The Destructive Nature of Collectivism
That’s what the real covenantal meaning of collectivism is: an ideology which subjects individuals to the moral dictatorship of human collectives and/or elites, with the purpose of re-educating them into obedient pawns.
Assigned reading: Bruno Bettelheim, Informed Heart: Autonomy in a Mass Age
Assigned watching: The Bourne Identity
Welcome to Episode 76 of Axe to the Root Podcast, part of the War Room Productions, I am Bo Marinov, and for the next 30 minutes our topic will be a hard one to deal with – a hard one, at least, in our age in the West today, where stories like what we are going to hear sound like they have come from an horror movie, not from the hard reality of the last one century. But whether we like to believe that they are real or not, they are real. The last century was replete with them, mainly because that last century saw the proliferation and the political dominance of the ideologies that produce such stories. I personally lived through some of that political dominance, although, only in the last decade before it disintegrated, so I saw only the last remnants of those stories. But nevertheless, the society where I grew up was entirely conditioned and marked by the fruits of these ideologies and these stories; and I myself took long to shake off the impact they had on me while I was growing up.
But don’t make the mistake to believe that such stories are irreversibly and irretrievably in the past, and there is no danger of them happening in our day, on our soil. History is inevitably, by the operation of the Holy Spirit, moving upward towards a greater manifestation of the Kingdom of God on earth – note well, on earth – but there is no guarantee in God’s Word that God won’t visit from time to time the curses of the past upon a nation that has forgotten His Covenant, again, as a manifestation of His Kingdom on earth. (A manifestation of a Kingdom, after all, includes legal sanctions against its enemies.) Stories like what I am going to share, and the tenets of the ideology that made them possible, are actually quite common today, even if in a less striking form, and there is very little that separates us from having them in its fully developed forms; human nature remains the same, after all, and without the restraint of God’s Common Grace, men turn back into monsters. “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction,” Ronald Reagan said in his inauguration speech as a governor of California; but the principle applies to everything, not only freedom. Not only is freedom never more than one generation away from extinction, the horrors of tyranny – the GULags, the gas chambers, the Holodomor, the prisoners skinned alive, the Christians burning as torches for the Emperor’s parties – are never more than one generation away from re-appearing, if we forget God’s Word and Law. “It can’t happen here” has been the most common, and least successful prediction in the history of mankind. Eventually, those who let their guard down because “it can’t happen here,” saw it happen, and suffered for it. And their children suffered as well.
The ideology I am talking about is collectivism.
We have mentioned collectivism before in previous Axe to the Root episodes. I have mentioned it in other places, especially in relation to the doctrine of Biblical individualism – namely, the concept that before God, the individual is a legitimately independent moral entity. “Independent” not in the sense that he is not dependent on God for his moral nature, nor that he won’t be judged by God for his moral actions; it should be perfectly clear that no Christian can speak of such independence. (Although, free-will theologies – Pelagian and Arminian – do postulate a certain level of independence of man from God, especially in terms of his moral nature.) The meaning of “independent” here is that man’s covenantal standing before God is not dependent in any way of his belonging to a human group or collective – family, local church, genetic, ethnic, or national entity, social stratum or status, professional guild, political party, etc. While belonging to or membership in any such entity or collective may be an important secondary or inferior cause (to borrow Calvin’s terminology) for a man’s willingness to obey God, or for his training to good works, in the final account, God deals with man according to man’s individual standing before God, without any regard for any collectives he may have been part of. This understanding of the moral value and significance of the individual has been central to the ability of the early church to break from the pagan relations or the Jewish traditions of its immediate culture – all early imperial edicts against Christianity accuse Christians of abandoning the traditions of their clans or ethnic groups or ancestors. It was also central to the doctrines of the Reformation; and from there we have this central Reformation doctrine of the Right and Duty of Private Judgment (so conveniently forgotten today by all pastors that claim to be “Reformed”). That foundational individualism of the Christian faith against any group or collective – and even against the institutional church – was aptly expressed by the Anglican bishop and Reformed theologian and teacher, J.C. Ryle, in the following words:
Shall we then be content to err — merely because the Church errs? Will our company be any excuse for our error? Will our erring in company with the Church remove our responsibility for our own souls? Surely it is a thousand times better for a man to stand alone and be saved — than to err in company with the Church, and be lost! It is better to “prove all things” — and go to Heaven; than to say, “I dare not think for myself” — and go to Hell!
