In God’s common grace, some non-Christians can better discern and explain the trends of our current age than many believers can. The British journalist Douglas Murray is one such person.
‘All our grand narratives have collapsed’, he observes (p.1); and the vacuum has been filled by the new religion of identity politics. His book surveys the progress of the ‘woke’ social justice movement and concludes – as the title suggests – that Western society has deranged itself, collectively and deliberately.
The demands of these activists, he argues, go far beyond equal rights before the law (rights which were recognised long ago). Rather, this is a Marxist-inspired campaign which aims to deconstruct every aspect of society and remake it in its own image.
The author – who describes himself as a gay man – challenges the activists’ insistence that sexual preference is fixed and not fluid, and draws a distinction between ‘gay’ (a private sexual inclination) and ‘queer’ (a militant political platform).
He dives into the murky world of Fourth Wave Feminism, marked by its deep hatred of the male sex. He exposes the hypocrisy of those female celebrities who espoused the #metoo movement after building careers on sexualising their bodies for the pleasure and temptation of men.
There is a study of Critical Race Theory and its determination to charge all whites with complicity in racism. Rather than being judged by the content of our character (as Martin Luther King once dreamed), we now live in a world where race has become a central determining characteristic.
Believers have been troubled by the soaring number of children receiving irreversible treatment for ‘gender dysphoria’. Murray shines a light on the role played by online social media, the unquestioning co-operation of medical professionals, and the silencing of concerns about undermining women’s rights.
Throughout the book, attention is drawn to the methods which this movement employs: the rewriting of history, the control of language (with loaded terms like ‘toxic masculinity’ and ‘white privilege’), the exaltation of the victim, and the scouring of the internet for tweets that are deemed transgressive. ‘Their desire is not to heal but to divide, not to placate but to inflame, not to dampen but to burn’ (p.247).
Yes, Murray is a master at revealing the inherent contradictions of this new religion. But his book is stymied by its failure to present a viable alternative. There is some worthy advice to be generous to those with whom we disagree, and ‘to retain an interest in politics but not to rely on it as a source of meaning’ (p.256).
But what then is our source of meaning? What is that truth which can unite a divided humanity around the ultimate purpose of our lives? It will take a Christian to answer that.