IV. The Coming Cultural Tsunami: Christian Oppressors

The third quake is redefining Christians as oppressors. Christianity in the U.S. has entered what is described as the Negative World. Where being known as a Christian is a social negative, particularly to the elites of society. This redefinition has taken place for a couple of reasons. The first reason is the widespread acceptance of Critical Theory. As Dr. Denison described, Critical Theory is based on a Marxist oppressor/oppressed dichotomy. If you are the majority, you are an oppressor.[1] The second reason is expressive individualism which results from the rejection of truth and biblical morality. If an inward sense of psychological well-being is the highest moral imperative, then any imposition of external, prior, or static categories—like Christian morality—is nothing other than a system of oppression.[2]

Negative World

Aaron Renn describes the world American Christians inhabit as the Negative World (2014–Present). In the Negative World, society has come to have a negative view of Christianity. Being known as a Christian is a social negative. Christian morality is rejected and viewed as a threat to the public good. People who subscribe to a Christian morality violate the new secular moral order, which brings negative consequences.[3]

Renn dates the transition to the negative as 2014, just before the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision, which institutionalized Christianity’s new low status.[4] Most Christians have yet to realize this turn. As Renn states, “Evangelicals were, and to a great extent still are, unwilling to accept that they now live in the negative world.”[5]

To understand how we entered into the Negative World, we need to first look at Critical Theory and how culture became polarized. Karl Marx wrote in The Communist Manifesto that “every form of society has been based, as we have already seen, on the antagonism of oppressing and oppressed classes.”[6] Marx viewed these classes in economic terms as the proletariat (worker) struggling against the bourgeois (capitalist). So how does this Marxist economic dichotomy apply in a religious or cultural context today?

Critical Theory

The answer to that question is found in a group of 20th Century Marxists commonly referred to as the Frankfurt School. The Frankfurt School worked to understand a failure in Marx’s theory. Marx viewed the proletariat as oppressed and hypothesized that it was only a matter of time before there would be a global proletariat revolution. The problem was that the workers never revolted. As industrialization progressed, workers were lifted out of poverty and joined a new class—the middle class—where people were happy to make a living wage.[7] They lacked a desire to overthrow their capitalist employers. Due to this, members of the Frankfurt School saw the working class as a lost cause to the revolution, and they sought to develop a new revolutionary class. They also worked to develop ways of raising a revolutionary “consciousness” so that the new proletariat would understand their oppressed position within society.

This new proletariat was found in the American New Left, the outcasts, outlaws, and radicals of the ‘60s. In a 1972 “Firing Line” interview, socialist agitator Dotson Rader stated the following about developing the new proletariat,

That’s why drugs, for example, are a device, and sexual promiscuity and sexual deviancy is a device. Anything, any device by which a person becomes an outlaw within his own country makes him, by definition, a rebel [and] therefore, natural allies to a revolutionary movement, whether they’re conscious of it or not, are women who undergo illegal abortions, are people on drugs, people who take drugs, homosexuals — anyone who is by definition an outlaw.”[8]

In this quote, we see the beginnings of identity politics, expressive individualism, and the need to raise a revolutionary consciousness. With the repudiation of biblical morality, the stage was set to reframe sexual promiscuity, sexual deviancy, drug use, and other marginalized behavior not as immoral but as natural behavior that needed to be liberated from the dominant oppressive system.

The concept of the dominant system being oppressive is called “hegemony,” and the idea was developed by the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci. A hegemony is when a dominant group enforces its ideology on the rest of society, and “thus social control is achieved through conditioning rather than physical force or intimidation.”[9] The elements of the U.S. “hegemony” could be defined as 1) a constitutional representative republic, 2) a Judeo-Christian moral framework, and 3) a free-market economy. Hence the “antagonism” of the new “oppressing and oppressed classes” had set the framework for our current culture war.

Christian Oppressors

With a brief background on how Marxism was adapted to a cultural context, we can now explore how Christians have become “oppressors” in the Negative World.

