Book Review: The Devil and Karl Marx

Book Review: The Devil and Karl Marx

A 2019 Gallup poll found 43% of Americans believed socialism would be a “good thing” for the United States, an 18 point increase over the 25% reported in 1942.[1] This is a frightening thought, as Socialism and Communism have brought nothing but misery everywhere they are implemented. Professor Paul Kengor addresses the roots of Marxism, its influence on the Church, and on American culture in his book The Devil and Karl Marx: Communism’s Long March of Death, Deception, and Infiltration. Dr. Kengor is an author and professor of political science at Grove City College, a private Christian liberal arts college in Grove City, Pennsylvania. He is also the executive director of the Institute for Faith and Freedom.[2]

The Devil and Karl Marx is divided into six parts: 1. The Specter, 2. Karl Marx, 3. The Bolshevik War on Religion and the Churches Resistance, 4. Infiltration and Manipulation, 5. They Are Legion, and 6. Conclusion.[3] Dr. Kengor goes into great depth in each part which is beyond the scope of my review, but I will touch on his biography of Marx, Communism’s Infiltration of the Church, and the impact of Cultural Marxism today.

Biography

The first section explores who Marx was as a person, focusing on Marx’s spirituality and morality. Marx, contrary to what many believe, was not an atheist in the fact that he rejected the existence of God. He knew God but hated Him and praised the devil. Kengor notes that Marx biographers typically avoid discussing his “musings about the prince of darkness.”[4] Yet, Marx’s personal writings are laced with references to the demonic, and those closest to him often spoke as if he was under an evil influence. This is seen in the words of Marx’s poem “The Pale Maiden.”

“Thus Heaven I’ve forfeited, I know it full well. My soul, once true to God, Is chosen for Hell.”[5]

Marx also refused to work. He was a parasite to those in his life and sucked “as much income from his parents as possible.” This is ironic, considering that point three of the ten-point plan in the Communist Manifesto called for “abolition of all right of inheritance.”[6] As Kengor notes:

“In November 1849, one year after publishing his crowning work, the Communist Manifesto, Marx’s landlord evicted him and his family because of communism’s founding father’s revulsion at the idea of an individual providing for himself and his family. Marx would have ached for an all-encompassing, cradle-to-grave, womb-to-tomb, collectivist-welfare state that confiscates revenue from wealthy people and redistributes it to lazy socialist academics and theorists peddling inane ideas from their messy desk piled with papers.”[7]

The character of Marx also showed through in his failings as a husband and father. His two son’s died from exposure due to his inability to provide, and both of his daughters killed themselves in suicide pacts later in life. He was also unfaithful in his marriage as Marx was in a sexual relationship with his nanny Lenchen.[8] It’s unclear if this was a mutual relationship or forced, but Marx got her pregnant, and Engels took the child in as his own to protect Marx’s marriage.

Communism’s Infiltration of the Church

Communism is an evil philosophy that has killed an estimated 100 million or more people around the globe. To put this in perspective, the death toll of World War I and II would have to be combined, then doubled to get near the death toll of communism.[9] Not only is Marxism deadly, but in theoretical and practical form, it deprives people of their unalienable rights. As Kengor describes, “[i]t is a totalitarian, atheistic ideology. Communism’s chief form of redistribution is repression, crime, and murder.”[10] It is a materialist philosophy that does not recognize that “man does not live by bread alone” (Deut. 8:3; Matt. 4:4, ESV). Marxism thrives on the envy of others’ wealth.[11] Which Dr. Kengor highlights as “ironic” that “communists and socialists blast the wealthy for being allegedly obsessed with money and material things when, in fact, communists and socialists are obsessed with money and material things.”[12]

As a materialist philosophy, it is also in opposition to the Divine. Marx viewed religion as oppressive and stated, “[t]he abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness.”[13] Marx also stated that “communism begins where atheism begins” and “communism abolishes eternal truths, it abolishes all religion, and all morality.”[14] Dr. Kengor provides an excellent survey of Marxism’s attack on religion in Part 3, “The Bolshevik War on Religion and the Churches Resistance.”

In Part 4 “Infiltration and Manipulation,” Kengor goes into great detail explaining how the Soviet Union attempted to influence and use the church to meet its objectives. Communists in the US infiltrated the church by appealing to supposed common sympathies such as: “workers’ rights, wealth redistribution, shrinking the income gap, denouncing the rich, [all while] fomenting class envy.” Communists exploited the church, using the language of “social justice” to recruit Christians “in their petitions, their marches, their campaigns, and their objectives.” Dr. Kengor highlights how Communist Party USA started using social justice language in 1919. This wasn’t because they believed in Jesus, but it was an effort to manipulate believers, specifically progressive Christians.[15] Kengor explains that many “Christian-Socialists” like to highlight the similarities between the teachings in Scripture and Marxism, but states:

