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Aug 21, 2023

Malice in Wonderland: Through the Looking Glass into a Strange New World

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Trueman Carl

Carl R. Trueman

Grove City College

Carl R. Trueman is professor of biblical and religious studies at Grove City College in Pennsylvania.

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Hamza Yusuf

Zaytuna College

Hamza Yusuf is a leading proponent of classical learning in Islam and president of Zaytuna College, a Muslim liberal arts college in Berkeley, California.

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Malice in Wonderland: Through the Looking Glass into a Strange New World

Shy Trueman Lead Image

Carl Trueman’s book Strange New World examines both the philosophical origins and the impact of the sexual revolution we are witnessing today. In May 2023, Trueman and editor-in-chief Hamza Yusuf engaged in an onstage conversation moderated by editor Safir Ahmed. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Question: Dr. Trueman, in your book you trace the intellectual genealogy of the sexual revolution back to the eighteenth-century philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who thought that our natural, and perhaps moral, self results when we act outwardly in accordance with our inner feelings. Why did you choose Rousseau as the beginning of the sexual revolution story? And why do you think Europe was the cradle from which these ideas emerged?

Carl Trueman: I chose Rousseau because I felt he was representative of a particular moment: in the eighteenth century, in both religious and relatively irreligious circles, people wrestled with the question, “Where is authority to be found?” And you ask a very pertinent question: What is it about Europe?

I think we have to say it’s the Reformation, and the invention of the printing press, that led to a tremendous disruption of traditional external authority structures, which then led to several hundred years of philosophical wrestling with, well, “Where is authority to be found?” We see this perhaps most dramatically in Descartes: Of what can I be certain? Where can I find that place where I can stand and be certain?

In Christianity, at the same time Rousseau was coming up with his idea of expressive individualism, this granting of authority to feelings, Jonathan Edwards, the New England Puritan, was writing a famous work, Religious Affections, where from a very Christian perspective he wrestled with the same problem: What authority do we grant inner feelings, given the problematic nature of external authority? I find Rousseau to be a brilliant representative and articulator of that position.

Also, his theories about education really undergird and still influence a lot of modern theories of education. In the broader, generic, Protestant American world, child-centered learning has proved very important. That tracks back to Rousseau, who held that education is not the Aristotelian idea of taking hold of a little savage who’s got all the right instincts but just needs to be bent and shaped into a civilized member of society; rather, for Rousseau, education acknowledges that the child is fundamentally sound, and the school is there simply to allow them to express that soundness.

Hamza Yusuf: What’s interesting about Rousseau is that he wrote this treatise on education, on how to raise a child, and yet he abandoned all five of his children, who ended up in terrible conditions in France. Voltaire was the one who actually outed him because he was telling everybody how to raise their kids but he abandoned his own kids.

CT: It was infanticide in practice.

HY: Exactly. That seems to be true of a lot of these theorists—Marx is another one; people forget that his children committed suicide. There’s a lot of suicide around these people telling us how we should do things, and none of their theories comes from revelation or reason but from appetite.

Q: Shaykh Hamza, do you think Muslims, especially in the West, are susceptible to these ideas that animate the modern self?

HY: I think Muslims are as susceptible as anybody if they’re far from their religious tradition. Once they lose the grounding of their tradition, they’re open to everything. Sophistry is obviously very powerful; it’s won over many societies and cultures over time. The people who can undermine sophistical reasoning usually have to be very well trained and must be speaking in public.

People like Dr. Trueman are out there speaking a truth that needs to be spoken. I know people who are getting death threats for just having an opinion about something that all of us should think deeply about given the impact that it’s having on us. I’m very concerned about the Muslim community, and I do see Muslims imbibing a lot of these ideas, sometimes without even realizing it. Increasingly, we’re seeing Muslims taking as imams people like Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida.

Q: Why do you think the Islamic tradition never produced a Rousseau?

