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Politics as Prelest—An Orthodox Christian Meditation on Our Current State of Political Disorder

The word Ideology is a neologism coined by Antoine Louis Claude Destutt, Comte de Tracy.  Tracy was a materialist who argued that ideas are formed by physical sensations and perceptions.  He invented the term ideology to describe this phenomenon.  He claimed this to be a biological imperative.

Thomas Jefferson was greatly influenced by Tracy’s writings.  Napolean Bonaparte, however, was not so impressed and when he came to power, utilized the terms ideology and ideologue pejoratively to describe the French intellectuals of the Revolution broadly as people who were fixated on ideas and systems.  The term has also become accepted in certain circles among philosophers as useful shorthand for a range of historical and psychological and spiritual aberrations, what one German-American philosopher called “deformation of consciousness.”

Eric Voegelin was a major force in the recovery of classical philosophy as an experience.  He was raised and educated in Germany.  Voegelin managed to escape the Gestapo by minutes, having been tipped off about his arrest by a friend, and was able to travel to America.  Fortunately, the Gestapo was not so efficient as to put his wife Lissy in jail, and she was able to join him.

The reason for his arrest would have been the publication of his book, Race and State, published the year Hitler came to power.  The book is an analysis and condemnation through rational argument of the Nazi race theory, including an in-depth critique of Darwinian evolution—the overarching theory that was used by a number of Nazi intellectuals to give substance to Hitler’s cruder race theories.  Later, Voegelin would joke that he doubted anyone in the Gestapo had ever read it!

Over the succeeding decades, Voegelin developed a number of philosophical concepts intended to analyze the nature of ideology as a constant, with an identifiable structure, but the most trenchant phrase he used was “libidinous obsession.”  Just as a physician diagnoses a physical disease, Voegelin diagnosed modern politics in terms of a lust for domination.  This should be differentiated from the conventional lust for power and control by various potentates and emperors throughout history in that it now refers to a universal theory that applies to everyone.

Ideology is the dominant political factor in the world today. Voegelin’s greatest contribution is to identify ideology as the dominant spiritual factor.  Ideologues intend to replace traditional philosophical and Christian faith and virtues with a new spiritual movement that will transfigure history and human nature.  Liberal ideology advocates an incremental evolution away from religious “superstition” and “myth” toward a more enlightened, rational and “scientific” outlook on the world.  The more revolutionary ideologues call for a dramatic and rapid transformation of society, human relationships, political and economic structures, and how we perceive and think about everything.

Both enlightenment liberalism and totalitarianism stem from the same historical roots, according to Voegelin.  These quasi- or erzats-religious movements claim that reality is what you make it, and that we can all create our own “Second Reality” to replace the current reality that is abhorrent and intolerable, unjust, and laden with artificial and arbitrary impositions on human desires.  Voegelin borrowed the term “second reality” from the novelist Robert Musil.  This second reality is an immanent reality, as opposed to the transcendent reality that grounds the Christian and philosophical noetic experience.  No longer do we have to wait for a heavenly reality of peace and harmony and universal justice.  We can make that happen now through political means, which requires an obsessive lust for dominating reality in every detail.

Voegelin discovered the historical origins of ideology in various Christian heresies, including the periodization of history by Joachim of Flora, as well as various chiliastic and apocalyptic-millenarian movements that break out in full force as violent political phenomena in the Crusades, and later in the German Reformation.  These apocalyptic movements typically include the promise of a fast track to heaven, a commitment to revolutionary political action and the advocacy of political violence to achieve its ends.  For a full historical treatment of millenarianism, Voegelin recommended The Pursuit of the Millennium by Norman Cohn.

Then you have the curious case of John Calvin who was well read in the Church Fathers, not just Augustine, and yet managed to produce a religious “system” which explicitly states that people have no role in their own salvation.  God has predestined salvation and damnation.  Your only role is to accept and follow your predetermined destiny.  What follows is something called “sanctification.”

