Our society worships progress. We worship progress simply because it’s the progressive thing to do. The problem with worshiping progress is that progress itself isn’t progressive. The same is true of worshipping change. Because the ideal of change is itself unchangeable, worshipping change means you worship what’s constant. Because the ideal of progress isn’t progressive, worshipping progress means you worship conservatism.
But first, it’s important to deal with a fallacy—the fallacy that the progressivist really desires progress.
Instead, the progressivist is someone wholly concerned with regression. He is like a man who discovers a beautiful house, fully furnished, and sublimely comfortable. It’s one thing to construct an addition to the house, thereby contributing to a portion of its splendor, just as it’s one thing to accept the stunning beauty of our old morality and build upon it to make it better. Lewis compares such moral advance to a new garden. “You like your vegetables moderately fresh; why not grow your own and have them perfectly fresh?”*
But the progressivist doesn’t do that.
Instead, he looks at the house, stunning as it is, and (starting with the foundation) tears it down. He doesn’t add to the house; he ensures there’s no house left to add anything onto. He doesn’t accept the crucial features of our society’s foundational morality; he argues there’s no foundational morality to accept. He doesn’t tell us to grow a garden; he tells us to “Throw away that loaf and try eating bricks and centipedes (or crickets in our case) instead.”* His standard of goodness is not a standard at all because it’s constantly in flux. The journey towards the end has become the end itself.
But there is no end. The entire ideology of progressivism, like a snake consuming its own tail, destroys itself. The ideology of progress never ends, or it ceases to be progressive. And if the progressive ever stops progressing, he fails to worship progress. A rational man stops driving when he reaches the campsite; the progressive isn’t driving to any particular destination at all. The hiker finishes his climb and enjoys the views at the top of the mountain; the progressive hates the peak, because it means his hike is completed. For the progressive, the journey is the destination, and the hike is his summit.
But there is such a thing as driving too far. There is such a thing as hiking too high. If we never stop driving, we discover that we’ve driven nowhere. It doesn’t mean that we’ve arrived at some secret oasis; it means we’re lost. If we never stop hiking, we fall over the other side of the mountain. It doesn’t mean we find some new cave for spelunking; it means we’re dead.
In the same way, there is such a thing as progressing (if we can call it progressing at all) too far. Because we never stop progressing, we regress to the brutality and barbarism of the ancients. Our lust for the future means we aspire to be like the old, and our idolatry of modern life means we idolize what was fashionable 2000 years ago. We never stop “caring for the health and safety of others,” so we take preventative measures to stall influenza by imprisoning innocent pastors as they did in Rome. We are so concerned about our children thinking the “wrong things” that we teach them not to think at all. We are so sensitive to the feelings of others, we crucify a man telling us to believe in Him and repent of our sins on a cross.
The final sacrifice society must make to progressivism is society itself. Carthage sacrificed children to Baal, but we rip them apart limb by limb in the womb. Sodom and Gomorrah lusted after anything that walked, but we call man “woman,” and encourage him to disregard his gender—even his humanity. Adam and Eve were excommunicated from the Garden of God, but now that Christ has opened it for us again, we refuse to return.
We justify such sins because they're “progressive, modern, and it's 2022,” but as it turns out, we are no different than the days of old. We’re no more modern than Jericho. The worship of progress has led to the abolition of progress, and because we’ve sacrificed everything else, the only thing left to offer the all-consuming maw of progressivism is our sanity.
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*See C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man