The Terrifying Record of Modernism

In John 17:11-18, Jesus says to His Father that the Apostles “do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world,” but that as “You sent Me into the world, so I sent them into the world.” We are called as Christians to be in the world but not of it. C.S. Lewis described this beautifully when he compared Christianity to landing in rebel territory to try and spread an insurrection against an evil leader. Modernism is the foe of Lewis’ (and Christ’s) vision.

Modernism, as a force within Christianity, is nothing more and nothing less than the attempt to turn Christianity into a thing of the world: to make Christianity nothing more than the sum of its human parts (“We are Church”), and to make sure that Christianity conforms to the zeitgeist, the spirit of the modern age. To surrend to the enemy and learn to get along as an upstanding member of the enemy territory. Religiously, we know that this is an evil – even demonic – impulse. Three times in John’s Gospel (John 12:31, John 14:30, and John 16:11), Christ refers to the devil as the “ruler of the world,” so modeling ourselves, and our churches, off of the moral code propogated by the world is suicidal… and frequently genocidal.

Modernism has never been a force for peace, although it holds itself out as one. As God says of the wicked prophets and priests in Jeremiah 6:14, “They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.” And history shows just how violent this impulse can be. A few examples will suffice:

  • Modernism v. Catholicism in Nazi Germany:

Martin Heidegger, perhaps the most famous Modernist philosopher, was a fanatical Nazi with deeply held anti-Semitic views (although he had affairs with two of his Jewish students, reminescent of Thomas Jefferson & Sally Hemings’ relationship). It was devout Catholics who opposed him: Max Müller, one of his finest students, boycotted his lectures after Heidegger joined the Nazi part in 1933 (Heidegger would later prevent Müller from getting a teaching position in Freiburg by informing the school that Müller wasn’t pro-Nazi); Professor Martin Honecker was assigned the Jewish students who Heidegger refused to aide in their dissertations; and so on. Despite a few Jewish friendships, Heidegger was rabidly anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi, and occassionally destroyed the careers of colleagues and students who weren’t. Even worse than Heidegger was his forerunner, Nietzsche, whose racist, anti-Semitic and anti-Christian ideas deeply influenced the creation of the Nazi state.

Devout Catholics, on the other hand, couldn’t be Nazis. Pope Pius XI released the encyclical Mit brennender Sorge on March 10, 1937, condemning the Nazi racial ideology. It bears the unusual distinction of being published in German instead of Latin (generally, encyclicals are published in Latin and then translated), and it was read in every Catholic pulpit on Palm Sunday (one of the busiest days of the year). It was an incredibly vocal condemnation of Nazism as an anti-Christian attempt to put “the Aryan Race” above God. It lead to an immediate Nazi crackdown on the Church, copies of the encyclical were found and destroyed, and the Church’s influence in Germany was severely curtailed, prompting the American ambassador to lament that the encyclical “had helped the Catholic Church in Germany very little but on the contrary has provoked the Nazi state…to continue its oblique assault upon Catholic institutions.” Six years earlier, an even more-strongly worded encyclical, Non Abbiamo Bisogno, was written condemning Italian fascism as anti-Catholic and anticlerical.

This is not to say that every Catholic behaved admirably. But it is to say that when the world lined up on one side (evil), and the Church lined upon the other (good), it was the Modernists then, as now, who opted to support the world een when it meant undermining the Church. Dr. Jeff Mirus at Catholic Culture did a great piece on the betrayal of the Church by the Modernist Catholics of Munich, the only part of Germany in which Catholics largely supported Hitler. Mirus concludes:

Note that Modernism’s dirty secret is not that early-20th century German Modernists threw their quasi-Catholic support behind ideas that now seem particularly repulsive, but that Modernists always throw their quasi-Catholic support behind whatever is fashionable, without the least capability of discerning whether it is also good. Modernism is driven by what “everybody knows”; as such it has no need of cogent arguments. But this also means it can be right only coincidentally, when the leading ideas of the current culture are right. And so Modernism’s dirty little secret is that, apart from coincidence, it is always arrogant, always destructive and always wrong.

Three other examples reinforce his conclusion:

  • Racism in the American South

In the South, conforming to the world meant conforming to the belief that whites were innately superior to blacks, and that this was the way God intended it. From Time Magazine, April 13, 1962:

“God demands segregation,” says New Orleans’ Mrs. B. J. Gaillot Jr., president
of segregationist Save Our Nation Inc. She is a Roman Catholic, and when
Archbishop Joseph Francis Rummel, 85, ordered full desegregation of New Orleans
parochial schools for next fall, Mrs. Gaillot responded with picketing and loud
protest. She was not alone. Leander Perez, influential political boss of
Plaquemines Parish and also a Catholic, suggested reprisals against the clergy:
“Cut off their water. Quit giving them money to feed their fat bellies.” And
State Representative Rodney Buras of New Orleans proclaimed that he would fight
Arch, bishop Rummel’s demand for desegregation “even to the extreme of being
excommunicated.”

