Just the other day, speaking at a conference, I had the nasty experience of having my opinions waved away as “the voice of white privilege.” First time for me. I found this experience pretty hilarious for a couple of reasons. First, the topic for the meeting was a book by an African American author whom I knew at Drew University years ago. I was passed over for a permanent position there, while this man, who had a Sunday Schooler’s grasp of biblical criticism, was essentially an Affirmative Action hire. (I’d had the same thing happen at Montclair State College when they hired an African fellow to teach Islam, which he knew nothing about.) White privilege, you say? What white privilege? I’d say somebody else had the privilege.
Every one of the conference attendees was African American, matching the composition of the host church, the Universal Truth Center. You should have heard the wholesale gasping when I referred to “the disastrous Black Lives Matter movement, based on lies.” And here’s the second bit of irony. The group holding the meeting was a New Thought organization. The central tenet of New Thought (which I discuss quite sympathetically in my book Top Secret) is a kind of “mind over matter” doctrine, that the universe is malleable, subject to change and reshaping in accordance with the directions, the “affirmations,” of human beings. New Thought is predicated on Pantheism: every individual is inherently and essentially divine. So is the universe. And one part can influence the others. New Thought is cousin to Christian Science and shares its faith that one can think away illness. God can’t be ill, so we can’t be either unless we buy into the illusion that we are not God and can be sick. I suspect the illusion is on the wrong foot here. It presupposes the Division Fallacy: if something is true of the larger whole it must be equally true of every individual part of it. If America is a wealthy nation, it follows that I personally must be rich, right? Wrong.
…the Left has successfully used the “Law of Attraction” to manifest an ugly race-hate climate that didn’t exist until they conjured it into being by insisting it was real. And it became real.
At any rate, New Thought believers hold that one may “creatively visualize” a desired outcome and thereby “manifest” it in reality. There is a psychological wisdom in this attitude, but even New Thought folks tacitly admit it is not automatically or always successful. They have a “booby prize” back-up excuse when it doesn’t work, precisely parallel to the cold-comfort rationalization employed by Pentecostals: “You will definitely be healed if you claim healing from God!” Then, “Oh, uh, you’re still not healed? Er, you must not have had enough faith! Yeah, that’s the ticket!” New Thought gurus and channelers will tell you that your affirmations did not actually fail. Perish the thought. No, it must be that Source, God, the Universe, Oprah or whoever had something better in mind for you. Maybe so, but if you’d had that in mind at the start, it would have sapped the absolute confidence you were told you needed.
Okay, here’s the irony “manifested” at the conference the other day. The Black Lives Matter movement is a case where it does work. It is all based on a traditional Leftist tactic employed by Mussolini and others, the useful, potent myth that will motivate the crowds better than some equivocal, ambiguous facts. You know Al Gore’s schlockumentary title, “An Inconvenient Truth”? Well, this is the “convenient untruth.” If it were true, boy, would it get people stirred up to act! So let’s say it is true! Black Lives Matter is founded squarely upon debunked lies about the death of a worthless thug, as if he had been gunned down by a white cop while raising his hands in surrender. He wasn’t. In addition, the endlessly repeated narrative about police being on a hunt for young black men is sheer nonsense, refuted again and again by stubborn statistics. (See Heather Mac Donald, The War on Cops and Are Cops Racist? That is, if facts matter to you more than unsubstantiated propaganda.)
I call it the Trayvon Martyr Syndrome. It is a wider phenomenon, and a particularly nefarious one. There had been substantial progress in putting racism behind us in America, thanks to the courage of great reformers and real martyrs like Dr. King. But the Obama administration (advised by Al Charlatan) cynically fomented race hate for cheap political advantage and set us back years in race relations. Who knows why? Well, the Left has successfully used the “Law of Attraction” to manifest an ugly race-hate climate that didn’t exist until they conjured it into being by insisting it was real. And it became real. Their cop-hatred and obnoxious demonstrations, invading restaurants and rebuking diners for imagined racism and “white privilege,” had the predictable result: they had goaded the objects of their wrath into the very antagonism they had accused them of.
Or consider the tendency to defend black hooligans and criminals simply because they are fellow blacks, as if to call one a criminal amounts to indicting all African Americans. The most idiotic example of this must surely be a black Leftist official in Baltimore claiming that to call anyone a “thug” is racist. Uh, you mean because there is an inherent link between “black” and “thug”? Who except you is saying that? It is you who are inviting the rest of us to think so!
