of marriage, or the distancing of oneself from fellow believers by public intellectuals like Tim Keller, provide concrete examples of the influence of propaganda on even the “best and the brightest” of the Christian firmament. The downplaying of one’s Christian identity or recanting of one’s biblical convictions so as to be viewed by the totalitarians as acceptable “converts,” shows how this totalizing propaganda has been upon us for some time and how it is having its effect. Keller even goes so far as to suggest that it is Christians who have acted like Nietzscheans, while allowing those who have dominated culture through power, economic influence, and persistent disinformation to appear as victims of Christian anger and oppression. However, this “stop repressing me dude” schtick is a canard as old as Shelley, Blake and Byron; even if their fulminations were far more urbane than that of today’s pop-star poets.

This demonstrable fact of self-criticism, or perhaps self-flagellation, which has made it impossible for Christians to argue against the reigning social and political order without getting criticized by other Christians, is more evidence that Ellul’s theory has the ring of truth. Just to be a member of the Southern Baptist Convention today who actually speaks out, even if mildly, against any form or manifestation of Critical Race Theory, Transgenderism, Same-Sex Marriage, Abortion Rights, Feminism, or Marxist economic and social theories, will immediately be met with an avalanche of criticism from within the church; far more than from without. After all, why should propagandists outside the church exert pressure on church leaders to acquiesce, if there are enough who have been successfully propagandized within the church to do the job for them? This phenomenon is not constrained to Evangelicalism either but finds its counterpart in Roman Catholic enclaves, where homilies like this one are rare indeed.

More examples can be given: in a recent book of “prayer,” theologian Chanequa Walker-Barnes, prays that God would give her a desire to hate white people and to see them as irredeemable sinners, holding them in everlasting contempt. This is not a joke, it is a serious petition by a professing Christian minister! Walker-Barnes, who has spoken fairly recently at “conservative” schools like Biola University, prays the following in her sadistic psalm,

Dear God,

Please help me to hate White people. Or at least to want to hate them. At least, I want to stop caring about them, individually and collectively. I want to stop caring about their misguided, racist souls, to stop believing that they can be better, that they can stop being racist.

Walker-Barnes “A Prayer of a Weary Black Woman” in A Rhythm of Prayer

With prayers like this being offered from “within” the church, is it even necessary for the explicitly anti-religious to bother with Christians anymore? Who needs a Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens as enemies (although today one might see both ironically as allies), when you have a pastor like Walker-Barnes hunting inside the sheepfold? If you thought that a cherubic-like Black woman could not be as aggressive a predator as an alpha male like Dawkins then you yourself have “drunk the kool-aid” of contemporary propaganda.

It will take men and women of unique courage, a deep sense of history, and an uncanny resistance to suggestion to stand up to today’s levels of propaganda. Perhaps more men like Artur Pawlowski, who have lived behind real Iron Curtains, are needed to shepherd the flock in today’s social media jungle. Men who have broader chests than their pseudo-intellectual counterparts and who, as C.S. Lewis pointed out in Abolition of Man, will stand their post even to the third hour of the bombardment. After all, intellectuals have not had a great track record of being resilient in the face of tyranny, as Ellul also points out earlier in the book, they are the most susceptible to propaganda.

Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes was written in 1965, long before computers or the internet were available to the public. Then there was only the evening newspapers, television and radio. Now, the stakes are higher as the media of propaganda are literally inescapable. Moreover, the propagandist himself never rests, as Ellul incisively points out:

It is a matter of reaching and encircling the whole man and all men. Propaganda tries to surround man by all possible routes, in the realm of feelings as well as ideas, by playing on his will or on his needs, through his conscious and his unconscious, assailing him in both his private and his public life. It furnishes him with a complete system for explaining the world, and provides him with an incentive to action. We are here in the presence of an organized myth that tries to take hold of the entire person. (11)

There is only one “true myth” that we should allow to take hold of our “entire person” and that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, a Gospel given fully to us in the boundaries of His revealed Word, the Bible. To allow any other myth to dominate our “whole man” is the end of Christ in us, and the end of any semblance of unity in His Body.

But, the enemies means for “reaching and encircling” us with his lies are now manifold: Big Business, Sports, Hollywood, Television, Radio, Social Media, Government, and Education. Where is the Christian worldview rooted in any of these institutions and cultural domains? In the major airlines; in the NBA; in our public grade schools? Hardly. It is not there, nor has it been for decades. To say that our mega-churches, our seminaries, our colleges and classrooms have successfully warded off the attacks from these domains of culture dominated by the propaganda of the enemy is at best foolish, if not outright complicit in their ungodly agenda. The first step we must take to stop this brainwashing is to quit apologizing for Christianity.

While Jesus certainly offered Himself up to His enemies, He did not perform the acts of torture Himself, nor did He deny His identity as the Messiah, nor did He commit suicide. He also didn’t He commend the Romans, the Scribes and the Pharisees for a job well done. Neither should we.

Chanequa Walker-Barnes and Heinrich Himmler: Ideological Bedfellows?

by Anthony Costello

In a recent book of devotional prayers composed and compiled by progressive Christian voices, psychologist and “public theologian,” Chanequa Walker-Barnes, has penned a prayer that calls out to god1 I refrain from capitalization of god here, as I am not convinced that Dr. Walker-Barnes’ prayer is to the God of the Bible, i.e. to YHWH, the Triune God, etc. for help in becoming more hateful toward white people. Walker-Barnes’ prayer, like many post-modern expressions of personal sentiment, has stirred controversy. But, what makes Walker-Barnes’ prayer different from other controversial, expressive acts, e.g., Lil Nas X‘s song “Montero,” is the apparent directing of her petition to the god of the Bible, as well as her asking “him” that a desire for hatred be placed inside of her. Walker-Barnes prays,

Dear God,

Please help me to hate White people. Or at least to want to hate them. At least, I want to stop caring about them, individually and collectively. I want to stop caring about their misguided, racist souls, to stop believing that they can be better, that they can stop being racist.

Chanequa Walker-Barnes, “Prayer of a Weary Black Woman”

It is important to note that Walker-Barnes also seems to be praying against her desire to show mercy and forgiveness. It is not just that she needs help actualizing an already present hatred, she is asking for the very desire of hatred. She wants her desires for mercy, love and forgiveness to lessen so that her desires for hate can increase. She goes on,

My prayer is that you would help me to hate the other White people — you know, the nice ones. The Fox News–loving, Trump-supporting voters who “don’t see color” but who make thinly veiled racist comments about “those people.” The people who are happy to have me over for dinner but alert the neighborhood watch anytime an unrecognized person of color passes their house. The people who welcome Black people in their churches and small groups but brand us as heretics if we suggest that Christianity is concerned with the poor and the oppressed. The people who politely tell us that we can leave when we call out the racial microaggressions we experience in their ministries.

