Liberalism is dead. And we are too. It has turned us into zombies.
Our nation’s embrace of the modern liberal project of radical individual autonomy has given birth to a dying culture, limping along on the last vestiges of life support drawn from the IV of historic Judeo-Christian values and the original Western classical liberal project. But if we persist on our current path, that cord will soon be altogether severed. When it is finally cut, our culture and our country will fall, crashing like that great statue of Ozymandias, leaving nothing but destruction and despair amid the ruins.
What will rise from that rubble? In a word, zombies. We will become — we are becoming now — a nation inhabited by the living dead, husks of moral and spiritual zombies shuffling around, men and women without chests, hollow inside, and bereft of any externally inclined and properly ordered loves. Movies teach us that it’s contagion or a virus that will bring about the zombie apocalypse. Turns out that virus was actually a political philosophy, and it’s spreading like gangrene.
Scary stuff. But what exactly do I mean by the “death-working failure of the modern liberal project?” Let me, or rather, let Jacqueline Laing, explain.
In her excellent essay, “Law, Liberalism, and the Common Good,” Laing undertakes a devasting critique against what she calls the rise of “Modern Liberal Autonomy (MLA)” as a governing principle of jurisprudence. She explains that “according to this principle, if consenting adults want to do something, unless it does a specific harm to others here and now, the law has no business intervening. Harm to the self and general harm to society can constitute no justification for legal regulation or prohibition.”
What does this mean, practically? It means that, if a culture adopts this way of understanding the purpose of law and the common good, it becomes virtually impossible to limit any number of real societal harms that should be outlawed altogether or, at the very least, legally constrained. For example, think no-fault divorce, abortion, incest, pornography, private drug use, prostitution, giving puberty blockers to kids, etc.
And this is where modern liberalism radically departs from classical liberalism and the ideas that gave birth to our nation. The fundamental principles of classical liberalism were historically expressed in the glorious triplet of inalienable rights: Rights to life, liberty, and property.
Now, MLA advocates for a different, unholy trinity of rights, according to Laing. She argues: “Modern liberalism prides itself on having secured certain rights and freedoms—to destroy one’s self, one’s offspring, and collectively to destroy one’s culture. Built on the empty rhetoric of relativism and blind to its own de facto subservience to illicit industries, Modern Liberal Autonomy promises the good life and then drives us to individual and collective self-destruction.”
These two sentences bring us to the heart of darkness generating the death-working nature of modern liberalism in one of the sharpest, shortest summaries I’ve ever encountered. Her description of the deadly dangers of modern liberalism is so poignant and encompassing that it is worth considering in greater detail.
Look closely again at those three distinct yet overlapping avenues of destruction: one’s self, one’s offspring, and one’s culture. Now, let’s consider these one at a time, observing how they are specifically manifest in our culture today — promising life but delivering death — and turning us into zombies.
This twisted conception of freedom is found in all corners of our society. Perhaps the most obvious example of this is the rise of physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia. While different, both of these practices take the principle of radical individual liberty and autonomy to a terminal end. In the U.S., physician-assisted suicide is currently legal in 10 states. Other countries are also embracing it. Currently, a woman in Colombia is fighting for the “right” to become “the first patient without an immediate terminal prognosis — those expected to live for six months or less — to receive euthanasia in Colombia.” But it’s not just death that embraces self-destruction. It’s also the rise of transgenderism, which embraces and celebrates physical mutilation in a sad and misguided attempt to deny one’s given biological reality.
This is further revealed by plummeting marriage and birth rates, with many millennials intentionally embracing prolonged singleness, forsaking the pursuit of marriage as a societal good and opting to become “puppy parents” of “fur babies.” I fear that so many in my generation are oblivious to the gathering tsunami of despair, regret, and remorse currently swelling off the chronological coast of their lives; it will come crashing down in the decades to come, and who will be able to withstand it? Because the truth is that your single status, your fur baby, and your memories of traveling the world won’t be able to care for you when you are 60, unattached, childless, rootless, and suffering with a recent cancer diagnosis. This is indeed a freedom won, not for flourishing but for self-destruction.
This refers most explicitly to abortion. Since 1973, it is estimated that over 60 million pre-born humans have been sacrificed on the bloody altar of modern liberal autonomy. Abortion has been hallowed as the ultimate sacrament of our national godless religion, the apotheosis of self-worship. Abortion is not just a present evil, but it is also a heinous act of intergenerational injustice. It both destroys life in the present and robs the future of the people needed to populate a functioning, well-ordered, and cohesive society.
