"Doublethink" and the Church

[COMMENT:  The link between grammar and reason has been known for millennia.  Rhetoric and grammar were taught because they were the foundation of reason.  When you are learning to diagram sentences, you are learning the structure of logic and how meaning can be expressed.  Grammar (and therefore logic) has been nearly scuttled in our schools quite deliberately -- an educated population is not a controllable population. 

Also, the false link between "who I am" and "what I do" is part of the post-modern agenda, and especially of the homosexual agenda.   If you criticize homosexuality, they will tell you that you are attacking who they are, not what they do, because homosexuality is their identity (they want the public to believe).  There is zero evidence to show that to be the case, just as alcoholism is not an alcoholic's identity, but a behavior.  Homosexuality is a compulsive, lethal addiction masquerading as an identity. 

The reference below in the Commentary to "he [Zahl] is against who certain people are..." is just that confusion of being and doing.  I am not what I do.  They are quite different things.  But it makes a good PR case for homosexuality to say that homosexuality is who I am, not what I do.  You can shut down criticism of your behavior by identifying it with your being. 

It is by truth-seeking and truth-speaking that we form our identities.  We learn, (beginning at the "terrible two's" and right through the "teenage rebellion"), how to let our yes be yes, and our no be no in our tussles with truth and honesty.  If we do not learn these skills, we never grow up, we never mature, we never become adults.  If your "yes's" and your "no's" mean anything, they are contradictory -- the law of non-contradiction hold.  It is either/or, not both/and. 

A commitment to truth at any cost to ourselves, any cost at all, is the final defense against brainwashing and mind-control.  That has been testified to over and over in prison and torture chamber literature throughout the ages. 

Truth is the only possible common ground upon which any two persons can communicate.   As the commentary below suggests, the law of non-contradiction is the very bottom foundation of all reason and of all communication.  Without it we are locked into our own narcissistic cocoons.  

Apologetics in our age means learning how to face people who have this confusion, either by ignorance or by deliberate design (see Dialogue in Darkness), and knowing how to force them to face themselves or to reveal themselves to the public eye.  We MUST learn how to do that.  That is what the Road to Emmaus is about.     E. Fox] 

Paul Zahl
Dean of Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry


See also Commentary below

I have tried for a long time to understand how it is possible that our leaders talk so freely about "inclusion" but never include us.  They talk feelingly concerning "pluralism" and "embrace" but there is no embrace for us.

Thus recently, someone at a conference was regaling his listeners about a recent episcopal consecration in the Pacific Northwest, and saying how wonderful it was to see every ethnicity and every gender possibility and every "identity" represented so extravagantly at the service.  I raised my hand and asked, "How many theological traditionalists were present?"  The speaker paused, and then said before he had time to suppress it "Well, uh... none."

This problem, of sloganeering in the name of an ideological push while at the same time contradicting it hugely in practice (as well as in concept) is the problem that George Orwell tagged in 1949 when he wrote his memorable book 1984.  Let me quote Erich Fromm concerning Orwell's description of what is probably happening right under our noses today.

"In describing the kind of thinking which is dominant in 1984, Orwell has coined a word which has already become part of the modern vocabulary: 'doublethink.'  'Doublethink' means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them." ('Afterword' to the 1961 New American Library edition, p. 264)

George Orwell understood that the enslaving powers represented by Big Brother have learned to control the thought-reality of the people by means of doublethink.  Thus the slogans on every London wall in the book say "War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength."  In other words, 2 and 2 equals 5.

"Doublethink" is a concept I have heard over and over again in recent years within the church.  Not so long ago one of the speakers at a conference we hosted at Cathedral Church of the Advent described the key "Anglican" insight, our great contributing particularity, as the ability to hold two contradictory beliefs in tension at the same time in one institution.  This is the key to our thriving, went the argument.  This is our unique "Anglican" gift to the world that in the tension of opposites lies the truth.  Thus the ideal parish would be one, for example, in which a pro-life activist and a pro-choice activist could be total partners simultaneously and fully in all functions of the church.

This is doublethink.  It ignores what logicians call the "law of contradiction."  It says that two opposing ideas can be true at the same time in the same place.  Truth comes out of cancellation, in other words.

Orwell expressed it powerfully: you can control things by negating conceptually the significance of truth.  Here is Fromm again:  "... the concept of truth and reality which exists in 1984 is an extreme form of pragmatism in which truth becomes subordinated to the Party... Orwell shows quite clearly that in a system in which the concept of truth as an objective judgment concerning reality is abolished, anyone who is a minority of one must be convinced that he is insane." (p. 263)

Something like doublethink is probably what we are dealing with today in the church.  It characterizes the belief that Christian truth is to be subordinated to Christian unity. How else could you explain the overwhelming calls for "inclusion" that go only one way?  How could you explain the hypocrisy of these pleadings if it were not for a conceptual framework that absolutizes something like doublethink?

It is a problem to which I have tried to give my whole self, and heart, in recent years, and especially since the Summer of 2003.  I thought I had maybe licked it in going to these people and asking them to "try a little tenderness" (O. Redding).  And it shocked me shocked me to the core, and stilled me that we seemed to find no takers.  Very few of the "inclusion" spokesmen and spokeswomen weighed in on our behalf; and now, today, almost not one.  Then recently, I encountered, personally, that triumphalism regarding the "rainbow" consecration.  But it wasn't "rainbow "!  I believe in "rainbow."  All Christians, in principle, believe in "rainbow."  But it's not rainbow.  Those are just words.

