In his review of my book, The Strange Death of Marxism (“The Two Faces of Marxism,” April), Paul Belien writes that I have overstated the hypothetical distance between Marxism and post-Marxism.  The “cultural Marxists” in the Frankfurt School were supposedly right to claim for themselves a Marxist pedigree because of their hatred for Christian and bourgeois traditions and because, as Belien explains, the early Soviet communists had no use for either the institution of marriage or established sex distinctions.

These observations are partly correct, but let us also remember that Soviet Russia and other communist societies, after an initial fling with yuppie ideas, settled down to relatively conventional social standards, when measured against current Western European ones.  Communist countries, for example, have been extremely inhospitable to homosexuals, lesbians, and druggies.  This attitude was, of course, not characteristic of the intellectuals who joined Western communist parties and, like Michele Foucault, helped create the current leftist culture.  Nor does my criterion apply to those tiresome Germans who supported the DDR out of collective self-loathing—that is, because they supported Germany’s division and the oppression of the East Germans as a condign punishment for their people.  In my usage, Marxism was the way that Marxist ideology took form in Eastern European countries and the dialectical-materialist conception of history that originated with Marx and Lenin.  I find it hard to talk about a Marxism that is not grounded in a specific economic collectivist blueprint, although I do agree with Belien that Western social-democratic regimes were the necessary precondition for the present leftist political culture.

I would also question whether the “decadent, hedonistic, post-Marxist left” has taken root mostly because of the “disappearance of Christianity.”  It represents, among other things, the transformation of the Christian doctrine of Original Sin into social and cultural guilt.  While the left, with the help of Christian clergy, has distorted this foundational Christian teaching, European Christianity has not left a “vacuum.”  And post-Marxism rejects other aspects of European civilization besides its Christian heritage.  The left’s loathing for normal sex distinctions and nonkinky marriage would have shocked a virtuous pagan as well as a traditional Christian.  One reason that I stress that the post-Marxist left is a predominantly Western creation is to indicate that the great battle for civilization in the 20th century did not end with the “defeat of communism.”  This battle is continuing in the “democratic” West, and Paul Belien deserves respect not only for his fine review but also for the good fight he is waging in his own bureaucratically beleaguered land.

        —Paul Gottfried
Elizabethtown, PA

On the Loss of
Christian Imagination

Aaron D. Wolf’s column, “Farewell to Spare Oom” (Heresies), in the March issue is the first lengthy article I’ve come across that questions the pathetic praise for the pseudo-Christian film The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.  Such a column is long overdue.

Despite all the un-Christian, non-Christian, and anti-Christian elements in this Disney adaptation of C.S. Lewis’s novel, much of the neo-evangelical leadership has lauded this film and even urged its flocks to see it.  One such neo-evangelical is Ted Baehr, president of the Christian Film and Television Commission—a man who seems, at times, to have one foot in Babylonian Hollywood and the other in the American heartland.  In interviews on talk radio and in a conservative magazine, he spoke almost totally in favor of this movie while barely mentioning the negatives cited by Mr. Wolf.

I believe that the Baehrs and the Dobsons of America are so desperate to find some good coming from Hollywood that they are willing to wink at a few things that they shouldn’t be winking at—and they’re probably tired of being called bluenoses, too.  Regardless, it is obvious that they are losing the stomach and the will to “Fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12).  They are doing the opposite of Saint Paul’s exhortation in Galatians 6:9: “[L]et us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”

America’s Christian establishment, like her political establishment, has fainted.  Mr. Wolf’s warning may be too late for all of us.

        —Kenneth Reynolds,
Bronx, NY