Malcolm Muggeridge, renowned journalist from England, friend of Mother Theresa and convert to the Catholic Church, wrote an article entitled, “The Great Liberal Death Wish.”
Originally published in Imprimis, the monthly journal at Hillsdale College in May of 1979, Muggeridge set out to tell his own story about how he came to discover that the worldview he held so dearly was nothing but a death wish. He, like so many other progressives in the early to mid-twentieth century, was of the belief that a perfect socialistic society could be created here on earth; and created without God’s help. What escaped him at the time, and what he later came to realize, was that “Unless the LORD build the house, they labor in vain who build.” (Psalm 1127:1)
Indeed, at one time or another, every person must come to this realization.
Malcolm recalled his childhood years when he overheard his father, a professed Christian, at his home in England talking to his political cronies about a kingdom of heaven on earth. Their discussions centered on how they could plan the perfect society. Of course, to carry this out, a powerful government was needed. This was his “baptism,” as he called it, into what he would later know as the great liberal death wish.
With this worldview, he had nothing but admiration for U.S. President Woodrow Wilson and his League of Nations at the end of World War I.
Indeed, many Westerners were brimming with optimism. To use Muggeridge’s own words, there was an “almost insane outburst of expectations.” Mankind had finally arrived! And World War I was the war to end all wars.
This was the prevailing thought, anyway.
Muggeridge eventually attended Cambridge University, and a Christian College in India. Upon earning his degrees, he returned home to England to teach elementary school. After acquiring some teaching experience at the elementary school level he headed off to teach at the University of Cairo in Egypt. It was at this point he said: “It was there that the dreadful infection of journalism got into my system.” This is when he learned how to “group think.”
He started writing articles about the Egyptian people and what they wanted (although he had never talked an Egyptian before) and how they were supposedly clamoring for democracy. It was then he was asked to join the editorial staff of the Guardian, a British newspaper. Before he would write on any given subject, he would ask his managers and peers, “What is our line?” That is to say, what position was he expected to take.
It was through that prism he would report the "news."
Eventually, he made his way back to England. The Great Depression had hit his country pretty hard. By then, he was enamored with the great liberal death wish; that is, the notion that through socialism (and communism), paradise can be had on earth.
With his progressive, unsuspecting eyes, he looked towards the Soviet Union for the answer. He was, to use his own words, “fully prepared to see in the Soviet regime the answer to all our troubles.” To his great elation, the Guardian sent him to Moscow as a correspondent. Shortly after he arrived in Russia, the first wave of disillusionment hit him. What he found was an “appalling tyranny, in which the only thing that mattered, the only reality, was power.”
Malcolm elaborates on the principle that drives dictatorships:
“Once you eliminate the notion of a God, a creator, once you eliminate the notion that the creator has a purpose for us, and that life consists essentially in fulfilling that purpose, then you are bound, as Pascal points out, to induce the megalomania of which we've seen so many manifestations in our time – in the crazy dictators, as in the lunacies of people who are rich, or who consider themselves to be important or celebrated in the western world.
Alternatively, human beings relapse into mere carnality, into being animals. I see this process going on irresistibly, of which the holocaust is only just one example.”
The curious thing was that Muggeridge had witnessed how so many journalists, lawyers and even clergymen from the liberal intelligentsia were utterly naïve about the brutality and misery under the Soviet regime.
He even asked himself “how people, in their own country ardent for equality, bitter opponents of capital punishment and all for more humane treatment of people in prison, supporters, in fact, of every good cause, should in the USSR prostrate themselves before a regime ruled over brutally and oppressively and arbitrarily by a privileged party oligarchy?”
Not much has changed.
The same strain of gullibility can be found in those Americans who subscribe to secular-liberalism in 2013. They simply cannot connect the dots between the moral values politicians hold and the oppressive policies that are sure to follow. But well-formed Christians can make this connection. They do not compartmentalize the world into tiny unrelated fragments.
Morality and spirituality matters.
And what is more, it has a profound effect in the political and economic world. Muggeridge was beginning to see this. Eventually, it was his Catholic faith that allowed him to see where the utopian dream of an all-powerful State would lead:
“The thing that impressed me, and the thing that touched off my awareness of the great liberal death wish, my sense that western man was, as it were, sleep-walking into his own ruin, was the extraordinary performance of the liberal intelligentsia, who, in those days, flocked to Moscow like pilgrims to Mecca.
And they were one and all utterly delighted and excited by what they saw there. Clergymen walked serenely and happily through the anti-god museums, politicians claimed that no system of society could possibly be more equitable and just, lawyers admired Soviet justice, and economists praised the Soviet economy. They all wrote articles in this sense which we resident journalists knew were completely nonsensical.”
It wasn’t until after World War II that Malcolm Muggeridge began to see the great liberal death wish for what it really was.
He rid himself of every last vestige of socialism, communism and Godless ideology which used to cling to him. He no longer believed the myth that progress can be had without God. In the place of his old beliefs, his new life in Christ was to grow over the years.
More and more he would learn to appreciate Divine Providence and the purpose it assigns to every single individual. Towards the end of his Imprimis article, he concludes with this note of hope:
“In this limbo between life and death, you know beyond any shadow of doubt that, as an infinitesimal particle of God's creation, you are a participant in God's purpose for His creation, and that that purpose is loving and not hating, is creative and not destructive, is everlasting and not temporal, is universal and not particular. With this certainty comes an extraordinary sense of comfort and joy. Nothing that happens in this world need shake that feeling; all the happenings in this world, including the most terrible disasters and suffering, will be seen in eternity as in some mysterious way a blessing, as a part of God's love. We ourselves are part of that love, we belong to that scene, and only in so far as we belong to that scene does our existence here have any reality or any worth.”
* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.