Today’s CEOs are like Thomas Cranmer, the 16th-century archbishop with his finger to the wind.
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Easter Week, as the culture wars rage on, is a timely moment to reflect on the religious nature of the modern ideology our leaders seek to impose on us.
Astute historians have observed that the wars of religion that seemed to define pre-Enlightenment history never really went away; the religions just got new labels. Secular ideologies that supplanted the old confessions seized the mind with the same sense of spiritual mission. The loyalties they demanded were more divisive and even more destructive than anything organized religion ever managed.
In the 19th century it was nationalism. In the 20th, communism and fascism. In the 21st woke cultural nihilism is the dominant confession, and a fanatical one.
The modern secularists who deride the hagridden mysticism of traditional religion are now the most devoted congregants in the First Church of Antiracism. Penitents line up to be shriven for their white privilege, bending the knee before the altar of justice and equity. They present pendants of the martyred St. George of Minneapolis for blessing from Hollywood prelates and Ivy League divines, solemnly chanting canticles from the Black Lives Matter breviary.
The history of religious war offers warnings for all of us, but most of all for those late converts to the new religion in the big corner offices of American corporations.
The men who run Major League Baseball, Delta Air Lines, Coca-Cola and other giants have been quick to mouth the required antiphony of the modern liturgy. After long careers in which they seemed happy to let their talents propel them to unimaginable wealth, they’ve now discovered that the society that elevated them was founded in evil.
But instead of doing the honorable thing, and stepping down in favor of some less-privileged underling, they demonstrate a commitment to the faith by denouncing others. Here you have the essence of the new faith and morals of the woke classes, the truly privileged people in our society: I’m not to blame, you understand; it’s all those other white folk.
The rush by corporate leaders to denounce Georgia’s new voting law will rank in infamy as one of the most cowardly, cynical and socially destructive moves in modern American history.
There’s no need to rehearse all the arguments about the law. Suffice it to say it expands opportunities to vote well beyond what existed even two years ago and that it is more permissive than the prevailing laws in many blue states.
But to some religions facts are irrelevant, and bowing to the pressure from the media and Democrats, these titans of private enterprise quickly submitted to the collective will.
Since they’ve now been drafted into the army of the woke, these CEOs might want to acquaint themselves with other historical figures who’ve made accommodations to the prevailing religious orthodoxy. It doesn’t always end well.
My favorite example is Thomas Cranmer. He was the 16th-century archbishop of Canterbury who rose to prominence as a loyal cleric under Henry VIII. When the king forced him to choose between his faith and his head, he jumped aboard the reformation bandwagon and denounced Rome. Unfortunately for Cranmer and other religious opportunists, their world changed awkwardly when Queen Mary, the vengeful daughter of Henry’s discarded wife, came to the throne and reinstated Catholic primacy. Cranmer, like these modern-day CEOs, quickly pledged his loyalty to the new order.
Mary’s response was to thank him for the recantation, publicly parade it as an important endorsement of her new regime, and proceed to have him burned at the stake anyway.
The woke enforcers don’t burn heretics—not yet, anyway—but our infinitely flexible modern clerisy don’t have to look back to the Middle Ages for a sobering lesson.
Even as they’re prostrating themselves before their new masters in Georgia, next door in Alabama there’s a cautionary tableau on display. There may be no one as culturally compliant as Jeff Bezos. He’s pledged Amazon to the woke cause. He’s turned a once-great newspaper into a lectionary of cultural correctness.
But in Alabama, his company is fighting efforts from its workers for higher pay and better conditions, and his apostasy has earned him the opprobrium of the high priests.
Last week Sen. Elizabeth Warren, after an unusually sharp Twitter exchange, actually told the company she would seek to break it up because his minions had dared to mock her on social media.
The lesson of Mr. Bezos and Cranmer is the same: Don’t think appeasing the religious tyrants will win you more than a reprieve, if that. These contemptible so-called leaders are knowingly, for the sake of self-preservation, stoking the flames of a cultural war.
These days, thank God, the fire is figurative, but it may still consume a CEO or two.