A Brief Reflection on the Crisis of Progressivism | Albert Bikaj
Nowadays we often read and hear the word crisis; it has become the main headline. It’s been discussing the intellectual and moral crisis; the crisis of society, the crisis of democracy, [the] Church crisis and even a rapid decline of the Western civilisation. Some of us may consider these concerns as alarmist and way too pessimistic, but having in mind the current situation, which is quite concerning, we simply cannot ignore the facts. Pretending facts don't exist, doesn’t change a single thing, it doesn’t change the truth. Yet, some seem to prefer to shut their eyes and continue living indifferently, as nothing is happening, or even quite the opposite, as optimists – as eternal progressives do – complain that we have been stuck backwards and we need to push forward to achieve progress.
As the notable C. S. Lewis said, we all want progress, but obviously, the problem is that we don't agree with the direction; we, Christian conservatives, think that society is heading down the wrong path and the most progressive thing to do is to turn back.  After all, Conservatism itself was born as a reaction, as scepticism towards the vision which Progressivism was promising. Conservatives are guided by known experiences, i.e. history, that's why they tend to be pessimists; meanwhile, progressives are focused on the unknown and untried. Looking at it in this way one can realise that this is not a new dilemma, not a new debate, or a new crisis, even though it might seem so. There are two ways of viewing this; either the ideology of Progressivism is in crisis, as liberal conservatives believe, or going a step further, as traditional conservatives believe, that Progressivism is in itself the cause of the crisis. The first, who believe its prophecy today might look at it in disbelief; meanwhile the former, who were sceptical from the beginning, are not much surprised. Conservatives, especially Christian conservatives, know that the socio-political and cultural crisis with which we have been dealing is a consequence of wrong ideas, above all, it is fundamentally a consequence of a distorted anthropological and theological vision, which has led us down the wrong path.
It is not a coincidence that ever since the French Revolution, the Western World has witnessed the rise of the concept of ideology which has replaced the concept of Logos - truth. Inherently it rejected Christianity in the name of Science and Reason. This is one among many reasons why the controversial Spanish Catholic integralist Félix Sardà y Salvany classified liberalism as a sin. [Now his claims might sound radical, and his solutions even more, which certainly I do not agree with.] Nonetheless, there's some truth in it – at least symbolically, as a definition for progressive liberalism. Historians of ideas like Sir Larry Siedentop and Eric Nelson have written on this issue, and have concluded that the origins of liberalism, no matter how surprising or ironic it might seem today, hail from a theological Christian idea. That idea was Pelagianism, an ancient heresy which denied the concept of the Original sin and by that denied the human’s need for God’s grace to achieve salvation.
The disagreement on Human Nature was fundamental even back then, just as it was during the rise of progressives and continues to remain the same nowadays. Not only did it reject the Christian view of Human Nature but the Natural Law, as well. Broadly speaking liberals, just as Pelagians and most materialists, hold an optimistic view considering Human Nature as inherently good, by believing it can evolve and progress. From such a perspective it is called heresy, not because it is entirely wrong but because it is a partial truth, thus it offers wrong solutions.
Conservatives, guided by the truth of Christianity and history, disagreed with this old-novelty, knowing that crisis is the natural condition of human beings and without supernatural aid, and that progress of Human Nature if such a thing exists, is very slow and limited. But these truths alongside Christianity have been rejected. Thus, the cult of Man and the cult of the State were born at the beginning of de-Christianisation. Which later evolved into dehumanising ideologies such as the cult of class, race, and nation. On this issue, it is important to mention the remarks of the German Pope, Benedict XVI. During one of his speeches, he emphasised that ever since this violent process of the continuous Christianisation, the West has been heading to a turning point, which is leading rapidly towards the de-Hellenisation of culture and thought.
The consequences of this radical change have begun to show their fruits. Today it has different names, labels and definitions, namely such as 'Wokeness' and 'Cancel Culture', but one of the most interesting definitions was coined by Pope Emeritus himself. He categorised it as a 'dictatorship of relativism’ — a tyrannical and anti-intellectual ideology which according to him ‘does not recognise anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one's ego and desires. This is what we would call half-truths or what we often hear as 'my truth' and 'your truth'.
The Western progressive thinkers, alongside their followers, throughout modern history, do not realise that by losing faith sooner or later, one loses reason. The predominating progressive intellectual creed of the elite has ceased believing such a thing exists. Ironically, for postmodern progressivism, this has become not only the 'new truth' but has reached a zealous level of unquestionable orthodoxy. Otherwise, if you disagree, you’re automatically excommunicated and condemned as an extremist, authoritarian, neo-fascist, etc. The situation has reached absurdity. It has become tragi-comical. There are plenty of such examples, but I'll mention only a few. The mainstream media and various progressive influential intellectuals demonised and tried to cancel liberal conservatives like Dr Jordan Peterson, by considering him far-right. As well, it's worth mentioning the concerning case of Paivi Rasanen, a former Finish interior minister and Christian-Democrat, who was sued for being 'homophobic' because of her orthodox Catholic view of sexuality and marriage.
Last but not least, the case of the EU, which was originally founded on the Christian-Democratic principles but has completely detached itself from it, has published documents which called to avoid greeting the Christian feasts by their name because of words like Christmas might offend the minorities. The glue, Logos, which kept our reason and common sense is fading rapidly. It has become evident that liberalism, without orthodox Christianity and its ethics, becomes tyrannical.
A society without the truth becomes meaningless. For a human being such a spiritual and psychological condition — a state of meaninglessness slowly becomes unbearable. This is why such ideologies, which perceive humans only from the naturalistic and materialistic point of view, end up creating destructive ideologies and cultures which destroy civilisations; disfigure and dehumanise humans. By promising heaven on Earth they turn the Earth into a state of hell. We have witnessed its culmination during the 20th century – Marxism, Nazism, and Fascism – which are by-products of progressivism. And this is the root of the problem of progressivism. By holding a secularised Pelagian view it denies the historical truth of human nature and its creator, it rejects the truth, the wisdom of history, and tradition.
The current situation is far from being good, but as long as we have faith and embrace the truth, there’s no need for despair. It’s our duty to be the Salt and Light of the World. (Mt 5:13-16). I conclude this brief reflection with T. S. Eliot’s encouraging and prophetic quote:
The World is trying the experiment of attempting to form a civilised but non-Christian mentality. The experiment will fail, but we must be very patient in awaiting its collapse; meanwhile redeeming the time; so that the Faith may be preserved alive through the dark ages before us; to renew and rebuild civilisation and save the World from suicide.
– Albert Bikaj/The NeoMedievalist
Originally published at OrthodoxConservatives.com