Knud Skov, a confessional Lutheran from Denmark, sent me an essay that he had written about the origins of current assumptions about oppression, sex, and gender. I thought that what he says about the Frankfurt School, Michel Foucault, and Judith Butler would be of interest to all of my readers. He gave me permission to post the essay in its entirety.
Knud works with Lutheran Mission, an Inner Mission organization (recall my blog posts about Scandinavian Christianity). He is a missionary to the Roma people and to Muslim immigrants. He is involved with the Lutheran Heritage Foundation in translating Christian writings into Farsi, the “Persian” language of Iran. He has a Master’s degree in theology and a Master’s degree in communication and information technology. He told me that he has several relatives who are LCMS pastors and teachers in the United States.
He writes here about various “myths” that have taken over people’s thinking, even though they have little basis in reality. I would add to them the Myth of Christianity’s Departure in Europe, and the related Myth of Lutheranism’s Extinction in Scandinavia. This essay shows that European Christians, including Scandinavian Lutherans, not only exist, but are taking on the challenges of the current cultural climate.
Here is the essay:
The Myth of the Lemmings
By Knud W. Skov
In 2003, researchers were able to deny the myth that lemmings in years with many youngsters commit collective suicide. Disney created the myth of the 1950s to gain a point in a movie. Other myths have been constructed to give a certain angle to reality. . . and some build on the claims of former myths.
After the revolution in Russia in 1917, Marxists Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer traveled to Germany and later to the United States to spread Marxist revolution. They thought it would be possible to organize the many workers in Germany. However, they failed, because most of the Germans had been caught by Hitler’s massive seduction in the national social recovery of Germany after World War I. The two men fled from Germany to the United States, where they, among others, became known as the Frankfurt School.
In their book Dialectic of Enlightenment from 1944, they described a need – from a Marxist point of view – for media to write skeptically about society’s rulers. They claimed that media should be used for critical journalism to free the workers from lack of knowledge and ignorance. It was all meant to help in the fight against capitalistic oppression. It became one of the Marxists’ basic myths that “the media’s presentation of knowledge gives true freedom.” Ever since, media has interpreted knowledge and reality according to their agenda and later been the cause of the debate on true and “fake news.” Notice how also today the media seem to prefer their own interpretation by journalistic experts rather than giving the story un-interpreted from the source itself.
Even more important from their book is that they rewrote the Marxist slogan from the “proletariat must fight against capitalism” to a more general slogan, that “the oppressed have the right to fight against oppressors.” In doing so, they created another myth which, like “The Emperor’s New Clothes” by Hans C. Andersen distorts reality.
Everything that now can be called oppression is thereby made worth fighting against – and is thereby wrong. It is so, even if it has historical and empirical value, as it oppresses! It can be between employer / employee – men / women – normality / abnormality – between race, religion and age groups. When a minority calls out perceived oppression – whether it is French workers in yellow vests, Muslim hijab-clad women or sexual minorities – they stand on the shoulders of this claim from the Neo-Marxists. Sometimes it seems so right in places like Venezuela or women’s situation In Afghanistan, where oppression is real; but with this new slogan, all differences are construed in terms of oppression. In fact the Frankfurtian school of thought chose to create this slogan, as they see an importance in breaking apart the societal structures in hierarchies to move the world towards a global unrest of all the oppressed until a new world order can be created.
The French structuralist Michel Foucault was in his writings concerned about the so-called prejudices that historically have created oppression. His thought was postmodern with criticism of “great narratives” in religions, race, gender and cultural traditions. His thoughts were to some extent also dwelling on the Frankfurtian myth of the right of the oppressed.
In History of Madness, he showed that society’s experts through prejudices had exercised power and destroyed lives by mental diagnoses. This led to confinement and degrading treatment (such as Denmark’s Sprogoe Island where the mentally disabled were sterilized). Foucault believed that the same was true of gender, sexuality, race and ethnicity in relation to society’s attitudes or laws. He could use the slogan of “the right of the oppressed to the oppressors” to conclude that everyone should be considered normal.
