The Left Needs A Jesus

If the coming election goes as predicted with a red wave, history will once again slap the left in the face. Remember how the left responded when Donald Trump won the presidency? It wasn’t pretty. Proclamations of the end. Screaming at the sky. Weeping. Gnashing of teeth. It was religious fervor run amok.

That’s because leftism is a religion with an eschatology just as real as John Hagee’s. It’s a religion of political salvation. As political philosopher Eric Voegelin argued, it’s a strain of gnostic, millenarian Christianity that seeks to make the kingdom of God immanent through political movement. First, its enlightened prophets, such as Georg Hegel and Karl Marx, gain gnosis about the inner meaning of history and its progress. Then their anointed acolytes among the educated classes, the woke elect, lead a political movement that manifests this inner meaning in an era of peace, health, and abundance. The kingdom of God is inaugurated.

This explains then-Sen. Barack Obama’s pitch to evangelicals: “I am confident that we can create a kingdom right here on Earth.”

Who’s “we”? “We” in Obama’s formulation is his messianic political movement. It’s a perfect demonstration of Voegelin’s argument.

Yet, this theology fails over and over again, with devastating effects on leftists’ mental health. When your God is “we,” there’s a tremendous burden placed on the human psyche, a burden to save the world. This is a cross no human can bear.

The left needs a Jesus.

What Does Jesus Mean for the Human Psyche?

Consider what Jesus means for the human psyche. Jesus is the divine world Savior who indeed does bear the cross of the world’s salvation. Psychologically, Jesus is the universal, transcendent archetype of salvation from the world’s evils of war, poverty, famine, and death.

Traditional Christian theology says this Savior was embodied in the historical Jesus, and the church is the institutional and corporal continuation of what He means for us. The church becomes a safety net for the despairing psyche through its teachings on faith and hope. The world’s salvation is deferred to an end-time fulfillment, and faith latches onto that hope.

Not so on the left. For them, they embrace the Jesus archetype but turn it inside out. It means human capacity for urgent world change. “Jesus” is a disembodied mantle worn by anyone who engages in activist politics in an attempt to end the world’s evils. And this can happen, as the classic leftist protest sign puts it, now!

The problem is, when the world doesn’t become a better place, now or ever, the left’s Jesus fails them, which is by definition no Jesus at all. This puts them into epistemic crisis with those sad side effects on mental health. There’s no safety net. There’s no off-ramp on the highway to utopia when the gas tank light comes on. There is only a world that remains in poverty, war, famine, and death.

How Traditional Theology Helps Mental Health

Conservatives are far more able to handle political defeat

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