Eric Voegelin correctly identified this system as neo-pagan.  In their highly developed mythology, the ancient Greeks, especially the playwrights, dramatized human behavior as a reflection of the constant state of war among the gods.  We each have a part to play in that drama, but we are not free to step outside of the drama.  We are puppets in the hands of the gods.  Our wrath, resentments and lusts are merely a playing out on earth of the conflicts among the gods, who, at times, temporarily enter the earthly realm to engage in their intense battles.  We are simply avatars of their actions.  It is a very persuasive explanation for both the heroic and sinful actions that human beings engage in which would otherwise be inexplicable.

Heraclites, Socrates and Plato developed philosophical wisdom in part to explicitly counter this madness, urging their followers on a path of obedience to a Universal Divine Law.

John Calvin explicitly rejected a Christianity grounded in obedience to Divine Law, but especially to the laws of the Catholic Church.  Because your destiny has been predetermined by God, spiritual and moral obedience will get you nowhere.

One can only imagine the psychological power of such a doctrine.  There is no need for the extreme demands of faith and obedience in the traditional sense, although, paradoxically, one has to be blindly obedient to the Calvinist system in order to realize your salvation.

As a system builder, Calvin could not hold a candle to Karl Marx, who borrowed directly  from Calvin’s system.  History is inevitably moving toward the commune.  This outcome is historically predetermined and cannot be resisted.  Revolutionary violence will be required in the early stages.  But once human nature has been transfigured all of the causes of sin throughout history will be eliminated.  Transfiguration will be brought about by the complete re-organization of society at every level, but especially the family.  There will be no families.  There will be no human relationships at all.  Only communal existence.  In the process, all vestiges of traditional religion and what he termed “bourgeois values” will be eliminated from human consciousness.

While Karl Marx is conventionally studied for his economic theories, the Communist Manifesto makes clear his purpose is really elsewhere:  destruction of the culture.  Marx also claimed his system was “scientific,” therefore proven, therefore not subject to criticism.

The undivided Church in the first millennium engaged in seven Ecumenical Councils to deal with the problem of certain heresies that, in each instance, had gained widespread support.  The Church engaged in spirited public debates over these heresies and in each instance the Church believes and teaches that Orthodox wisdom won the argument.  The debates are thoroughly documented and available to anyone who is willing to pick up a thick book and read it.

Marx, on the other hand, changes the ground of the “argument.” There is no debate.  Plato recognized the same phenomenon among the Sophists, who, when pressed into a corner by Socrates’s rigorous methods of questioning, would, at a certain point when they see their arguments failing, change the subject!  In the Symposium, Plato describes the Sophists as “alchemists” and magicians for their ability not only to rapidly change the ground of the argument, but for their belief that reality itself can be transformed by their brilliant words.

With ideology, there can be no debate.  All of the debates have already taken place.  It is now time for action.  Only now it is not God who has decided what actions to take.  Nor is there room for individual freedom of choice.  History is god and it has decided.  The outcome is predetermined.  As for anyone who raises questions, he represents the reactionary faction which is the only reason why we have not by now achieved Utopia.  The ideologue will not engage in rational debates with the heretics, but he will plot to eliminate them, either by revolutionary violence, re-education camps, or starvation.  Or by incrementalism.  In America we don’t need revolutionary violence to eliminate the heretical elements because we have something call the public school system!

Voegelin wrote about his reading of Hegel and describes his difficulty in getting at the core of Hegel’s ideas, until it struck him that that Hegel was a magician.  Through the “magic of the word,” Hegel believed he was transforming history, that in fact Hegel himself was the culmination of history.

