Why the Left Hates Sex and Loves Islam
What We’re Missing About Progressivism: Not the Politics, But the Religion
For some time now, I’ve been growing exasperated with commentators who recite long, long lists of hypocritical Leftist acts at the drop of a hat. Fast and Furious, Benghazi, Lois Lerner’s punitive IRS, “if you like your doctor you can keep your doctor”, the destroyed SIM cards, the washed hard drive (“you mean, like, with a sponge?”), plutonium in exchange for donations to the Clinton Foundation (Clintonium?) … Sean Hannity leaps to mind, and I myself could just about keep pace with Sean’s dizzying roll-calls of infamy if you put me on the clock. I could also add items of immense concern to me that he usually (perhaps tastefully) leaves out, such as the highly peculiar death of Justice Scalia and the inexplicable absence of an autopsy. I know how bad it all is, rest assured: I know, I know….But now, too, I think I’m finally beginning to understand just what I know—which is why I don’t need to keep hearing the recital of hypocritical outrages. Consider this proposition: political Leftism is a fanatical religious cult. Its votaries will no more desist from practicing double standards and cooking up stupefying lies than Linus will cease to wait for the Great Pumpkin. They will not abstain from hypocrisy because they cannot—not without turning apostate. If you are among the faithful… you gotta believe! “You over there, you may think that you have no wings, but that’s because you’ve given your heart over to the Devil. Cast out the Devil, my friend—get up and fly! You can do it! Believe, only believe! And those children of darkness who keep saying, “But you have no wings”… turn away from them, friend! Turn away, I say! They lie! They lie! They’re servants of the shadows! Only lift up your heart, and believe! Fly! Fly!”
Well… Linus is a lovable naïf, bless his heart—but Elmer Gantry disgusts me. And those who sway and swoon at his words… I find their surrender to a tortured, squinting vision—their progressivism—so terribly depressing that I just can’t stand to have its evidence displayed for my repeated examination. How many times do you have to witness, through a one-way window, your demented brother doing a belly-flop on a padded floor because he believes he can levitate if he flaps his arms? I get it, Doctor. Now, can we go to your office and discuss treatments before I lose my mind, too?
Perhaps even worse is listening to Glenn Beck continually exhort us to resist polarization and share our points of view. I’m sure that occupying a position of mediator would greatly appeal to most of us… but Glenn, your country-club liberal contacts in Silicon Valley are a relatively minute sampling of the Left, and are certainly not its driving force, despite their generous donations. If we eliminate their social posturing and balance the ideological assertions of the two polarities in abstract, then you’re tasking us with persuading René Descartes and Charles Manson to collaborate on a book. The midpoint between two sides of a chasm is a tumble into the abyss. There is no middle ground possible between sanity and insanity. If a lunatic insists that at least fifty gender alternatives exist, should you meet him halfway and concede twenty-five? If he rages that the Caucasian genome is directly responsible for all the wars in world history, should you attempt to bring him down toward one out of every two, without inquiring into the genetic mechanism?
Surely trying to reason with a rabid lunatic itself partakes of lunacy. The first step must not be to find common ground with this deranged mind: it must be to analyze the derangement with a view to insulating oneself and other sane, responsible people from the patient’s outbursts, insofar as is possible.
Let me come at this from another direction. I’ve lately been trying to wade through the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius, a Palestinian whose heyday was in the first half of the fourth century (A.D.), and whose Greek is as florid, artificial, and distant from coherent spoken expression as a row of hieroglyphics. (That’s the way everything seems to be written near the dawn of the Middle Ages: many such authors were composing for an inner circle, and indeed probably wanted to be incoherent to outsiders.) In the interest of cutting to the chase, let me pluck out just a few of the passages where our chronicler details the turbulent swirl of ideas and emotions from which a Christianity recognizable to us would only emerge after yet another four or five centuries. (I have used an Internet document whose translator isn’t given, but whose text is far more comprehensible than I could have produced.)
