George Neumayr

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‘Progressivism’: the greatest source of death and terror in the twentieth century

George Neumayr
By George Neumayr
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Editor's Note: The terms "progressive" and "progressivism" are being widely used in the secular and religious worlds. Most people hearing these words have no idea of their manipulative context and what many who use them actually intend them to mean. "Progressivism" has a political/historical background that must be understood by pro-life, pro-family people and people of faith in order to prevent them from falling prey to its dangerous agendas. We asked George Neumayr to write this instructive piece for the benefit of all LifeSiteNews readers. After reading this you will better understand the need to question anyone referring to "progressive" ideas or calling someone "progressive."

February 14, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The English author George Orwell wrote that “political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” In the history of manipulative political language, the term “progressive” surely occupies a high place.

The term is used incessantly to describe policies, political figures, and churchmen, among others, whom a liberal elite deem enlightened. Through repetitive use of “progressive,” modern liberals have hoped to gull the public into equating progressive with progress. But no such equation is justified. The gulf between the rhetoric of “progress” and the reality of progress is glaring.

The darkness of the twentieth century is sufficient to dissuade anyone from confusing “progressive” with progress. Its vilest ideologies were all presented as “progressive.” In the name of bettering humanity, self-described progressives felt emboldened to “progress” beyond the most basic precepts of reason and the natural law.

While some causes labeled “progressive” in the twentieth century qualify as either innocuous or at least debatable, many were unmistakably evil. The century’s eugenic schemes, for example, came not from so-called reactionaries but from proud self-described progressives. The West’s leading judges and university presidents championed eugenics openly before World War II.

In the 1920s, Oliver Wendell Holmes, considered a pillar of progressivism, thought nothing of calling for widespread sterilization of whomever the elite considered inferior. After all, he wrote, “It is better for all the world if, instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for the crime or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind.... Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”

Long before Hitler’s Final Solution, Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, was writing about eliminating the “feeble-minded” and undesirable minorities. Long before the architects of Obamacare conceived of death panels for the elderly, the playwright George Bernard Shaw, a darling of progressives, blithely proposed extermination panels: “You must all know half a dozen people at least who are no use in this world, who are more trouble than they are worth. Just put them there and say Sir, or Madam, now will you be kind enough to justify your existence?”

“Progressive” California, the epicenter of eugenics in the 20th century, didn’t pick up its schemes from Hitler’s Germany. Rather, bloodless German social engineers picked up their eugenic ideas from California. Edwin Black, the author of War Against the Weak, has noted, “Only after eugenics became entrenched in the United States was the campaign transplanted into Germany, in no small measure through the efforts of California eugenicists, who published booklets idealizing sterilization and circulated them to German official and scientists.”

Supposedly progressive places like Pasadena and Palo Alto (Stanford’s president in the early twentieth century, David Starr Jordan, was a loud proponent of eugenics) were beacons of enlightenment in Hitler’s eyes, according to Black:

Hitler studied American eugenics laws. He tried to legitimize his anti-Semitism by medicalizing it, and wrapping it in the more palatable pseudoscientific facade of eugenics. Hitler was able to recruit more followers among reasonable Germans by claiming that science was on his side. While Hitler's race hatred sprung from his own mind, the intellectual outlines of the eugenics Hitler adopted in 1924 were made in America. During the '20s, Carnegie Institution eugenic scientists cultivated deep personal and professional relationships with Germany's fascist eugenicists. In Mein Kampf, published in 1924, Hitler quoted American eugenic ideology and openly displayed a thorough knowledge of American eugenics. "There is today one state," wrote Hitler, "in which at least weak beginnings toward a better conception [of immigration] are noticeable. Of course, it is not our model German Republic, but the United States."

Self-described progressives also entangled themselves in the roots of Russian communism.  “I have seen the future and it works,” remarked the journalist Lincoln Steffens after visiting Russia in 1921. Bolshevism and progress were viewed as one and the same.

“Most liberals saw the Bolsheviks as a popular and progressive movement,” wrote Jonah Goldberg in Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left. “Nearly the entire liberal elite, including much of FDR's Brain Trust, made the pilgrimage to Moscow to take admiring notes on the Soviet experiment.”

In view of this dark history, contemporary uses of “progressive” should merit the greatest suspicion. Indeed, one might have expected the word to fade away. Instead, it has enjoyed a revival.  To many politicians and journalists, “progressive” now sounds better than “liberal.”