Society in the South said racism wasn’t just okay, but that it was a positive good. The Church said it wasn’t. Ultimately, Archbishop Rummel denied three of the segregationists Communion; he threatened 30 of them with excommunications, and in fact, did excommunicate the most obstinate: Gaillot, Perez, and a third, Jackson Ricau.

  • Eugenics

While this Modernist was an Anglican Bishop, it shows the general point that those who affirm Modernism affirm whatever happens to be in vogue. This is from Time Magazine, March 2, 1953:

For 29 years the Rt. Rev. Ernest William Barnes, bishop of Birmingham, has
been the Church of England’s foremost champion of religious heterodoxy. A mathematician in his youth, he has spent most of his life in holy orders, trying, as he put it, to make the beliefs of the Christian religion “come to terms with science and scholarship.” For Bishop Barnes, this involved repudiating the virgin birth of Christ (“a crude, semipagan story”), the existence of Adam and Eve, and such biblical accounts as Jonah and the whale and Noah’s ark. He does not believe in miracles—whether current or biblical.
On the positive side, in his crusade for “honest religion,” he has advocated euthanasia, rigorous, scientific birth control, and sterilization of the unfit as a means of keeping the population manageable.

His smugness in attempting to crush Christianity into his warped worldview is familiar to anyone who’s dealt with his descendants, like the Anglican Bishop John Shelby Spong, author of “Why Christianity Must Change or Die.” It’s striking that he openly called for “sterilization of the unfit as a means of keeping the population manageable,” since many of his Modernist descendents use the same canard of overpopulation to call for on-demand abortion. In 1951, the British Medical Journal favorably reviewed Bp. Barnes’s Cavendish Lecture on “THE MENACE OF OVER-POPULATION,” in which he called for totalitarian government to engineer population control and wipe out populations of the “unfeeble.” Some excerpts from the review:

  1. The science of genetics, the Bishop continued, had made great progress during the present century. The nature of Mendelian inheritance had become general knowledge. But what was the effect of the new knowledge ? Was it much more than that nature was more powerful than nurture? When an adverse mutation-feeblemindedness was one of
    the most troublesome-had appeared in a family or group of families it was not removed by transferring those families from a slum into wholesome surroundings. The defect remained, and it was to be eliminated only by eliminating the stock in which it appeared.
  2. Was such elimination possible without some measure of sterilization or infanticide ? What should be the policy of a civilized race anxious to improve the quality of its people ? For hundreds of thousands of years the human race had had to struggle to ensure its survival, and thereby it had acquired an outlook which was difficult to set aside, even though religious sanctions were abandoned. The average man-perhaps even more, the average woman-hesitated to admit the legitimacy of any form of euthanasia. Many, perhaps most, would not permit the elimination of defective individuals, even those whose life was a tragic burden to themselves and to the community.
  3. Atomic weapons were too dangerous to think of their use as a means of eugenic defence. If atomic radiation made for favourable genetic mutations there might be some excuse for such weapons, but, although radiation could produce genetic changes, such changes were almost invariably harmful.
  4. Japan, realizing that her present food increase was inadequate to her high birth rate, was encouraging contraception and had legalized under certain conditions medically controlled abortion and sterilization.
  5. ” I do not myself find in that tradition a group of social policies which can be termed final and perfect. How can one expect that in this imperfect world ? But I would emphasize that we show loyalty to that tradition when we do our best for those with whom we live, and when we remember the great teaching, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.’ Should we not, with the object of increasing the welfare of our neighbours, welcome changes of thought and feeling called for by new world conditions ? Should we not join with other peoples in careful thought as to, how the moral stature and happiness of mankind can be increased ? The ideals we ought to set before ourselves are undoubtedly menaced by over-population. Overpopulation inevitably leads to the increase of inferior human stocks, which even a few generations ago would not have survived in this country under harsher social conditions.
  6. In moving a vote of thanks to the Bishop of Birmingham, Mr. V. B. GREEN-ARMYTAGE said that so far as he could see it was only the totalitarian State which could deal with this problem, and that meant the destruction of the liberty of man.