The sheer absurdity of all this blather about systemic racism was obvious from the fact that white America had elected the first black President!
But there is such a thing as “institutional” or “systemic racism.” But Leftists are looking in the wrong place for it. They ought to look in the mirror. For one thing, there’s the long-time reverse racism of Affirmative Action. The Leftist New Thought strategy was evident here, too. Let’s not aim for equality of opportunity. Let’s legislate equality of outcomes. Take the short cut. Only it was a short-cut to getting lost. Instead of the hard work of preparing African Americans academically, let’s just pretend their job candidates are well-prepared whether they are or not. It’s like giving kids participation trophies. It inflates and thus devalues genuine black American achievement. This “black privilege” fosters white suspicions that African Americans cannot cut it. Of course they can (and do) if given the opportunity for adequate preparation.
And whose fault is it that so many aren’t? I say it is the condescending policies of Democratic administrations starting with LBJ who frankly admitted his War on Poverty was a scheme to make African Americans (not the word he used, by the way) permanently dependent on the Democratic Party. Welfare has resulted in generation after generation of addiction to poison goodies. It has made the African American husband superfluous as a bread winner and has resulted in an incredibly high rate of out-of-wedlock babies and fatherless families. (It is unfashionable to say this, partly because of feminist-extremist ideology that celebrates such broken family structures.) Check out African-American scholar Shelby Steele’s White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era.
Male children of such families have no male role models in the home and wind up getting (anti)socialized by street gangs, channeling their burgeoning male energies into predation and savagery, the state of pre-civilization. No wonder they don’t take school seriously. Lacking discipline at home, they don’t miraculously start behaving when the school bell rings. Worse yet, they repudiate academic success and ridicule black classmates who do strive for it. They think that to succeed is to “act white.” Where did they get this idea? From the local Ku Klux Klan chapter? No, from self-appointed African American demagogues like the Reverend Sharpton, who promote the notion that the white society is stacked against them. If you do manage to succeed, you must have bought into the white System, which makes you a race traitor. This is bizarre and perverse thinking, not to mention self-fulfilling prophecy. It is a system of racism all right, but one created by the Left. Again, it’s a ruinous application of the vaunted Law of Attraction, and it worked. (Take a look at Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America by John McWhorter, another black scholar.)
But sometimes Leftist New Thought does not work. The Obama administration’s economic and foreign policies were based on an inflexible ideological model of the world, of “social justice,” climate change apocalypticism, and “the arc of history,” forged in Ivy League faculty lounges. The administration steadfastly refused to be confused with the facts. The story is told of Hegel that, after he pontificated on the dialectical unfolding of history, a brave student raised his hand and ventured, “But, Herr Hegel, the facts are otherwise!” The philosopher’s response: “Then so much worse for the facts!” Well, Herr Obama, Herr Sharpton, Herr Holder, the facts are otherwise. And of course sometimes the facts don’t like being ignored. Sometimes they bite back.
I mentioned the similarity between New Thought and Pentecostalism. In fact they often overlap. What happens when one stubbornly insists that things are not what they seem? That what displeases you is a metaphysical phantom or the devil’s lies (choose your idiom)? You sow the wind and reap the whirlwind. You will never be able to see how wrong you are. Your heedless adherence to your precious ideology makes you explain away the destructive results of your socio-political policies or your refusal to treat your illnesses with “worldly” medicine. Ad hoc hypotheses pop up to fill the vacuum. The ludicrous becomes plausible if it’s the last plank you can hang onto to save face for your erroneous notions. Again, “God must have healed you, so, er, you are healed! It just isn’t apparent to you because Satan’s counterfeiting the symptoms!” There’s no end to it. So whether it’s economic policies or faith healing, the result is dangerous fanaticism. Leftist inflexibility, immune to disconfirmation, results in what I call political snake-handling, and the victims don’t even know they’ve been bitten.
Maybe the funniest moment of the conference was when I pointed out that one of President Trump’s favorite books, which greatly influenced the course of his life and career, is Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking, a work famously permeated by New Thought principles. I observed that Donald Trump is probably the closest thing to a Christian New Thought president that we’ll ever get. The uniformly Leftist New Thoughters present at the conference somehow did not rejoice at this remarkable fact. You should have seen the squirming!
So says Zarathustra.
[If you’d like to read the paper I presented that day, see Republicans and Sinners: What Were Jesus’ Political Opinions. It was not this paper, however, that prompted the reactions I have described here, but rather a subsequent series of questions concerning my own political opinions.]