God's Absence and Our Presence
"[T]he sensational and electric assertions made by liberals to further their agenda, especially on issues of race and sex, have a habit of being untrue. And it is the recurrence of such factually suspect accounts that raises troubling questions about the relation of liberal myth to human reality."
What the author is ultimately referring to is a curious gap about the gap; in other words, there is this gap between liberalism and reality, which then provokes a gap in the disinterested observer, who asks himself: why do they insist on believing things that can't possibly be true? The second gap is valid, while the first is entirely self-imposed. Or at least we wish it were only self-imposed.
The problem -- or what elevates it to a political problem -- is that liberals want to impose this gap on the rest of us, or in other words, force us to "not know" when the truth is there to be seen, or else to "know" a lie.
Furthermore, if this ponderous biography of Stalin teaches us anything, it is that this is not peripheral to the left, but at its very core. The book chronicles one long and tedious attempt to force reality to comport with ideology. Doing so resulted in, oh, a hundred million deaths, but they meant well. (One year into the glorious revolution, "Many Bolsheviks" who had been "bursting with conviction to serve humanity began to see that their dedicated efforts to end suffering and level social hierarchies were producing the opposite." Oops. Make that late Bolsheviks.)
From the same article: "Liberal myths propagated to generate outrage and activism, to organize and coordinate and mobilize disparate grievances and conflicting agendas, so often have the same relation to truth, accuracy, and legitimacy as a Bud Light commercial."
Surely the author could have come up with a better example, for beer actually exists, and even light beer is better than no beer at all.
But here is the key: "Marketing is not limited to business. Inside the office buildings of Washington, D.C., are thousands upon thousands of professionals whose livelihoods depend on the fact that there is no better way than a well-run public relations campaign to get you to do what they want. What recent weeks have done is provide several lessons in the suspect nature of such campaigns."
What are these aggressive campaigns attempting to sell us? Well, like any marketing campaign, there is a target audience, and you and I are not members of it. Rather, they are aimed at what marketing expert Jonathan Gruber calls "stupid Americans." These are people who know only what they are told, and don't know what they don't know, which provides a fertile field for liberal exploitation.
For example, representative Eleanor "Sherlock" Holmes Norton doesn't know what she doesn't know, and doesn't want to know, otherwise she couldn't tell us what to think about it. As she aggressively puts it, "My interest is not in what happened, my interest is in what should happen!" The same thing would apply if she were talking about global warming, or Keynesian economics, or black criminality, or the gender pay gap, or the destruction of the black family.
Or, in the delusional words of Robert F. Kennedy, "Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not." Science -- that is, any -ology -- begins with things as they are and asks why? Ideology begins at the other end, with a malevolent fantasy.
Now, if the ideologues restricted themselves to asking "why not?," we would have no objection to them, for this is how knowledge advances: "Why not socialism? Allow reality to explain!" But the leftist never condescends to ask, nor pay attention to the feedback; rather, he dreams up things that never were and never can be and says believe!, or else.
Its most attenuated form appears as political correctness, which is just a soft form of fascism. It is an invitation to get right with their strange god. Or at least they pretend it's an invitation, for there is nothing tolerant about tolerance, nothing diverse about diversity, and nothing equal about equality.
Equality -- as the left deploys the term -- is another word for nihilism. You might say that it is slow-motion nihilism, the gradual wearing away of distinctions and differences. Now, some differences truly don't make a difference, which is one of the core messages of Christianity.
But there are other vital differences without which we cannot even be human, for example, the differences between animal and man, between man and woman, between adult and child, between God and man, between sacred and profane, or between our higher and lower natures. Remove these distinctions and we don't have "equality" but nihilism. Such distinctions are the very basis of order, and without order there is nothing. (As Voegelin says, the order of history is the history of order.)
On the macro level, the most important distinction is of course between appearances and reality, or truth and falsehood. There is an ineradicable gap between the two, and the larger part of the human adventure involves closing this gap, both vertically and horizontally, i.e., knowledge of the world and knowledge of God. The first is impossible in the absence of the second, which is why all truth is of God and brings us closer to God, even if we deny the link.
Here is another example of liberals marketing a false gap (or filling it with falsehood): "So, in the end, what was global warming? It seems to have grown up largely as a late-20th-century critique of global-market capitalism by elites who had done so well by it that they had won the luxury of caricaturing the very source of their privilege.
"Global warming proved a near (sic) secular religion that filled a deep psychological longing for some sort of transcendent meaning among mostly secular Western grandees. In reality, the global-warming creed had scant effect on the lifestyles of the high priests who promulgated it. Al Gore did not cut back on his jet-fueled and lucrative proselytizing. Obama did not become the first president who, on principle, traveled with a reduced and green entourage."
In short, their interest is not in the fact that the earth's temperature hasn't increased in 18 years, their interest is in what it should have done. Sure, empirical observation works in reality, but does it work in theory? You will have noticed that in the liberal mind, softheaded credulity masquerades as hard-bitten skepticism.
Empiriwha? "Ferguson illustrated many of the problems of postmodern liberalism: the anti-empirical insistence that the facts of the shooting of Michael Brown did not matter much; critical legal theory, which ignored the time-honored role of a disinterested grand jury; [and] the tolerance of illegality as some sort of acceptable protest against the system."
Again, there is a real gap, without which there can be no distinctions at all. The very first (upper case) Gap -- and the one that makes the others possible -- is obviously that between God and world. Hence the First Commandment, I Am the Lord your God, not to mention the first sentence of the Bible, "in the beginning God creates the heavens and the earth." Deny these, and not even chaos ensues.
I am partial to the Kabbalistic idea that, in order for this Gap to exist, God must "withdraw," so to speak, from his creation. Think about it: if God is by definition everything and everywhere, how can there be a space of human freedom? Whether or not we take it literally, God must in a sense absent himself from the scene, similar to how, in order for our children to grow into independence, we stand back and allow them their spontaneous play.
This orthoparadoxical concept is called tzimtzum, and if it's not true, it might as well be. One of the best treatments of it I have found is in the works of Lawrence Kushner. I will now ask Rabbi Kushner to bail me out and wrap things up with a nice quotation.
"[T]here is a whole other Torah written in white letters in what we sometimes think are the spaces between the black letters" (emphasis mine; that's from a different book, River of Light).
In Raccoon terminology, the Gap is where our bewilderness adventure takes place: "The wilderness is not just a desert through which we wandered for forty years. It is a way of being. Even if for a moment every now and then each day.... It is the only way to begin.... For there and only there might we be able to encounter the mystery" (ibid.).
If you think you know what you will find, / Then you will find nothing. / If you expect nothing, / Then you will always be surprised. / And able to bless the One who creates the world each morning. --ibid.
The One Cosmos promise: we give you nothing, and a little more of it each morning!