HY: By the time people like him showed up, in the eighteenth century, the Muslims were pretty ossified. To be fair, Islam is a theocentric tradition, and that theocentricity has survived well into the twenty-first century because there were a lot of antibodies to suppress some of these ideas. But they did come in. Intellectuals were reading these ideas; certainly in the nineteenth century, we see the influence of European thought on scholars like Muhammad Abduh, who wanted to be the Luther of the Islamic community.

Q: Dr. Trueman, after Rousseau, you talk about Romanticism and its poets: William Wordsworth, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and William Blake. You wrote, “While he would no doubt have wretched at the thought, William Wordsworth stands near the head of a path that leads to Hugh Hefner and Kim Kardashian.” Just walk us through that connection from Wordsworth to Hefner and the Kardashians.

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CT: It was a bit of rhetoric to catch the imagination, but I think there is a connection. What you get with the Romantics—this emphasis on the inner self and being able to express emotions outwardly—ties in with the idea that authentic human beings present outwardly as they feel themselves to be inwardly.

Now, there are numerous differences between Hugh Hefner and William Wordsworth. One of them, I think, is that Wordsworth would certainly have regarded human nature as having a moral shape and a structure. For him, it wasn’t simply a case of letting it all hang out. He would have had a definite vision of a morally attuned person. Even Rousseau would have. I think we all understand that morality and ethics have an effective or even an aesthetic component. If we walk out of here tonight and see somebody being mugged on the street and we don’t feel something, we might be morally inadequate in some way. Wordsworth is correct that morality has to have an effective grounding.

The gap between Wordsworth and Hefner is that, for Hefner’s ilk, the notion of any moral structure disappears. All you end up with are feelings completely detached from any moral teleology or structure.

HY: I think the Romantic poets follow the metaphysical poets; they move into sentiment from higher-order thinking. We can see very interesting evolutions, and literature certainly plays a major role. By the end of the nineteenth century, you have the ars gratia artis (art for art’s sake), which became a motto for MGM Studios; Oscar Wilde was at the heart of that movement. Before that, it was “art for God’s sake.” There was a higher purpose to art. Once you remove God from art, it dissipates in a serious way.

The idea of moral sentiment became increasingly important with people such as Adam Smith, who wrote in the eighteenth century. They saw morality as feelings more than as a habitus of the soul that’s acquired with effort. What we like is good, and what we don’t like is bad, so morality becomes subjectivity, something experienced inside as opposed to something with an objective, identifiable reality.

CT: That’s so key, I think, to the transformation taking place now. I remember I was teaching at a seminary, and I had students asking me, “Can you give us good arguments against gay marriage?” I said I can give you numerous good arguments, but none of them will work because most of the people who are pro–gay marriage have not come to that position because of an argument. They’ve come to it because they’ve seen a movie or a sitcom. Their emotions have been transformed and attuned by products of the culture to which they’ve been exposed. As we look at the rising generation of young people, we need to realize we can’t argue them back into their original positions because they were never argued out of those positions. Other things in play have shaped their moral intuitions.

Q: On that point, early in your book, you talk about the “social imaginary”—which is how most people who haven’t read Rousseau and these other thinkers imbibe ideas. What is that social imaginary, and how do those ideas filter down to everybody in the culture?

CT: Well, the social imaginary is a term used by Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor to talk about how cultures operate. He makes this point that people don’t read Marx, they don’t read Nietzsche, and they don’t read Freud, nor do they have to read them to have intuitions that operate along Marxist, Freudian, or Nietzschean lines.

For example, very few of us have read profound tomes on morality that persuaded us that stealing is wrong. We just know that Mum and Dad brought us up to think that way. Our intuitions were shaped so that we instinctively know stealing is wrong. We may not be able to give a watertight argument as to why; we just know. Taylor is saying that, in some ways, the most important beliefs we have about life, the universe, morality, and so on, are intuitive; they are reinforced not by arguments but by social behaviors.