Walker-Barnes, “Prayer of a Weary Black Woman”

While some might claim that this prayer is akin to an imprecatory Psalm, i.e. Psalms that ask God for the destruction of one’s enemies, I would argue that there is no part of any Psalm, imprecatory or otherwise, that asks for God to “harden one’s own heart” or to make one more hateful of their enemies. There is a call for God to “pay back” evil doers, this is certain, but not to become like them! So, in spite of some truth about actual racism in the above passage, Walker-Barnes prayer seems to go far beyond that of an imprecatory Psalm, as well as fall quite short of the New Testament witness to love one’s enemies.

Further, it is ironic that the very sentiment of imprecation is one many liberal Christians have found too distasteful over the years for them to remain under the authority of Scripture. The idea of asking a supposedly “all-loving” and merciful God to smite one’s enemies has not sat well in the hearts and minds of modern men and women. Indeed, it used to be the case that it was this desire for vengeance, this “harsh” biblical language that turned off so many progressive Christians of the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s. However, with Dr. Walker-Barnes’ prayer, I think we can definitely say this is hardly the case any longer. No longer do progressive Christians seem to be calling for the non-judgemental, non-wrathful, therapeutic god of love, who forgives everyone, always, for anything. No, indeed! Now it seems that not only is vengeance on the table, but that the desire to become God’s tool for vengeance is being actively petitioned. Truly, we are very far removed from the days of “kumbaya, my Lord.”

After all, what is the end goal of a hateful heart if not to positively do damage to one’s enemy? The staggering nature and language of this prayer compels comparison with one of history’s greatest tyrants.

Walker-Barnes and Himmler: Strange Bedfellows?

It is in this desire for hatred, perhaps we might call it a hope for a seared conscience, that Dr. Walker-Barnes seems to mirror the sentiments of another racist, Heinrich Himmler. In his book, From Cruelty to Goodness, philosopher Philip Haille references a speech given to SS soldiers in 1943 by Himmler in the Polish town of Posen. Haille points out how in the speech, acts of “harmdoing” by Nazi storm troopers are obscured by the institutional cruelty that had already been cultivated in German society by Nazi ideologues. Individual acts of evil were justified because of the socialization that had already taken place and the telos of the institutional agenda. Himmler, however, realizing that SS soldiers would nevertheless experience feelings of compassion for their victims, found a way to turn even the empathy for one’s fellow human being into a mechanism to further the overall project of extermination. This is cruelty in its most refined form, for to overcome compassion was itself part of the “glory” of the German race and the Nazi story:

the words come so easily. “The Jewish people will be extermi- nated,” says every party member, “of course. It’s in our program … extermination. We’ll take care of it.” And then they come, these nice 80 million Germans, and every one of them has his decent Jew. Sure the others are swine, but his one is a fine Jew … Most of you will know what it means to have seen 100 corpses together, or 500 to 1000. T o have made one’s way through that, and . . . to have remained a decent person throughout, that is what has made us hard. That is a page of glory in our history

Haille, From Cruelty to Goodness, 90.

Here Himmler makes the point that every SS soldier will at some point find a “fine Jew,” i.e. one they feel empathy or compassion for.2 In Steven Spielberg’s modern classic, Schindler’s List, this dynamic is masterfully dramatized by Ralph Feinnes, who plays the commandant of the Paszow camp, Amon Goeth. Goeth has a “love” affair with his Jewish house servant Helen, and wrestles with his obligation to hate her as a Jew, while having genuine affections for her as a woman. But, to overcome any love for the enemy is “a page of glory” in what he supposes will be a Nazi history. If you can suppress sympathy, then the institutional goal can be attained.

In her prayer, Dr. Walker-Barnes takes a similar position as Himmler. She seems to have found a “fine white person” when she exempts those whites who are “white antiracist allies” and who “have taken up this struggle against racism.” Of course, here one is reminded of the many Jewish “Kapos,” who sided with the enemy of their people, participating in Nazi cruelty mainly for the sake of saving their own skin (literally). These whites, Walker-Barnes wants to separate from the others that are swine, mainly because they are in accord with her own racism and hatred. For these white Kapos, their agreeableness may even be a kind of self-hatred, a self-hatred that gives Walker-Barnes power over them. But, self-hatred is the hallmark of cruelty. It is what gave the white slave masters of the 18th and 19th century and the Nazi commandants their power over the black and Jewish bodies they dominated. It was when black slaves and Jewish prisoners began to see themselves as inferior that their overlords knew they had broken them.

The key to victory for Himmler and the Nazis, therefore, would be to overcome any momentary afflictions of compassion, empathy, and sensitivity for one’s fellow human being, so that the program of total de-judification could be realized. He [Himmler] goes on,

In sum, we can say that we fulfilled the heaviest of tasks [destroy- ing the Jews] in love to our people. And we suffered no harm in our essence, in our soul, in our character.

Haille, From Cruelty to Goodness, 91

In other words, the final and ultimate goal is not just the total extermination of a people group, but the carrying out of that extermination without having suffered any harm to one’s own soul or character. Haille summarizes this sacrificing of human sentiment for the sake of a grand narrative in this way,

Commitment that overrides all sentimentality transforms cruelty and destruction into moral nobility, and commitment is the lifeblood of an institution.

Haille, From Cruelty to Goodness, 91

Dr. Walker-Barnes’ commitment to social justice and anti-racism seems to overwhelm any desire to be loving, caring, or kind to the individual. The program of anti-racism supersedes any sentiment for the individual white person, or even non-white person who perhaps chooses to defend white people. Antiracism and social justice override all sentimentality. Is this not simply what Barnes’ prayer says, in no uncertain terms?

For Barnes it seems that, at best, those white people who have gotten on board with the program, like the Jewish Kapos did with National Socialism, can be begrudgingly accepted. They are useful to the institution and the agenda. But, in asking god for a spirit of hatred, and imploring him for a blindness to the humanity and sanctity of “the other,” we should recognize that Dr. Walker-Barnes is very much in line with Heinrich Himmler’s own thinking. And so while it might be shocking to some to hear such sentiments coming from an African-American woman and not a shrill, table pounding Germanic man, we should not be too surprised that the same evil, the same sinfulness, can be found in anyone, and that regardless of ethnicity, gender, or social location.

Pray Against Racism and Pray for Racists; Don’t Pray to Become One

Imprecatory Psalms were a means for the hearts of the covenant people to be relieved of their hatred because of the injustice Israel had endured at the hands of brutal enemies. Unfortunately, Dr. Walker-Barnes is saying something more here than just “Lord, bash those white folks’ heads against rocks” and “Lord, cut out the tongues of those lying bastards who did this to us.” Rather, instead of wishing destruction upon one’s enemies, which can often be righteously indignant, even if misguided and ultimately wrong, Barnes is literally praying that God would make her hateful! This is akin to praying that God would make her like her enemies, if indeed it is her “enemies” that are and have been so wicked. She prays that she will stay hateful:

Lord, if it be your will, harden my heart. Stop me from striving to see the best in people. Stop me from being hopeful that white people can do and be better. Let me imagine them instead as white-hooded robes standing in front of burning crosses.

