While many on the right are just waking up to the philosophy of critical theory or “wokeness,” as it’s now known, I happen to have been raised in the thick of it in liberal San Francisco.
My parents and my friends’ parents were all bourgeoise bohemian, Boomer progressives who mostly worked as psychologists, artists, writers, playwrights, musicians, or professors. Many of them had themselves been “red diaper babies,” or children of Communist Party members or Communist Party sympathizers, and so they came to their belief system naturally, as did I. I even briefly attended the New School for Social Research in New York City, which was founded by progressive intellectuals in the early 1920s. The teachers there would tell you that they were simply “expanding the boundaries of social thoughts.”
The funny thing is, I didn’t really understand what critical theory was and its true effect until I became a red-pilled conservative adult. I now realize that I was immersed in the philosophy and that it fundamentally formed my worldview. I believe it has many others, who are perhaps still none the wiser.
In fact, millions of fellow millennials and subsequent generations have been subject to the subtle indoctrination of the ideology through popular culture, books, music, movies, and television. You can see the fruits of this borne out in the “woke generation,” who, as author David Solway observed, have “succumbed to a political virus of which they are unaware, fallen prey to a toxic narrative developed by the luminaries of the intellectual Left.”
Critical theory is not a new-fangled ideology that entered the scene with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her “squad” of fellow progressive congresswomen. It’s been around for decades, subtly infecting cultural narratives to influence massive social shifts we’re only just starting to realize. But growing up in a left-wing Baby Boomer utopia, I know what we’re seeing is the radical postmodern ideology made so predominant in our popular and academic culture finally come to fruition.
As a child, I took certain narratives for granted, the same thinking, language, and fallacies that the radical, progressive left has made mainstream in the last decade. Narratives like how our nation was founded by morally inferior white colonials who “stole” the land from saintly, peaceful Native Americans, how I, as a white person, was always at risk of being racist, with or without my knowledge, and how it is oppressive to expect a married woman to prioritize caring for her home and children.
Because I was raised without any regard for a higher power or objective truth and morality, there wasn’t a huge imperative in my life to have a consistent, well thought out worldview. Like so many of the prominent liberal figures today, I was content to draw on buzz phrases and guilt-ridden anti-Western rhetoric that virtue signaled my abhorrence of, you know, like, oppression and stuff.
While I certainly thought I was a daring, counter-cultural rebel (and to be fair, as recently as the early aughts I was still on the far-left side of things relative to the culture at large), the artsy, intellectual adults around me all smiled and nodded in benevolent support of my activist spirit.
Our popular culture is now absolutely full of it, from the edgiest of indie flicks to animated series marketed with a Christian veneer. And it all begins with a fundamental flaw in basic moral reasoning: The worship of self and the rejection of a higher power, however subtle or overt such messaging may be.
Critical theory, you see, is based on the reasoning of both Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud and approaches the world with a radically different view than those who believe in a Creator God.
If you grew up being told that what matters is believing in yourself, to follow or listen to your heart, to live your truth, or to always be yourself, then you are the product of this postmodern culture that centers on the fulfillment of the self rather than reliance on — and submission to — a higher power.
Critical theory is based on this same presumption. As part of the postmodern philosophical tradition heavily influenced by modern psychology, critical theory fully accepts — without any skepticism or doubt — that there is no God and that science and human reasoning can be used to solve all social ills.
The critical theorists identify systems of oppression and the supposed psychological explanations thereof (i.e. the concept of “white fragility”) and seek to format both widespread narratives and policy accordingly.
Let that sink in. They identify what I now, as a born-again Christian, know is actually sin (i.e., the desire to oppress others, racism) in addition to the perceived social sins of their own makings (inherent bias, white privilege) and honestly believe that, with enough of their indoctrination and dramatic social restructuring, they can stamp out the effects of the fall of man.
Both American-style liberty and Christian morality are founded in the knowledge that a Creator who establishes moral rights and wrongs that are higher than any living power endows us with our human rights, including the freedom of conscience and speech.
Critical theory believes that man has the power to control other men to the point of preventing them from hating or seeking to oppress any other man.
These ideologies are entirely inconsistent, and yet the latter has infected our mainstream culture while the former is poorly understood by the vast majority of both nominal Christians and secular adults today.
I took critical theory for granted growing up, and I’d be willing to bet there are many aspects of postmodern theory that you take for granted too.
We don’t, however, have to take for granted that our kids will.
We have the power to shape the next generation: Let’s make sure they have the historical and biblical context and the critical thinking skills to recognize and reject the moral failings of critical theory.