Saturday 20 April 2024

Aiming for worldly success and popularity is maybe the worst Litmus Test failure

I have often written about the Litmus Test issues of our time; those thin-end-of-wedges, those slippery slopes, those tips of evil-icebergs.  

A Litmus Test is an issue that is linked to the agenda of evil; the strategy of Satan and the demons. The issue itself may seem to be minor, subjective, or in principle not worse than a partial truth or distortion of some-thing valid - but the fact is that the issue links to a whole vast and systematic program of corruption. 

Therefore to fail even a single Litmus Test, and to join with the program that is attached to it, to lend support in social discourse, to become a propagandist or an activist; just a single Litmus Test fail is by-itself sufficient to corrupt a Christian to take the opposite side in the spiritual war. 

This can be confirmed by observation. For instance, all of the major Christian churches in The West have failed one or more Litmus Tests - and, although they may stand firm on other Test issues, this is never sufficient to prevent these churches becoming assimilated to The System and its evil-controllers. 

Partial Good is no defence against taking the wrong side, and becoming net-evil. 

Many of these Litmus Tests can be understood as linked to various types of worldly success, and (particularly among women) to social popularity. So, perhaps it is the striving for worldly success that is the underlying and master corruption. 

This is why the most extreme corruption of value-inversion is worst among the professional and leadership classes. Those who are most wealthy, educated, high status and influential. 

As of 2024 in The West, nobody can attain and remain in a high socio-economic position without publicly professing evil. 

Now, this does not - of course - mean that such people are inevitably damned; because repentance has (in principle) infinite power.  

We are all sinners, without exception - that is we cannot cease from sinning; but Jesus came to save sinners. 

But repentance is necessary. 

And repentance means knowing that sin is indeed sin; knowing and acknowledging to oneself and God that one is indeed sinning by failing that over-arching Litmus Test - by striving for worldly success.

So far as one can infer, this repentance seems rare - very rare; indeed there is not the slightest sign of repentance in most worldly self-styled Christians. 

No sign - even - that worldly success, even personal popularity, is nowadays something that requires repentance. 


Note added: An important first step is to cease being proud-of, and boasting-about (even indirectly, even humble-bragging), our own worldly success, and that of others. 

Or, at least, repenting when we do so!


Francis Berger said...

This is a big one. A Gordian knot in the sense that it cannot be solved on its own terms but requires spiritual approaches and solutions.

I don't think the vast majority of people in the West have even begun to consider worldly success along these lines. Ironically enough, this neglect has probably been a major contributor to the West's current failures and ongoing collapse.

My forays into the topic have been met with only "yeah but, no but" justifications and rationalizations.

My favorite justification is the "Yeah, but you would do the same if you were in that position/situation", which, when you stop and think about it, is kind of a veiled insult (only failures are wary of success, etc.). It is also an implicit recognition of the corruption and an endorsement of it.

I could go on and on. Suffice it to say that people have not thought seriously about this at all. Everyone is familiar with "deal-with-the devil" stories, but it never applies to them.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Frank - I think that this one major reason is why the leadership of the major churches are so uniformly corrupt. Typically they are "successful", hence serious sinners - but do not repent.

"My forays into the topic have been met with only "yeah but, no but" justifications and rationalizations."

Yes, and by doing so, they double-down on sin, refusing to acknowledge it and refusing to repent.

That is what is so spiritually dangerous about these times. So many people assume that if they avoid stealing and murdering and the like, they are "good people" - meanwhile many are habitually/ professionally dishonest, and refuse to recognize the endemic corruption of their jobs, social interactions, etc.

It seems the easiest thing in the world to recognize such sins, and repent them... After all, there is no escaping such corruption to some degree for everybody, so we're all in much the same boat - but apparently this is just too difficult.

Apparently pride beats all such considerations. And thus we are caught.

Francis Berger said...

Bruce, I don't know how many comments this important post received, but my guess is--not too many. The lack of comments on this vital issue speaks volumes, as far as I'm concerned.