Then last week, the Orwell book beckoned me from the shelf.  There it was: the power of "doublethink" to exercise power, the power of "facing both ways".  Yet truth is truth that is not a neo-con idea and there is a force to truth (Thomas Scott) that we cannot finally constrain or fence.

Here is a final quote from the master.  Orwell is describing the government building called the Ministry of Love:  "The Ministry of Love was the really frightening one.  There were no windows in it at all.  Winston had never been inside the Ministry of Love, nor within half a kilometer of it.  It was a place impossible to enter except on official business, and then only by penetrating through a maze of barbed-wire entanglements, steel doors, and hidden machine-gun nests.  Even the streets leading up to its outer barriers were roamed by gorilla-faced guards in black uniforms, armed with jointed truncheons."


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the following is a comment on Paul Zahl's article above, from


father paul zahl again nails it:
ecusa hypocrisy & the death of grammar

by Father W. B.

I have tried for a long time to understand how it is possible that our leaders talk so freely about "inclusion" but never include us. They talk feelingly concerning "pluralism" and "embrace" but there is no embrace for us.

Thus recently, someone at a conference was regaling his listeners about a recent episcopal consecration in the Pacific Northwest, and saying how wonderful it was to see every ethnicity and every gender possibility and every "identity" represented so extravagantly at the service. I raised my hand and asked, "How many theological traditionalists were present?" The speaker paused, and then said before he had time to suppress it "Well, uh... none."

Read the whole thing at Fr. Zahl's blog.

Note Fr. Zahl's having devoted the last few years simply to trying to get the opposition to show a little tenderness, to be generous and charitable. I remember when he came to BDS in 2003 (?) and preached at a community Eucharist. His sermon was an exhortation to that very thing. And I also remember how the loudest advocates of "radical inclusivity" were the same ones who mounted a protest at Fr. Zahl's very presence on campus. It wasn't his message that they objected to being proclaimed on campus: it was him. I remember them saying so quite straightforwardly. We had to have an anger-management session before he came. People were, according to one student, "mad and sad" that he had been invited because, in the words of another student, "he is against who certain people are." ("Who certain people are" was spoken with a kind of emotional gravity, as though vocally italicized. I remember it very clearly.) I also recall very clearly the consensus of my classmates expressed in a colloquium that the opponents of the ordination of women should no longer be tolerated in the Episcopal Church. It was time for them to go. Only the inclusive should be included. That's what "radical inclusivity" is taken to mean.

Of course its nonsense. It is a grossly hypocritical inconsistency. But no one can bear having that pointed out. It is always someone else who is a hypocrite. Never me. But this is ECUSA's new religion. One is often told about the mystical wonder of "holding [mutually exclusive] things in tension." This is understood to be the essence of Anglicanism. It is actually thought that the apex of Anglican virtue is Incoherence. And perhaps they're right. But if so, Anglicanism is doomed to die.

The principle embraced by the Radical Inclusivists -- that mutual exclusivities must be held in tension, that this is the meaning of Anglican (and Christian) Inclusion -- is Satanic. It is a denial of the condition of possibility of human language and of human life. The connection between life and language was not invented by Wittgenstein. Its in Genesis.

And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. (Genesis 2.7)

Which immediately precedes

And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. (Genesis 2.19)

The divine breath of life, in virtue of which men are living souls is the grammar of human language. The Naming of the Beasts is impossible until man is animated by the Spirit breathed into him by God (in Hebrew "breath" and "spirit" are the same word). And at bottom of human language, likewise, is the relationship of opposition and distinction, what is often expressed as the Principle of Non-Contradiction or the Law of the Excluded Middle, a scholastic formulation of which is eadem est scientia oppositorum. One and the same is the knowledge of opposites. It is from this principle that we are able to differentiate, one thing from another, and ourselves from l'autre. It is this principle that is the basis for the fundamental recognition of our being distinct from God -- and it was rage against this principle that manifested itself in Lucifer's non serviam.

It is this kind of spiritual angst that one sees in the power of ECUSA's hypocrisy and incoherence: rage that unnames the beasts by sucking the spirit of life from man, and reducing him to the dust of the earth. It killeth. It seeks to take the Spirit of God out of the waters of baptism, rendering the matter of creation chaotic, formless, and void, by a childish insistence that God's spirit not brood over these waters of our autonomy. This petulant rage undermining life and language denies the basis of obedience to God's command "thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die."

Nietzsche dreamed of murdering God by these means. In Twilight of the Idols he says "'Reason' in language oh, what an old deceptive female she is! I am afraid we are not rid of God because we still have faith in grammar." ECUSA is losing its faith in grammar. Its dream is an incoherent one. Inclusion through exclusion, and monotonous diversity. In The Gay Science, Nietzsche tells of a Madman who announces the death of God.

The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his eyes. "Whither is God?" he cried; "I will tell you. We have killed him -- you and I. All of us are his murderers.... Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? has it not become colder? Is not night continually closing in on us?.... Who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent?.... What after all are these churches now if they are not the tombs and sepulchers of God?"

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