One of the most influential figures of recent times has been the late Antonio Gramsci. This Marxist ideologue shaped the thinking of the former student radicals of the 60s who once sat in squats wearing flares, kipper ties and white boy’s Afros and who now sit safely entrenched in Whitehall and Broadcasting House amongst the elites who manipulate the levers of our society.
In his theory of cultural hegemony Gramsci taught that one class or social group could control or dominate an entire society. The cultural positions of the controlling class can come to be seen as the norm, perceived to be of benefit to all in society whilst they really only benefit the ruling class. Western society could be overwhelmed, not by violent rebellion, but by entering doors which were already ajar and capturing the bastions of Western culture. This meant the education system, the media, the professions and the civil service. Even the churches were ripe for the plucking.
Cultural imperialism teaches us that what is initially important is not a parliamentary majority but an ideological minority. In the thought of Gramsci the latter precedes the former. His 60s follower student revolutionary Rudi Dutchke coined the phrase “the long march through the institutions.” In Britain, as elsewhere, the work was done assiduously and our culture has been turned around, in a few decades our morality was changed utterly.
An effective tool in changing society has been the substitution of the subjective for the objective. Education is no longer considered to be the transmission of the accumulated and valued knowledge and wisdom of the society to the next generation. Personal actualisation has replaced rigorous intellectual enquiry as teachers have begun to see themselves as facilitators rather than educators.
More importantly than in the schools of the nation we see this same ideological thrust in the churches. Today in Scotland we have churches which are shrinking in numbers and as a result Assemblies and Presbyteries get exercised about ecclesiastical demographics. Meanwhile we refuse to acknowledged the shameful fact that in Scotland today, as in the rest of the UK, we have in pulpit as well as pew what is probably the most biblically illiterate church since the Reformation.
In neo-Protestant churches we see spirituality turning inwards with emotion replacing reason and an emphasis on the externals of worship becoming the basis for the activities of the congregation. Exposition of the Word has been devalued and replaced by elaborate dress, processions and ritual choreography, candles, even songs in languages no member of the congregation speaks; too often we have a cut price West End production being the emotive glue which gives the congregation cohesion and provides a basis for and shapes the understanding of the nature of the action of the people.
In evangelical churches there is an increasing emphasis on Christianity being a process of self-actualisation, “God wants you to be all you can be” has become the focus of much teaching and counselling. Whilst thankfully there is very little prosperity gospel in Scotland as yet we still have a growing stress on the joys of personal fulfilment rather than the nitty gritty of Christian discipleship.
Christianity is a relationship with God through faith in Christ. This clearly involves emotion, it is difficult to imagine an emotionless love affair. However, if emotion is detached from objective reality we enter the land of fantasy and wish fulfilment.
It is imperative that the fragmented orthodox in Scotland begin our own long march through the institutions. We must recover a rational approach to the faith which depends upon an examination of biblical principles and their application to life. Society needs these applications of biblical principles for life communicated in an attractive way to believer and unbeliever alike. Who else has the tools society needs to remake itself in a more humane and harmonious way?
It may be objected that we are too fragmented and numerically insignificant to have an impact on society. Another Marxist’s views are neatly summed up by encapsulating Lenin’s thought as “It takes three to make a revolution, you, me and someone else.”