Christians say the believer is enjoined to “to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
It is belief itself, in this sense, that turns the heathen into a Christian. There is more to it than that, of course, because this change requires the participation of God. There is an act and then a movement in the substance of a man; belief isn’t everything. This metamorphosis can be repeated and added to when a man becomes a priest; an indelible change in essence has occurred in the once-man now-priest. Belief and act of God are needed again.
The same kind of idea of essential change in nature was found in rituals of initiation. These days we see these as little more than playacting; nothing happens except an arbitrary custom has been adhered to, an ‘i’ has been dotted. But there used to be a real sense that a change in essence followed initiation. What was once a boy is now a man, what was once a commoner is now royal. Belief played the same role in initiation. The act would be empty without belief.
We haven’t entirely lost this sense, but it now is almost always misapplied. We hear it when terms like “RINO” (Republican In Name Only) are used. There is the idea that a “true” Republican, a real Republican essence, exists. People can act as if they are Republicans, but unless the belief is thought to be there, they are RINOs. Again, people can claim to believe they are Republicans, but if they don’t act like it, they are RINOs.
Yet there is no such thing as a “true Republican”, except in the trivial sense that a membership form has been filled out. The nature of a Republican is not fixed; it is fluid and flexible. Those calling themselves Republicans today are largely “tomorrow’s progressive today”, where even “progressives” is a fluid term. There is certainly use in these terms as approximations or as error-prone indications of behavior, but a “real” Republican does not exist. The idea of essential nature of change from that nature of a “true” Republican is in error; the concept has been stretched too far.
We see the same mistake in phrases such as “He’s a racist” or “Jones is an anti-Semite [anti-Jewish].” All these terms are new, a century or so old at most; some like “homophobe” and “transphobe” were born yesterday. And all are extremely fluid. A “racist” used to be somebody in favor of lynching; now it is saying “It’s okay to be white”. An anti-Semite used to cheer pogroms; now, it is a critic of AIPAC. And so on. The rise of these terms coincides with the fall of our native religion. Hence the religious sense in essential change has not been lost, but how it is applied has.
There is a difference between RINO and the other terms. A man may be cured of Republicanism—we have all seen it—but the stain of racism and anti-Semitism can’t really be eliminated. A racist can recant, but he will always be a racist, though perhaps one who is not at this moment acting on his nature. This happens with somebody “being” a “homophobe” and the like, too, but to a lesser extent because these terms are newer.
Many examples prove this. There appears a curious article in Quillette by Cathy Young, who is Jewish. The subject was the legacy of the late great prophet Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Young came upon Solzhenitsyn’s work Two Hundred Years Together which is a history of Jews in Russia. Young writes (ellipses original):
Solzhenitsyn always indignantly denied the charge of bigotry, and it should be noted that his defense has been taken up by prominent Jewish figures including the late human rights activist Elie Wiesel and former Soviet dissident Nathan Sharansky. Yet the defenses sometimes sound more like strained apologetics: Solzhenitsyn is not antisemitic, he simply shows “insensitivity … to Jewish suffering” (Wiesel) or “resents the intrusion of foreign influences into Russian life” (Harvard historian Adam Ulam). In a Front Page Magazine symposium on Solzhenitsyn’s passing, Sharansky regretfully acknowledged that in Two Hundred Years Together, Solzhenitsyn often minimizes or even excuses the oppression and persecution of Jews in Tsarist Russia—but asserted that this tendency stems from being “biased in favor of Russia,” not against Jews.
I have written more extensively elsewhere on the question of Solzhenitsyn and antisemitism…
The question Young implicitly asks: “Was Solzhenitsyn an anti-Semite?” We have all heard asked or answered this question or accusation about various other people. The question could not exist unless the concept of essential change did too.
It is clear that to be an anti-Semite is an ontological claim. We gather this from the intellectual efforts of Wiesel, Sharansky, and Ulam. They looked to the greater man’s works and tried to diagnose the state of Solzhenitsyn’s soul. They did not instead look to the works themselves and say, for example, “This passage is true, this false, this exaggerated, this plausible.” This was not a search for evidence about whether Jews did this or that, whether those Jews over there were deserving or undeserving of their woes, but whether our man Solzhenitsyn suffered from a kind of incurable malady. Young implies one verdict, the other authors another.
There is the tacit idea of a threshold, albeit one lowering in time. One negative statement may or may not be enough to confirm the diagnosis of racism, anti-Semitism etc.; it depends on the strength of the statement. Minor slips can be forgiven, but not major ones. These cause permanent scars.
For a recent example, Trump’s fixer Micheal Cohen tried to get himself some virtue points by calling his ex-boss a “racist”. The idea was that Cohen’s actions would be excusable if he as dealing with a genuine racist. Even though we haven’t seen overt evidence of, say, anti-Black behavior on the part of Trump, some still believe he is a racist.
Somewhat amusingly, a simple search turned up a t-shirt with the message, “Yes, he is a racist.” Modern people understand the message.
We have on camera Steve King denying he’s a racist. This proves he knows what one is; he buys into the concept of ontological racist, it is only that he knows his soul does not contain that eternal scar.
Steve Sailer points us to “a humiliating op-ed that Spike Lee had to publish in the New York Times 29 years ago when his career was in danger because his ‘Mo’ Better Blues’ featured Jewish nightclub owners who financially exploit black jazz musicians (like Spike’s dad)”. Lee begins that editorial saying “This is simply not true. I’m not a racist; I’m not a bigot; I am not an anti-Semite.”
Again, Lee knows these creatures exist, he just denies being one.
These are all the same mistake as crying “RINO!” There is no essential change: racists etc. do not exist, they do not have being different in nature than those purer of heart. Consider how much the criteria for being a racist, anti-Semite, homophobe, and on and on have changed considerably, even in the last five years (the threshold is a lot lower), changes which would be impossible if being a racist etc. were a possibility.
Of course, definitions can be made and adhered to: “A racist does this precisely”, and this could be fulfilled in a person. But once a person ceases doing this he’s instantly no longer a racist. And that is what is not believed. One can extend the definition to “A racist does this precisely and is forever after a racist”, but this assumes which it seeks to prove; i.e. that being a racist is ontological.
Now we all know that when the terms are used, it is usually as a way of avoiding an argument, of declaring it over before it has begun. There is no point to arguing with a racist, anti-Semite, etc. It is as useful as admonishing toxic waste. And since there is no cure for being a racist et cetera, there is no use trying to affect a treatment. The best you can do is quarantine the infected.
The name calling works! Call a man a racist and almost certainly he’ll deny it, and in groveling and anxious terms. He’ll announce he’s now reading Toni Morison (surely just punishment), or if the charge is anti-Semitism, and he can afford it, he’ll put on a hat and have a photo op at the wailing wall. These anti-racist, anti-anti-Semitic acts are, however, just acts; to be a true conversion requires an ontological change, and most are unwilling to grant these occur.
The proper response when called one of these names is, of course, almost always dismissal; never denial. Never accept the defensive position. Force the argument back to the question at hand, or ignore it, since your opponent is unlikely to listen, believing, as he does, in the false ontology.
Since this is the internet, I am bound to say that people can say false things, make asinine statements, infer falsely, extrapolate incorrectly, slander, libel, calumniate, sin and on and on, either about a person or a group of persons, where each error could be one which could result in being called a “racist” and so on.
In each case the error itself can be tackled, and if eliminated, it is eliminated. If not, one can rationally guess that the person maintaining the error may make other errors of a similar nature. But unless there is verification, there must remain doubt.
There is no such thing as a racist, antisemite (notice the change in spelling!), homophobe, RINO. Never use the enemy’s language.