Most readers of this very blog are not old enough to remember the vapid ideological atmosphere that gripped the 1930’s as examined throughout the writings of Norman Podhoretz or Irving Kristol. Both men ruthlessly examined the shape and commitment of a life informed from ideologically shaped passion: namely Marxism. It remained for Whittaker Chambers to examine such torment as a father and co-conspirator indicted along with Soviet planted or turned Spy Alger Hiss. It didn’t help that both were committed homosexuals bonded to one another in two passions: sex and political craft.
Chambers’ autobiography ‘Witness’ is still a best selling book. Somewhat long by contemporary standards, it reveals a weak, impassioned, sophisticated and tormented man. A man familiar with the ideals of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s wicked protagonists. In a word: paralyzed. Yet committed just the same.
What draws people to embrace such militant, violent idealisms, while others seem incapable of countering or even understanding such appeal?
The fundamental strength of all idealism lay in its spiritual dimension. A Gnostic appeal to the strength of IDEAS. This is the home for intellectuals. In our engagement with militant Islam the West will rediscover the necessity to refute the common notion that revolutionaries are unintelligent, poorly educated or morally corrupt. Just ask any Marine home from the AfPak theatre who engaged the Taliban.
Communists/Marxists were individuals who were in love with purely materialist sense of life. They along with Islamic militants hold dear to two certainties for which the mind tirelessly seeks: a reason to live & a reason to die.
Eric Fromm examined the passion that compels Islamic militants in his book ‘Escape From Freedom’, namely: the need to passionately, ruthlessly, govern others as a worthy avenue to escape having to govern oneself.
Both atheist Communism and militant Islamofascism reverse the Copernican revolution, which removed man as the center of the universe, restoring man to his sovereignty. But have we not already glimpsed what such a man does when his reason or passion is uninformed from revealed faith? Was not the ancient world and the 20th century a harbinger to the limits of political passion? Did not Christianity reveal man to himself as finite freedom? The discovery of finite freedom/liberty reconstitutes the valid claim that dominated the life and writings of Leo Strauss. He along with Chambers understood that true religiosity and freedom and indivisible. The closer one is to grace, the more free one is! How else to put it, without human freedom the soul dies. Without soul there is no justification for freedom.
Today’s political ambiance reveals much to discern, for atheist Communists and hardened liberals both passionately believe in the virtue of central planning. How else to affirm the power of the planning mind to establish social justice. This is very dangerous ground. The very social and moral fabric of our Republic can be torn asunder with such thinking.
How do such militants live and think? Let me demonstrate:
A teacher who laughs with his children at God is on OUR side
The lawyer who defends an educated murderer because he is more cultivated than his victim is one of US
The prosecutor who trembles at a trial for fear he should not seem progressive enough IS OURS, OURS.
Stalin’s purges, show trials; Mao’s Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution began this way.
How did Chambers escape from the militant grip of atheist Marxism?
One night he put his daughter to bed, looking at his baby girl, he noticed the delicate folds of her ear and found himself thinking that such beautiful intricacy could not have resulted from the chance collision of atoms.
The opening to grace is always an opening to interiority.
A German Communist once told Chambers why he suddenly stopped being Communist: one night while out for a long walk, he suddenly heard SCREAMS! This polite German began to remember his education as a child at the hands of Nuns, it conflicted badly with his initiation into Trotsky: ‘We Bolsheviks do not accept the bourgeois theory of the sanctity of human life’.
How else to put it. Freedom loses when people no longer value.