Hopefully, reading this with enough hindsight, we’re shocked and disgusted at the fact that so shortly after the Holocaust, an Anglican Bishop could openly declare that in order to “love thy neighbor,” it was necessary to exeterminate him (if he wasn’t of the right race, at least). Sterilization, abortion, totalitarianism, eugenics, and the use of atomic weapons to purposely cause mutations are praised, while given the disgusting veneer that this is “loving thy neighbor.” “‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.” That he was warmly received at the lecture, and fondly reviewed in the British Medical Journal afterwards, should be chilling.

In including the example of Japan, I wished to highlight how ignorant and short-sighted these Modernists have always been in their arrogance. Japan now has one of the lowest birth rates in the world (215th out of 223, according to the CIA World Factbook, based on 2008 data), and it’s destroying their economy. It’s all pretty simple:


If you have twice as many parents as kids, and four times as many grandparents as kids, those kids are going to be left footing an incredibly steep bill once they’ve hit working age, and you’ve all retired. What Barnes, as a mathematician, never seemed to realize is that these people aren’t just interchangable numbers. By “controlling” the birth rate, the supply of future workers to run the economy, future farmers to provide food for us, and future taxpayers to cover social services for the elderly is cut off. The real risk now is that there will be a desire to employ another of Barnes’ “solutions,” so-called “voluntary” suicide. In 2006, senior citizens made up 20% of Japan’s population. In 2007, they were 21%. In 2008, they were 22%. Over the same time period, the number of children under 15 dropped from 14.2% to 13.5%. That’s an eerie trend. How much higher can it be expected to go before workers throw their hands up at the amount of paychecks going to senior centers? Plus, since it is the young that bring new life into the world, current population projections show Japan’s population plummeting.

Meanwhile, all of that nonsense about food supplies has proven to be complete and utter bunk. Food supplies have expanded dramatically globally since the 1950s, not least of all because of the Green Revolution. Much of the credit is owed to Norman Borlaug, whose Green Revolution innovations and keen insights are credited with saving a billion people from starvation. In 2000, Borlaug announced, “I now say that the world has the technology – either available or well advanced in the research pipeline – to feed on a sustainable basis a population of 10 billion people. ” And note that. If we cared enough to send our food surpluses to the starving, we could feed ten billion people now or in the near future (the global population is only about 6.6 billion. And that’s based on technology as it stood in 2000. If and when our global population finally hits 10 billion, the cap will almost certainly be dramatically higher — that’s been the consistent trend globally. Our ability to feed people is outpacing the number of people who need feeding. Consistently.

  • Abortion

The final example of the effects of Modernism is the obvious one. The liberal dissenters who wanted us to be more like the world are responsible for the deaths of millions of dead babies each year. An estimated 1,206,000 abortions occur every month around the globe. The body count of this barbarism is unrivalled in human history. To be certain, some of these are deaths which we are incapable of avoiding. However, many of those global abortions take place because the US actively exports abortion. And while pro-lifers at least put up a fight to stop the Sebelius HHS from paying American women to kill their kids, few besides Sam Brownback (Catholic, R-KS) seemed to care when three days into his presidency, Obama overturned the Mexico City policy, which means that we now pay women outside the US to kill their kids, too. Here’s food for thought. As of 2008, Catholics made up over 30% of Congress. There were 17 Catholic Democratic Senators, and 98 Catholic Democratic House Reps, and those numbers are probably pretty close today. We have a Catholic Speaker of the House (Pelosi), a Catholic VP (Biden), a Catholic Secretary of HHS (Sebelius), and 6 members of the Supreme Court (Kenney, Thomas, Alito, Scalia, Roberts, and now Sotomayor). If Catholics were committed to the Gospel rather than the world, legalized abortion would end tomorrow. Roe could easily be overturned, 6-3, a Congress would suddenly have a significant majority of pro-life votes, and much of the executive branch would be pro-life. But no need to blame it on just the pols. While they’re the ones actively doing evil, it’s voters – often, Catholic voters – who’ve enabled them time and time again.

The Modernist cry has always been that the world is changing and the Church needs to change to keep up. In response to this, St. Paul reminds us in Romans 12:2, “Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect. ” Our consistent failure to live up to this has been the source of incalcuable evil in the world, both to our souls and to each other.

2 Comments

  1. It’s somewhat surprising to find Heidegger called a Modernist since the usual aspersion cast his way is postmodenrnist. You should add some balance and explain what Catholic theologians like Karl Rahner and Joseph Ratzinger found in Heidegger. They are respected and widely read, whereas no one translated the contributions of Max Müller and Martin Honecker (Rahner’s doctoral advisor). I’m not defending Heidegger from his faults, just indicating things are more complicated than black or white.

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