SJ Thomason recently posted a curious piece of writing titled:
It begins incongruously with an anecdote about a graduate assistant from Sweden she claims to have mentored in a way that borders on practicing psychotherapy without a license; moves to a transitional paragraph proclaiming the devastation of the West due to our rejection of Christianity and offering some odd notions of the antecedents of this rejection along with a dubious account of its effects; and concludes with a conflation of communism, social justice, atheism, and evolution. There is no overall logic to the piece, but rather a collection of claims and illustrations, not always coherent, to advocate for a return to a Christian West. This is really a call for something that never existed in the US and was very much of a mess in Europe. In general, I pay little attention to what people believe – this nation was founded on individual freedom of conscience and is a principle I cherish. A serious problem arises, however, when religious zealots attempt to force their religion and its precepts on the rest of us, contradicting our founding principle with the false claim of a Christian foundation that they intend to reimpose on a society of free men and women.
The beginning anecdote about the graduate assistant might strike us as curiously out of place as it doesn’t actually concern itself with social justice and contributes nothing to the topic announced in the title. Nevertheless, there is a purpose to it that anyone familiar with Thomason’s writing should recognize: argument from innuendo. She highlights the fact that the percentage of religious believers in Sweden is 38%, that this young woman had become agnostic, and that she had suffered some unspecified traumatic events. All of this is to effect the impression that this woman’s psychological injury was ultimately due to Sweden’s rejection of Christianity which somehow provided the condition of her trauma while her abandonment of Christianity deprived her of the inner strength to endure the insult. Thomason can do no more than this implied and unargued causality because Sweden and its cousin to the West, Norway, have not only a very low level of religiosity, they also enjoy a more prosperous, more peaceful, and happier existence than more religious nations. The anecdote only left me wishing this young woman had instead sought counseling with a competent and credentialed psychotherapist.
She then moves to the astoundingly ill-informed transitionary paragraph I present below in full:
“As we watch Sweden and the rest of the West slide further and further away from God, we are compelled to identify root causes. Many were initiated in the 19th century under the tutelage of atheists such as Nietzsche and Marx. Their disdain for Christianity and its core tenets of loving the Lord above all else, loving our neighbors as ourselves, valuing the individual over the collective, and respecting human life, liberties, property, and justice contributed to their rebellious writings. Today, we have abundant evidence of the ways their ideas have cracked and corrupted the Christian foundations of the West.”
The move from Christianity well predates the late 19th Century writings of Nietzsche and Marx – two writers so dissimilar their only shared trait was the German language – with the Enlightenment. The hallmark of the Enlightenment was the replacement of Christian Rationalism with secular empiricism and reason. It engendered atheists such as Hume and many Deists such as Voltaire, Rousseau, and many founders of America such as Jefferson, Franklin, and Paine, all of whom rejected Christianity and any notion of a personal god. The list of tenets she assigns to Christianity were, for the most part, actually fruits of the Enlightenment, such as respect for the individual, individual liberty, property, and earthly justice – all principles more often than not suppressed by the Church during its reign over Europe. Of course, the most laughable mistake is her implication that Nietzsche favored the commune over the individual. I am certain Thomason has never read a single work by Nietzsche.
She then concludes with a screed about the Communist menace that would seem extreme to the Birchers of the 1950’s, which conflates social justice, evolution, atheism and social media into a phantasmic Communist plot. Unfortunately, this is the sort of nonsense that echoes through the chambers of Christian Nationalism and evangelical aggression. It must be confronted at every turn.