I quite enjoyed this one, but I couldn’t help but feeling like there was a big gaping hole right in the middle of it (more on that in a minute). As Reb Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof once said:
As the Good Book says, “Heal us, O Lord, and we shall be healed. ” In other words, send us the cure. We’ve got the sickness already.
Murray points towards our cultural problems with deftness and clarity…like a resident of Las Vegas in the 1950s could point to the mushroom clouds of the atomic bomb tests. Anyone with eyes can see these major problems and conflicts within our culture. Not everyone has the solution.
Douglas Murray is a gay atheist. So, he’s not my typical co-belligerent, you might say. However, he sees our current cultural madness with great clarity. The old adage about blind squirrels finding acorns seems apropos here. His clear identification of the problematic trends in our cultural adoption of the various insanities is an indictment against many professing Christian leaders who’ve simply coasted along with the crowds, adopting all the “new orthodoxies” of feminism, anti-racism, and trans issues.
That is the main point of Murray’s project, pointing out how rapidly Western culture has adopted “new orthodoxies” without weighing why things had been the way they were. He also points out the numerous falsehoods which parade as truth (i.e. that men earn more than women, that racism only goes in the direction of whites towards blacks, that being concerned about gender reassignment surgeries necessarily makes one transphobic, etc.). The main takeaway is to always remember that crowds pick up steam as they go, and it takes great courage to stand against the stampeding hordes.
The hole, however, which is missing in Murray’s book is that he has, of course, left the center of history out of the picture: Christ on the cross. Murray identifies the problems. But his answer/solution is necessarily void of a true and lasting resolution to our cultural enmity. All of our delusions, all of our cultural tensions will only escalate into greater madness and vengeance on each other until we repent and come to Christ.
Murray gives example after example of how our culture has rapidly adopted new views on gender, sexuality, and race, but Murray notes how little reflection has been done on why the rules, norms, mores were there in the first place. He is concerned that society is moving too fast in its adoption of these new orthodoxies, and cautions against the vitriol that is poured out upon those who differ with the new orthodoxy. He points out how dangerous cancel-culture can be by showing examples of how ostensibly progressive people have transgressed the new views and then been summarily condemned as racists, bigots, transphobic, etc. This cancelling happened simply because they expressed an opinion that had only ten minutes earlier had fallen out of fashion. He notes that as a gay man he might not agree with the Christians who want to counsel people out of the gay lifestyle, but he wants to strive to understand why they believe what they believe before banishing them to societal Siberia.
Murray is a good writer, and excellent on the analysis. He doesn’t offer much by the way of solution (as I mentioned already). He seems to think we just need to do more studies (on things like the trans issue) before we condemn people who object to the rapid acceptance of gender reassignment surgeries as a positive good. He does appeal for patience and forgiveness for each other. He is an atheist who seems to really wants there to be a Gospel which can truly forgive our sins against each other, and give us grace to love our neighbor truly. He just doesn’t see it as the true answer to all the maladies we face.
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