For Foucault, the oppressors were not just the experts, but oppression comes from the moral values that made something “normal.” These sets of values claim to contain an objective (especially religious) ethic which indicates that something is right or wrong. He described the notion that evil and good are objective concepts as a myth that must be abolished. Instead, he made a third basic myth that emotions, passions, intentions and interests are the real ‘real’ – and that real being only can be felt and be secure in the moment of ‘now’! Truth thus became only an individual, emotional, and situational matter.
In this way, even the parents’ “norms” for the life of their children becomes a form of social control. The child is, after all, offended and oppressed by the adults – and only the normless change-demanding progressive culture that wants to abolish any form of “shame” seems to be right.
Foucault described sex as one of the areas of power in his book The History of Sexuality: The Will to Knowledge v. 1 . There he criticizes all forms of external ethics. Foucault distinguishes in sexuality between biology as innate body and social gender as inner identity and gender experience. Sex was no longer given for pleasure and to have children, but it became the individual’s way of creating their own culture and gender identity.
Some thought that Foucault did not go far enough in his view of the body as biologically neutral. Feminists and especially queer thinkers have blamed him for not seeing power and oppression as the body’s power.
In 1990, Judith Butler developed Foucault’s thinking in the book Gender Trouble by detaching gender from being biological. She sees the difference between husband and wife as an expression of power. External biological gender as a woman / man is according to her instead a result of the culture of society, which has influenced the (inner) social gender to accept the gender of its outer body. Before Butler most of society talked about “the normal” two-sex relationship between woman and man, while other forms of sexuality were abnormal and perhaps identified as “sickness.”
Butler did not consider gender as something you are, but something you make through the choices you make in your life. This I-gender is constantly changing and fluid. Everything flows into self-definition, where the only power becomes the authentic interior (wherever it exists).
At the same time, the basic myth of the oppressed’s struggle against oppressors from the Frankfurtian school of thought lives on in a new form in the struggle of the floating sex against the old normality. The biological body can now even be blamed for oppression.
The Death of Lemmings
Disney’s myth about the massacre of the lemmings was without consequences for the lemmings themselves. They were not present at all. The connection between the Frankfurtian school of thought’s critical theory, Foucault’s criticism of objective external ethics, and Butler’s labile fluid gender view of a normless society involves and has consequences for a lot of people. If these theories are merely subjective claims that are made to seem objective by massive popularity, they have devastating and irreversible consequences for many.
This critical theory presupposes that man is not a creation of a Creator. Foucault’s criticism presupposes that no omniscient Creator has said what is evil or good. The fluid social-constructivist gender theory presupposes that biology is not a prerequisite for life, even though life has precisely been empirically created by the fusion of egg cell and sperm from a woman and a man. These three theories are united in opposing every talk about a Creator, of the 10 commandments, of sin, conscience or faith.
None of these theories have lifted themselves out of the basic mythical stage. However, they have achieved an influence such that the next generation of young people are about to be manipulated or destroyed in their identity and innate body. These theories bind thoughts and opinions in society. Nobody wants to be oppressive or associated with a repressive image as opposed to the progress created through the “true-speaking” media. Should anyone maintain the objectivity of innate sex in, for example, genes, they are attributed to being in line with oppressors.
It is almost like experiencing a society that is bound by the silence of blindness in “The Emperor’s New Clothes” in which no one dares to speak. One ties oneself in the belief that when everyone else is silent, they probably agree.
“He doesn’t wear clothes!”
When someone dares to shout as the boy in the fairy tale “He has no clothes on,” they are hung out as reactionaries – as old-fashioned, repressive, or evil.
The scary thing is that the normless culture will not listen to the boy’s cry for the missing clothes or hear that the death of the lemmings is fake news. The normless culture would prefer to get rid of the norms and shut the mouths of the norms – as a totalitarian regime does. It has been seen earlier in other totalitarian regimes. It can be enforced by prohibiting certain attitudes in public employment, by withdrawing rights in the rule of law, and by preventing economic participation in the digital community.
The frightening challenge is that the basic myths created by the Frankfurtian critical theory, Foucault’s criticism of objective ethics and Butler’s fluid vision of sex and gender are in stark contrast to the Christian response of Biblical reason – which otherwise has been the historical foundation of our Western societies – in the US or Europe.
Should the norm of the normless really be allowed to remove any other norm and totally change the world for the next generation?
Illustration by Gerhard Mester [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)].
Caption in English: “Turn back!? Now that we have come so far!?!”