Fallout from the election continues. Garry Wills, author of numerous books and articles on America’s cultural mood, has entered the debate over what went wrong when most voting Americans rejected John Kerry and elected George Bush. Here’s how Wills states it in his New York Times article “The Day the Enlightenment Went Out” (Nov. 4, 2004): “Can a people that believes more fervently in the Virgin Birth than in evolution still be called an Enlightened nation?” There you have it. Either you believe in a theory of origins that makes us insignificant masses of tissue in a vast impersonal universe that came into existence with no rhyme or reason or your believe in a God who created us special, in His own image.
Wills claims to promote the worldview of the founders who had a profound respect for “evidence.” “They addressed ‘a candid world,’ as they wrote in the Declaration of Independence, out of ‘a decent respect for the opinions of mankind.’” One of the evidentiary aspects of the Declaration is that our rights are founded on the reality of a Creator: “We are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights.” The logic is simple and direct: No Creator, no rights. Rights are not possible given the assumptions of evolution. It’s the survival of the fittest. No claim can be made for human dignity or even the rule of law if evolution is only partly true. Wills and his misguided cohorts want some of the fruit of Christianity without the root.
Wills writes that “It is not too early to start yearning back toward the Enlightenment.” Whose Enlightenment? Probably the most consistent expression of the Enlightenment can be found in France in the eighteenth century, soon after America fought its War for Independence and drafted its founding constitutional document. Like Wills, the Enlightenment philosophers of the day wanted a political system devoid of any religious foundation. To make their point, they changed the calendar to express a purely man-centered, secular, materialistic model by starting with a new year one. Compare this with our Constitution which retains the Christian calendar. The Constitution, just above George Washington’s signature, states that the drafting took place “In the Year of Our Lord.” For the uninformed, “Our Lord” is a reference to the Lord Jesus Christ. Of course, with no Virgin Birth, there is no Lord to acknowledge.
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The French revolutionaries didn’t stop there. They went on to reject the biblical creation week, going from seven to ten days. And to prove that they weren’t atheists, they proclaimed that “reason” was the new god of the revolution. They celebrated their “rational” choice by dressing up an actress in Roman garb and parading her to Notre Dame. Like Wills, they wanted a public expression of their rejection of the old regime of Christianity and the adoption of an enlightened worldview.
What was the fruit of this branch of the Enlightenment? With no transcendent God to rule over them, no rights other than those granted by the State, and no laws other than those manufactured to keep the regime in power, blood literally ran in the streets. They couldn’t kill the enemies of the State fast enough. A new killing machine—the guillotine—was invented to speed up the executions of the enemies of the State. Wills worries about a Christian fundamentalist “jihad,” yet he says nothing of the reality of this Enlightenment jihad. He claims that “Respect for evidence seems not to pertain any more.” I agree. Wills, like so many on the left, choose only those bits of evidence that seem to support their worldview. It’s an old story.
The dismal and horrific realities of evolution are lost on Wills as well. Karl Marx saw Darwin’s Origin of the Species (1859) as the basis for his own views. It was the “science” he needed to give credence to his social, moral, and political philosophy. “Although it is developed in the crude English style,” Marx wrote in 1860, “this is a book which contains the basis of natural history for our views.” Marxism, and its more common expression, Communism, bore some rotten fruit of its own: The death of 100 million! Talk about a jihad!
This past election, as Wills puts it, was indeed William Jennings Bryan’s “revenge for the Scopes trial of 1925.” For more than 50 years, Christians stayed away from politics. There was no discernable “fundamentalist voting block” until 1976 when “Born Again” Jimmy Carter ran for office. During that half-century of self-exile, Christians saw their world change. Leftists like Wills brought the fight to us. The left pushed abortion and homosexuality down our throats. They stacked the courts. Prayer and Bible reading were removed from public schools. Activist judges, in the ideological pocket of the Enlightenment Left, work day and night to remove slogan, image, and word of religion from public sight. While Garry Wills fears a fundamentalist jihad, I fear an Enlightenment jihad that is already here.