Of one sect, Eusebius cites Philo as writing:
Having laid down temperance as a sort of foundation in the soul, they build upon it the other virtues. None of them may take food or drink before sunset, since they regard philosophizing as a work worthy of the light, but attention to the wants of the body as proper only in the darkness, and therefore assign the day to the former, but to the latter a small portion of the night. But some, in whom a great desire for knowledge dwells, forget to take food for three days; and some are so delighted and feast so luxuriously upon wisdom, which furnishes doctrines richly and without stint, that they abstain even twice as long as this, and are accustomed, after six days, scarcely to take necessary food. (2.17.16)
Now, it may seem that nothing akin to our political Left has yet pricked the distant horizon, though the similarity with the Muslim holiday of Ramadan is striking (and please remember that, for I shall momentarily return to it). Abstinence from carnal pleasures, mortifying the body to draw closer to the spiritual… a hallmark of Leftism? And the possibility of overlap then seems to grow even dimmer:
For they say that there were women also with those of whom we are speaking, and that the most of them were aged virgins who had preserved their chastity, not out of necessity, as some of the priestesses among the Greeks, but rather by their own choice, through zeal and a desire for wisdom. And that in their earnest desire to live with it as their companion they paid no attention to the pleasures of the body, seeking not mortal but immortal progeny, which only the pious soul is able to bear of itself. Then after a little he [Philo] adds still more emphatically: “They expound the Sacred Scriptures figuratively by means of allegories. For the whole law seems to these men to resemble a living organism, of which the spoken words constitute the body, while the hidden sense stored up within the words constitutes the soul. This hidden meaning has first been particularly studied by this sect, which sees, revealed as in a mirror of names, the surpassing beauties of the thoughts.” Why is it necessary to add to these things their meetings and the respective occupations of the men and of the women during those meetings, and the practices which are even to the present day habitually observed by us, especially such as we are accustomed to observe at the feast of the Saviour’s passion, with fasting and night watching and study of the divine Word. (2.17.19-20)
Here we verge upon the heretical territory of Gnosticism… but then, the later Middle Ages manifested a genuine genius for allegorizing fantastical pagan tales into practical lessons about good and evil, and I’m a great admirer of their method. After all, the notion that what we see and do every day may send ripples throughout the moral universe is an essential part of the life of faith. Yet persistently interpreting A as a morph of X can also be pathological. When every fluffy white cloud on a summer afternoon is a fascist giving the Nazi salute, something’s very amiss in the mediating imagination. This kind of distortive filtering, where the “true reality” is given by ideology and that given by the senses is mere obfuscative clutter, begins to draw us quite close to the Leftist malaise of our time.
I don’t know that the Egyptian ascetics extolled above by Philo showed progressive tastes in the specifics of their allegorizations—and I mustn’t pass myself off as anyone but a student of Ancient Greek in this context: I am not trained in Church history. Yet the affinity for literal starvation would indicate that we have before us something other than a body of believers who enjoy constructing parables. In fact, if I may revisit the extreme revulsion in which sexual intercourse was held by this sect, I would dare to suggest that here, too, the Left is much less averse to the ascetics’ tendencies than we might suppose. So virulent is the progressive hatred of heterosexual activity leading to pregnancy and children that the eradication of the fetus may fairly be called a central ritual of the cult; and more lately (as of the past three decades or so, with a rapid acceleration observable), a partner of the opposite sex has come to be viewed as almost distasteful, and even unnatural.
As bizarre as it sounds on the surface, our lunatic Left is waging a full-scale War on Sex. Its bacchantes have vilified natural intercourse as the product of a patriarchal indoctrination and reduced the unborn child to (in words that a student once used in my presence) a venereal disease. Progressives hate sex. They hate the dependency upon others (child upon parent, spouse upon spouse) which it naturally creates in our psyche, along with an accompanying zeal for self-sacrifice: such feelings are chains which keep their slaves from “self-actualization.” To stifle the sexual drive, Leftist zealots do not seek to starve it out. Rather, they feed it to glut in circumstances where incidental attachments are least likely to occur (no pregnancy, no sense of completion in the other’s difference). They suffocate their lust as you might murder a staggering desert castaway by forcing two gallons of water down his throat. “Craving gone… craving all gone… there. Nothing left of it. Freedom at last!”