As follower of Christ, I must strongly exhort Dr. Walker-Barnes, and all of us, not to pray to become like our enemies. Instead let us pray like Jesus prayed, forgiving our enemies, praying for them and on their behalf; and, as Peter said, even blessing them. This is the only way to truth, to justice, and to life.

Disclaimer: *Many who read this will likely accuse me of three things: 1) of attacking Dr. Walker-Barnes personally, 2) of using an “overwrought” comparison to Nazi Germany, and 3) of being a racist myself. I reject all of these accusations. First, I am not making an ad hominem against Dr. Walker-Barnes. I do not know her personally and perhaps she has written and done many wonderful things for people and for her church. But, I am attacking her views as presented in this prayer she has written. They, the sentiments and ideas, are ungodly. Second, this is not an overwrought comparison to the Holocaust, as I am making a very precise comparison between the thoughts presented in Dr. Walker-Barnes’ prayer and Himmler’s speech. Finally, to be called a “racist” in our society today means almost nothing, so anyone who feels compelled to do so I will take them to mean simply “I disagree with you, but cannot really argue as to why.”

Lil Nas X’s Gift to the Church: Theological Clarity

by Anthony Costello

Recently I wrote an article about Cardi B.’s smash hit, WAP, a song that, as I argued, stands in line with a long history of existentialist thought about the nature of the human person and our desire for liberation. That song and its performer, along with their philosophical and literary predecessors, articulate what could be called a “theologia diaboli” or theology of the devil. Now, somewhat more explicitly, another cultural poet has presented us with a very similar kind of anti-theology. Lil Nas X’s “Montero” is for most Christians an example of a culture going down in flames, corrupted to the point of no return. In many ways, they are right. It is that.

However, in spite of the graphic nature of the song and its accompanying visuals (which really are quite powerful, and quite repulsive), Lil Nas has done the Church a great favor. He has, with profound theological clarity, given us a stark vision of the real battle that exists between Heaven and Hell, between God and Satan; a battle with man caught in the middle and that is being fundamentally fought over the estate of his soul. Of course, while Nas’ video and his new “Satan Shoes” can be quickly dismissed by people of various religious commitments, for those who are dedicated to influencing the culture for Christ, phenomena like these should not be passed over too lightly, or with mere visceral outrage. Like Cardi, Nas too has his literary and philosophical forefathers, most of whom have been read and taught for centuries, their work today often going under the title “Classics.”

Rousseau, The Romantics and The Poets of Today

In an excellent new book, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, theologian Carl Trueman gives a brief history of the shift from a classical Christian view of man as born in depravity, i.e. the Augustinian view,1 see Augustine’s Confessions, where he articulates the doctrine of original sin and the need for God’s grace in the most memorable of ways, “Man is one of your creatures, Lord, and his instinct is to praise you. He bears about him the mark of death, the sign of his own sin, to remind him that you thwart the proud. But still, since he is a part of your creation, he wishes to praise you. The thought of you stirs him so deeply that he cannot be content unless he praises you, because you made us for yourself and our hearts find no rest until they rest in you.” (Confessions, Book I.1) to a view of man born in innocence only to be corrupted by society. This view was enunciated most profoundly, to the Church’s chagrin, by the 18th century philosopher Jean-Jaques Rousseau. Rousseau’s own autobiography, Confessions, parodied Augustine’s 1,300 year-old conversion story, coming to the very different conclusion about man’s natural state. For Augustine, the thieving of pears as a young man could be attributed to his own desire to do evil and his taking pleasure in the criminal act. For Rousseau, alternatively, the act of stealing some vegetables was because he was “cajoled” into it by an outside pressure, a socializing force. Apart from society pressing on his will, he [Rousseau] never would have thought to do wrong or commit a social ill. It was not in him to do evil, nor in anyone else. As such, the whole understanding of the origin of bad behavior and the nature of moral culpability was turned on its head with Rousseau and his anthropological turn toward man being “born free, but everywhere in chains.”2 Trueman outlines this drastic change in Western thought in Chapter 3 of the book, “The Other Genevan: Jean-Jaques Rousseau and the Foundations of Modern Selfhood”

However, Rousseau’s new philosophy of natural man and innate goodness3 Not that it was genuinely “new” since there are no truly new ideas in the course of human events. needed a transmitter to the broader culture. Not many today, let alone in the 18th century, had access to books or lectures on philosophy, the new science of rationalism, and this new characterization of human nature. It was in the domain of the elite where such ideas were peddled, and, therefore, some other medium was needed to educate the people. As such, it came down to the artists of the day, the poets, to transmit this new expressivism to the public at large. For if man was truly born free, and if his most intimate thoughts and desires, those parts still “unsocialized,” were his “true self,” then to express that true inner self would mean liberation from the world’s chains. The artists who acted as the translators of this view came to be called the “Romantics” and their weapons were their poetic words, and their mission was to liberate man from social norms. Men like Wordsworth, Shelley, and Blake in the English speaking world, and Schiller and Goethe on the continent, gave voice through verse to the longings of the true and authentic “inner man.”

This poetry was not “mere entertainment”4 Trueman, Rise and Triumph, 132 therefore, but the means “to connect human beings to that which truly makes them human.”5 Trueman, 132. The realm of emotions was the source of knowledge for the Romantics, and verse was their instrument of expression. While the great thinkers utilized poetry to make commentary on everything from government to nature to industry, one major, if not primary, socializing institution to attack through lyric was that of religion. In particular, the sexual ethics of old Testament Judaism and its only somewhat milder successor, Christianity, was in the cross-hairs for the Romantics’ quill and inkwell. In Shelley’s classic Queen Mab, chastity as a virtue comes under direct assault:

Unchecked by dull and selfish chastity,
that virtue of the cheaply virtuous,
Who pride themselves in senselessness and frost.

Queen Mab, Canto 9.84-86

Chastity, which could translate either into celibacy6 i.e. life-long singleness, along the lines of those who take religious orders or life-long, monogamous heterosexual marriage between adults7 The term “adult” would not mean the same today as it did in the 18th century, but religious condemnation against marriages between people of age and children would have been present in Shelley’s day just like today. was, according to poets like Shelley and also Blake, “dull” and even “selfish.” It was a cheap virtue, at best. And those who strove for it were senseless and cold. This, at that time, iconoclastic attitude toward sexual norms was not only a scathing critique of the actions of a medieval saint like Francis of Assisi, but of his entire countenance and being. A ascetic like Francis simply could not have been a kind and loving person, let alone cheerful! Now, according to the poets, the saints of old were not just boring, but in their pursuit of purity they were selfish, inhumane, and heartless.