It is for this reason the movement for Christian Reconstruction, from the very beginning, has recognized that Christian Reconstruction must be grounded in personal conversion and conviction, and in individual sanctification and purpose, for any other project of Christian Reconstruction to be successful. Men can’t get their families to be in covenant with God unless they are individually in covenant with God. Institutional churches can’t be in covenant with God unless the people in them are individually in covenant with God first, and only through that covenant, in covenant with each other. A nation can’t be in covenant with God unless there is a critical mass of socially and politically active people who are each individually in covenant with God. There is no substitute for the laborious and unpleasant work of evangelizing and discipling the individual; it has to be done for anything else in the Kingdom of God to be done – and this is the reason why such disproportionate number of Christian Reconstructionists – even those who are not professional ministers of the Gospel – have a history of street preaching, foreign missions and evangelism, or street activism and anti-abortion ministries. Once we learn to work to convert the individuals, the rest is easy. Institutions may come and go, but a converted and discipled individual continues to convert and disciple other people his whole life (2 Tim. 2:2). Of course, the work must not stop at converting individuals; it must continue to converting whole groups and nations in their judicial and corporate structure and laws. Individualism is not the same as atomism where all that matters is internal personal ethics. But before a society is converted, it has to start with converting the individuals.
This legitimacy of the individual as an independent moral agent has always been a serious problem for all pagan religions and philosophies – and for many heretical teachings in the church as well, including the modern churches in America, including the majority of those who pass for “Reformed.” To be more precise, the serious problem is this: “How do you allow the individual to be a free, independent moral agent with his own will, aspirations, and individual purpose, and yet keep your people together, obedient to the same common will, pursuing the same common goals, and willing and capable of sacrificing for causes that are greater than any individual himself?” Biblical Christianity has no such problem; it has the Holy Spirit Who can work both as one and as many; He can have one overriding plan for history, and yet, He can figuratively “split” Himself (humanly speaking) into an infinite number of abiding places in the hearts of an infinite number of believers, and guide them to serve His plan while keeping each individual a free and independent moral agent, acting on his own free – but redeemed – will. But pagan and heretical religions and ideologies have nothing like the Holy Spirit that can ensure a shared cause and common action across large groups of people over long periods of time, while allowing for the freedom of the individual. Once the individual is given the freedom to be an independent moral agent, from a pagan perspective, chaos follows. It is for that reason that libertarianism – political ideology based on the freedom of the individual – is hated by all pagan and heretical thinkers, and even those non-Christians who claim to be “libertarian” eventually fall into some ideology of collectivism. And it is for that reason why R.J. Rushdoony declared that theocracy is the closest thing to radical libertarianism that can be had. But more about this in a future episode.
The freedom of the individual to be an independent moral agent can lead to only two social outcomes: either individuals filled with the Holy Spirit produce a society of righteousness and justice for all, where the social order is based on mutual respect rather than institutional tyranny, or unredeemed individuals following the lusts of their own hearts bringing the society to collapse in lawlessness. Both outcomes together are a powerful testimony for the superiority of the Christian faith over all other faiths and ideologies. Thus, any ideology and religion that wants to rival Christianity, will have to ensure that the individuals in the society do not have the freedom to make their own moral decisions or even identify themselves as free individuals. Every pagan ideology and religion will have to chain individuals to a group or to an institution, and only allow then to define themselves in the context of that group or institution; otherwise there will be no effective means of control.