It’s not a stretch to say that every child in America today is taught by his teachers, by the media, by politicians, and, sadly by pastors, priests, and even his parents that he or she is the center of history, destined to change the world!  Children are not taught to live by faith and obedience to a Universal Divine Law, as Heraclitus put it, as the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes recite.  Quite the opposite.  Children are taught that their purpose in life is to take control of their own destinies, to (magically) live according to their dreams, and to strive to make the world a good place by fighting injustice.  Injustice will magically disappear by, for example,  engaging in public protests.  Better yet if you are arrested!  According to the brainwashing taking place, living a virtuous life has nothing to say for itself and has been proven all too often, in the minds of the ideologues, to take a passive stance in the face of social injustice.

Specific examples will be helpful to demonstrate how ideologies follow the same pattern or structure.  Consider the problem of “global warming.”  Utilizing Voegelin’s approach to political symbols, we can see in the dire warnings of the global warming advocates a classic apocalyptic symbolism at work.  The end of the world is near.  We have ten years to save the world.  This is what the planet is telling us.  It has revealed to us that we are sinning against it, and it is reacting: with more hurricanes, violent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.  The planet is pleading with us to stop!  The environment is god.  And you know what happens if you defile god!  If you join our movement, then we will be able to save the planet and all living things from extinction.  If we don’t get the job done in ten years then we will be at a tipping point when warming will spin out of control and there is nothing that we will be able to do (remember the hockey stick?).  To save the planet we must radically transform human society and human nature, now!

The urgent call for Christian conversion is transformed into an urgent political call to arms.  We must stop consuming and producing.  Coincidentally, the way we save the planet is the same way that we produce a Marxist/Socialist paradise.  We must also reduce the world population by at least half (Bill Gates).  Heretics should be labeled “science deniers” and fired from their jobs and their writings censored (in other words, condemned to Hell).  But if you join our political movement as part of the vanguard, you will not only be saving yourself, you can be a New Christ, saving the world.  How cool is that!  (Pun intended).

When confronted with reality, the fact that every decade the apocalypse is moved back a decade (the same phenomenon in which apocalyptic Christians predict the return of Christ, only to have to repeatedly push back the timeline), the fact that satellite monitoring indicates no global warming in the last twenty years, the fact that slight CO2 increases are actually greening the planet, the global warming alarmists simply change the words from “global warming” to “climate change” and continue to cling to their ideological fixation.

Another stunning example of ideological fixation is the insistence that men can elect to become women and compete in women’s sports.  If you oppose this as the insanity it, then you are condemned, shamed, even fired from your job as a bigot who is denying the “other” his or her or its freedom to choose.

The all-pervasive form of ideological fixation today is represented in the term “progressivism.”  This is the belief that there is an inevitable march of progress in History.  Progressivists have immanentized the Christian theme of the progress of the soul in this life toward the next.  Progress is a distinctly (traditional) Christian idea.  There is no “eternal return” in Christianity.  There is no absorption into a “world soul” in Christianity.  Each person’s distinct uniqueness—including bodily uniqueness—is preserved.  Nor is it static.  Christianity is both progressive and personalistic.

By contrast, political progressivism on the left diminishes the person in favor of the collective.  It is also a secularized form of millenarianism.  The world will eventually return to a prelapsarian state.  This is an inexorable process.  Have you not heard of the phrase, “you can’t stand in the way of progress?”

Progressivism is a term appropriated largely by the left.  But virtually all Americans, whatever their partisan political convictions, believe in some form of progressivism.  For libertarians (political heirs of the Whig Party), life will continue to get better and better as long as we permit individuals to pursue their own happy destiny without being micromanaged by politicians.  As the Victorian liberal Matthew Arnold put it:  “each and every day, the world is getting better in each and every way.”

Philosophically, progressivism is easy to refute.  The world will come to an end someday.  The end will be just like the beginning:  nothing.  So where is the progress?  People who permit reality to be their teacher understand that some things get better and some things get worse.  For every sin society eliminates it seems like a more sinister one crops up to make things worse.  We eliminated slavery and invented totalitarianism.  The 20th Century was demonstrably the most barbaric century in recorded human history.  The plague on mankind inflicted by the totalitarians is still with us and still attracts many adherents (especially among the college educated in the West).