Having been liberated from biblical morality, people have turned themselves into their own god, and by becoming god, they have taken on the responsibility of becoming the author of their own knowledge and ethics. They become the creator of their own world.[10] The inner psychological life of the individual has become sovereign, and identity is limited only by one’s imagination. With expressive individualism, what is meaningful, valuable, important, good and bad, right and wrong becomes personal. Anything that challenges the “approval” of these “passions” is viewed as oppressive. We see an example of this in the New Left’s creation of “gay rights.” The LGBT movement has made the affirmation of homosexual behavior the “civil rights cause” of our day. Any dissent is not allowed, and claims to religious freedom are dismissed as excuses for discrimination.[11]

This idea that Christians are oppressors is further seen in modern diversity programs. Canada’s York University hosts what they dub an UnLearning Project that focuses on “Naming the logics of discourses and intersecting systems of oppression that have been used to oppress, dispossess, and dehumanize.”[12] The project lists six systems of oppression that include “Christian Hegemony,” “Cis-Heteropatriarchy,” and “Capitalism and Neoliberalism.”[13] Specifically, Christian hegemony is defined as the “normalization of Christian values, beliefs and practices, as well as the positive and privileged platform individuals of Christian faith are afforded through institutional discourse and design.”[14] It should be obvious how the “normalization of Christian values” is threatening to the sovereignty of expressive individualism.

Like other variations of Critical Theory, the concept of Christian hegemony also teaches that “Christian Privilege” is a part of the oppressive system.[15] For example, a leading educational textbook in the U.S., Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice, claims the “historical and contemporary manifestations of religious oppression” play “out in the U.S. through [a] pervasive Christian hegemony.”[16] As far back as 2002, Christian Privilege has been discussed in academic Social Justice literature. Christian Privilege was also defined in a Multicultural Education article as “the manifestation of unearned and unacknowledged advantages that those in the dominant social or cultural group (in this case, Christians) experience in their everyday lives.”[17]

It is likely that in the not so soon future, believers will be asked to acknowledge their “Christian Privilege” during workplace Diversity & Inclusion training sessions. This is no different than the current trend of asking people to acknowledge their “white privilege,” “cisgender privilege,” or heterosexism. It is on the horizon, as one university in California describes evangelism in a way that could be considered bullying.[18]

Christianity is dangerous as it appeals to a higher power. To an authority outside of human autonomy. In the Negative World, Christians are a moral minority, and secular society is actively hostile to the faith.[19] Which is what we will look at in the next iteration.

See all posts in The Coming Cultural Tsunami series here.


*Featured Image, L.Filipe C.Sousa on Unsplash

[1] Jim Denison, The Coming Tsunami (Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, September 7, 2021), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eUEo4up1y6E&t=270s.

[2] Carl Trueman, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution (Wheaton: Crossway, 2020), 128.

[3] Aaron Renn, “The Three Worlds of Evangelicalism,” First Things, February 2022, https://www.firstthings.com/article/2022/02/the-three-worlds-of-evangelicalism.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto, trans. Samuel Moore (Minneapolis: Learner Publishing, 2018), 14.

[7] Herbert Marcuse, An Essay On Liberation (1969), 16-17.

[8] Ben Johnson, “This 1972 Video Explains How The Left Won The Culture,” Daily Wire, November 2021, https://www.dailywire.com/news/this-1972-video-explains-how-the-left-won-the-culture.

[9] Robin DiAngelo and Ozlem Sensoy, Is Everyone Really Equal?: An Introduction to Key Concepts in Social Justice Education (New York: Teachers College Press, 2017), 73, https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/lib/liberty/reader.action?docID=4988008&ppg=102.

[10] Trueman, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, 110.

[11] Robert George, “The Pagan Public Square: Our Christian Duty to Fight Has Not Been Cancelled,” Touchstone, May/June 2020, https://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=33-03-024-f.

[12] “About UnLearning,” York University, accessed March 1, 2022, https://www.yorku.ca/edu/unleading/about/.

[13] “Systems of Oppression,” York University, accessed March 1, 2022, https://www.yorku.ca/edu/unleading/systems-of-oppression/.

[14] “Christian Hegemony,” York University, accessed March 1, 2022, https://www.yorku.ca/edu/unleading/systems-of-oppression/christian-hegemony/.

[15] Voddie Baucham, Fault Lines: The Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism’s Looming Catastrophe (Washington: Salem Books, 2021), 207.

[16] Maurianne Adams and Khyati Joshi, “Religious Oppression,” in Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice, ed. Lee Anne Bell (New York: Routledge, 2016), 280-281.

[17] C. Clark, M. Brimhall-Vargas, L. Schlosser, and C. Alimo, “It’s not just ‘secret Santa’ in December: Addressing educational and workplace climate issues linked to Christian privilege,” Multicultural Education 10 (2002): 52–57.

[18] “Thinking through Christian Privilege,” California State University San Marcos, retrieved May 5, 2021,    https://www.csusm.edu/equity/documents/christianprivilege.pptx, 8, 23.

[19] Renn, “The Three Worlds of Evangelicalism.”

Published by Tyler Tennies

Finding Life in the Word is my place to share thoughts on life. I write every day and my page is a good outlet to write about topics I’m interested in.

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