The Guardians of “The Narrative” vs. Truth

The Guardians of “The Narrative” vs. Truth

I take this title from a piece by the great and erudite Roger Kimball where he asks if these Guardians will win. Before I discuss the Guardians, let me preface my comments by a brief history of where this idea of narrative comes from. The concept goes back to the 16th century, and it means, “a tale, a story, a connected account of the particulars of an event or series of incidents.” As such it was applied primarily to fiction, like the plays of Shakespeare, but it can apply to the ark of any story line. It’s the big picture, if you will, that helps define the meaning of the details of the picture. It’s most powerfully, and deleteriously, used in our time to push political and cultural agendas. We have Friedrich Nietzsche to thank for the initial idea that was then developed by postmodernist scholars in the 1970s and 80s when postmodernism became “a thing.”

Very simply, modernism given to us by the Enlightenment believed finding truth was attainable solely by reason. The romantic movement started pushing back against this in the late 18th century, and by the late 19th century Nietzsche pushed it off a cliff. That’s where the postmodernists (after modernism) come into the picture. They took his ideas and argued truth per se doesn’t exist, contrary to Nietzsche who believed strongly in truth. All that does exist is the meta-narrative (a culture’s big picture) and we derive our meaning of what is “true” or not from that. Basically we’re all living a novel, and whoever the societal author is (or in a culture’s case, the authors are) determines how we interpret the story. There is obviously some truth to that, but postmodernists literally believe truth doesn’t exist or even if it does it is irrelevant. These ideas were catnip for leftists, who not only do not believe in truth, but believe narratives are to be used to establish their political power.

 

This is a short video by two black liberal scholars who today are likely viewed as right wing radicals by the left. It is an excellent overview of these two poles of the metanarrative idea (they just used the word narrative). John McWhorter (on the right) says because of the way it’s misused, he hates the word narrative. Then Glenn Loury counters, explaining how narratives work and can be used in positive ways to help people interpret their past and present as a people. He acknowledges they can also be misused in ways that harm people. The black victim narrative is one such way that has created untold misery and suffering. It’s well worth a six minute and thirty second listen.

Narratives and the Will to Power
Nietzsche argued that because God was dead and Christianity no longer offered a metanarrative (he never used the word) that could hold Western civilization together, man must develop his own moral framework to accomplish that. He believed that could only be accomplished by great men he called Übermensch, often translated as Superman or Overman. He never fully defined exactly what such a man was, but he developed a complimentary idea in the will to power. I don’t know enough about Nietzsche to know how he developed all this, but the idea certainly originated with him, and fit his worldview. The attempts to interpret Nietzsche are numerous, and there seem to be as many interpretations as scholars doing the interpreting. In essence his worldview was the result of his desire to fulfill Satan’s temptation to Eve, that he could be like God knowing good and evil. In a universe without God that is kind of the only choice. You have to be your own god, and he knew that. Therefore, if you are going to mold reality to your will, you must have the “will to power,” must impose that will on matter, including human beings. It was another idea he never fully worked out.

Fast forward to today, and the modern left epitomizes the “will to power” in the use of narrative. The left and the Guardians of the narrative (the media) have completely taken over Western culture, using their influence for political power, defined as legalized coercion. Governments have the monopoly on the use of force, which makes politics a very important business. The Democrat Party and legacy media shamelessly use the “will to power” in pursuit of their ideological agenda. Their hypocrisy is so in your face it’s almost impressive. Controlling or directing the narrative has always been important and a fact of existence in politics and government, but it is critically important in the information age. The left controls the narrative, however, specifically to mold and shape opinion regardless of truth. The only “truth” they care about is what serves their ideological interests and political power. This has become more egregious since Obama became president as we learn from “the paper of record,” the New York Times.