In the Christian Church, for example, we don’t have just preaching on Sunday; we have sacraments: baptism, the Lord’s Supper. We have rituals that aren’t arguments but still have an effect on the emotions and therefore, over time, cumulatively transform the way we think about the world.

When we think about the sexual revolution, it’s important to realize that this is not happening because somebody came up with a great argument. Rather, it’s happening because, for instance, somebody developed the pill. Once women had the pill, they could start thinking that sex was recreation; they could have it without getting pregnant. That’s not an argument but an intuition shaped by a technology that has fashioned a particular behavior.

HY: Well, I don’t think trickle-down economics is real, but I do believe in trickle-down philosophy. The ideas of philosophers of one generation become the common coins of the succeeding generations if the ideas are powerful enough to take hold among intellectuals.

A really interesting narrative is that of the French writer Rabelais, who wrote novels in the sixteenth century about two giants, Gargantua and Pantagruel. He writes about the Abbey of Theleme that Gargantua built, and written over the abbey’s entry was, “Do What Thou Wilt.” He inverted the monks’ traditional covenants of chastity, poverty, and obedience into noble relations, richness, and freedom. He was saying that people sin because there are laws, so if we get rid of the laws, there’s nothing to rebel against; human beings will be good because it’s their nature to be good—and if they’re not told what to do.

In the eighteenth century, you get people like Lord Philip Wharton in England, who started the Hellfire Club, where people got together, had prostitutes dressed up as nuns, mocked costumes of biblical characters, and had a rakish good time. That created gentlemen’s clubs, where they did outrageous things. The elites were rebelling, and they saw that it was important for the masses to believe what they believed. If people rebelled, you could get rid of the aristocracy, and then you could create these democracies, and now you didn’t need rules anymore.

A later movement called Hintonism came from James Hinton, a preacher in London who had as his theme “Love and Do What Thou Wilt.” Then Aleister Crowley revived Rabelais’s Abbey of Theleme. He was bisexual and wanted to liberate people from social constraints. In fact, he wrote in 1905 that the time was coming when people would be free of the tyranny of being either male or female: they could actually choose. Havelock Ellis wrote a six-volume work in 1933 called Psychology of Sex. He and his wife were bisexual, and they supported open marriages. He was a big promoter of birth control, and one of his acolytes was Margaret Sanger, who started Planned Parenthood. Birth control is central to this whole transformation; without it, a lot of these things just would not have happened.

Then you have this interesting German person, Magnus Hirschfeld, who was a homosexual. He was heavily influenced by Freud and Ellis. He became a physician, and he coined the term transvestite and wrote about homosexuality. He performed the first-ever transgender operation in 1927 and argued that we need to allow people to be themselves. He was the first person to make the argument that homosexuality was something you were born with, differing from Freud on that point.

Q: Rousseau’s idea of human nature—that people are born moral but society corrupts them—departed from the Christian idea of original sin. In Islam, the prophetic tradition teaches that every child is born in conformity with nature, and there’s the idea of the fiţrah. How do we understand the fiţrah in terms of Rousseau and the Christian tradition of original sin?

CT: I simply affirm that what you’re saying about Rousseau is correct. I think Nietzsche and Freud are closer to what many Christians believe—they didn’t believe in a fall from human nature but from Christianity. We believe that Adam and Eve were created pristine but their fall corrupted them and all their progeny. Functionally, Freud and Nietzsche were more insightful because they realized human beings have a dark and destructive tilt and drive.

HY: With Muslims, you get into debates about natural law in our tradition—not a hard natural law but a soft natural law. We have this tradition of al-ĥusn wa al-qubĥ (goodness and ugliness), which has three elements that are basically the aesthetic aspect of ethics: good deeds are beautiful, bad deeds are ugly, and the intellect has access to certain elements within both. For instance, it’s rational to understand that knowledge is good and ignorance is bad. But judgment, which relates to punishment and reward—that’s God’s domain. The dominant opinion among Muslim scholars says judgment is the realm of God, but that has to be introduced; that’s where the messengers come in, the prophets who inform people about what’s expected and how they will be rewarded and punished. If that warner does not come, then they’re not held accountable in terms of rewards and punishments.

