Monday, February 8, 2021

Unforgivable Sins

Judeo-Christianity, for those who still care about it, prescribes the forgiveness of sins. If you atone for your sins or if you confess and do penance for your sins, you can be forgiven. I hope this does not come as news.

And yet, in today’s new woke religion, there is no forgiveness. If you ever uttered the least derogatory reference against an aggrieved victim group, you must immediately be canceled. Even if you offer the most abject apology, even if you take time off of work to ponder your sins, you can never be forgiven.

The reason is simple. Your derisive epithet makes people feel unsafe. Recall that Sen. Tom Cotton’s New York Times op-ed about how best to shut down the rioting in America’s streets made some young New York Times journalists feel unsafe.

This means that we are living in the tyranny of feelings. Sentiment rules. And sentiment is merely what anyone says it is. We tend to take people at their word, but still, as for whether you feel threatened because someone hurt your feelings, one imagines that under normal circumstances, one might suggest that you simply get over it, or do some therapy. Such is no longer a possible retort, because your feelings, the feelings that only you know you have, are sacrosanct, not to be questioned or disputed. 

Anyway, this reasoning does not come from Judeo-Christianity. It feels like born-again pagan idolatry.

As it happens, Jesus Christ did say that one sin could never be forgiven. That was-- blaspheming the Holy Ghost.

In case you have forgotten, the relevant texts are from Matthew, 12: 31-32.

Therefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.

And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.

Dare I say, it’s a challenging text. It says nothing about the sin of blaspheming victim groups. It says nothing about racist or sexist or even transphobic rhetoric. But still, what does it mean to blaspheme the Holy Ghost? 

If we turn to Augustine, we find a rational explanation. The bishop of Hippo explained that blasphemy against the Holy Ghost was the sin of impenitence. The one sin you cannot be forgiven is being impenitent, confessing insincerely.

Of course, this has nothing to do with America’s current wave of cancel culture-- it being in direct defiance of our Western religious tradition. Then again, hunts for witches and heretics also existed in the religious culture that only allowed for one unforgivable sin. One does understand that when it came to putting witches on trial, the relevant authorities chose to test a witch’s sincerity by strapping her to a chair and throwing her in a river. If she drowned, that was interpreted to mean that she was innocent, and forgiven.

Go figure.

Anyway, in our current totalitarian moment many people are involved in a chase after heretics, against those who have committed thought crimes. Journalists, in particular, seem driven to dig up past messages, past comments, past emails and past tweets-- to show that a specific individual is a bigot. Words that had been a normal part of discourse, like "retarded" are now thought crimes.

Glenn Greenwald offers a few choice comments on the phenomenon in his Substack column:

A new and rapidly growing journalistic “beat” has arisen over the last several years that can best be described as an unholy mix of junior high hall-monitor tattling and Stasi-like citizen surveillance. It is half adolescent and half malevolent. Its primary objectives are control, censorship, and the destruction of reputations for fun and power. Though its epicenter is the largest corporate media outlets, it is the very antithesis of journalism.

Teams of journalists at three of the most influential corporate media outlets — CNN’s “media reporters” (Brian Stelter and Oliver Darcy), NBC’s “disinformation space unit” (Ben Collins and Brandy Zadrozny), and the tech reporters of The New York Times (Mike Isaac, Kevin Roose, Sheera Frenkel) — devote the bulk of their “journalism” to searching for online spaces where they believe speech and conduct rules are being violated, flagging them, and then pleading that punitive action be taken (banning, censorship, content regulation, after-school detention). These hall-monitor reporters are a major factor explaining why tech monopolies, which (for reasons of self-interest and ideology) never wanted the responsibility to censor, now do so with abandon and seemingly arbitrary blunt force: they are shamed by the world’s loudest media companies when they do not.

Of course, they all believe that they are doing God’s work. They believe that they are ridding the world of bigotry, by erasing not just the wrong words but also the people who may at one time have pronounced the wrong words.

Doubtless, they believe that they are saving the world, one bigot at a time. They believe that they are also saving the American mind from wrong think.