In the Spring 2020 journal Academic Questions, Dr. David Rozado did a word frequency usage study on New York Times articles written between 1970 and the end of 2018. He was looking for progressive/Marxist buzzwords used by groups with an ideological agenda. He discovered in 2010 and the years following such words and phrases had exploded in frequency. There are numerous charts in the article graphically displaying the jump in terms such as climate change, sexism, patriarchy, transphobia, homophobia, white supremacy, and so on. Apparently, all these things became such critically important issues around 2010 that America’s “paper of record” found it necessary to endlessly report upon them. In fact, they were doing what the left always does, driving “the narrative,” but in this case it went into overdrive. Joseph Goebbels would have been impressed.

The driving of “the narrative” took steroids when Trump came down the escalator to announce his run for president in June 2015. Speaking of the rebarbarization of civilization, Kimball gives an example we’re all too familiar with:

The 2020 election . . . took place during the period of eagerly embraced Covid hysteria. That hysteria provided a justification or, more accurately, an alibi for the numerous violations of the law in the conduct of the election. The Constitution of the United States stipulates that state legislatures are in charge of determining voting procedures. But various governors and secretaries of state, from blue states mostly, swept that Constitutional provision aside in their eagerness to assure the appearance of a Biden victory. Such anomalies were noted and commented on at the time but somehow never got traction. Why? Because the media, that great tool of The Narrative, determined that it oughtn’t to get traction.

Now that the media are “Guardians of the (left-wing) Narrative,” Edward R. Morrow must be rolling over in his grave. In their latest futile effort to destroy Trump, the Guardians have pulled out all the stops on narrative building because of the danger Trump poses to our DemocracyTM if he gets elected again. Oh the horror!!! Peter Berkowitz highlights some of these efforts in a piece explaining how these people imperil the rule of law (they believe they are a law unto themselves). He writes:

[A]nti-Trumpers have been sounding the alarm continuously against Trumpian tyranny since 2016 and have picked up the pace this cycle. This gives Democrats time to grasp the grave threat and take suitable precautions. But what precautions are suitable to thwart the authoritarian conquest of America.

For those who believe Trump is Hitler, there is nothing they won’t do to try to stop him.

God obviously has a terrific sense of humor. He not only picked Donald J. Trump, billionaire New York real estate developer and reality TV star to be the primary agent of change in this moment in history, He also apparently made him unstoppable. Everything the left and the Guardians have thrown at him for over eight years has only served to make him more popular and influential. Now that is funny!

Truth Wins
“Will the Guardians of The Narrative Win?” is the title of Kimball’s piece. I don’t believe he intended this to be a rhetorical question, but I do. Of course they won’t! If we live by sight, the odds of defeating them seem impossible, but God is in the habit of making the impossible possible. For example, the Lord tells Abraham and Sarah when she’s 90 and he’s 100 that they will have a son in a year. Sarah laughs at the absurdity of it. In reply, the Lord asks, rhetorically, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” Although not meant to be answered, Paul speaking about Abraham gives it to us anyway:

He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were (Rom. 4:17).

For the God who created everything out of nothing, raising the dead and doing “the impossible” is what he does for breakfast.

Every time you’re tempted to live based on what you see rather than trust, which leads to fear, worry, and doubt, first repent. Then remember He makes things to exist that currently do not exist. I encourage you to think about this revealed truth for a while. Not only does the truth therein apply to you personally, your life and problems and dreams, but to entire societies, or Jesus would never have commanded the Apostles to “make disciples of all nations,” not individuals. It is, of course individual people who make up nations, but Jesus was giving us the big picture, the meta-narrative, the purpose for which he came to earth. When people repent and believe on the Lord Jesus, it isn’t only for their personal salvation and holiness, or to grow the church and populate heaven, but to bring his kingdom reign to the entire earth, his blessings transforming this fallen world “as far as the curse is found.”