Paradoxically, the only way for the ideologue to take control of reality is to surrender to the demands of an ideological system and to become fixated on that system to the exclusion of all else.  Because only the system can lay out the proper plan for this magical change that needs to come about.  Resistance is futile.  Ideology is not pro-freedom.  It is pathological slavery to a theory which seeks to enslave everyone else to the same theory.  It is inherently coercive.

Voegelin wrote numerous volumes in search of what we might call a unifying theory to explain the libidinous attraction of ideology.  He examined the history of various symbolic representations of spiritual disorder in apocalyptic, gnostic, and millenarian movements, which he attributed largely to the desire to bring the Holy Spirit down to earth.  He borrowed from Plato in his analysis of consciousness and his differentiation between a spiritual healthy consciousness and a pathologically deformed one.  He failed to examine Patristic sources that present us with a profound psychological profile of human agency that includes the difference between being free and being a slave.  More about that later.

There have always been men with a pathological, disordered and deformed consciousness.  We all are disordered to some degree.  But before the development of modern political movements, such disorder never laid claim to an overarching theory of politics.  Voegelin concluded that the answer lies in the structure of consciousness itself, not in the same sense in which a psychiatrist might examine someone for signs of mental imbalance, but as part of the transcendent structure of reality.  It is part of the very structure of consciousness to desire to “out comprehend the comprehending reality.”  One might say that, for Voegelin, this is the Original Sin.

Voegelin concluded that, as a philosopher, he could not detach himself from or place himself above the reality he seeks to understand.  Rather, the philosopher is a participant in reality, as are we all.  His first obligation, given the intellectual environment in which we live, is to root out any ideological formulations in his own consciousness and to be honest about the truth of reality as revealed, through a scientifically rigorous examination of human experience.

Voegelin seems to have intentionally avoided identifying with any particular Christian confession, tradition or practice as part of his effort to practice a scientifically rigorous exploration into the roots of spiritual pathologies, even though he was baptized Lutheran and left instructions to be buried as a Lutheran.  It is even said that he suffered a death-bed conversion, ironically so, since it was too late to write about it.

Even so, Eric Voegelin may well be the most significant Christian apologist in 500 years, for his successful recovery of the classical philosophical and, indeed Christian experience, although the latter is, of course, a matter of controversy.  Experience is neither subjective nor objective.  Experience is always an experience of something.  And that “something” always has a transcendent “ground.”  For example, when the Orthodox Church teaches a certain doctrine such as the Incarnation, that doctrine is grounded in the experience of the saints and ascetics who first articulated the doctrine.  The idea of the Incarnation did not drop from the sky in the form of information.  The idea is the fruit, or the symbolization as Voegelin called it, of a transformative spiritual experience.  It has no separate or objective reality of its own.  Any attempt to objectivize or subjectivize reality is wrong in principle, according to Voegelin. Ideologues objectivize their ideas, and subjectivize and relativize the comprehending reality.  But Orthodox Christianity, and Russian Orthodoxy especially, is grounded in experience.  In Russia’s case especially it is the experience of the acquisition of the Holy Spirit.  “Acquire the Holy Spirit,” says St. Seraphim of Sarov, “and a thousand souls will be saved.”

By recovering the classical and Christian focus on the experience of reality, Voegelin took a wrecking crew to the accretions of ideological pathologies that have built up over the past 500 years which constitute the primary threat to faith, virtue, reason and morality in the world today, as well as soundness of mind, or sobriety in the traditional religious sense of the term.  The practical result of his work is to enable people to take a fresh, open look at human experience in a way that doesn’t fetishize or systematize.