As to the fiţrah, our principial nature, human beings are born with an inclination to truth, but there’s a default setting that they have to deal with. We don’t have the Augustinian original sin concept, but we do understand that we’re in a fallen state. We were in Eden, but now we’re in this dunyā, and we have this proclivity, as the Prophet ﷺ said: Kullukum khaţţā’ūn, “All of you are sinners.” When people complained about sin, the Prophet ﷺ said, “If you didn’t sin, God would create people that would sin because one of his names is Tawwāb, the one who turns to the repentant.” He also said that if people didn’t sin, the angels would be shaking their hands on the streets.

Christ said to the people who were condemning the woman for having committed adultery, “Whoever hasn’t sinned, let him cast the first stone.” When they all left, he looked at her and asked where her accusers were. Since no one had condemned her, he said that he didn’t either, and she should “go and sin no more.” What the Antichrist says is, “Go, there is no more sin.” It’s an inversion of the truth, which is that we have to repent. But if there were no sin, there would be nothing to repent from.

That’s why one of my teachers told me, “Whatever you tell the Muslims, just tell them never to permit the impermissible,” because once they do that, they close the door of repentance, and that door is always open as long as you haven’t closed it.

Q: Everything about the sexual revolution seems to be pulling us away from our principial nature. How do we retain it?

HY: The Prophet ﷺ described holding on to religion in the latter days as like holding on to a hot coal in your hand. That’s how difficult it is. The current cultural phenomena is harmful to young people, to children—they’re growing up being indoctrinated into things that are robbing them of their innocence. We have an obligation to try to keep them in that innocence. They’ll eventually come out of the garden of childhood, but as parents, we should do our best to keep them in that garden for as long as possible.

A lot of people who promote certain aspects of what Dr. Trueman talks about in his book believe in this idea of the dominance of innocence. But it works both ways. The reason schools and libraries have drag queen story hours is because they want to enculturate young children into the idea that this is normal; if children are raised in a culture in which heterosexuality is the norm, then they will see anything else as abnormal, so you have to break down that barrier as early as possible so that they normalize other ways of expressing gender. The Arabs have a saying, “The stable boy gets used to the stench.” Getting the children as early as possible ensures that what you’re teaching them has a lasting power.

Q: Dr. Trueman, in your book you unpack the LGBTQIA movement and show some contradictions within it: for example, some gays and lesbians still believe in the binary of men and women, but queer or transgender people don’t. Feminists don’t accept the idea of males transitioning to female. Do you think the movement will eventually splinter because of their internal differences?

CT: I think it is splintering before our eyes. Feminism is hopelessly divided over the issue of transgenderism because of the debate over the normativity of female physiology. I think that we will ultimately see the triumph of what I call queerdom. Politically, this will be pushing toward queerness as the category, which in some ways is an empty category.

In my book, I include an anecdote from a major feminist book—it’s the testimony of a woman who’s been living with another woman in a lesbian relationship for maybe a decade. Then she finds that her lesbian partner is convinced that she is a man trapped in a woman’s body. She transitions to being a man, and that leaves the original woman with this dilemma: Is she now straight because she’s sexually attracted to a woman who’s become a man? If she is, then she loses her identity as a lesbian. If she maintains her identity as a lesbian, then she denies the identity of her partner. At the end, she says, “I’ve become very happy in my queer identity.”

Queer is an empty category that negates all other categories. Politically, what we will see if things continue on the current track, the T and the Q will ultimately consume all of the others.