However, sometimes, as in the depth of the Covid scam, it appears the Guardians will win, but it is impossible for lies to ever triumph in the long run. The Negative Nellies and Pessimistic Pauls always give power to lies they do not possess. In the Trump years I’ve come to call them doomers because for them it always seems to be doom and gloom, the worst just around the corner. They have an unhealthy level of skepticism we call cynicism. I love this definition of that unhelpful state of mind: a faultfinding captious critic, especially one who believes that human conduct is motivated wholly by self-interest. If you didn’t know the definition of captious either, it means, marked by an often ill-natured inclination to stress faults and raise objections. The word nature is important. Such people are inclined to be this way because that is who they are. Christians, by contrast, should never be cynics or captious because it’s sin and it’s not who we are in Christ. So if you’re a cynic or given to cynicism, stop it! If you’re given to doom and gloom, repent, and pray for God to give you a spirit of trust in his almighty power. If Romans 8:28 is true, then all things in our lives, both personally and societally, work for our good and his glory. If you believe that, I mean really buy into it, circumstances, including other people, will have no power to control you, specifically your emotions and peace of mind. As the prophet Isaiah says,

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you (Is. 26:3).

There is a reason truth will always win eventually: Jesus. He who is the Truth (John 14:6) will make sure of it. But it’s bigger than that. Our confidence, even optimism, is based on what happened when Christ ascended to the right hand of God after his resurrection. As he says in the Great Commission, all authority had been given to him, therefore go. We go and work and plan and make it happen not in our authority and power, but in the authority and power of Jesus Christ. He is now reigning over all things toward his glorious ends in a new heavens and earth until every last enemy is vanquished, the last being death. Knowing this, we understand that the Guardians are spitting into a gale force divine wind. They don’t have a chance.

 

Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation (1863)

Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation (1863)

he year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. 

In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. 

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. 

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. 

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

A 12 Year-Old Show Us What Victory Looks Like, and The Gutenberg Press of the 21st Century

A 12 Year-Old Show Us What Victory Looks Like, and The Gutenberg Press of the 21st Century

I’m not a big fan of doomers, of people who resemble Chicken Littles, who always see the glass half empty, who always turn lemonade into lemons. You know the kind. I’ve never been a pessimist, but life has a habit of grinding us down, so going negative is always a temptation, and in the past I was often given to wondering if It’s hopeless and we’re always going to be on the losing side. That highlights my biggest challenge in the Christian life, trusting God, even when it comes to our current cultural and political moment. None of us want to completely lose our country to the cultural Marxists, AKA the woke globalist Uniparty elite. Thankfully, In God’s providence He’s given us a powerful weapon against the Babel-builders in our day, something the Babelians cannot silence any more than the Catholic Church could silence the Reformation in the 16th century, the Gutenberg press of the 21st century, the Internet. I remember coming upon this phrase in a blog comment somewhere and thinking, that’s it! We can’t be silenced, and ultimately cannot be controlled because truth will win. It allows us to fight back in what is essentially an information war. We got an example of how that’s done this week.

This kid, and even more his parents, are modern-day warriors in the 21st Century Reformation.

 

When I heard about this story, the first thing I thought was, this kid has awesome parents! Children don’t grow up like this if they have not been raised well. And not just that, but they have been taught to understand our historical moment, and learn what the stakes are. As some Christian traditions put it, they have effectively catechized their children. That word means “to instruct systematically especially by questions, answers, and explanations and corrections, and specifically: to give religious instruction in such a manner.” The key to that definition is systematically, or as Evangelicals often say, we need to be intentional in teaching our children, to be persuasive Christian parents. This is not the responsibility of the church or school or anyone else, but the parents. They have a part to play, but the ultimate responsibility is ours as parents. The Bible is very clear on that point. Just to take one passage from Deuteronomy 6 where Moses is teaching the Israelites what it means to Love the Lord their God:

These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life.

In the Bible it is always “you and your children.” Christianity is a multigenerational affair.

God wants to bless us, and that starts with families. He wants us to prosper and flourish in the promised land he has given us, and believe it or not (I know you won’t), that is this world! We live in the promised land, here now, because the promised land is simply where God dwells. The message of redemptive history is very clear that this is the entire point of it all, from God dwelling with man in the garden, then being expelled from God’s presence because of their rebellion. Then God teaches His people through the entire temple and sacrificial system that dwelling with them is what sets them apart from other nations, and finally Jesus coming as the Word made flesh and “dwelling among us.” We live right here, right now, in a land flowing with milk and honey! And God’s covenant promises, and the blessings that flow out of them, are as Peter says in Act’s 2, for us and our children, and for all those whom the Lord our God will call.”