Besides, as Greenwald argues correctly, they believe that there is only one truth and that they possess it. The notion that a group of mentally challenged journalists is in possession of the truth, to the point where discussion, debate and even dissent must be stifled tells us, at the very least, that they are in the business of enforcing dogma. And also that they are in the business of repudiating the marketplace of ideas and even scientific reasoning. Keep in mind, as though you need to be reminded, scientific reason is based primarily and fundamentally on skepticism. For true scientists there is no settled science. For political hacks who cannot engage in a public debate with scientists, there must be.

In Greenwald’s words:

Thus do we have the unimaginably warped dynamic in which U.S. journalists are not the defenders of free speech values but the primary crusaders to destroy them. They do it in part for power: to ensure nobody but they can control the flow of information. They do it partly for ideology and out of hubris: the belief that their worldview is so indisputably right that all dissent is inherently dangerous “disinformation.” And they do it from petty vindictiveness: they clearly get aroused — find otherwise-elusive purpose — by destroying people’s reputations and lives, no matter how powerless. Whatever the motive, corporate media employees whose company title is “journalist” are the primary activists against a free and open internet and the core values of free thought.

Of course, in order to engage in free thought you need to know how to think. In order to engage in a conversation you need to know both sides of each issue. Reducing America’s problems to insulting epithets, trying to solve the problems by canceling those who use them, is a futile exercise, one that will fail.

This does not mean that some language is not beyond the pale. When language is beyond the pale the solution is not to ban the people who might have used a term. The solution is to promote more decorous speech, to speak to and of other people with courtesy and respect.

And yet, somehow or other millennial journalists are up in arms about wrong think. Why might this be so? Perhaps because they are incapable of engaging with the arguments of those they oppose. Perhaps they believe that they did not earn their titles and their jobs through merit, but were handed them in order to fulfill a diversity quota. Shelby Steele pointed out two decades ago that affirmation programs would end up hurting those they are designed to help. Once you hand out college admissions and even job titles in order to fulfill quotas, anyone who might have fallen into the privileged category will be seen by others as not having earned his or her place.

And thus, those who are made to feel that they do not quite belong are in a rage against other minds, against the other minds who treat them as though they did not earn their way. You might think that more mandated diversity is the solution to America's problems. Considering that we have been mandating it for decades now, more likely it is the problem.


Sam L. said...

I trust you can see why I say that I despise, detest, and totally distrust the media; and further, that O do not know whether the media is/are a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Dem Party, or if it's the other way round, but it's OBVIOUS that they are in CAHOOTS.

urbane legend said...

Regarding Matthew 12: 31-32, I believe there is a quite acceptable interpretation found here.

Thirdly, a person may get tired of always resisting what the Spirit is telling them about Jesus, and may lash out in anger against the Holy Spirit for what He is trying to tell them.

This person knowingly, maliciously, and repeatedly rejects and slanders the Holy Spirit for His efforts to bring them to Jesus. This is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

When a person commits the unforgivable sin, the Holy Spirit stops trying to convict them of sin, righteousness, and judgment.

They once and for all choose to remain on their path of rebellion. The Holy Spirit will no longer convict them of their sin, of the offer of salvation, or of impending judgment. Such people have demanded to be left alone, and their request will be honored.


When an unbeliever lashes out in this way, this reveals a heart hardened beyond hope of forgiveness. They will never be forgiven because there is nothing left for the Holy Spirit to appeal to. The Holy Spirit stops attempting to draw, convict, and convince people who commit the unforgivable sin.

And without the Holy Spirit’s work in this way, no person will ever be saved.

The sin of unbelief in wokeness, and the eternal resistance of those who think for themselves to repent and believe, giving heed to the prodding of angry journalists, seems to me to fall perfectly in line with this interpretation.

Anonymous said...

I think Augustine may have been off the mark on this one. When read through a certain filter, the whole story of the bible is the connection between man and God which is done through the Holy Spirit. Jesus never takes credit for anything. The Holy Spirit is the agency for manifesting what humans want. Slagging the Holy Spirit is the one thing that undermines the entire proposition of Christianity.