And just as an aside, when people say “LGBTQIA,” the inclusion of the I is entirely mischievous because intersexuality is a medical condition that can be treated. Intersexuality is not a question of the direction of sexual desire, as the L, G, and B are, nor is it a question of psychological conviction about identity that runs contrary to the body, as the T is. The LGBTQIA community obscures the issue by folding in the I with the rest, which really needs to be called out with more regularity.

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Q: Shaykh Hamza, this topic relates to the recent piece you wrote for Renovatio, “Cultural Devolution,” in which you talk about victimhood culture. You make a point about the normative center being displaced by the marginal, the peripheral, minorities. Could you talk about that a little bit?

HY: We have this concept—within Christianity too—of qalb al-ĥaqā’iq, the inversion of realities. This is something the devil is noted for, to invert things. You centralize the marginal, and you marginalize the central. One of the key aspects of critical theory is to do that, to flip things, to foreground the background. In some ways, it can be a useful exercise because you see things that you hadn’t noticed before.

To understand a lot of the current madness, we can turn to an author and social anthropologist from Oxford, J. D. Unwin, who wrote a really important book in the 1930s called Sex and Culture. He studied eighty-six cultures and determined that the creative energy of a society becomes dissipated once it unleashes sexuality. He talked about prenuptial and postnuptial continence, or self-restraint, with the most important being prenuptial continence. When young people explore sexuality before marriage, it completely dissipates the energies of society.

He found that within three generations—and he identified a generation as thirty-three years—each culture, without exception, had lost monogamy, religion, and rational thinking. We are well into the second generation, because the first generation was the ’60s, when those ideas were abandoned. People may not realize that a lot of cultural events in the ’60s were already indicating some of these things. If you look, for instance, at the Beatles, they have Aleister Crowley on the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. In a BBC poll, Crowley ranked seventy-third on the list of 100 Greatest Britons in all of history.

Q: Regarding the current public discourse about sexual identities, some people—both religious and secular—are pushing back and framing this as an issue of freedom of speech or religion, which are ideas based in liberalism. Do you think that liberalism or secularism can fix or undo the problems they created?

HY: Political philosopher Aurel Kolnai wrote an article in 1951 called “Three Riders of the Apocalypse,” in which he saw totalitarianism within three ideologies: fascism, communism, and what he called progressive democracy or liberalism. The seeds of totalitarianism were there.

America’s founding fathers, especially Benjamin Rush, intended our system of government to be predicated on religious belief—they understood that a society cannot ground morality without religion. A secular person can be moral, but I would argue that their morality is the remnant of the Christian capital they’re living on. You can’t ground morality in secularism. It will always be positivistic, it will always be simply the arbitrary nature of the law, and then you’re in the Foucauldian world, where power determines what’s right and what’s wrong.

Today, religious people are powerless, the materialists have their voice, and there’s a little bit of a sense of payback, looking back at the repression and oppression throughout history.

CT: Philip Rieff, a Freudian sociologist, makes a point that Western society is in the unique position of having to justify itself, and he observes that it’s never been successfully done in history. Historically, societies looked beyond themselves to something transcendent to organize their social orders. That summarizes what you just said, Shaykh Hamza. One of the consequences of this is that you’ll see less and less confidence in the democratic process, more and more of the big societal questions will be decided by either executive order or the US Supreme Court, and everything will default to the Foucauldian powerplay: How many seats can we get on the Supreme Court? Will our man in the White House sign an executive order?

The social order is becoming very equivocal because it has nothing beyond it to ground it. I don’t think all the founding fathers were orthodox Christians, but they had some belief in God and in the moral shape of the universe that organized things.

HY: Yes, they understood that. I mean, even Hume arguably would have said you don’t want the masses to become atheists. The elite always understood the social utility of religion—in fact, that’s the Marxian argument against religion: it’s basically meant to control people. But it doesn’t explain why all the great world religions arose from the crucible of persecution—they weren’t in power.