And that’s what the real covenantal meaning of collectivism is: an ideology which subjects individuals to the moral dictatorship of human collectives and/or elites, with the purpose of re-educating them into obedient pawns. Where collectivist bonds have been weakened, the Gospel has always had an easy point of entry. I have experienced it personally: the fall of Communism (a strongly collectivist ideology) in Eastern Europe in 1989 led to a significant awakening of the Christian faith in the 1990s, leading to a situation that is far from ordinary in history: a younger generation that is much more religious and open to discussing spiritual issues than its parents. (And the parents to a great extent remain faithful to their collectivist ideology.) To a smaller extent, I have seen it in my mission work among the Gypsy minority in Bulgaria: the longest preserved thoroughly pagan culture in Europe that has remained impervious to Christianity for millennia, because it has always been collectivist: a strongly patriarchal clan society where the individual is subjected to the clan and the family. (And, as I have often pointed out, patriarchy is always hostile to Christianity, even when it pretends to be “Biblical.”) The Gypsy patriarchal society started disintegrating even under Communism, under pressure from its collectivist rival, Communism – state collectivism against family collectivism – and the social upheavals of the 1990s dealt some even worse blows. This dissolution of the collectivist character of the Gypsy society was what opened the door for many of us missionaries to enter and bring the Gospel to many ordinary people who are now left free to think and act for themselves. Collectivism, thus, has always been a strong social tool for opposition to the Gospel, and has been deliberately used by the enemies of God to that purpose.
However, to make an individual – let alone many individuals – lose his individuality and personality and submit entirely to an institutional system of power is not an easy task. There is the spirit that God has put in every man as part of God’s image in him. That spirit wars against any external control by other men. In redeemed men, it is expressed in righteous rebellion with the purpose of being free to do God’s will – think Moses’s resistance to Pharaoh or David’s resistance to Saul. In the unredeemed, it is expressed in selfish rebellion to establish one’s own superiority over others or to simply follow the lusts of one’s heart – this Jeroboam’s rebellion against Rehoboam. (Note, however, that even in that latter case, the Holy Spirit was on the side of the rebel, not on the side of human powers.) Modern collectivists – especially in the modern churches – like to dismiss that rebellion with the words, “He just hates all authority.” The truth, however, is that such behavior is not motivated by hatred; it is the natural outworking of the image of God in man, just like work and entrepreneurship and the desire for knowledge. Granted, such natural outworking may be ethically twisted by the twisted image of God in unredeemed men, but even then, it is still the natural outworking of the image of God. Man is created to be free of other men’s domination and to resist other men; it is in his DNA, figuratively speaking. And such natural instinct can only be suppressed by a thorough suppression of the image of God in man. Thus, for collectivism to achieve its purposes, it has to suppress the image of God in man, and this completely wipe out man’s individuality and personality. And to this purpose, collectivists in history have created a number of techniques to mold and shape human behavior in ways that will deprive men of their individuality. And understanding these techniques is important to us today when we need to spot collectivism in the society around us.
I will look at several main techniques here, taken from a book by Bruno Bettelheim, titled, The Informed Heart: Autonomy in a Mass Age. Bettelheim was an Austrian Jew. He graduated in philosophy and history of art from the University of Vienna in the 1930s. Since in that period, art was viewed entirely from a Freudian perspective (as an expression of the unconscious), a degree in history of art included multiple courses in psychology – heavily Freudian – and was naturally considered also as a degree in psychology. When the Nazis invaded Austria in 1938, he was arrested and first in the Dachau, and then in the Buchenwald concentration camps. Less than a year later, in a very rare gesture of amnesty, Hitler ordered the release of several hundred concentration camp inmates for his 50th birthday. Bettelheim was one of them. He knew the amnesty would be short-lived, and he immediately got on a ship to the US, to join his wife Gina who had already emigrated. In the US, we was able to build a career as a psychologist and write several books, among which was The Informed Heart. The book is a scientific study into the conflict between human personality and mass collectivism, drawing from the 10-month experience he had as a concentration camp inmate in Dachau and Buchenwald.