Which brings us to our precocious 12 year-old. This kid’s parents knocked it out of the park! Listen to the mother schooling, pun intended, the school administrator in the video—priceless! And I know nothing about their religious convictions, but I don’t have to. This middle schooler did not grow up in a secular household. Take that to the bank. And as Christians this episode teaches us several things. One is what I’ve said about our children all their lives: they would no more grow up to becomes liberals or leftists as they would grow up to become agnostics or atheists. Just ain’t gonna happen! Why? Because I’m so great? Of course not. It’s because I am annoyingly, persistently teaching them all the time! One Sunday after church when our youngest, then maybe 8, was getting annoyed and asked why I was always lecturing them. His older sister said, “Well, Dominic, because daddy’s always teaching.” That was truly one of the great moments of my life. And I’m still lecturing and teaching even though they are adults. Like me, they never arrive and outgrow the need to be taught. And where does my wife fit in all this? She teaches too; I’m just more obnoxious. My daughter could easily have said, “Daddy’s always annoying.” And I love it! They do too! Of course they’ll only admit that begrudgingly.

So what has all this to do with taking our country back from the woke globalist elite? Everything!

What this family teaches us is that to win it takes not just words but action in the face of cancel culture intimidation by the woke establishment, whether that comes from schools or government or corporations, or anything the culture throws at us. And when we do, the 21st century Gutenberg Press makes the cultural Marxists not only face a backlash from the mass of normal people, but from the law as well. What victory looks like in our time is utilizing peaceful and legal means to fight back and put the woke elite on the defensive. It’s a beautiful thing to see. This situation is a perfect example. Instead of backing down in the face of woke intimidation, this family fought back knowing they had the law on their side. Too many people cower and cave; we don’t have to.

As we’ve learned over the last fifteen years when Obama led the cultural Marxists to the pinnacle of government, cultural, and corporate power, all they have is lies. For them, “the narrative” is all, and “the narrative” is whatever advances their ideological or political agenda. Truth is irrelevant. Hypocrisy is a virtue, and projection the strategy: whatever they project upon their enemies, is what they themselves do. It’s actually quite impressive because they are relentless and utterly shameless. And having all the cultural, corporate, and government power now on their side, they believe they are invincible. They are not. As I often say, in 2023 we are in a period comparable to the late 1980s when the Soviet Union still appeared invincible too. Few living at that time ever imagined the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union would ever cease to exist, at least in our lifetimes. Then all of a sudden, they were gone. They too, like the woke left in our time, were an empire of lies, and lies cannot endure. All it takes is fight and action. Sometimes even a 12 year-old can show us the way, how to tell the left, don’t tread on me!

Calvin Coolidge on the 4th of July

Calvin Coolidge on the 4th of July

In 1926 in the early days of the rise of progressivism in America, President Calvin Coolidge gave a 4th of July address on the 150th anniversary of that blessed day. It’s worth reading the entire address, but I’ve pulled out two sections that indicate he understood in some sense a “fundamental transformation of America” was under way, in President Obama’s infamous words. We are now on the other side of that transformation and we see just how ugly it can be. Let us take his words to heart, and pray and fight like the patriots who bequeathed this great country to us, that God grants us again that liberty under God which so many fought and died and lived for.

About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful. It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning cannot be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction cannot lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers.

He concluded:

We live in an age of science and of abounding accumulation of material things. These did not create our Declaration. Our Declaration created them. The things of the spirit come first. Unless we cling to that, all our material prosperity, overwhelming though it may appear, will turn to a barren scepter in our grasp. If we are to maintain the great heritage which has been bequeathed to us, we must be like-minded as the fathers who created it. We must not sink into a pagan materialism. We must cultivate the reverence which they had for the things that are holy. We must follow the spiritual and moral leadership which they showed. We must keep replenished, that they may glow with a more compelling flame, the altar fires before which they worshiped.