In 2007, at a debate during the Democratic presidential primaries, Hillary Clinton declined to call herself a liberal and chose instead to call herself a progressive. She explained:

I prefer the word 'progressive,' which has a real American meaning, going back to the Progressive Era at the beginning of the 20th century. I consider myself a modern progressive – someone who believes strongly in individual rights and freedoms, who believes that we are better as a society when we're working together and when we find ways to help those who may not have all the advantages in life, get the tools they need to lead a more productive life for themselves and their family. So I consider myself a proud modern American progressive, and I think that's the kind of philosophy and practice that we need to bring back to American politics.

Her vague definition of progressive makes it sounds wholesome and harmless, as if progressives stand for nothing more than up-to-date food inspection standards and a robust civil society.  In truth, progressivism sparks off secularist and socialist notions of human perfectibility and social engineering divorced from God and the natural moral law that have proven disastrous for the human race.

If progressivism is difficult to define, that’s because it rests on nothing more than the ever-changing will of man. It has no criterion of progress apart from whatever those in power call “progress.” The false and empty philosophy underlying it allows for the most sinister forms of subjectivism and ideologies of power.

Of course, self-described progressives would like the public to believe that their political, economic, and religious ideas have the same proven character and measurability as technological progress. They push the idea that society will improve under “progressive” politics, economics, and religion to the same extent that, say, computers have improved under measurable and undeniable technological progress.

That assumption drives progressivism, but it has no sound philosophical basis. Equally unsound is what C.S. Lewis called the “chronological snobbery” built into progressivism—“the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited.” A true idea does not cease to be true simply because those in power no longer hold it.

The irony of progressivism is that its policies almost always entail a return to the bad ideas and corrupt practices of ancient times. It is old barbarism in a new guise. What exactly is new about euthanizing the elderly, killing babies, celebrating promiscuity, and so forth? Even its more sophisticated notions of a “living Constitution” and a collectivist federal government (ideas which are hallmarks of the American Progressive movement) are simply glorified versions of tyrannies well known to the ancients. 

The term progressive invariably attaches itself to policies that might have even made debauched pagans blush. Self-described “progressive” Democrats, for example, have no qualms about extending the term to openly brutal practices like partial-birth abortion. Barack Obama, who takes pride in the term “progressive,” couldn’t even bring himself to oppose laws against infanticide as a state senator in Illinois.

In ordinary language, progress refers to the gradual improvement of a thing. In its political and religious uses, “progressive” more often than not refers to regressive and primitive practices and ideas that deform life and undermine the development of civilization. 

As C.S. Lewis pointed out, the truly progressive person is the one who stands athwart a false idea, whatever its labeling, and moves in the direction of truth.

“Progress means getting nearer to the place you want to be,” he wrote. “And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.”

Authentic progress, in other words, is inseparable from the truth about the good of man. Any ideology with a criterion of progress not rooted in that truth can only mean gradual corruption and disorientation.  As evident in the mania for gay marriage in the West, “progress” is now defined not by greater and greater adherence to the natural moral law but by the natural law’s total abolition.

Similarly, the media’s understanding of “progress” in the Catholic Church is not measured by growing adherence to holiness and truth but by departures from them. It crowns churchmen “progressive” if they appear to be substituting modern liberalism for orthodoxy.

The incorporation of modern liberalism into Catholicism is the destination point toward which “progressives,” both inside and outside the Church, wish to go.

Moving beyond “truth and falsehood” into an alliance with the “world” is the antithesis of the Church’s mission. But progressives, such as Hans Kung or the leading dissident National Catholic Reporter paper in the US, drawing upon a Darwinian conceit, will always claim that the latest development, whether in religion or politics, is the best one. All changes are cast as perfective, not destructive.

Bitter experience should have taught the public by now that “change you can believe in,” as Obama put it, is usually an alarming mutation. “Progress,” as applied to politics and religion, falls into Orwell’s category of self-serving rhetoric designed to silence opposition to whatever is under proposal. It should at the very least invite skepticism, not submission.

To paraphrase Lincoln Steffens, we have seen the future under progressivism and it clearly doesn’t work.

George Neumayr is a contributing editor to The American Spectator and co-author of No Higher Power: Obama’s War on Religious Freedom.

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PBS defends decision to air pro-abortion documentary ‘After Tiller’

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By Dustin Siggins

Under pressure for showing the pro-abortion documentary "After Tiller" on Labor Day, PBS' "POV" affiliate has defended the decision in response to an inquiry from LifeSiteNews.