I think what Brad Gregory calls hyper-pluralism is very dangerous because religio, this idea of millah (faith), is what holds and binds people together. Ninety percent of people in the US identified with Christianity only a few decades ago; now it’s 64 percent. This is Unwin’s argument: if religion goes, then monogamy and rational thinking go.

The hypersexualization of our culture and civilization, what some call the pornification of America, is a dangerous sign. Dorothy Sayers argues that when people lose religion, they often replace it with this Dionysian, bacchanalian, orgiastic sexual expression. The danger is that then, as Unwin said, society cannot sustain itself.

The Latin term for lust is luxuria, and a society that is so satiated that it begins to explore lust finds that it gets darker and darker as it moves along because it needs a higher level of stimulus. The eight daughters, or by-products, of luxuria are terrifying: self-love; hatred of God for depriving you of those pleasures; inconstancy; distraction; thoughtlessness, or ghaflah in Arabic; the abhorrence of the afterlife; then despair, because one of the reasons that you can constrain yourself sexually is your hope for achieving a greater glory, and once you lose that hope, you feel despair; and finally, love of the world. These are the result of somebody giving in completely to incontinence, which used to be a very important moral term in our culture.

Q: People who believe in the traditional biological sexes, the binary of man and woman, face an argument in the public square that we should have some compassion for people experiencing gender dysphoria. Where do we draw the line between compassion and acceptance?

CT: It’s an interesting question. In a Christian context, if I were faced with a young man struggling with gender dysphoria, the first thing I would do pastorally is ask him to tell me how it started, why he thinks that way, how it presented itself. I’d want him to know that I care for him as a person. Secondly, no decent human being desires to see somebody suffering because they’re struggling with gender dysphoria, or same-sex attraction. The solutions we propose are not designed to hurt people; we want to help them. On gender dysphoria, the evidence suggests that physical transitioning does not solve the problem; suicide rates are catastrophic for people who transition, the same as they are for people who don’t, which suggests to me that the solution is not biological but something else.

That’s a preface to say that we need to care for the individual and to impress on them that whatever we do arises out of our love for them. Now, as a Christian, I’m going to point them to the Lord Jesus Christ. I’m going to have confidence that God can transform the person. That doesn’t always happen; we all struggle with things as Christians and we can spend a lifetime struggling with them. Maybe God does not take them away from us; nevertheless, I want to direct the person toward the supernatural.

My own view of homosexuality, transgenderism, and so on, is that these are not purely physiological or psychological issues; they’re spiritual issues as well, and therefore I want to bring some spiritual care to bear. Particularly with the transgender issue, I think a lot of it has to do with a desire to belong, a desire to be loved and affirmed. We all need to be part of a community, and a church should provide that hospitable community.

HY: To me, what’s happening with the children is abusive, and I think more people need to speak out against it. I don’t think children should be put on puberty blockers, which are not even FDA-approved drugs. I find it amazing that nobody seems to see that as problematic.

CT: When you think about that, you can make an analogy. There isn’t a single state in the US where a person under eighteen years old can get a tattoo, because that is regarded as too traumatic a change of the body. And yet transgender kids under eighteen can choose to go on puberty blockers—that shows you how perverted the thinking about children and their bodies is now in the United States.

HY: It’s the loss of rationalism—that’s Unwin’s argument. Our Prophet ﷺ predicted that we would see much more of these things—these are the tribulations of the latter days.

But there are related phenomena that we don’t fully understand. For instance, a lot of estrogen mimickers are found today in plastics. We have millions of menopausal women on estrogen pills and progestins. Hormone supplements, which are not normal to physiology, are flowing in their bodies. Many of them get pregnant during this time—we don’t know what that does to the developing fetus.

Regarding the question about compassion and acceptance, I don’t think there’s any one answer. But I concur with Dr. Trueman that we have to point people to the supernatural. One of our Prophet’s hadith says, “Do not leave me to my soul for even the blink of an eye.” Without divine aid, we can do nothing. The poet said, “If God’s aid is not helping the servant of God, then the things that most harm him are his own efforts.”