Three factors then have lead us to where we are today as we contemplate Lil Nas’ own form of lyricism: First, is the dramatic break from the view of man as an innately sinful creature, who, in virtue of that sin nature, builds corrupted societies, toward the validation and celebration of the inner self over and against the oppression of corrupted society. Second, is the use of the poetic arts as the mechanism of transmission to express the inner self, a self that is equivalent to one’s deepest feelings. Finally, there is the focus on the “oppression” of traditional religion, in particular the Judeo-Christian tradition, of the natural sexual drives and longings of man. Once we have this historical framework in place, a movement of thought and action that goes back almost 400 years, we can now see that the idea Lil Nas has presented through his song and video is really nothing new. In fact, it is by and large the same message as that of the Romantics, now just technologically supercharged to enhance the experience and reach an even greater number of “the masses.” The Romantics of today are the pop stars and entertainers, the music and movie makers, who utilize the media for both influence and, perhaps unlike their literary predecessors, for profit.

As such, Lil Nas may very appropriately be seen as the Shelley or Blake of today, if not in style, at least in substance. Minimally he is no different than D.H. Lawrence or a young Oscar Wilde, not to mention the likes of a Marquis de Sade, each of whom stirred the same controversy in their times as Nas in his. Still, Lil’ Nas has done us the favor of placing his particular ode to the inner man in an explicitly biblical framework and with explicitly biblical imagery; an artistic choice that at least makes it easy for people to “get” what is going on. That is, assuming they know some basic theology.

The Theology of the Devil: The Endless Struggle for Power and Dominion

Nas’ video, which I will not link to here, revels of course in the sexual tripe of the day, namely, the expression of LGBTQ+ identity, a movement that sources all of its political will in the same Rousseauen instinct. Unfortunately, but understandably, most people will get stuck on two points of contention in the video: the further blurring of gender distinctions and the various acts of oral and anal coitus. Both of which are clearly antithetical to the Divine Nature, the created order, and the biblical commands. However, these themselves are not representative of the deeper evil, which is the originating sin itself, the sin of pride. Sex and sensuality are but the means to something far more coveted than mere physical stimulation, and Montero (that is Nas X’s real name) shows this in the final image of the video, where after subjecting himself to Satan as his sex slave, he reverses the order of temptation and, in doing so, breaks the Devil’s neck with his bare hands. He then removes the crown of evil from the once dominant power, so he now can have dominion over others. It is truly a visual articulation of Milton’s “It is better to reign in hell, than to serve in heaven.”

In his classic treatise on spiritual warfare, C.S. Lewis describes this very “axiom” of hell:

“The whole philosophy of Hell rests on recognition of the axiom that one thing is not another thing, and, specially, that one self is not another self. My good is my good and your good is yours. What one gains another loses. Even an inanimate object is what it is by excluding all other objects from the space it occupies; if it expands, it does so by thrusting other objects aside or by absorbing them. A self does the same. With beasts the absorption takes the form of eating; for us, it means the sucking of will and freedom out of a weaker self into a stronger. ‘To be’ means ‘to be in competition’.”

C. S. Lewis. “The Screwtape Letters.”

And this is the deeper reality of hell that many who are tempted by its message of sexual “liberation” simply miss.8In reality, we all miss it to some degree or at some stage in our lives, for few if any have avoided such temptation completely. Allured by the basic, sensate pleasures of physical gratification, they, we, fail to see that the purpose of Christian sexual morality, of Christian marriage, is to prevent us from falling into an endless and infernal competition with “the other.” A competition that has only one rule: dominate or be dominated. Here, it is sheer manipulation and power that decides who is master and who is slave; exploitation is the ideal in Hades, as all being is but an instrument, a tool, for one’s own ends. Nothing, not even one’s self, has intrinsic value, or inherent worth. This was the hope of the earlier poets, the Romantics of the past, but it was a false hope and a grave error. The classicists were deceived to think that human nature was inherently “other focused” and that it could, apart from divine Grace, make room for another Self. Nas’ view of man in “Montero” is still Augustinian in this regard, and, as such, Lil Nas X is far more correct about man than was Wordsworth, Shelley or Schiller.

Montero Lamar Hill is a 21-year old, self-identified gay man and artist. And, he is a relatively honest one at that.9 Hill is angry at how he was brought up, perhaps understandably as one recent tweet reveals: “I spent my entire teenage years hating myself because of the (expletive) y’all preached would happen to me because i was gay,” he [Hill] wrote on Twitter. “So i hope u are mad, stay mad, feel the same anger you teach us to have towards ourselves.” He has not cheated like the earlier Romantics, who never would have shown a scene of unsocialized man murdering Satan. For Blake there was not a violent overthrow of Hell by man, nor an attaining of Heaven apart from divine Grace, but instead a marriage of Heaven and Hell in the end.10A notion C.S. Lewis brilliantly dismantled in The Great Divorce. Hill’s video, conversely, makes one thing very clear, whether he knows it or not, that behind all of the sensuality, the blurring of gender, and the gross acts of bodily abuse; behind all of these there is a more fundamental dynamic at play, namely, the unrestrained lust for power. Power over others, power over creation. Unfortunately for Hill, and for all of us who continue down this route, the ever increasing appetite for sexual pleasure is always met with the ever decreasing gratification of the sexual act itself. It cannot do the work. Once that pleasure is no more, then there is only violence: physical, emotional and spiritual violence.

The only part of the video that will not be true is that Satan will never be dethroned in hell. He is too powerful for man, and, as such, unrepentant man will forever be in his service as slave.

Living In A Culture Gone Mad: Four Ways The Church Can Respond To The Coming Crisis

by Anthony Costello

In a recent book, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, theologian Carl Trueman poses an initial question: why does a statement like ‘I am a woman trapped in a man’s body’ make sense to us today, where just a generation or two ago it would have been absolutely unintelligible?1Carl Trueman, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, 19. To try to answer this, he invokes the 20th century sociologist, Philip Rieff, for the sake of explaining to the Church why we find ourselves in such an upside down world. Trueman utilizes Rieff’s taxonomy of cultures to do this explanatory work. For Rieff, society could be categorized into three different “worlds:” first, second and third worlds,2 These designations shouldn’t be confused with how modern economists classify countries according to economic and technological development, although economics and technology might play a causal role in which category a particular culture finds itself. a classification which becomes useful in understanding our current culture. First world societies, according to Rieff, are cultures that define their morality, and subsequently their laws and customs, by appealing to something beyond society itself— to a sacred or transcendent reality. First worlds are “pagan,” however, in that they are largely rooted in primitive religious beliefs that leave mankind open to the whims of fate, fortune, and the furies. Nevertheless, that a sacred reality or sacred history acts as the foundation for societal structures, practices, and codices is undeniable in these cultures.