The producers of the film say their goal with the documentary, which tells the stories of four late-term abortion doctors after the killing of infamous late-term abortionist George Tiller, is to "change public perception of third-trimester abortion providers by building a movement dedicated to supporting their right to work with a special focus on maintaining their safety.” 

POV told LifeSiteNews, "We do believe that 'After Tiller' adds another dimension to an issue that is being debated widely." Asked if POV will show a pro-life documentary, the organization said that it "does not have any other films currently scheduled on this issue. POV received almost 1000 film submissions each year through our annual call for entries and we welcome the opportunity to consider films with a range of points of view."

When asked whether POV was concerned about alienating its viewership -- since PBS received more than $400 million in federal tax dollars in 2012 and half of Americans identify as pro-life -- POV said, "The filmmakers would like the film to add to the discussion around these issues. Abortion is already a legal procedure."

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"This is an issue that people feel passionately about and will have a passionate response to. We are hopeful that the majority of people can see it for what it is, another lens on a very difficult issue." 

In addition to the documentary, POV has written materials for community leaders and teachers to share. A cursory examination of the 29-page document, which is available publicly, appears to include links to outside sources that defend Roe v. Wade, an examination of the constitutional right to privacy, and "a good explanation of the link between abortion law and the right to privacy," among other information.

Likewise, seven clips recommended for student viewing -- grades 11 and beyond -- include scenes where couples choose abortion because the children are disabled. Another shows pro-life advocates outside a doctor's child's school, and a third is described as showing "why [one of the film's doctors] chose to offer abortion services and includes descriptions of what can happen when abortion is illegal or unavailable, including stories of women who injured themselves when they tried to terminate their own pregnancies and children who were abused because they were unwanted."

Another clip "includes footage of protesters, as well as news coverage of a hearing in the Nebraska State Legislature in which abortion opponents make reference to the idea that a fetus feels pain." The clip's description fails to note that it is a scientifically proven fact that unborn children can feel pain.

The documentary is set to air on PBS at 10 p.m. Eastern on Labor Day.

Kirsten Andersen contributed to this article.

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He defended ‘real’ marriage, and then was beheaded for it

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By Pete Baklinski

A Christian man was executed during the night by a high-profile ruler after making an uncompromising defense of real marriage.

The Christian, who was renowned for his holiness, had told the ruler in public that his relationship with his partner was “against the law” of God. The Christian’s words enraged the ruler’s partner who successfully plotted to have him permanently silenced.

John the Baptist was first imprisoned before he was beheaded. The Catholic Church honors him today, August 29, as a martyr and saint.

While John’s death happened a little less than 2,000 years ago, his heroic stance for real marriage is more pertinent today than ever before.

According to the Gospel of Mark, the ruler Herod had ‘married’ his brother’s wife Herodias. When John told Herod with complete frankness, “It is against the law for you to have your brother’s wife,” Herodias became “furious” with him to the point of wanting him killed for his intolerance, bullying, and hate-speech.

Herodias found her opportunity to silence John by having her daughter please Herod during a dance at a party. Herod offered the girl anything she wanted. The daughter turned to her mother for advice, and Herodias said to ask for John’s head on a platter.

Those who fight for real marriage today can learn three important lessons from John’s example.

  1. Those proudly living in ungodly and unnatural relationships — often referred to in today’s sociopolitical sphere as ‘marriage’ — will despise those who tell them what they are doing is wrong. Real marriage defenders must expect opposition to their message from the highest levels.
  2. Despite facing opposition, John was not afraid to defend God’s plan for marriage in the public square, even holding a secular ruler accountable to this plan. John, following the third book of the Hebrew Bible (Leviticus 20:21), held that a man marrying the wife of his brother was an act of “impurity” and therefore abhorrent to God. Real marriage defenders must boldly proclaim today that God is the author of marriage, an institution he created to be a life-long union between one man and one woman from which children arise and in which they are best nurtured. Marriage can be nothing more, nothing less.
  3. John did not compromise on the truth of marriage as revealed by God, even to the point of suffering imprisonment and death for his unpopular position. Real marriage defenders must never compromise on the truth of marriage, even if the government, corporate North America, and the entire secular education system says otherwise. They must learn to recognize the new “Herodias” of today who despises those raising a voice against her lifestyle. They must stand their ground no matter what may come, no matter what the cost.

John the Baptist was not intolerant or a bigot, he simply lived the word of God without compromise, speaking the word of truth when it was needed, knowing that God’s way is always the best way. Were John alive today, he would be at the forefront of the grassroots movement opposing the social and political agenda to remake marriage in the image of man.