This provenance of the Left’s fixation with sexual debauchery may seem less far-fetched if we consider a later passage in Eusebius—this one much more disturbing and advanced much less confidently as model behavior:
At this time the so-called sect of the Nicolaitans made its appearance and lasted for a very short time. Mention is made of it in the Apocalypse of John. They boasted that the author of their sect was Nicolaus, one of the deacons who, with Stephen, were appointed by the apostles for the purpose of ministering to the poor. Clement of Alexandria, in the third book of his Stromata, relates the following things concerning him. “They say that he had a beautiful wife, and after the ascension of the Saviour, being accused by the apostles of jealousy, he led her into their midst and gave permission to any one that wished to marry her. For they say that this was in accord with that saying of his, that one ought to abuse the flesh. And those that have followed his heresy, imitating blindly and foolishly that which was done and said, commit fornication without shame. But I understand that Nicolaus had to do with no other woman than her to whom he was married, and that, so far as his children are concerned, his daughters continued in a state of virginity until old age, and his son remained uncorrupt. If this is so, when he brought his wife, whom he jealously loved, into the midst of the apostles, he was evidently renouncing his passion; and when he used the expression, ‘to abuse the flesh,’ he was inculcating self-control in the face of those pleasures that are eagerly pursued. For I suppose that, in accordance with the command of the Saviour, he did not wish to serve two masters, pleasure and the Lord. But they say that Matthias also taught in the same manner that we ought to fight against and abuse the flesh, and not give way to it for the sake of pleasure, but strengthen the soul by faith and knowledge.” (3.29.1-3)
As Eusebius quotes Clement, the latter appears to be searching for a way to excuse the appalling behavior of Nicolaus; but whether he passed his beautiful wife around among his disciples so that they could stifle the surge of the sexual impulse by giving full rein to it, or instead made a whore of her (and Eusebius often uses “marry” in this elliptical sense) to flagellate his own pangs of jealousy, the practice is spectacularly perverse. Notice that it is bookended by an assurance that the couples’ daughters lived their lives as virgins. Hated sexuality is “punished” here by both means: it is fed until it explodes, and it is starved until it dries up.
Either treatment of the natural human sex drive is fanatically cultic. Desire for sex, like craving for food or hunger for revenge, cannot and should not be eliminated from human existence—but it must be tamed and indulged strictly within bounds that enjoy some degree of rational objectivity. (Yes, there’s even a place for revenge; but a mother must allow the man who raped and murdered her daughter to be convicted in open court and punished by the law of the land.) Sex is elevated from an animal passion when it is restricted to one partner and implicated in the further objective of child-rearing: thus does a “natural morality” subdue it. The fanatic chafes against these natural limitations, however. He must break free and (like my hypothetical brother on the padded floor) fly into heaven on spiritual wings. Only the contemptible, filthy uninitiated accept the reality into which they have been born. He kicks it, throttles it, tears at it, and finally screams above its insistent calls with his ears stopped and his eyes shut, utterly convinced in his unshakable faith that he is one of God’s chosen and not like them.
Of course, the ascetics and sectarians of the second and third centuries were utterly convinced that the world was about to come to an end. The gruesome fate of the Jews in Jerusalem loomed powerfully before their eyes as an exemplar of the divine punishment awaiting the unfaithful. Eusebius abundantly reproduces passages from the soldier-historian Josephus that paint pictures more lurid than Boccaccio’s of the Black Plague. Indeed, one can scarcely fail to draw a parallel with the grotesquely violent products of Hollywood today: has the contemporary progressive not some deep psychological need of a medium projecting extravagant horrors—spellbinding nightmares which he claims to dread with all his being and to flee with all possible energy? The parallel, I think, is not casual. Though early believers tended toward the cultic because routine and tradition were being turned inside-out before their very eyes, today’s Leftists need and crave an impending apocalypse to justify their helter-skelter worldview. The complete absence of real persecution, torment, suffering, insecurity, rapine, outrage, and holocaust from their humdrum e-lives has left them victim to that bourgeois boredom that the French poet Baudelaire identified so pungently. “Is this all there is?” they seem to moan. “Take us on a trip… anywhere out of this world!”