David Earle said...

I have a strong tendency towards worrying, which is usually tied to my financial/work situation, which I recognize and continually repent of. However, this can tend to lead me towards seeking quick temporal solutions to my suffering.

When my worries are aleviated by financial and worldly success, I find it necessary to repent of my not-worrying as well, reminding myself that is not the task at hand. I rather my worries be aleviated through faith and trust in Christ, not worldly achievements. That is the the direction I strive to move in.

Bruce Charlton said...

cecil1 has left a comment:

I've felt this strongly since even before 2020, but especially after...

So many of the things we are being coerced to compromise on now ( ID, 'diversity', free speech etc) which might each seem incremental in themselves, are clearly to me all tied to an enormously evil edifice that must be rejected completely.

It's not even clear sometimes how to reject it-- because saying 'yes' or 'NO' seems to just provide the system with an alternative means to use you. There doesn't seem to be a winning choice. You lose if you comply, and you sure lose if you don't too.

Bruce Charlton said...

@cecil1 -

The winning choice is repentance.

Anybody can do it at any time; and everybody should.

To use traditional Christian language: We cannot cease from sinning, but we can know that we sin - know and recognize sin as sin, and inwardly reject it as ideal.

(In context of a determination to know and follow Jesus, to accept the offer of repentance, to commit to live by love in Heaven.)

Laeth said...

I have a regular job as a low-mid cog in the evil blacksmith machine and I never forget who my employer is. It's enough to get by, but not much more, and still it isn't that difficult to know I am at least renting part of my soul to the devil, because the evil blacksmithing is obvious. So pretty much every day I have the thought: this is evil and I am participating in it. Then I think the other choices, like being homeless or a burden to my family, are worse and I suck it up. But I think it's important to think about it and know it for what it is.

It's hard for me to imagine the level of corruption that goes on at higher levels, even levels just a few notches above mine. I sometimes wonder if it's just unconscious or if at some point there really is a sign off, a moment where you know you've 'sold out' completely. I have no idea how it is in academia or other institutions of prestige, but I get the feeling it's even worse there than it is in the 'private' sector.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Laeth -

Yes, exactly. And there are indeed "sell-out" moments - I know, because I have done it more than once (having been, at times, quite "successful"). We know them when they happen.

But, I later repented.

It is very interesting to consider that both Jesus in (most of) the Gospels, and Paul, are insistent that we are All sinners, and this is a fact of life.

YET - the churches have always implies that repentance entails that we *stop* sinning, or At Least try our very hardest to stop sinning.

That sounds plausible until we consider that by doing our job we are sinning, and we are not even trying to stop!

Since Christians usually believe that they ought to be at least trying not to sin, they have to pretend that they are not sinning in situations where they are not even trying to stop (but indeed, trying to succeed).

In practice, each church picks out a few "unacceptable" sins that members (or, those who can expect salvation) Must Not do; and then ignore (pretend they are not real) the everyday sins such as those entailed by almost any job in 2024 - even though these sins have now become very extreme (e.g. strategic lying, and deliberate active propaganda for value-inversions).

My own view is that the way out is to recognize that we really cannot cease from sinning except to die; and that therefore the concept And Reality of repentance absolutely-must be separated from even trying to cease sinning.

Also - repentance is not a miserable thing. It is not a matter of spending one's whole life brooding tragically upon one's own sins. Absolutely the opposite.

Repentance is the most joyous and liberating thing any Man can do; and anyone who repents almost cannot-help being grateful to Jesus Christ, and indeed loving him.

I would indeed say repentance is the Only Way to lead a Fundamentally (i.e. the level that is, underneath the surface level of current emotions) joyful *and care-free* life.

Laeth said...