Today’s sins are not exactly the same as they were in the time of Moses or Plato or Jesus Christ.  Good old fashioned political sins that involved violent conquest, raping, burning, pillaging and enslaving was bad enough.  But ideology brings an entirely new complexity to the traditional understanding of sin as taught by the Church, unless you stretch the meaning of ideology to mean whatever you want it to mean, including religious belief.  In which case you would talk about the ideology of the New Testament, or the ideology of the Talmud, or the ideology of the Cappadocian Fathers.  Yet this is a common strategy of ideologues–to change the meaning of words in order to escape personal responsibility.

The closest thing we have to a Christian political analysis that predicts the potential evil influence of ideology can be found in St. John’s writings on “anti-christ.”  Anti-Christ is not a prediction of a particular ruler but rather a symbol for any political ruler or movement that promises salvation.  St. John is writing about “the spirit of anti-christ.”  “The spirit of anti-christ” is what Voegelin would call a “compact symbolization.”  St. John’s writings, apart from his Gospel are, indeed, highly symbolic and, sadly, the cause of much heretical speculation.  But as a summation of Voegelin’s analysis it is on point.

Unfortunately, the Christian churches, including the Orthodox Church, have never produced a person even approaching Voegelin’s depth and vision to address the problem of political disorder as a spiritual pathology, despite ideology being the predominant substitute for Christian faith and practice in the world.  As a consequence, many Christians, including Orthodox Christians, act as if they are Christians for a few minutes on Sunday morning and act and think ideologically for the rest of the week.  Even while in Church, when listening to sermons or presented with the Holy Mysteries, many worshippers are experiencing and observing through an ideological lens, the power of ideological thinking being so overwhelmingly powerful, pervasive and influential–the result of brainwashing that has gone on for hundreds of years.

The fundamental myth of the ideologue is that we are in control, of ourselves and of reality as a whole.  The sets up an inevitable conflict.  Because we are not in control, and when things don’t go our way we insist there is a massive conspiracy against us.  The ideologue claims victim status, not just for himself, but for most of mankind.  The strategy of the ideologue is to create more and more victims to the point that revolution, motivated by anger, envy and revenge, becomes the only way out.

Christianity teaches that we are all slaves to something.  We are either slaves to God or slaves to our passions (i.e. Satan).  The teachings of the great saints and ascetics are designed to instruct the sinner in the practical method of discriminating between the two at the early stages of demonic suggestion.  The ingenious method of Satan is to place the suggestion in our minds that we either are now, or will soon be in control, that God is a liar and can’t be trusted, and that we know best.

Priests and bishops do their best but are often left with the question: “is anyone listening?”  It is virtually impossible to hear the truth when your assumption is that you are in control of the process.  What the Church does not understand, and does not include in its catechetical training for priests or the faithful, is that we are incapable of listening if our seeing and hearing is impaired by an ideological barrier.  Until that barrier is smashed the Church will continue to recede into a state of insignificance as we wait passively for a saving remnant to emerge once the power of ideology suffers its burnout.

In Orthodox Christianity in particular, the emphasis is today, as it always has been, on holiness.  But traditional instruction is typically focused on the individual person’s spiritual struggle against demonic influences as he progresses on the path toward holiness.  It does not include the demon of modern politics as part of its diagnosis and cure of the soul.  Today, the Church must also confront the demono-maniacal nature of modern politics—as Voegelin called it—as the primary religious impulse in contemporary life.

A newfound seriousness with respect to political analysis is a vital necessity in the Church’s effort to provide pastoral guidance to its flock, but also to make its witness to the modern world.  This analysis would have little to do with partisan political factionalism.  Democrat or Republican, left or right, people today have become passive slaves to ideological mental images.  Republicans and conservatives have simply adopted a different sort of “progressivism” than their left-wing opponents.

The Church is the only potentially effective counter-ideological force in the world today, and it is failing badly in its mission.  More often its leadership, from popes to patriarchs to Protestant preachers have made a bargain with the Devil by absorbing ideological slogans and academic babble into their teaching and preaching.