If an apocalypse did not exist, they would have to invent it. And they do so—a new one almost every year: acid rain, over-population, DDT, nuclear accidents, oil spills, AIDS, global warming, climate change… the end is always near. (It is not my intent to belittle every version of Armageddon in my short list: but its constant supplementation does produce a “boy that cried wolf” effect which can be very unwelcome to those of us concerned about specific issues.) Most of the more publicized cults of the Seventies and Eighties, from James Jones’s colony to Heaven’s Gate, drew recruits primarily from left-of-center ideologies and milieux. Clearly, the end of the world exerts a kind of magnetism upon our left-wing brethren that is every bit as strong as its impact upon eccentric communities in the highly unstable atmosphere of Rome’s eastern provinces.
Though there’s some of the “Baudelaire phenomenon” in this attraction, I believe that the cult of progressivism has deeper roots. That is, while we can agree that bourgeois capitalist society carries the seeds of its own sabotage (if not destruction) by making its members restless to have the “new and improved” and unconvinced that the latest pampering comforts are comfortable enough, the next step could simply be jaded cynicism. It usually is. Baudelaire penned a dark piece where he daydreamed about resting in his humid grave “like a shark in a wave”. Hardly the Star Trek vision! One might even style it a very raw, minimalist conservatism of the spirit—a complete mistrust and weariness of this world and its tawdry glister. The progressive, far from having wised up to the myth of change in his advancing years and realized that there’s nothing new under the sun, reproaches capitalism for undirected change. We drain our resources and clutter up our lives without any unifying purpose: what’s needed is a nerve ganglion at the center of all the activity. We all need to move in the same direction. We could be so happy somewhere else! Everything that currently pains us, irritates us, frightens us, bores us, or confines us could be abolished and replaced. With our miracle-making technology—with ourselves, our human genius, firmly planted in the Creator’s seat that we now know was never before occupied—we could build the one truly possible heaven… but everyone will have to cooperate.
Armageddon is the other side of the coin, logically enough (for even insanity can follow a kind of logic within its tightly closed system). Those who do not cooperate could keep us all out of heaven. No more chance of living for at least a millennium, no more crack at having a made-to-order sexual partner (probably a robot) without diseases or other consequences, no more opportunity to find or fashion new planets with three moons and green skies, no more fantasies-come-true of coursing through the skies like Superman… all because of crusty old white men who won’t sign on. They’re ruining it for everyone! We will all die within a century of our birth, and they will have been our murderers! We will all live out our miserable four score years on this stinking wet rock poisoned by capitalist industry, and they will be the jailers who imprisoned us here! Why should they not die, instead? Why should we feel constrained to “reason” with them in terms of the here-and-now, when our argument consists of accepting as reality a vision that transforms everything here and now?
Frankly, I don’t think Baudelaire could ever have imagined this kind of fanaticism. It is consumerism run amuck—the insulated young of the “I want it all and I want it now” society having a panic attack as a few tiresome adults threaten to deliver the sad news of necessary limitation. No, no, no! Beam me up, Scotty!
And lest you begrudge me my half-century-old Star Trek allusion, I will say on behalf of its aptness that “young” means “young at heart”… which means, to make it all very plain, incurably childish. “Terminal adolescence” has undermined the possibility of any real progress, of a humane and spiritual variety, at least since my own arrival on this earth. As near as I can make out, the cultic fanaticism of the Left began to be a dominant force in American life shortly after World War II. I will not take the space to argue that Woodrow Wilson (with his “war to end war”) and FDR (with his near-adoration of Stalin) were sincerely believing priests of the new religion, for I think it just as likely that they grew drunk on the power of the priesthood. Any man (or woman) who is put in a position of directing the ship of state’s course into the future might assume progressive characteristics just to enjoy the thrill of having the helm. My greater interest in this piece has been the common sailor toeing the progressive line. What makes ordinary people lose their minds in this fashion, so that they stare at clouds and see only sun or fill their nostrils with excrement and smell only roses? And what makes them willing to shout over or even execute those of us who try to remonstrate with them?