The following is a summary of collectivist techniques of killing individuality. I have not done that summery myself; I am using the work of other authors who reviewed Bettelheim’s book. Nevertheless, the summary is correct and it agrees with my assessment after I read the book, so you can take it as something I agree with. When you listen about the techniques, notice their perverse covenantal nature – they are all about the ethical-judicial nature of man, and they are all trying to either destroy that nature, or to completely pervert it to its opposite. Bettelheim was a Freudian psychologist, which means, he believed that human behaviors is not self-consciously ethical but only subconscious. And yet, when he observed real-world interactions, he couldn’t help but see the ethical nature of human behavior.
The first and most basic technique of any collectivist government is to make people engage in pointless work. Or, work of no value at all. Work for the sake of the work, not for the sake of results.
For the 12 years of its existence, Nazi Germany employed hundreds of thousands of inmates and prisoners of war in its factories, its agriculture, and even in its war effort. Prisoners were made to produce ammunition, or food for the war machine, or even brought to the front lines and forced to dig trenches and build fortifications. They were treated with horrible cruelty; some were even shown movies of how the bombs they were building were destroying buildings and people in their home countries. They were forced to sleep and eat on their work places, and the conditions were not better than the conditions for the slaves on the Roman triremes. And yet, despite all the terrible conditions and cruel treatment, prisoners who came out of it were in a fairly good psychological condition, and were capable of recovering quickly after the war. The reason: their work still had some value, and they could still count it as their personal accomplishment that they built something real – even if they were forced to build it against their own cause.
But the Nazis went further: they made some prisoners do useless work. Or work that made no sense. In one such experiment, a group of prisoners was treated fairly leniently, but they were told to move a gigantic pile of rocks from one side railroad tracks to the other. As long as the prisoners perceived that there was a reason for it – like cleaning the place for building something else – they did their work without any problem. After the pile was moved, they were ordered to move it back to the place it had been before. And then back again. And then back again. When the prisoners started realizing that that was going to be their future, for as long as they were kept prisoners, many of them went insane, and some attempted suicide. In another such experiment, a group of prisoners was told to dig trenches using their bare hands and pocket knives. While working, a pile of new shovels was unloaded from a truck and left near the job, within sight for the prisoners. They were never allowed to use the shovels, however. Some prisoners dared to ask if they could use the shovels, but were brutally punished for it. After several days, the nonsense of having the shovels but not using them was taking a heavy toll on the prisoners’ psychology. Within another few days, the Nazis had a group that was completely silent and obedient to anything the guards would say or command.
Doing work without purpose turned out to be a great tool for preparing people’s minds for the worse techniques of collectivism. Solzhenitsyn describes similar techniques used by the GULag guards. The US military used them with imprisoned Indian braves during the Indian Wars. There is something in working without purpose that is especially destructive to the human soul. God has created man to be working, as the ultimate expression of the image of God, but he also created him to be an eschatological being, that is, a being that looks to the future as a scene of unfolding results of his work. Fruit, therefore, or results, or achievements, are central to the fulfillment of man. Make him work, but deny him the eschatology of his work – that is, the purpose and meaningful fruit of it – and the image of God in man is destroyed. Purposelessness is the beginning of the destruction of man.
The second common technique of all collectivist governments is the introduction of a multitude of mutually exclusive rules so that violations become inevitable.