When I was going to school in Southern California, there was this group called Victory Outreach, and they worked with addicts who, by discovering their Christianity, gave up drugs overnight. We know the same is true with many Muslims. In certain communities, once they embrace faith in a deep way, everything can be overcome.

We definitely should have compassion for people because their tribulations are grave. We live in a very unnatural world. Lewis Carroll, who was a logician, a teacher of mathematical logic, wrote Through the Looking-Glass to show us what a world without reason would look like. We have gone through the looking glass. Humpty Dumpty has an argument with Alice about the meaning of words, and when she says, “It can’t mean that,” Humpty says, “It can mean whatever I say it means.” Who’s going to be the master? That’s the real question. Eventually Humpty Dumpty fell off the wall; that’s what’s going to happen to our world if it continues in its current direction: all the king’s horses and all the king’s men won’t be able to put it back together again.

Q: Many people who are religious feel helpless, and hopeless, about the sexual revolution and the loss of rationalism. What would you say to us about how to find hope? How do we keep hope alive?

CT: I have three thoughts. First, there are hints already that some aspects of the sexual revolution will be turned back. On the transgender issue, I think you can fight nature for only so long. We could well see, within the next forty to fifty years, lawsuits coming: the kids who’ve been used as chemistry sets by their parents, by Big Pharma, by the medical profession—they will sue. We don’t allow fourteen-year-olds to make intelligent decisions about what to have for dinner—how on earth can we allow them to make intelligent decisions about whether they want children in twenty or thirty years’ time? They will sue. This is America, and when big lawsuits start coming down, things will change.

Second, we can have hope at a local level. None of us here probably can have much impact on the whole of culture, but we can have an impact on the people in our neighborhoods, in our communities, and with our children. If identity is grounded in a strong community, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be strong communities, regardless of what the government does. In fact, history suggests that when governments go after certain groups, those groups become stronger communities. The LGBTQ movement is a good example. I don’t know much about Islam, but one of the things I think Judaism, Islam, and Christianity have in common is an emphasis on hospitality, and hospitality is huge for building communities, for shaping the way people think.

Third, where do I find hope? This is where Christianity and Islam will diverge. I find hope in Jesus’s promise to the church, the promise that the gates of hell will not prevail. Christians know who wins in the end—Jesus.

All of us here should be able to agree on the first two of those three points.

HY: Well, we believe Jesus wins in the end too! Anyway, I want to read something from Dr. Trueman’s book because I genuinely believe that liberal education is one of the most important antidotes to a lot of this madness:

Traditional notions of education assumed that students were raw material in need of training which would shape them into adult members of society by imparting skills and knowledge necessary for fitting into the larger social framework that is the adult world. This vision was not simply technical: liberal arts education also saw the teaching of the great classics of culture—literature, art, music, philosophy—as shaping the student’s understanding of what it means to be human. To be educated was to be transformed by exposure to a range of ideas, whether one agreed with them or not.
Once society accepts the basic Rousseau-style premise that culture is what makes us inauthentic by perverting the voice of nature, and then refracts this through the critical lenses provided by Nietzsche, Marx, Freud, and the New Left of Reich and Marcuse, this traditional notion of education must be abandoned.

Liberal education teaches people to think deeply, to engage ideas with the tools that enable them to see through falsehood.

I was once asked to contribute my favorite prayer of our Prophet ﷺ to a book of different religious prayers. The one I chose said, “Oh God, show me the truth as truth and let me follow it, and show me falsehood as falsehood and let me avoid it.” That human desire to know the truth is pointed out in the opening statement of Aristotle’s Metaphysics: all people really do want to know the truth, and the truth shall set us free. We have to promote truth. We believe in truth, we’re people of truth, and as long as truth is in the world, there’s hope. The Qur’an clearly states that when truth comes, falsehood vanishes. We need more truth.


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