Second worlds are those that also ground their societal structures, practices and moral norms in the transcendent, but where the transcendent or sacred is expressed through an organized faith or theological system that is open to various forms of rational thought and scientific modes of thinking. Christendom of the ancient orthodox East or the Latin West, or Medieval Islam would be good examples of second world cultures. Both first and second worlds are relatively stable in their cultural forms due to the common sense belief that all things ultimately are sourced in a sacred, transcendent power or Person and, therefore, cannot be so easily altered or amended.

Third Worlds, on the other hand, are drastically different from the first two, in that they no longer accept a reality, a world or world maker, that lies beyond society itself. Society, as Frankfurt School philosopher Max Horkheimer argued years ago, is the sole determining factor of “the world and subjectivity in all its forms.”3 see James Bohman, “Critical Theory” in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. for third world cultures. Or, as Trueman says, “Third worlds, by way of stark contrast to the first and second worlds, do not root their cultures, their social orders, their moral imperatives in anything sacred. They do have to justify themselves, but they cannot do so on the basis of something sacred or transcendent. Instead, they have to do so on the basis of themselves.”4 Trueman, 76, emphasis added In short, third worlds are categorically different from first and second worlds, whose own intramural differences pale in comparison. This is why the challenge to Christians living in a third world society like that of the United States or Canada today is much greater than that of early Christians living in pagan Rome or medieval Christians living in 11th century Islamic caliphates.5 The challenge may not be physically greater, but the chasm between people mentally is much vaster, making the communication of the Gospel that much more difficult. The framework for viewing reality is categorically other between first and second worlds and third worlds.

Before considering how Christians might respond to the challenge of living in this kind of “third world” culture, it is important to note three implications of Rieff’s theory. First, all three kinds of culture: first, second, and third world, can and do exist at the same time within the boundaries of one society.6 Trueman, 80. Second, because pagan, theological, and purely secular cultures exist in the same society at the same time, these societies (e.g. the United States, Canada, England and Western Europe) often feel like cultural battlegrounds, “This is the reason why society now often feels like a cultural battle zone: it consists of groups of people who simply think about the moral structure of the world in utterly incompatible ways.”7Trueman, 80.. Pagan-like cultures (animists, spiritualists, new-agers etc.), religious cultures (Roman Catholicism, Evangelicalism, Orthodox Judaism), and purely secular cultures all live and move and have their being together. Regardless of the vast metaphysical, epistemic, and moral chasm that divides their adherents, members of each world find themselves lounging in the same coffee shops, enjoying the same entertainment, and buying from the same online vendors.

Finally, third world cultures, unlike their historical predecessors and contemporaries, are inherently unstable. Because third world cultures must determine their own identity, their own structures of authority, and their own moral norms apart from anything other than themselves, they become societies that are driven primarily, if not exclusively, by the emotional moods of the day and the sheer willfulness to reshape culture according to those moods. Even the natural sciences, logic, and the law find themselves subject to the passions, drives, and creative forces of third world society and its moods and fashions. Indeed, nothing could be more distinct from a Christian view of reality than that of a third world society.8 Except maybe abstract objects and concrete objects With this said, how can Christians appropriately respond to living in a society that is increasingly a third world one? How can we fight on this battleground of perpetual “self-creation” and “self-determination?,” where the majority of those in the culture no longer are willing or able to refer to a transcendent source or cause of morality or even reality?

Four Responses to Living in A Third World Culture

  1. Reconquest

One prima facie option is to reconquer the culture for Christ, or at least for Christian morality, regardless of what people actually believe about Christianity. While there is a biblical way to attempt to retake lost cultural territory, this response can lead to new forms of a spiritual danger that both Roman Catholicism and historic Protestantism have traditionally warned against, namely Messianism.9 see Catechism of the Catholic Church, here. The idea here being that we can reclaim “the land” for Christ via the same means as we lost it to the culture, primarily through politics, and if not there, then through either physical force or some other ignoble and coercive means. This idea of “fighting fire with fire” acts as a fleshy, in the Pauline sense, replacement to the transforming love of Christ. While integration of the Christian vision can be done peaceably through positioning ourselves in places of institutional influence, e.g. in academics, entertainment, and government, it must be said that these attempts often have the reverse effect, i.e. converting the Christian influencer rather than the Christian converting the secular space. This inability to impact culture is one reason why the “reconquest” impulse emerges even among true believers, if not especially among them. Moreover, if the cultural battle has already been lost, which many believe to be the case, then the temptation to take by force, under the banner of some corrupted view of Nationalism,10 Nationalism itself gets a bad rap these days, and I believe there is a good, biblical case to be made for Nationalism increases greatly. As such, this option must be rejected, and that in virtue of Christ himself who came not to overthrow governments and systems, although he could have done so and one day will, but who came to change people’s hearts through love and self-sacrifice.

  1. Capitulation

While readers may say that capitulation is never an option, the reality is capitulation is already the preferred route of many in the Evangelical (and Roman Catholic) church today. The capitulation response seeks not to infect the culture with Christ, but to adapt Christ to the cultural norms and social moods of the day. Defenders of cultural capitulation may argue that this is the means to sow a seed in culture, i.e. through the very affirmation of it, and that by integrating the Church into the culture this is how Christ’s love is shown. However, the damage done to the truth of the Gospel in the meantime is unacceptable and, as alluded to above, whether this is actually an effective form of evangelism is highly suspect. While it can be difficult to know when one is actually capitulating, as Martin Scorcese’s film version of the book Silence brings to light, nevertheless capitulation does not seem to have much going for it, especially in this era of “soft tyranny.”

As philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre argued in his 1968 book Marxism and Christianity,11 At the time he wrote this book, MacIntyre was himself an atheist and a socialist. He eventually went on to convert to Roman Catholicism in the 1980’s. this kind of cultural Christianity ultimately does little for the cause of Christ:

For if Christianity, in even the semi-secular society of the present,[i.e. in 1968] is to be able to present itself as having a relevant content and function, it is forced to present itself as having a secular content and function. Hence the many attempts to demythologize Christianity, to separate relevant kernel from irrelevant husk. The tragedy of these attempts is that what is disentangled as the essential human meaning of Christianity is so platitudinous, and it is platitudinous precisely because what is presented is a way of life in accordance with the liberal values and illiberal realities of the established order. That function of religion which consisted in providing a radical criticism of the secular present is lost by those contemporary demythologizers whose goal is to assimilate Christianity to the secular present.

In other words, liberal or progressive Christianity waters down the Gospel message to the point of impotence in offering any kind of critique or any resistance to whatever the culture it resides in has already determined as the way forward. Capitulators have no “prophetic voice” and, as such, capitulation should be seen as a non-option, regardless of how many Christian “leaders” embrace it as a legitimate approach.