The freedom to destroy one’s offspring is also on display in the anti-Christian, deeply dark, and morally acidic nature of our public education system. That system, ostensibly aimed at civic development, now promotes pornographic literature to children, lauds lap dances for teachers from students in lingerie at homecoming rallies, and teaches one-half of our youth to hate themselves because of their skin color. As a Loudon County public school mother recently reported, “My six-year-old somberly came to me and asked if she was born evil because she was a white person, something she learned in a history lesson at school.” And I would be remiss not to mention the ever-increasing assault on our nation’s youth by the transgender movement. Whether it is Twix-sponsored Halloween commercials normalizing little boys wearing a dress or parents wickedly warping their children’s minds, bodies, and souls by letting them “be whatever gender they want to be,” our now culturally-accepted forms of child abuse are literally killing our kids: teen suicide rates have been on the alarming rise for the last ten years — and the rate amongst LGBT and transgender youth is even higher.
Of course, everything mentioned above contributes to cultural collapse. But here also let’s consider the “freedoms” granted and given by the modern liberal project that are distinctly deleterious to our overall culture. No-fault divorce would certainly be high on the list. And it’s nearly impossible to overstate the unraveling force of the LGBT movement on civil society. The Supreme Court’s unconstitutional decision to create a right to “homosexual marriage” via Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015 has functioned like an accelerant, a chemically manufactured substance poured on the fire of modern liberalism burning away our societal foundations and the necessary limitations on liberty needed to preserve life and prosperity. Ask yourself: Which flag more accurately represents the state of our nation these days? The red, white, and blue of Old Glory? Or the rainbow flag of the sexual revolution? What does it look like to destroy our culture? Just visit a gay pride parade.
So, what’s the way out of this mess? What will bring the dead back to life? What can put hearts back into these empty chests, souls back into these lifeless bodies, and spark reason and rationality back into the synapses of these zombie minds warped by modern liberalism? As a rising theologian and critic of postmodernism, Samuel Sey recently stated, “Leftism is fundamentally a religion that opposes Christianity and its influence on Western civilization. The only thing that can save America and Western nations from disaster is also the only thing that can save sinners from the wrath of God: the Gospel.”
He’s right. The only shock that will reverse this cardiac arrest is the life-giving message of the Gospel. Above all else, we need spiritual renewal.
We need 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 to become a retrospective banner for our generation:
“Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
But even as we labor and pray for that widespread revival, we must tend to the fields and fences of our legal system now. The law may not be able to make a man or woman cherish their unborn offspring, but it certainly can prevent them from destroying their children in utero, if appropriately enshrined and enforced. The Supreme Court must reverse Roe v. Wade when they have the chance to do so with the Dobbs case.
Parents and public schools must be made to tell their children “No” — as in, “No, you’re not transgender. God made you a boy or a girl, and you must trust Him in that and embrace your masculinity or femininity.” This is not only a Christian argument but one that is unavoidably drawn from the natural law, evident to all.
Pornographic material must be banned from public schools. Puberty blockers and sex changes must be illegal for anyone under the age of 18. Robust religious freedoms and conscience protections must be affirmed in law under the First Amendment so that dissenters of this deathly regime can hold enough ground to fight back.
And fighting back starts by reclaiming the concepts of “freedom” and “liberty” from their postmodern mutilations. Because, as Laing so rightly reminds us, freedom to destroy one’s self, one’s offspring, and one’s culture is no real freedom at all. It is bondage. It is tyranny. It is a living death. To embrace this understanding of freedom in our law or our lives is to become a zombie nation.
So, this Reformation Day, let us reject the death-work of modern liberalism and embrace the life-giving love of salvation in Jesus Christ, the firstborn from the dead. Thereby we can “reverse the curse as far as it is found” and begin to reorder our lives, loves, and liberties, by the light of His reason and revelation.
A 10-year veteran of the conservative political movement, William Wolfe served as a senior official in the Trump Administration, both at the Pentagon and the Department of State. Prior to his service in the administration, he worked for Heritage Action for America and as a congressional staffer for three members of Congress, including the former Rep. Dave Brat. He has a B.A. in History from Covenant College and is currently finishing his Master of Divinity at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.