Click "like" if you want to defend true marriage.

If he were alive today he might speak simple but eloquent words such as, “It is against God’s law for two men or two women to be together as a husband and wife in marriage. Marriage can only be between a man and a woman.” 

He would most likely be hated. He would be ridiculed. He would surely have the human rights tribunals throwing the book at him. But he would be speaking the truth and have God as his ally. 

The time may not be far off when those who defend real marriage, like John, will be presented with the choice of following Caesar or making the ultimate sacrifice. May God grant his faithful the grace to persevere in whatever might come. St. John the Baptist, pray for us!

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The Wunderlich family Mike Donnelly / Home School Legal Defence Association
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German homeschoolers regain custody of children, vow to stay and fight for freedom

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By Thaddeus Baklinski

One year to the day since a team of 20 social workers, police officers, and special agents stormed a homeschooling family’s residence near Darmstadt, Germany, and forcibly removed all four of the family’s children, aged 7 to 14, a state appeals court has returned custody of the children to their parents.

The reason given for the removal was that parents Dirk and Petra Wunderlich continued to homeschool their children in defiance of a German ban on home education.

The children were returned three weeks after being taken, following an international outcry spearheaded by the Home School Legal Defense Association.

However, a lower court imposed the condition on the parents that their children were required to attend state schools in order for them to be released, and took legal custody of the children in order to prevent the family from leaving the country.

In a decision that was still highly critical of the parents and of homeschooling, the appeals court decided that the action of the lower court in putting the children in the custody of the state was “disproportional” and ordered complete custody returned to the parents, according to a statement by the HSLDA.

The Wunderlichs, who began homeschooling again when the court signaled it would rule this way, said they were very pleased with the result, but noted that the court’s harsh words about homeschooling indicated that their battle was far from over.

“We have won custody and we are glad about that,” Dirk said.

“The court said that taking our children away was not proportionate—only because the authorities should apply very high fines and criminal prosecution instead. But this decision upholds the absurd idea that homeschooling is child endangerment and an abuse of parental authority.”

The Wunderlichs are now free to emigrate to another country where homeschooling is legal, if they choose, but they said they intend to remain in Germany and work for educational freedom.

“While we no longer fear that our children will be taken away as long as we are living in Hessen, it can still happen to other people in Germany,” Dirk said. “Now we fear crushing fines up to $75,000 and jail. This should not be tolerated in a civilized country.”

Petra Wunderlich said, "We could not do this without the help of HSLDA,” but cautioned that, “No family can fight the powerful German state—it is too much, too expensive."

"If it were not for HSLDA and their support, I am afraid our children would still be in state custody. We are so grateful and thank all homeschoolers who have helped us by helping HSLDA.”

HSLDA’s Director for Global Outreach, Michael Donnelly, said he welcomed the ruling but was concerned about the court’s troubling language.

“We welcome this ruling that overturns what was an outrageous abuse of judicial power,” he said.

“The lower court decision to take away legal custody of the children essentially imprisoned the Wunderlich family in Germany. But this decision does not go far enough. The court has only grudgingly given back custody and has further signaled to local authorities that they should still go after the Wunderlichs with criminal charges or fines.”

Donnelly pointed out that such behavior in a democratic country is problematic.

“Imprisonment and fines for homeschooling are outside the bounds of what free societies that respect fundamental human rights should tolerate,” he explained.

“Freedom and fundamental human rights norms demand respect for parental decision making in education. Germany’s state and national policies that permit banning home education must be changed.

"Such policies from a leading European democracy not only threaten the rights of tens of thousands of German families but establish a dangerous example that other countries may be tempted to follow,” Donnelly warned.

HSLDA Chairman Michael Farris said that acting on behalf of the Wunderlichs was an important stand for freedom.

“The Wunderlichs are a good and decent family whose basic human rights were violated and are still threatened,” Farris said.

“Their fight is our fight," Farris stressed, "and we will continue to support those who stand against German policy banning homeschooling that violates international legal norms. Free people cannot tolerate such oppression and we will do whatever we can to fight for families like the Wunderlichs both here in the United States and abroad. We must stand up to this kind of persecution where it occurs or we risk seeing own freedom weakened.”

Visit the HSLDA website dedicated to helping the Wunderlich family and other German homeschoolers here.

Contact the German embassy in the U.S. here.

Contact the German embassy in Canada here.

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