  1. Strategic Retreat

In the late 5th century, as the Roman Empire was crumbling and the Italian peninsula being ravaged by constant, barbaric conquest from the North and the East, Benedict of Nursia retreated strategically to the high hills of Southern Italy, to what became known as Monte Cassino. There he established the first monastery in Latin Christendom and formulate the “Rule,” a way of life which established the ecclesial and social vocation of religious orders. Recently, philosophers like Alasdair MacIntyre and popular writers like Rod Dreher have suggested that pursuing a contemporary “Benedict Option” may be needed for the Church.

For example, after analyzing the current state of morality in his magnum opus, After Virtue, MacIntyre suggests there are two basic options for modern man in the West, a return to the classical philosophy and virtue ethics of Aristotle, or an embrace of Nietzsche’s “will to power.” Obviously MacIntyre, like many others, does not want Nietzsche. Unfortunately, the culture around us seems to be trending in a Nietzschean direction, where again the sole determining factor of what we do, what we believe, and what we think is right or wrong is the sheer “will of the people,” a will unattached and unmoored from anything transcendent or sacred. For MacIntyre then, Aristotle is the clear alternative. However, he wonders at the end of the book whether this return is feasible. He presents a haunting third option that he mentions only briefly, at the tail end of the book. Having acknowledged that our current cultural climate, our “third world” in Rieffian terms, is eerily parallel to the dark ages of the late 5th and 6th centuries, he says,

If my account of our moral condition is correct, we ought also to conclude that for some time now we too have reached that turning point. What matters at this stage is the construction of local forms of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained through the new dark ages which are already upon us. And if the tradition of the virtues was able to survive the horrors of the last dark ages, we are not entirely without grounds for hope. This time however the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament. We are waiting not for a Godot, but for another—doubtless very different—St. Benedict.

“St. Benedict” is in fact the very last word of MacIntyre’s book.

Dreher, following MacIntyre has penned a book simply called The Benedict Option, which also suggests the strategic retreat response. While this approach has many pluses, and can certainly been seen as compatible with both the Bible and the history of the church, it does have its deficiencies. First, it raises the question of evangelism to the culture from which the church now seems to be retreating. Second, in light of today’s ubiquity of technology and media, and our incredible sense of interconnectedness, it is unclear as to how we actually perform this strategic retreat. Finally, if we cannot really retreat, we might run into the problem of trying to form semi-isolated communities that themselves become toxic in their own way. It was one thing for Benedict to “head for the hills” of Southern Italy in the 6th century, but how does the average Christian “head for the hills” in 21st century Southern California? The retreat itself seems almost impossible.12 Here I admit that I have not yet read Dreher’s book, only MacIntyre’s. As such, I imagine I might be straw manning Dreher’s view. Please read the book itself, or go to his website for more. In some sense, from the website, it looks like Dreher is not really advocating for something as drastic as to what was Benedict’s actual response to the encroaching “dark ages.”

  1. The Daniel Plan

A final response could be called “The Daniel Plan.”13 Pastor Steven J. Weibley of the Carlisle Congregational Church in Massachusetts gave me this term in a recent Zoom meeting. While this is not a fashionable call to fast on fruits and vegetables so one can have more energy and lose weight; it nevertheless should likely entail some kind of fasting; a fasting for spiritual leanness however, not the leanness of our waistline. The Daniel plan draws from the story of Daniel as he lives out a faithful and prophetic life amidst the pagan nation of Babylon, the nation that is equated with all the iniquity of the world in the book of Revelation. The nation which is seen as a “whore” rife with sexual and sensual sin, perhaps not unlike our current sex-crazed culture. John Lennox has written a significant book about living like Daniel in the middle of modern Babylon, aptly titled “Against the Flow.” The Daniel plan is preferable to the rest in that it does not seek to overthrow Babylon through coercion or by “playing on the enemies battlefield,” nor does it capitulate on the main issues that the culture would want the church to capitulate on (e.g. abortion, same-sex marriage, transgenderism). Finally it does not hide itself from a world that is perishing and in desperate need of a witness to the light and life of Christ.

The only downside of the Daniel plan, if it could be called a “downside,” is that it will cost people their lives. Like Daniel and his comrades, there will be very real furnaces and lion’s dens into which men and women will be thrown. Prisons will begin to fill their cells with Daniels and Danielas,14 This is already happening, as was the case in Canada recently. who through simply saying “no” to the cultural program will find themselves ostracized and attacked by their nations, their communities, and potentially their own churches and families. However, this response was the response of those in 1940’s Germany who we so admire today. This was the response of men like Maximilian Kolbe, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Franz Jägerstätter, as well as women like Edith Stein and Sophie Scholl, who in Christ received the power to resist the evil in which they found themselves. Unfortunately today we see many church leaders already capitulating to that same evil out of the mere possibility of losing their audience, their tenure, or another book deal. If pastors, professors, and priests cannot even bear the thought of losing a few friends on social media, or getting a few cold stares on campus, then the likelihood we will see many Daniels is not high. But, the history of the Church, or even any great nation, has never been reliant on sheer numbers. It has relied only on the few “chosen,” who have hearkened the divine call in spite of persecution by the profane. As Tertullian put it, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”


Of these four possible Christian responses to the unstable and neurotic culture in which the Church in the West resides, the first two are clearly non-starters. They are not really Christian options, even if some “Christians” will pursue them as such. The “strategic retreat” response has its merits: stronger local communities, greater depth of discipleship, avoidance of ‘the worst’ of culture, etc. However this “Benedict Option” also has its deficits: first, how does the command to disciple the nations and preach the good news to the lost go forward, and second, how do we even perform the actual retreat from a culture that is so interconnected through technology and media? Finally, there is the Daniel plan, which like the strategic retreat option is biblically compatible, and seems to have the advantage of not forsaking the task of evangelism or having to find means to escape culture. That said, for the Daniels and Danielas who are in the Church, this will likely spell some kind of very real earthly demise. When Franz Jäggerstätter, the Austrian farmer, persistently refused to sign the Hitler oath, not only was he beheaded, but his wife was widowed, his three daughters left fatherless, and his elderly mother left to die after her son. Their lives after Franz’ death did not improve, they also suffered. Nevertheless, it is sacrifices like these that are the heart of God’s Church and that ultimately unite us to the very suffering of the Cross and the person of Christ.