You must understand, as I have at last understood, that their god “elevates” them to this state. It is a lunacy which they confuse with ecstasy, and its promises are a fantasy that they conflate with prophecy. Yes, the vision is very different from what anyone can see in the present’s hard facts. It’s a vision: its realization requires an utter commitment to transformation. We infidels cannot or will not acknowledge that, and so we keep higher reality from being born out of the rubble of our present low reality. If we continue to encumber the lofting engines of the spacecraft, we deserve to be swept away by any means at hand. Why should our lives matter, when we are preventing the fulfillment of life’s ultimate meaning and, indeed, the creation of infinite, unimaginably rich new lives? In the name of life must we “flat-earthers” and “Cro-Magnons” die.
Now I have struck (I hope) the final resonance in the reader’s mind that I want to chase down in this discussion: jihad, the holy war. Progressives are jihadis. Many of us have pondered for years the very curious affection that the Left appears to have for militant Islamism. Why, don’t they realize (we would ask ourselves) that the Koran endorses wife-beating, that homosexuals are executed in nations like Iran, and that Taliban types all over the world will murder their daughters for wearing make-up with the sanction of Sharia law? The only answer even tentatively sensible to most of us was that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”: i.e., that the Left hoped to exploit Islamic jihad’s detestation of the West to leverage the destruction of our institutions, then rush in to create a progressive utopia out of the rubble. It made sense, but…
But an explanation of a lunatic’s behavior that makes sense must draw suspicion. I now believe that the Left actually recognizes in radical Islamism a cultic quality with which it completely sympathizes. The abject subjugation of the mass to the will of an enlightened elite does not violate progressive values: it fully and brilliantly realizes them. The god whose will is so mysterious, even in matters of basic morality, that it promotes telling falsehoods to enemies of the faith does not make the Leftist uncomfortable: that god, rather, speaks to the heart of the Leftist’s standard practice. A heaven where the jihadi martyr is rewarded with seventy-two virgins does not outrage the left-wing male’s regard for women: it actualizes the absolute freedom from personal commitment and the utter dedication to sensual pleasure which he seeks in his relationships, and which he willingly offers to his partners in equal measure. And as for female progressives… isn’t the sexist-pig sheikh exactly the male of their fantasies, after all? He is everything in the flesh that they have always charged all males with being, though never before with as much justification. Since their own special “crusade” for a better world requires abuses as the fuel for the spaceship, a society like Saudi Arabia is richer in feminist accelerant than it is in oil.
I knew a girl in graduate school who had briefly been married to a chap named Ali. She was from a good Boston family whose values and traditions she obviously despised, and part of whose tweaking was very likely her month-long marriage with this utterly Other. Yet having served Ali’s needs just long enough to shower her parents with contempt, and having then left him to declare her independence in some new way, she remained nonetheless available should Ali happen to pass through town for a weekend. She did not speak of him with bitterness or disparagement: far from it. She would quote him almost as though he was her personal prophet. So I would gainsay my last remark in the previous paragraph (which was compromised by a touch of ironic humor) to this extent: the Left, including even its feminist wing—which must rank as its most radical in many respects—is invincibly mesmerized by the idea of a higher power that dictates its inscrutable will and leads without explanation. The young woman I’m describing would have tied a suicide bomb to herself, I’m convinced, if Ali had ordered her to do so.
Will radical Islam cut a bloody swath through the ranks of the Left if the latter should ever succeed in bringing the former to power over us? Assuredly. Will the Left feel cruelly betrayed or disastrously outmaneuvered on that day? I think not. I think, in some thoroughly insane way, carnage is just what Leftist progressives want. Don’t they always murder each other whenever they vault into the saddle of authority? Heaven is always tomorrow, always the next horizon. If you ever had to stand pat with the hand you were holding, you would be right back at, “This is all there is.”
The cult carries you higher, always higher. To wake up and realize that the star you have chased was just a dust mote in your eye would mean that all those imagined steps were just thin air. You would realize that the galaxies at your feet were just the padding of your cell in the asylum. No, no, no!
If I have the grace of a few more days in this world, I will try to write more thoroughly about the tenets of this fanatical “faith”.