MacIntyre: Cultural neutrality is a dangerous lie — and it never existed
One of the more encouraging phenomena over the last few years has been the growing awareness around the radical progressive indoctrination of children and young people in the United States. In some ways it was impossible to avoid, as woke propaganda became the default message of every movie, television show, book, and video game. When every corporation and sports team is wrapping its logo in a rainbow flag, the message is not exactly subtle.
Individuals like Chris Rufo or Chaya Raichik, owner of the Libs of Tik Tok Twitter account, have also done the Lord’s work in exposing the obscene, vile, and hateful nature of the material that the left is exposing children to.
The call to end progressive indoctrination is both understandable and justifiable, but many of those who oppose wokeness have made the error of suggesting a return to the era of cultural neutrality and an unbiased public square. This mythical era never existed, and the delusion of cultural neutrality is a dangerous one that leaves a society defenseless against ideologies that seek to destroy it from within.
It has become common practice for LGBTQ advocates to point at church services or videos of children learning to responsibly handle firearms and allege that these activities are more akin to indoctrination than any drag queen performance. I wish that were true. We would be in much better shape if church services did a better job of instilling the doctrines of their faith in children, but there is some truth to the point. Things that seem obviously wholesome and healthy to conservatives are scary and threatening to progressive activists. The difference between moral visions is so radical that what seems only natural to one is completely abhorrent to another.
Conservatives are becoming more comfortable with pushing back against an ideology that is hostile to their values and to their children’s well-being, but they still fail to grasp how that ideology was allowed to take hold in the first place. When conservatives argue against woke cultural indoctrination, they generally appeal to the idea of value-neutral institutions that do their job without advancing any worldview, but this concept is itself a liberal fiction. When I say liberal, I do not mean progressive or woke; I mean classically liberal, a tradition of thought that many conservatives will actively identify with today.
Too many on the right have bought into the notion that many social institutions, like government and corporations, exist in a secular space where decisions are made independent of any moral or ideological framework. Small-government conservatives just want to be left alone, and they were convinced to abandon the representation of their own values in the public square by an argument of mutual disarmament. This notion is also very appealing to disaffected, centrist former progressives who find the current revolution too radical for their own tastes. The centrists still consider conservative values backward and dangerous, but they do seek a return to the liberalism of the 1990s, the sort that still made arguments about free speech. They would balk at reintroduction of Christianity into public life, but they are willing to make common cause with conservatives if they stick to the notion of institutional neutrality. The centrists do not want their kids learning gender theory in third grade, but they would be just as outraged if it were the Ten Commandments.
The ideological disarmament promised to conservatives never came, and they quickly found themselves the target of cultural persecution with no defense other than an appeal to the neutrality by which the left never intended to abide. Former NFL coach Tony Dungy and NHL player Ivan Provorov both became targets of the woke mob due to their Christian faith last week. Dungy attended the March For Life, and Provorov refused to wear the pride jersey mandated by the Philadelphia Flyers. Sports commentators attacked both men as intolerant bigots, and some went so far as to suggest that Provorov should be deported back to his native Russia for heresy against the new state religion. Many Christians quickly responded by asking for tolerance of their beliefs, the same tolerance that they had been commanded to extend to others, but the left is not as foolish.
A political movement that is willing to mutilate children in the name of gender ideology does not care about appeals to cultural neutrality. Progressives understand that their religion is incompatible with Christianity and always has been. Calls for mandatory toleration were always just points of entry into American institutions, never a shared principle to be extended to Christians or any other belief system that would compete with progressivism.
The evidence of this is very clear, as the left has now made it all but impossible for those who hold to orthodox Christian doctrine to interact with public institutions. Holding basic beliefs about the definition of marriage will get you fired from most corporate employment, chased out of a sports league, and disqualified from holding most government positions. For progressives, tolerance means their views reign supreme without question, and they feel no shame in destroying the lives of anyone willing to challenge their dominance.
Liberalism offered Americans a vision of neutral institutions that would allow for a society free of competing moral visions. All the conflict of existential question about religion or ultimate meaning could be put aside as everyone operated on a minimum acceptable morality that would allow for different groups to work together in the marketplace. Neutral institutions would eschew ideology in favor of objective and expert management that would improve the lives of society as a whole.
This was always a lie. There is no such thing as a neutral institution. Governments, corporations, and media are constantly making decisions of value, and those decisions will be made based on a moral framework. The moral framework on which social institutions make decisions will be transmitted through everything they do. There is no way of avoiding this truth.
A religion that believes drag shows are good for children but church services are bad for them will not share institutions with Christians; it will expel them or it will be expelled. Liberalism cannot mediate this conflict of moral visions; someone wins and someone loses. There is no third option.
This does not mean that America must become some cartoonish liberal notion of a theocracy like “The Handmaid’s Tale,” but it does mean that conservatives need to assert a competing vision. Even if the right could strip wokeness out of every American institution, attempting to return to a value-neutral space simply invites the next predatory ideology to take hold. James Burnham called liberalism the ideology of Western suicide, because it made a society incapable of defending its own values and culture.
The question is not: Should your society transmit values through its institutions? The question is: What values will your society transmit through its institutions? A positive vision is the only thing that will protect American institutions from hostile ideology, and conservatives must provide one if they intend to retake their country.