Eric Voegelin was confident that a spiritual revival would take place.  Just as the Soviet Union collapsed from within–as he predicted–he believed that people would eventually lose faith in ideology.  In its place, Voegelin called for a recovery of classical Reason.

Voegelin understood that classical Reason is a spiritual experience.  But it is most unlikely that a rediscovery of Plato and Aristotle, let alone a widespread interest in the writings of Eric Voegelin, are going to make a shred of difference in countering deformed spirituality of ideology.  That task is left to the Church.

The number one principle of holiness is universal.  It is not intended to be just for the individual.  When a person strives diligently for holiness, according to well established teachings from Holy Tradition, “a thousand souls will be saved” around him.  Holiness has a powerful ripple effect.  Christians who refused to fight back against Roman persecutions converted the Roman Empire to their faith—by the power of example, yes, but substantially by the power of God, Whose Spirit was transmitted from believer to unbeliever.  Likewise, one does not fight the influence of ideology head on, anymore than the Christian in the arena could expect to win a fight with a lion or a gladiator.

As a diagnostician, Voegelin was without peer.  But a doctor’s duty is also to prescribe a practical treatment that leads to recovery.  A treatment plan that works!  In the history of pathologies, it is often the case that new diseases appear and break out with a ruthless vengeance on large populations.  It can take decades or even many centuries for physicians to identify and isolate the pathogen and develop a treatment or cure.  We still do not understand cancer or have a medical cure for it.

The same is true for the pathology of ideology.  After 500 hundred years since its appearance, people still fail to identify ideology as a pathology.  We can be grateful to Voegelin the diagnostician, but we need to look elsewhere for a comprehensive treatment plan.

There is an established concept and method in Russian Orthodox Christianity that is worth turning to as the proper remedy, if the Church will only wake up.  That concept is Prelest.

Oddly enough, one of the best summations of prelest can be found on the Wikipedia page devoted to this teaching.  In fact, there is a warning posted that this page “has been nominated to be checked for its neutrality.”  It’s worth quoting at length now, before Wikipedia has a chance to censor it.

Prelest (from Russian: прелесть, from Russian: лесть – cajolery (charm, seduction), Greek: πλάνη – plani), also known as: spiritual delusion, spiritual deception, delusion, illusion, is an Orthodox Christian term referring to, according to Holy Fathers of the Orthodox Church, a false spiritual state, a spiritual illness, “a wounding of human nature by falsehood” (St. Ignatius Brianchaninov).[1]

Prelest should not be confused with mental illness, but a spiritual illness of the soul in its personal relation to God that originates from vainglory, pride, and demonic suggestion and that is to be cured by humility and Holy Sacraments and under the guidance of the spiritual father.[2] In a broad interpretation, everyone is considered to be in prelest, that is, everyone has some wrong thoughts and views, does not fully understand the meaning of life, and has a degree of their own sinfulness, etc.

When used in a narrow sense meaning that some particular person is in the state of prelest, it usually means that this person, initially being on the path of a pious Christian life, became possessed with the strongest pride and self-conceit right up to the thought about personal sanctity. To consider oneself a saint – that is a clear prelest because the closer a man is to God, the more he sees his imperfection, and all true saints considered themselves in the feeling of the heart the greatest sinners. The state opposite to prelest is spiritual sobriety.

Eric Voegelin used the term “petty paracletes” to refer to people who are captivated by ideological motivations, who firmly believe that they can save the world by reciting slogans.  Prelest is a perfect diagnosis of a person in such a state of mind.  Ideology is prelest writ large.