Remember the murder of Daniel Shaver, a young father of two, in a hotel in Arizona, by Philip Brailsford, a cop with the Phoenix PD, back in 2016? Brailsford was acquitted by the court despite all the evidence that the killing was nothing less than a cold-blooded execution. In the video that was released, the murderous cop could be heard barking commands to the victim which were all mutually contradictory, and impossible to follow. Some observers pointed to that fact as a damning evidence that Brailsford wanted to create a situation where he could have the reason to pull the trigger. What most people do not know, however, is that this is an official regular tactic that cops are taught in their police academies: bark as many commands as you can within a very short time, while you have your weapon pointed at the “suspect,” with the purpose to confuse them and make them obedient to your will. It was not something that Brailsford came up with on the spot; it is a technique that has been cultivated into him by years of police training. Whether you are aware of this fact or not, whether you like this fact or not, American police is not much different than Communist or Nazi police, and they use the same techniques to subjugate their victims. Both Communist KGB and Nazi SS used it against their prisoners with and astounding success. On a grander scale, the federal and the state governments in the US are using it against the general population; the proliferation of laws and rules and regulations coming out of Washington DC and of the state capitals has two major purposes: first, to make it possible for cronies of government officials to get advantage over their politically less protected competitors, and, second, to make every single individual guilty of some crime or violation, with the purpose of easier psychological control. Ayn Rand called attention to that phenomenon as early as the 1940s: the criminalization of all free activity in one way or another, so that there is an officially “legal” reason to hold every citizen at a gun point. Then again, the rulers can decide who receives grace, and who is punished as an example for everyone else.
The reason why this works is that man, created in the image of God, is first and foremost a moral being. His world is ordered along lines of ethics and justice, not along lines of beauty, harmony, expediency, or anything else. He naturally craves for some moral order, but when he is separated from God, he can’t – and won’t – try to find his moral order in God. He will seek it in the collective. But his moral sense is still there, and he can sense injustice and he will rebel against it when he sees it. In order to prevent this, his moral senses – the only thing that defines his moral character and his very being – must be confused completely. When his adopted or forced-upon source of moral guidance and justice (the state, the collective, police, the camp guards, etc.) issues commands that are self-contradictory and mutually exclusive, he loses his orientation and his sense of order. The result is a person without individual character. He is then easily manipulated to serve the collective.
The third common technique of all collectivist governments is the introduction of collective responsibility.
It is commonly perceived that collective responsibility diminishes personal responsibility. And it is true to a certain extent – namely, as long as the price to pay is low. When the price for that responsibility is high, collective responsibility forces the individuals in the collective to become each other’s taskmasters, basically doing the work of the prison guards for them. Bettelheim gives an example in his book where a unit in the camp was ordered to wash their shoes with water and soap. It was not a regular rule, only a momentary whim of an SS guard, but the implied threat was if one person failed to obey, the whole unit would be punished. Washing the shoes with water and soap left the shoes hard as stone after they dried, and they hurt the feet of the prisoners. The guard never repeated the order again, but for many months after, the prisoners were making sure that everyone complied. They had become their own prison guards, doing the work of their captors.
Collective responsibility has been used since earliest times in the pagan cultures. The modern word “decimation” comes from a form of military punishment in the Roman armies with the same name. When a military unit was guilty of desertion, or retreat, or insubordination, the unit was broken in groups of ten soldiers, and each group drew a lot. The soldier on whom the lot fell was then executed by the other nine, irrespective of his personal guilt or responsibility. This severe punishment for the sins or crimes of others made the soldiers become keepers – or, rather, slave drivers – of each other. The resulting inflexibility in a battle cost the Roman armies a whole lot of casualties, because their soldiers were unwilling to retreat and save their power for another day.
