BOOK REVIEW: THE WORLD TURNED UPSIDE DOWN: The Global Battle Over God, Truth, and Power, by Melanie Phillips
News Weekly, June 12, 2010
Western civilisation under "unremitting cultural assault"
THE WORLD TURNED UPSIDE DOWN: The Global Battle Over God, Truth, and Power by Melanie Phillips (New York: Encounter Books) Hardcover: 280 pages ISBN: 9781594033759 Rec. price: AUD$47.90
Reviewed by Bill Muehlenberg
In the West we are involved in a war of worldviews. On one side is the Judaeo-Christian worldview. Opposed to it are various contenders, chief of which are two main rivals: radical secular leftism, and radical Islam. Phillips notes the many striking similarities between the Western progressives and the Islamists.
Both are a threat to the free West and to Judaeo-Christian values because both pursue a program of coercive utopianism; both demonise any dissent from their ideologies; and both have declared war against Israel and the Jewish people. Furthermore, often these two forces find themselves working together in their assault on the Judaeo-Christian West.
In this volume, the incisive British journalist Melanie Phillips examines in detail these and related threats, and highlights how successful these attacks have been in the past few decades. Those who follow her regular columns for The Spectator magazine and other publications will find familiar ground here.
But this volume allows her to take her brief opinion pieces and develop them in more depth and detail. In 18 meaty chapters she chronicles this war of worldviews, and demonstrates how very much at risk Western civilisation is. She clearly delineates "the global battle over God, truth and power", as the book's subtitle puts it.
Phillips covers extensive ground in this substantial volume, offering a wide-ranging probe into the problems we face and their causes. Various confrontations with the Judaeo-Christian worldview are explored in some detail. For example, she has chapters on the radical environmental movement, including the global warming lobby.
She assesses the politicisation of science and how radical agendas are being pushed in the name of science. She also notes how "scientism" has replaced hard science, whether among the atheistic Darwinists or the climate change true believers.
The author also assesses the suicidal tendencies of the West over the past few centuries, noting how a collapse in belief in God turned out to be not liberating, as imagined, but enslaving. The rise of totalistic police-states, coercive utopias and depersonalising social engineering, have been among the bitter fruits of the attempt to sacralise man while dethroning God.
About a third of the book deals with Israel and the war against the Jews. Phillips looks at how Israel so often gets a bad press from the mainstream media, and how both the Islamists and the political left seem to have Israel in their sights.
Like all writers, she had an obvious point of reference from which she proceeds. She happens to be English, and Jewish. Thus, while the Western world is discussed in general, much of her commentary focuses on the UK in particular.
As a Jewish author, she has certain takes on other monotheistic faith systems. She calls herself "an agnostic although traditionally-minded Jew". She obviously sees Islam as a clear enemy of the Jews and of Israel. With Christianity she makes more obvious distinctions.
She rightly recognises that Protestant evangelicals are "passionately supportive of Israel" while the liberal progressive churches are mainly hostile. She sees the established Church of England as especially tainted by leftist, pagan and secular nostrums and values, including contempt for Israel.
My admittedly biased Protestantism finds what may be biases on her part concerning Christianity. She can be guilty of somewhat sweeping or overloaded charges, such as: "Medieval Christianity Â- like contemporary Islamism Â- stamped out dissent by killing or conversion."
Or she can say. rather sloppily, "The New Testament accuses the Jews of deicide and curses them for all time". Leaving aside some of these unfortunate and somewhat reckless remarks, one can take much from the book as a whole. Phillips has been a tireless defender of the West and its democratic freedoms, and quite bold in promoting Christian freedoms.
As she notes, "Christianity is under direct and unremitting cultural assault from those who want to destroy the bedrock values of Western civilisation." She has often defended the Christian faith when so many Christians were unwilling or unable to do so.
As a matter of fact, her passion in this regard puts many Christians to shame. She rightly is perplexed and dismayed at the war against the West, and why so many Westerners - including Christians - are content to stand by, watching it collapse around them.
She finishes her book by asking whether the West in fact wants to defend itself and its many important goods any longer. Or, could it be that "Western civilisation has now reached a point where it has stopped trying to survive"?
That is certainly the question of the hour. Do we have the will to resist, or have we already raised the white flag of surrender?
Phillips has done her part admirably in sounding the alarm, detailing the war we are in, and highlighting the many battlefronts on which this war is being waged.
It is to be hoped that readers of this important book will now do theirs.