According to the anonymous Russian who is the author of the Wikipedia article, “teaching can be a kind of prelest in the following situations”:

  • “arbitrary teaching and advice without being asked (except for the cases when the person was explicitly appointed to teach without being asked).” When is the last time you actually asked an ideologue to teach you?  Ideologues are ALWAYS teaching you!  They have perfected the “teaching moment.”  They know how not to waste a good crisis. They are obsessed with teaching us and converting us.  How often have you been confronted by someone you don’t even know who insults, mocks and condemns you for your horrible opinions, simply because he has overheard you make an innocuous political or cultural comment, or has accused you of hate crimes because of your skin color?  These kinds of encounters are commonplace in America today, in the workplace, on college campuses, but especially in large urban communities.  If you live in certain parts of America you will have been exposed to religious fundamentalism.  The fundamentalist is a type who will tell you, unsolicited, that you are not a Christian.  The ideologue is of the same type.
  • “teaching someone who is not interested in the topic or who does not have previous experience and knowledge to understand.” The ideologue in every case leaps to the conclusion that you are vitally interested in what he has to say!
  • “teaching of something that the teacher does not know well, in particular, that he knows only from books, not from experience.” The spiritually sober person learns from experience:  experience of the world, the cosmos, of people, world events, and the presence of God in everyday circumstances.   The ideologue, by contrast, is constitutionally incapable of learning from “real-world” experience.  If, by some miracle, the ideologue does suffer a “real world” experience, it often results in him casting his ideological assumptions aside.
  • “arbitrary acquisition of the dignity of a teacher belonging to bishops and priests, e.g. teaching publicly on faith in the church.” Ideological movement leaders relegate to themselves the sanctity and wisdom and authority once reserved to the Church.

A spiritually sober person does not frequently or freely offer unsolicited advice or instruction.  He does not condemn or lecture from a position of superiority.  He first humbles himself.  If truly agitated by someone engaging in an ideological rant, he may play the role of Holy Fool (but only if it is natural for him to do so), and inwardly bless that person and pray for him.  If he is invited to engage in a debate, he may do so, but from a place of inner calm, realizing it is likely that his words will fall on deaf ears.  He will not be moved to anger when the ideologue shifts the ground of the argument in order to escape responsibility.  [Full disclosure:  the author is far from this state of sobriety].

Prelest is also evident in automatic actions.  When we in the Church engage in rituals without repentance we are doing so automatically, which is nothing more than paganism.  For a devout ideologue, all actions are automatic reactions.  It is theoretically possible to write a script for an ideologue in advance, predicting his words and actions in response to stimuli.  This is especially true with respect to media reports.  Virtually everything that is said in televised news is predictable.  Show me the event and I will tell you exactly what the news reports will say.  It’s not a matter of getting the report factually wrong, although that is invariably the case as well.  But Journalism 101 says that there must be a narrative to explain the meaning of the event.  Ideological narratives are predictable, automatic responses.

The spiritually sober man glorifies in his tribulations.  He sees his own sufferings as a gift, and he views the sufferings of others with compassion.  This is a free choice that he makes.  The ideologue is incapable of seeing or experiencing anything good about suffering.  There is nothing potentially redemptive about it.  All ideologies are grounded in anger against God for the suffering that exists in the world.  This causes an intense suffering within the ideologue that constitutes a profound mental and spiritual illness.  His only solution as far as he can discern is to join a movement dedicated to the elimination of suffering through social and political activism.  This desire, this lust to replace God and the consequent lust to dominate reality is a perfect description of prelest.

The Church must begin to recognize that it has the most powerful tools at its disposal that need to be taken off the wall of the garage, cleaned, sharpened, and applied to the most pervasive demonic influence in the world today:  ideology.  It should begin with its own teachings to the faithful, so they are alerted to the demonic nature of ideological thinking, and can learn how to identify these inner thoughts and seek aid in removing them.  But that requires that popes, patriarchs, bishops, priests and ministers first root out all vestiges of ideological images from their own consciousness.  Then the Church will have something very old but made new to share with the world.  Something that works.  Something that brings Heaven to Earth in the true, spiritual sense.  Something that is liberating like no other.

Owen Jones

Owen Jones is founder and executive vice-president of Argus Reservoir Monitoring, LLC. He has developed a Christian and classical curriculum and institution of higher learning and a state-wide coordinator for school reform.

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