A similar phenomenon can be seen today in America, with the common bias and prejudice against Hispanic immigrants among the general population. While there is no legal expression of collective guilt or responsibility, there is still the public opinion which lumps all Hispanics together for illegal immigration, irrespective of their individual responsibility. This collective finger-pointing at the Hispanic minority has led to the emergence of a phenomenon that might be bizarre, if it wasn’t just another example of what we talked about earlier: the unusual cruelty of some Hispanics to other Hispanics. Those of us who frequently travel and work close to the US-Mexico border know that the majority of the Border Patrol staff is actually Hispanic. And these Hispanic servants of the federal state are much more diligent – and sometimes even cruel – to their fellow Hispanics in enforcing the border laws than the non-Hispanic employees of the Border Patrol. In fact, the phenomenon dates back to the 1960s when the trade unions – mainly Hispanic – of the Marxist activist Cesar Chavez organized vigilante gangs to hunt Mexican immigrant workers (“wetbacks”) and beat them until they are forced to return to Mexico. (Anti-immigration has always been a Marxist policy, even today when supported by conservatives.) Collective guilt, when used to apply pressure on a group, leads to internal mutual distrust and control and supervision within the group. The individual is then forced to comply with the collective, to the exclusion of his own moral convictions or even natural empathy or affinity.
The fourth common tactics of a collectivist government is making people believe that nothing depends on them, their conduct, their moral actions, or even their obedience and allegiance.
Bettelheim gives the example of a group of Czech prisoners. In the first couple of months, they were separated from the Jewish population of the camp as “more noble.” They were given better rations, and they were not taken to job sites as the Jews. In a few weeks, however, the whole group was moved to the worst buildings in the camp, and then taken to work in the stone quarry, given the worst jobs where the danger of lethal accidents was the highest. Suddenly, without any warning, without any reason why. Then, in a few weeks, they were returned to their more comfortable quarters and were spared from heavy work. Then again they were moved to the worst building and taken to the quarry. Meanwhile, individuals were either rewarded or punished based on the whims of their guards and taskmasters. No one could say if they would receive a reward or a punishment at the end of the day, no matter how they performed during the day. Their daily and weekly regime was one of a total disconnect between their conduct or performance and the reward and punishment system administered to them. Within several months, the group was turned into a bunch of psychological cripples who could barely remember their names; for all practical purposes, they were no different than animals. The Jews in the same camp who were consistently abused for just being Jews, remained of stronger psychological condition: they at least knew why they were treated that way.
Part of man’s nature as a moral being is his propensity to view his own life and history as a string of sanctions for his moral conduct. This concept of predictable sanctions is a fundamental Biblical doctrine (see Deut. 28). In addition to it being an integral part of Biblical theology – or following from it – it is also part of our everyday life. Such concepts as entrepreneurship, education, upbringing, social order, science and technology, are all based on the concept of predictable sanctions – or results – from our actions. It is nothing less than the concept of judgment applied to our everyday life. And the concept of predictable judgment in the world inevitably leads us to the concept of a Cosmic Judge who directs history and will eventually judge history. If such concept is to be exterminated, then the people in the collective need to be taught that judgment is never predictable but always chaotic and by chance. As in the evolutionary theory.
The fifth common technique was to make people refuse to see and acknowledge injustice.
Bettelheim describes the following example: An SS guard is beating a prisoner. A group of inmates is marching by, and as they get close, everyone turns their head in the opposite direction to demonstrate that they have learned their lesson to never notice what they are not supposed to notice. The guard yells, “Good job!”, for their compliance.
That technique was especially useful for destroying the souls of the people with their own guilt. By remaining silent, they were made, in a way, accomplices in the injustice they were refusing to notice. Other psychologists note the fact that survivors of the Holocaust were carrying the sense of personal guilt for many years after the war, and that for only one or two instances in which they were forced to “not see” injustice done to other people. Many years after the war, these people were trying to cope with the trauma of being forced to not raise their voice in defense of the weak and oppressed. During the war, of course, this guilt was used to manipulate them into submission. Once you become an accomplice by your silence, you have very little strength left for any resistance.