For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, 11 if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Cardi B., Jean-Paul Sartre and “Theologia Diaboli”

by Anthony Costello

Much commentary has been made recently about the ultra-vulgar nature of the song “WAP” by popular rap star, Cardi B., a song whose text I will not reproduce here for the sake of all that is good and holy. For the sake of understanding this essay, however, it may be necessary to click on the above link and examine, albeit briefly, the sheer crudity of the song’s lyrics. In doing so, one hopefully experiences shock at this ode to barbarism. That said, it should not surprise anyone who has immersed themselves in the Bible, or listened carefully to what the Church’s theologians have said about the depravity of man and the corrosive effects of sin on the mind. Fortunately, we live in a culture still imbued with some generic Christian sensibilities, so such depravity still occasions outrage in a few quarters of society. This outrage is good, even if a bit late in coming.

At the same time, it is not just those who hold to Christian sexual ethics that might find this massively popular hymn to sexual exploitation unsurprising. Those who have studied with any seriousness the phenomena that Immanuel Kant described as “das radikale Böse” (radical evil), will see in both the song, and the meteoric rise of its creator, an embrace of what one philosopher called a theologia diaboli,1This is the title of F. H. Heinemann’s essay in the book Existentialism and the Modern Predicament, (New York: Harper Brothers, 1958). or theology of the devil. The fact is, Cardi B. is not without her historic predecessors, both in the realm of pop music,2Predecessors in this genre might include vile groups such as NWA or 2LiveCrew as well as that of existentialist philosophy. Whether known to the rapper or not, she stands in a long line of profound thinkers and creative geniuses who have found comfort in the arms of evil.

The Theoligia Diaboli of Jean Genet and Jean-Paul Sartre

In his survey of 20th century existentialism, philosopher F.H. Heinemann appends a short essay commenting on Jean-Paul Sartre’s book, Saint Genet, Comedien et Martyr, a book that explores, in no uncertain terms, the nature of radical evil. Heinemann, writing in the 1950’s from Oxford, opens his review of Sartre’s tome by considering the current state of Western culture:

Human societies are to-day [sic] secularized to a degree unheard of in former times. Some of them are indifferent and others hostile to religion, some ‘humanistic’, others openly atheistic. There are millions of people to whom nothing is sacred. But why is it that nations soaked in humanism, which have achieved a high standard of material well-being, are nevertheless unhappy? Can a society which has completely lost the sense of the holy reach a state of relative perfection? Further, is it possible to eliminate the sense of the sacred altogether?

Heinemann, Existentialism and the Modern Predicament, 205.

So begins Heinemann’s commentary on Sartre, the avowed atheist materialist, whose existentialism demanded that God not only die but never again be resurrected. Sartre’s book, Saint Genet, is itself an exposé on the thought and moral psychology of the French writer, activist, and thief, Jean Genet.3 Jean Genet started life as a petty thief and vagabond. After his release from prison he visited the US as a guest speaker and supporter of groups like the Black Panthers, and activists like Angela Davis, a pupil of Herbert Marcuse. Genet also protested against police brutality in Algeria with his fellow French novelists, Sartre and Foucault. The main themes of his works were a celebration of homosexual sex, moral iconoclasm, and finding beauty in acts of evil and criminality. Regarding Sartre’s book on the iconoclast Genet, Heinemann says, “Saint Genet pursues this rebellion [of evil-doing] to its extreme possibilities,”4 Heinemann, Existentialism, 206. indicating to the reader, and to Sartre’s discredit, that the book pushes the boundaries of morality to the edges of human sensibility. For Sartre, Genet is a modern saint in his radical overturning of all things that could be construed as Judeo-Christian morality or as “civilized,” and for his overt celebration and embrace of the criminal. Heinemann calls this reveling in pure rebellion a “Justificatio Diaboli,” i.e., “Diabolo-dicy,”5 As opposed to “Theodicy” an intellectual defense of that which has, to paraphrase a real saint, been believed to be wicked “everywhere, always, and by all.”6see Vincent of Lerins, For the Antiquity and Universality of the Catholic Faith Against the Profane Novelties of All Heresies, Chapter 2.6

For men like Genet and Sartre, as Heinemann’s opening reflections suggest, there truly is nothing sacred. There are only two realities for such thinkers: material realities and the free will of man. Moreover, anything that has been traditionally viewed as heathen, barbaric, or malevolent, is now not only open to pursuit and practice but even to praise. Thus, Genet and Sartre can applaud everything from coitus per anum7Genet was himself a notorious homosexual, who wrote in detail about the sexual act. to lying to pursuits of personal vengeance as acts of liberation from both traditional religion as well as man’s alienation from his true nature as a pleasure seeking beast. No longer are their pleasures forevermore to be sought at the right hand of the Almighty God,8see Psalm 16:11 rather whatever is at God’s left hand is where the pleasures lie. All the abominations of the Bible are now the objects of desire for these modern existentialists. This pursuit of evil, especially in the realm of sensuality, but certainly not limited to sexuality, takes on concrete form in a kind of theological anti-dogma. Its core principles can be numbered and articulated with relative clarity. Heinemann lays them out in detail, details worth reproducing here in full:

1) Regard every event, even if, and especially when, it is harmful…as if it were the product of your unconditioned will and a gratuitous gift which you have decided to make to yourself.

2) Your principal motive should be the horror that your future action may inspire in others and in yourself.

3) Act in such a manner that society treats you always as an object and as a means, and never as an end in itself or as a person.

4) Act as if the maxim of your action could be regarded as a rule in the thieve’s tavern….9Heinemann, Existentialism, 208.

These formulations of the evil will act as perversions of the Kantian ethic, and they express the following sentiments:10ibid., 208.

1) The megalomania of a man who would like to possess the creative power of a negative God, i.e. of the Devil;

2) the sadistic cruelty of a character anxious to dominate others and to equal the dictators;

3) the masochistic self-abasement of a ‘have-not’ who throws his most valuable possession overboard-his personal integrity-and who allows himself to become a mere object and merely a means to an end; and

4) the cynical contempt of the realm of persons or of the Kantian realm of ends, and the corresponding exaltation of the thieve’s tavern!11ibid., 208.

It is points 3 especially that are relevant to understanding how Cardi B.’s song, and her own attitude toward her song and its critics, follows in the long tradition of atheistic existentialists like Genet and Sartre. Indeed the young rapper’s message is not new, even if finding this anti-dogma being proffered by a woman, and not just wicked men, might be novel.

Cardi B.’s Vision, Instrumentalizing the Human Person, and the Will to Power

Point 3 of the act and sense of this theologia diaboli makes the explicit claim that for any act to be liberating in this upside down ethic, one must intentionally allow oneself to be treated as a mere tool or instrument by society. The notion of a human person being intrinsically valuable, or possessing an ontological worth that cannot be handled instrumentally, is itself repulsive to the dogma of radical evil. The song, WAP, is as clear an expression of this intent as anything could be. The woman, here Cardi. herself as the song is self-referential, is no longer a being of incalculable ontological value, rather she just is a body meant to serve a function; the function of being sexually pleasurable to the dominant male. It is this embrace of “self-abasement” that should be shocking to anyone, or any culture that is morally, spiritually and emotionally healthy. The question that seems to be an open one, is whether or not our culture was indeed shocked at all?

