How to counter the biggest threat to our nation
Here's a clue: it's not the alt:left
It doesn’t seem all that long ago that political debate was something that could take place around a BBQ, between people who could good-naturedly disagree and even find humour in their differing opinions.
Sadly, those days are now almost gone – with differences in political opinions now dividing families, ending friendships, and even sometimes leading to violent confrontations between protagonists.
Certainly, some of this isn’t new. Successive generations of young people inevitably believe themselves to be more enlightened than their forebears and look to make their mark by focusing on different issues. Sometimes, in the past, this has even led to violence and conflict. The race riots and Vietnam protests in the US in the 60s and 70s, and the Springbok Tour protests of the 80s, in New Zealand, come to mind as examples of issues that were almost entirely generational, and which caused permanent divisions.
But as bad as those conflicts were, the political divisions that we’re seeing now are even more extreme in their intensity and reach because they effect more people and because they’re not just disagreements over issues of principle, but fundamental differences in worldview which impact on the very foundation of the way in which our societies operate.
So how did this happen? How did we go from civility to such anger in the space of just a few short years.
Clearly, a big part of the blame for it must go to social media. Since the launch of LinkedIn in 2003, Facebook in 2004, Twitter in 2006, and a host of other platforms in the years since, the opportunity for the nuanced fragmentation of a thousand different viewpoints has exponentially increased.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that in itself – free speech is the hallmark of a civilised society and the ability for people to be ‘heard’ is something to be celebrated, not feared. But traditionally, social discourse has also acted as a filter for the more extreme expressions of free speech and dangerous or ridiculous views simply didn’t gain traction.
That’s all changed in the age of social media. Now, any nutty idea can not only be heard – but, under the right (or wrong) circumstances, can gain a very large following – giving rise to some of the lunacy which now masquerades as mainstream discourse.
This phenomenon is equally evident on both sides of the political spectrum and has led to the emergence of two new significant groupings – the alt:left and the alt:right. To be fair, the views held by these groups aren’t new – they’ve been around for decades – but the new environment created by social media has given them a platform and a legitimacy which didn’t exist in the past.
Each differs from its historic namesake in the extremity of its views, the intensity with which those views are held, and the extent to which its proponents are prepared to go to suppress the views of those who disagree with them.
On the left, the alt:left has eschewed traditional centre left values around the protection of workers, the rights of women and minorities and equality of access to education, healthcare and housing and, instead, champions extreme viewpoints which include the redefinition of gender, the rewriting of history through ‘cancel culture’, the public deification of gratuitous sexuality, the abolition of religion (particularly Christianity) and the embracing of paganism, a deep undercurrent of antisemitism, the promotion of severe limitations on free speech, a severe degrading of the value of individual human life, the rejection of empirical evidence in favour of populist ‘science’, and the endorsement of state control as a means through which to stamp out dissenting viewpoints.
Worryingly, many of these views currently hold sway over public policy due to alt:left Governments holding power in Canada, New Zealand, and some parts of Europe, and because of an increasing degree of media partisanship, in favour of these views, fuelled by young and/or foolish journalists who believe themselves to be smarter than their readers.
Fortunately, we’re currently witnessing a worldwide swing back toward the right as voters increasingly reject the lunacy of the alt:left – and the results of national and local elections in Sweden, Italy, Israel, New Zealand and other countries are a strong indicator that the alt:left experiment is on its way out (notwithstanding the underwhelming results in the recent US Mid-terms).
But before we on the centre right get too smug, we should reflect on the fact that the worst aspects of alt:right ideology are every bit as revolting as those of the alt:left, albeit at the other end of the spectrum. Extreme belief in, and preparation for, the inevitability of armed insurrection; the right to kill in so-called ‘self-defence’; an extreme form of racism and, in some cases, white supremacy; a deep undercurrent of antisemitism, a desire to impose one way of life on all, at the expense of the traditions of any other culture; and an expressed intention to eliminate all other belief systems in favour of a deeply screwed-up version of Christianity that values patriotism over grace and sacrifice.
While these extreme alt:right views haven’t yet found their way into the mainstream in New Zealand in the same way that extreme alt:left views have done, we can certainly see their influence over some of the discourse on the fringes. While the extraordinary claims made by the alt:left lobby group, The Disinformation Project, and their fellow travellers at Stuff Media in the recent video ‘Fire and Fury’ are wrong and offensive – it’s the small element of truth on the fringes which makes them so dangerous.
New Zealand’s centre right is not a hot bed of extremist right wing views – but there are definitely elements of alt:right thinking influencing the centre right.
We see this in respect of some of the deeply racist attitudes toward Maori, particularly in regard to Three Waters (a project that Maori did not ask for and many do not agree with); we see it in respect of gun laws toward which kiwis have always had a more responsible attitude than Americans but to which some on the right are now deferring to the screwed up ‘second amendment’ narrative that prevails in that country; and we see it in respect of some of the whacky conspiracy theories which are being given oxygen by people who should know better.
These conspiracy theories are usually easy to spot. They start with a set of facts or data which is often (although not always) accurate – but then disappear down the rabbit hole of the opinions of the person sharing the information, as to what they actually mean. In this way, often useful information becomes corrupted by the whacky view of the storyteller. Voila! You have a conspiracy theory.
To be clear – the Government is at fault in respect of the narrative which is developing around all of these matters – but kiwis are smarter than this and racist, pro-violence or loopy conspiracy views have no place, however, minor on the centre right of New Zealand politics.
But for me, as a Christian, the most egregious trend on the centre right is the emergence of a narrative which attempts to conflate some of these views with the Christian faith. Linking racist views and patriotism with one’s support of Christianity; arguing in favour of gun rights while claiming to be a follower of the tenets of Jesus Christ; or claiming that, for those who supported or administered the Covid vaccines ‘there will be no forgiveness from God’ and that those people are going to hell, corrupts and mangles the redemptive message of Christ beyond recognition.
Worse, those who make such claims are inviting the wrath of the very God that they claim to be representing when they stand in front of Him, one day soon.
In addition to this, there’s also a worrying narrative which, increasingly, links some of the events taking place around the world with a view of the ‘last days’ which sees these things as signs of the return of Christ. While this, in itself, isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it relies on a populist view of prophecy that misinterprets the meaning of most of the Books of Daniel and Revelation and holds out a last day’s timeline which simply doesn’t line up with what those prophecies actually say. Christs return is imminent – but it will happen according to the timeline laid out in the Bible – not a 150 year old theory based on a misreading of scripture.
Because of this confusion, I’m currently working on a book, to be released in the first half of 2023, which puts the Books of Daniel and Revelation into their proper context and explains the real meaning of the visions of Daniel and John (who wrote Revelation).
In the meantime, as Christians, we’re not called on to fight those we disagree with – we’re told to love them – the very antithesis of the ‘alternate’ Christian narrative which is gaining traction in some quarters here in New Zealand.
By all means fight for the preservation of standards and traditional values and get involved in civic issues where those values are being threatened – but if what you feel is ‘anger’ and/or ‘hatred’, it isn’t coming from God.
The biggest threat to our nation isn’t the alt:left, or the WEF, or the UN, or Climate Change or anything else – it’s that Christians stop listening to God and acting on His will for them and the world around them. Once that happens, our influence is gone.
Step back, commit it all to prayer, and let God take control.