But don’t make the mistake to think that such technique was limited to the officially totalitarian regimes of the last century. The same technique is applied to our own police officers today. Behind the thin blue line that many conservatives imagine today, there is, within police circles, a thick blue wall or fog of silence, where cops are expected to remain silent when their own colleagues commit crimes and injustice. This week was the trial of Jason Van Dyke, the Chicago cop who shot the 16-year-old Laquan McDonald in the back and killed. The jury found Van Dyke guilty of murder – unusual for a country where almost every cop gets away with such an act. What is more important, however, is that Van Dyke wasn’t alone when he committed the murder. He was surrounded by at least a dozen of his fellow officers. Despite the fact that the victim never exhibited any aggressive behavior, not a single one of these other officers did anything to prevent the murder. They just let it happen, and made no effort to stop it. The situation is the same everywhere: the supposedly “good” cops always just sit and watch when their colleagues commit crimes. They never try to stop them. Why?
Because the same policy of “never see or acknowledge injustice” is inculcated in police officers from the very start of their police career. The few cops who have dared stop other cops from committing crimes usually become victims of internal revenge; think Serpico. Others are simply fired. In 2006, Cariol Horne, of the Buffalo PD, tried to stop her colleague Gregory Kwiatkowsky from choking a handcuffed man. Kwiatkowsky then punched her in the face for her daring move. And later, she was fired from the Buffalo PD after 19 years on the force, just a year before she could get her pension. Her violation? She dared notice and acknowledge that injustice was committed by a fellow cop, and tried to do something about it. There are dozens of such examples across the country. This is why those good cops never materialize when you need them to stop other cops from committing crimes: because the same collectivist tactics is at play.
Once a person is trained to not notice injustice, they then develop a new insensitivity to injustice. From there, the step is very small to the sixth common technique of all collectivist governments: make people transgress all their moral boundaries and commit injustice themselves.
Bettelheim describes the following situation: An SS guard commanded two Jewish inmates to lie in a ditch, and then commanded a Polish inmate to use his shovel to bury them alive. The polish inmate refused. The guard started beating the Polish inmate, but he still refused to do it. Then the guard commanded the Pole to lie in the ditch and told the Jews to bury him alive. The Jews, however, complied, and started throwing dirt on the Pole. Right before they were about to cover his head, the SS guard stopped them, ordered the Pole out of the ditch and the Jews back in the ditch, and again ordered the Polish inmate to bury them. This time he complied. Both Jews were buried and died.
This requirement that a person breaks all his internal moral boundaries is typical for the gang structures and the mafia. Committing a crime – usually some senseless murder – is part of the initiation ritual in many gangs. It is nothing less than a modern form of human sacrifice. As R.J. Rushdoony points out, Molech the god of the Phoenicians was not a spiritual being but an impersonation of the centralized state. (Molech means simply “king.”) The sacrifice of infants – which requires the parents to break all their internal boundaries of morality and empathy and love – was not a magical ritual but a pledge of allegiance to the community of the city. Adults who were capable of sentencing their own child to the flames are truly capable of being committed to the collective of the state, and thus were the perfect statist material. Anyone who has crossed that internal border would be capable of crossing any other ethical border when commanded by his superiors. For a man to become perfectly obedient to other men, he needs to become the perfect rebel against God.
Knowing these techniques is crucial for the modern Christian. Not so much because we want to remember the gory details of the past; but because, in one form or another collectivism continues raising its ugly head today, trying to brainwash individuals and lead them astray. Whether collectivism in the state, or collectivism in the church, or collectivism in the family, we are still fighting the same beast that is trying to control the actions of every individual (Revelation 13:17). As Christians, we ought to be capable of discerning that spirit and its manifestation in our society, and actively work to purge our society of it.
The book I will assign for reading this week is Bruno Bettelheim, The Informed Heart: Autonomy in a Mass Age. It is not an easy book to read; at times, it is harder than Solzhenitsyn’s GULag Archipelago. In addition to it, I will recommend watching a movie: The Bourne Identity. Why do I recommend that movie? Because it has a very important underlying philosophical theme, namely, that even when a man is so deeply conditioned through technological manipulation to become the perfect obedient collectivist machine, he still has his moral senses, and can still triumph over all collectivism. It is a good movie in this regard, I think.
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