There are a few important implications of this kind of libertinism. Moral dissolution always surfaces the most profound questions of human existence. One implication that has been noted by conservatives for many years, is the apparent inconsistency of women “being empowered” through the marketing of their bodies for the sake of stimulating horny, vile, and, likely, very rich men. This new means to feminist empowerment would apparently undo everything that the original suffragists and even feminists of the 1970’s and 80’s were arguing against and fighting for, both in the court of public opinion and courts of law. In Cardi B’s vision, clearly the road to power is not through competing with men in academic, industrial, economic, legal, military or medical arenas, but rather in the open embrace of old-fashioned temple prostitution. Of course, if avarice also counts as a moral good on the theologia diaboli, then it makes sense that whatever the road to fame or fortune may be, it is one worth traveling.

Secondly, WAP further propagates the mental and spiritual disease of seeing women as reducible to sex objects. Here it becomes difficult to understand what someone like a Harvey Weinstein actually did wrong, since he was psychologically primed and fed by pop culture itself to understand women as mere instruments to sexual pleasure. Cardi’s vision, it could be argued, provides an explicit model for young girls to be understood primarily, if not merely, as sexual slaves in the service of men, and to see that slavery as itself a good thing (again, point 3 on Heinemann’s list). Perhaps to Cardi’s defense, one could say it will only be those men who can afford these young sex slaves that will actually have them, since something like monetary exchange or a “life of ease” seems part of the Cardi telos. This exchange of the human body for wealth, of the human person for luxury, also seems to fulfill point 4 of the theologia diaboli anti-dogma, which makes unholy and unjust commercial exchanges a desirable endeavor.

Third, Cardi’s performance of the song serves to satisfy point 2 on the list, invoking horror in those who still retain some semblance of either a Christian moral ethic or generic moral conscience or who just have young children. In an interview with Stephen Colbert she seemed to indicate that part of her intent was just that, to “piss off a whole bunch of Republicans.” In another interview it is “fake religious people”12see: who have been strangely unsettled. Unfortunately, or fortunately for her, I think there were more than just Republicans or religious people who were horrified at such an abuse of talent.

Finally, when one listens to her testimony about her music and her life, we see the most profound condition of the theologia diaboli fulfilled, namely the self-revelry in the expression of one’s “unconditioned will.” Here, we might say that Cardi is as close to a real life embodiment of Nietzsche’s Übermensch as one could find today. In the unconstrained expression of her will, she not only achieves heroic greatness in record album sales, but achieves life fulfillment:

“Life is about making your dreams come true, but in order to make your dreams come true, don’t think that it’s gonna come and fall from the sky to your lap…You actually gotta put in the work. You gotta be ambitious. You gotta network. You gotta become great at what you do. You gotta be able to take criticism — believe it or not, y’all be saying I don’t take criticism, but yes I do.”

from an interview with “People” magazine,

A creative genius unbound and released from any moral normativity lay at the heart of Nietzsche’s “overman,” one could say that Cardi is the “overwoman.”

The Nature of Sex and The False Liberty of the Existentialist Mind

In his book on classical wisdom and modern psychology, The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck describes from the standpoint of psychoanalysis the phenomena of authentic love, defining it as “The will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.”13. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1978), 81. This extension of one’s self for the sake of the other’s growth usually requires other virtues, most importantly the virtues of discipline and sacrifice. Love, in this sense, is not a mere feeling or set of temporary sensations, but rather “Love is an act of the will.”14ibid., 83. When the pleasurable nature of sexual intercourse is taken into account, however, it becomes tempting for people to conflate the physical stimulus of coitus with love itself. This is highly problematic to the human person:

It is obvious and generally understood that sexual activity and love, while they may occur simultaneously, often are disassociated, because they are basically separate phenomena. In itself, making love is not an act of love. Nonetheless the experience of sexual intercourse, and particularly of orgasm (even in masturbation), is an experience also associated with a greater or lesser degree of collapse of ego boundaries and attendant ecstasy. It is because of this collapse of ego boundaries that we may shout at the moment of climax “I love you” or “Oh, God” to a prostitute for whom moments later, after the ego boundaries have snapped back into place, we may feel no shred of affection, liking or investment.

Peck, 96.

The goal of this essay is not to ridicule or judge the person known as Cardi B. However, it is to point out that the singer/songwriter has fallen into the ancient trap of looking for authentic love, the dropping of ego boundaries, in the sexual act itself. Clearly this mother of a young daughter should want to feel real love, the kind of love that safeguards the value of the human person, that invests in that person, and that acts on behalf of that person’s spiritual well-being. Unfortunately, in WAP it is profoundly clear that the only experience of “love” being aimed for is that of the physical pleasure that attends the fleeting and uncommitted sexual act. The lack of willingness by both partners to commit to the person inside the sexualized body does not lead to liberation as one might hope, but as soon as ego boundaries “snap back into place” the realization of one’s enslavement and emptiness often follows. This dynamic of oppression and misuse of sex is presented in the earliest chapters of the Bible, where the inspired author knows what sin will do to God’s original design for human companionship,

“To the woman he said,

“I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing;  in pain you shall bring forth children,yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”

Genesis, 3:16

From a biblical standpoint it seems the “Overwoman” is not really empowered over anything, but, in fact, has merely submitted to the rule of sinful man.

Philosophically speaking, Heinemann echoes Peck’s understanding of real love and freedom, when he points out the abject failure of Sartre’s diabolical theology:

In short, Sartre’s freedom is no real liberty, but caprice and licence, and therefore insufficient as a basis for ethics. Real freedom consists in accepting responsibility for one’s own actions in relation to others within a moral order, and equally for this order itself. A choice is not authentic because it is made by the Self and of the Self, but because it is the right choice, i.e., it is the choice of the right moral order and the right action in these particular circumstances, made on the basis of this moral standard.

Heinemann, 212.

Caprice and licence to do whatever one’s inner impulses suggest is not freedom; it is slavery. Authenticity lies not in a choice for “the Self” by “the Self” but in making the right choice, a choice aimed at an objective standard. Augustine saw this most clearly in his formulation of the doctrine of original sin. To entertain without restraint our inner most desires is not to become like God, it is to usher in our own destruction and become as nothing. We have been made to be a certain way by our Creator, and to struggle against the way we were meant to be, while not futile, is nevertheless fatal. It is fatal because in resisting the grace and subsequent redemption it offers, we will never experience authentic Love, the Love that saves, that sustains, and that grows us. We can only pray that Cardi B. will not go down the road of Jean Genet or Jean-Paul Sartre, but instead turn away from the glorification of the Self, which only serves Satan’s plan of total domination of our souls. Once she does, as I suspect she might, then her true glorification in Christ may begin.