At Davos, the Rev. John Kerry Signals His Place Among the Elect
In my 2015 book, Scarlet Letters, I spoke of the emergence of a Neo-Puritan movement in America. But not until Biden “climate envoy” John Kerry began pontificating at Davos did any prominent member of the Neo-Puritan elect speak specifically to the cult’s existence.
"When you start to think about it, it's pretty extraordinary that we -- select group of human beings because of whatever touched us at some point in our lives -- are able to sit in a room and come together and actually talk about saving the planet," said Kerry.
Before getting to the sillier part of his homily, allow me to explain what Neo-Puritanism is and why it has surfaced. The concept is implicit in the very word “progressive.” In the last decade or two, that word has replaced “liberal” as self-definition among the Left. On the Right, we shorthand the Left’s shifting semantics into the more useful “woke,” a word that on the Left originally meant someone who had awakened and seen the light.
At the risk of tautology, progressives, by definition, progress. Unlike old-school liberals who could content themselves with a status quo, progressives move forward. They refuse to rest, refuse to reflect. That much said, few among them have any clue as to what their ultimate destination might be. For instance, who ten years ago thought that “trans rights” would be a hill on which the woke would be willing, if not to die, at least to pout.
Like their seventeenth-century New England namesakes, the woke exist in a perpetual state of anxiety. For the original Puritans, the anxiety derived from a Calvinist theology that spared only the “elect” from eternal damnation. The problem was that no amount of good works could assure one’s “elect” status. Only faith could do that, but even the faithful could not be certain that their faith would suffice.
Again like their spiritual forebears, Neo-Puritans cope with this anxiety by aggressively asserting their rightful place among the elect. Author Shelby Steele coined the phrase “zone of decency” to describe the sacred preserve in which progressives imagine themselves clustering.
This Neo-Puritan anxiety inspires the woke to signal their virtue not just on their car bumpers but in their very front yards. The signs are everywhere: “Black Lives Matter,” “Stop Asian Hate,” and the wonderfully inclusive, all-purpose dogma display that begins with, “In this house, we believe,” and concludes with the laughable, “Kindness is everything.”
Not content to proclaim their own virtue, the more sanctimonious among the woke feel the need to contest the worthiness of others. I imagine that young women like teen terror Greta Thunberg were commonplace in seventeenth-century Salem. "This is all wrong,” Thunberg scolded her backsliding elders at a United Nations climate summit. “I shouldn't be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you!”
"You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words,” Thunberg continued, sounding all the world like a Puritan divine preaching infant damnation. “And yet I'm one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!” Apparently, Greta did not get the memo about “kindness” being “everything.”
British author Peter Hitchens is among those who have noticed the left’s increasingly “intolerant and puritan secular fundamentalism.” So too did the late author and producer Michael Crichton. In a much-discussed 2003 speech at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, Crichton explained why the suppressed Christian impulses of these secular Neo-Puritans fuse so well into environmentalism.
It starts with the “initial Eden, a Paradise, a state of grace and unity with nature,” said Crichton. Man then overreaches, he plucks the technological fruit from the tree of knowledge, and this leads to pollution. “There is a judgment day coming for us all,” Crichton warned. “We are all energy sinners, doomed to die, unless we seek salvation, which is now called sustainability.”
With that doomsday approaching, Kerry felt emboldened among friends at Davos to announce his personal proximity to the gates of heaven. "I mean, it's so almost extraterrestrial to think about saving the planet." said Kerry. "If you say that to most people, most people think you're just a crazy, tree-hugging, lefty liberal, you know, do-gooder, or whatever, and there's no relationship. But really, that's where we are.”
The next step is for him and Al and Greta and Klaus to don their matching dark clothes and Nike sneakers, leave their bodily “containers” behind, and enter an extraterrestrial spacecraft hidden behind the Hale-Bopp comet. Really, that’s where we are.
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