The joy you speak of is such an important point. I never understood, and then felt bad for not understanding/feeling, that spirit of constant self flagellation for this or that specific sin that churches are so concerned with, then coupled with a complete ignorance or denial of subtler sins, like having a job or, indeed, despairing about participating in the system! I spoke about this before, but this was another paralyzing conundrum of trying to be traditional. And it was leading me nowhere at all, neither happier nor wiser nor more creative. I had, in short, to stop 'caring' about avoiding this or that sin, and instead recognizing when I do them.

a few years have gone by and I am indeed more joyful, yet still not completely despair and worry free. But now instead of self flagellation I try to get back to the knowledge of what is good and what is evil, and if the evil is unavoidable here, the knowledge that it is avoidable in the next life, that all I have to do is indeed know and choose it.

one last point: I try to have this conversation with many people, about the necessity to know what is evil and that it actually exists (one of the positive litmus tests), and I am still not over the fact that so often, among christians, this is an impossible conversation to have, especially if you get past the point of 'all evil comes from satan'. After that rather general sentence, nothing comes from it, no realization of how men and women, including ourselves, participate in it in various ways.

Mia said...

Personally, I was lucky to find this blog at a time when I had become overwhelmed with the realization that tools I built at work were being used for unabashed evil. I was not Christian, then I became Christian, then God called me to leave my evil mega-corp employer and go independent. Had I not been engaged with this blog, I would have imagined that I was going off to be morally pure while also making more money. Instead, while I made an effort to gain clients that are less evil, I have never lost sight of the fact that I am feeding the Beast to feed my family (actually more than feed- to keep them quite comfortable!) That humility I think God has rewarded as we seem to always have exactly what we need for our good (love-motivated or creative) aims and no more. For instance, one of my projects has been to build another tool that contributes to omnisurveilance and control. Well, I built it. I did my best not to laude it as a tool that would liberate humans (which is the official sales pitch even though it obviously weakens and controls them). I pointed out the moral issues from time to time and was predictably ignored. I took the money and built something good (at least potentially good) for my family. I repented often in prayer. That money came in right when we needed it for that family project. As soon as we didn't, that client fell apart. I won't get any more money, but my tool will not be used against people (at least not yet). God is good!

Mia said...

This post made me think about how to discern evil versus good spiritual nudges on this Earth. You're correct that *aiming* at worldly success is allying yourself with evil, however achieving success is another matter. It's wise to be suspicious of wild worldly success and even of smaller successes, but we also can't continually go around doubting and should not err on the side of rejecting blessings.

I ended up thinking about it this way: the parallel openings of the first two books of the Space Trilogy illustrate the difference between how God nudges and how demons nudge. At a material level, both look identical: a series of unfortunate circumstances such as weather, closed businesses, things getting in the way of your plan. The key difference is in the motivations God plays on vs the demons. God nudges Ransom through his goodness- his concern for the distressed woman and her idiot son, his desire to keep his word. The demons nudge the author through fear primarily then encourage that fear through appeals to laziness and false pride.

This is probably extremely obvious or at least was obvious to people of the past. But today I see a lot of Christians interpret challenges themselves as God warning them away. For example, I knew a family who uprooted four children including two teenagers because the husband lost three jobs in two years, and to them that had to mean God was encouraging them to try their economic luck in another state. This is the other side of the worldly success aim- if you aren't seeing worldly success, you must have strayed from God's plan for you.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Mia - Very interesting comments - thanks!

Jacob Gittes said...

All I have to add is thank you for this post.
I need to avoid the temptation to be prideful and superior because I don't think I am contributing all that much to the evil going on. We all are, if we are employed.

Ranger said...

It reminded me of the ending of Devil's Advocate, when Al Pacino's Devil character looks at the camera and says "vanity, definitely my favourite sin".

Bruce Charlton said...

@Ranger - I don't know the movie - but I suspect that if it was the take home "message" of a Hollywood blockbuster starring AP - then it will be some kind of misdirection!

I think I recall CS Lewis saying that vanity (or maybe he called it conceit) was one of the *lesser* sins.