“The fact that certain passages of the Old and New Testaments, or certain religious orders, express forms of communalism or sharing or helping the poor or even pooling together of common resources does not, ipso facto, mean that those ancient or medieval elements were practicing the nineteenth-century ideology that would become known as ‘communism’…[that is] like witches and warlocks trying to reach out to Catholics and Christians because each side, after all, has a spiritual element.”[16]

Cultural Marxism

In the final third of the book, Prof. Kengor addresses Cultural Marxism, also referred to as Western or American Marxism, which was born out of the Frankfurt School. Communists “sowed bitter fruits” that would grow throughout the twentieth century and continue today. Many of the people in the 2019 Gallup poll “have no idea of the rancid roots of this poisoned tree” they support as a “good thing” for the US.[17]

Early in the twentieth century arose a “field of fanatics” who came to be known collectively as the Frankfurt School. These Marxists were all about culture and sex. The academics of the Frankfurt School were neo-Marxists, a new kind of twentieth-century communist who was not interested in Marx’s economic/class ideas but worked to remake society “through the eradication of traditional norms and institutions.”[18]

Kengor does an outstanding job explaining the key academics who created Critical Theory which is now bearing fruit in devastating ways. As he notes, “when God and tradition” are “said to no longer exist, anything and everything is possible.”[19]

Unlike traditional Marxists, Critical Theorists did not organize the workers and the factories. They organized the intellectuals, artists, media, and the film industry to be the conveyor belts driving the Cultural Revolution.[20] Through these institutions, the Frankfurt School worked to undermine a traditional or Christian understanding of society and instead worked to liberate society from the constraints of Western culture. Kengor quotes Max Horkheimer on the goal of Critical Theory “to liberate human beings from the circumstances that enslave them.” Kengor states these “’circumstances’ are the traditional Western institutions and moral norms that have held together the Judeo-Christian world for millennia.”[21]

Doing this, Critical Theory framed “seemingly benign” conventions as systematic injustices to be attacked. This is where modern academics attack everything from “the patriarchy” to “white imperialism” to “transphobia” and even “biological sex.”[22] Many in the US now accept Critical Theory as fact. As Kengor highlights, Critical Theory is now “taken for granted by millions of teachers, writers, even churchmen, who have no idea that they are committed to cultural Marxism.”[23] It is truly a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Dr. Kengor describes it this way.

“In a way, it is maddeningly frustrating—seemingly almost willfully deceptive, one suspects— that the academy has chosen or clung to the term “critical theory” to covertly fly the banner of cultural Marxism; such is a more palatable label to shop its wares, to market its ideological snake-oil.”[24]

Biblical Christianity provides the antidote to the Marxist movement. It provides the foundation for surviving the corrosive ideologies of this age. The Church is a constant reminder of the principles that do not change, and it is no “wonder Karl Marx and his minions hated religion. It halts their essential project to fundamentally transform.”[25]

The Devil and Karl Marx is well researched and worth the time to read. I recommend that any Christian who wants to understand how the specter of communism has continued to haunt our world read Dr. Kengor’s outstanding work.

Notes


[1] Mohamed Younis, “Four in 10 Americans Embrace Some Form of Socialism,” Gallup, May 20, 2019, https://news.gallup.com/poll/257639/four-americans-embrace-form-socialism.aspx.

[2] Grove City College, “Paul Kengor,” Faculty Directory, last modified October 15, 2021, https://www.gcc.edu/Home/Staff-Directory/Staff-Detail/paul-kengor.

[3] Paul Kengor, The Devil and Karl Marx: Communism’s Long March of Death, Deception, and Infiltration. (Ashland: TAN Books, 2020), ProQuest Ebook Central.

[4] Ibid., 37.

[5] Karl Marx, “The Pale Maiden,” 1837, quoted in Kengor, The Devil and Karl Marx, 16.

[6] Kengor, The Devil and Karl Marx, 58-59.

[7] Ibid., 61.

[8] Ibid., 81-83, Nanny maybe to kind of a word as Marx never paid her and may have been raping her.

[9] Kengor, The Devil and Karl Marx, 13-14.

[10] Ibid., 13.

[11] Ibid., 59.

[12] Ibid., 21.

[13] Karl Marx, “A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right,” Deutsch Französische Jahrbücher, February 10, 1844, https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1843/critique-hpr/intro.htm.

[14] Fulton J. Sheen, Communism and the Conscience of the West (Indianapolis and NY: Bobbs-Merrill, 1948) quoted in Kengor, The Devil and Karl Marx, 82.

[15] Kengor, The Devil and Karl Marx, 114.

[16] Ibid., 132-133.

[17] Ibid., 17.

[18] Ibid., 214.

[19] Ibid., 215.

[20] Ibid., 215.

[21] Ibid., 222.

[22] Ibid., 240.

[23] Ibid., 240.

[24] Ibid., 242.

[25] Ibid., 247.

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