The spiritual journey of Naomi Wolf:
If you are not into reading and want immediate answers, let me say this: Had I asked, ‘Is Naomi Wolf a Christian,’ the short answer would have been ‘no’. But as to whether she is moving in that direction, the short answer is ‘possibly’. That is the sense you get from reading her new book.
Like so many noted public intellectuals of late, she seems to be on a real spiritual journey, and the bottom line is this: Christians need to pray for her. People like Jordan Peterson, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Tom Holland and Douglas Murray, to name just a few, either have become Christians lately or may well be heading in that direction. So too with Naomi Wolf.
This is my third article on her new book: Facing the Beast: Courage, Faith, and Resistance in a New Dark Age (Chelsea Green, 2023). More will likely be forthcoming. Here I want to look at the various things she says about her faith journey. She of course had long been a secular Jew who followed the conventional leftist wisdom of not talking about God in public.
But she is changing. Indeed, times are changing. While she has always been a bit of a rebel and outsider for a lefty (think of her much earlier writing on abortion for example), the horrific tyranny we all underwent during the Covid Wars has really galvanised her and turned her around.
So now, among other things, she speaks about religious and spiritual matters quite a lot. And in her new book, it is a bit of a mixed bag. From what she writes, she has certainly opened herself up to the transcendent and the spiritual. That of course does not make one a Christian, but for many it can be a move in the right direction.
One New Testament passage she refers to more than once is Ephesians 6:12: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places”.
She even has an entire chapter on “Principalities and Powers.” Her main takeaway here is this: what we witnessed during the past few years has been so evil, so diabolical, so all-encompassing and so universal, that we cannot account for it merely by discussing bad people or bad governments or bad politics.
With all the mass hallucinations and deception that even supposedly intelligent and well-educated people fell into, there must be something more sinister lying behind all this. She of course is quite right to think this way. There are spiritual forces at work – both good and evil.
Not all that long ago Wolf made some waves as she spoke of how she was impacted by a Messianic Jew and his recent book. She again discusses this here. I refer to Jonathan Cahn and his 2022 volume, The Return of the Gods. Wolf devotes an entire chapter to him and his ideas. She says in part:
Though I don’t agree with everything in his book, Pastor Cahn’s central argument — that we have turned away from the Judeo-Christian God and thus we opened a door into our civilization for the negative spirits of “the Gods” to re-possess us — feels right.
Jonathan Cahn is a Messianic Jewish minister. He is the son of a Holocaust refugee. Formerly a secular-atheist, Cahn had a near-death experience as a young man that led him to accept Jesus — or, as he refers to this presence by the original Hebrew name, Yeshua — as his Lord and Savior. Pastor Cahn has a ministry based in Wayne, New Jersey, which brings together Jews and Gentiles.
In The Return of the Gods, his improbable, and yet somehow hauntingly plausible thesis is that ancient dark and metaphysically organized forces, “the Gods” of antiquity, have “returned” to our presumably advanced, secular post-Christian civilization.
Pastor Cahn’s theme is that, because we have turned away from our covenant with Yahweh — especially we in America, and we in the West, and especially since the 1960s — therefore, the ancient gods, or rather, ancient pagan energies, that had been vanquished by monotheism and exiled to the margins of civilization and human activity — have seen an “open door”, and thus a ready home to re-occupy, in us.
He argues that they have indeed done so. (p. 145)
Again, the point is for a highly intellectual secular Jew to now start thinking and talking this way is quite a turnaround. In her mind, there is no other way to account for the horrific and really satanic things that we all went through earlier this decade. There must be something more – something more sinister. I of course agree.
She goes on to speak about the covenant relationship the Jews had with God, and how it must be two-way traffic:
God never said, once I choose you as “my people” — then you can do whatever you want. He does not want a codependent or an abusive relationship.
He wants a real marriage.
Today, we are in grave danger if we, as Jews, think that by honoring our ethnic heritage or even our religious traditions, even if we keep kosher and light the Shabbat candles, that we are doing what Yahweh really asked of us.
And the same could be said, and I say this with equal respect, of many Christian churches, books and media messages. I am in dialogue with devout Christians of many denominations, with whom I have shared these anxieties, who also feel that we are in a time of similar moral danger for their own coreligionists, and for similar reasons.
Too few in either community, we agree, seem to understand how dangerous to a nation, to a civilization, abandoning God can be. (p. 150)
As mentioned, hers is clearly not a fully developed faith system as yet. She retains some of her Jewish background but is happy to run here and there, being all rather eclectic. Let me offer just two quotes on this. In her chapter on the Powers, she finishes with these words:
I do think we need to call – as Milton did, as Shakespeare did, as Emily Dickinson did – on help from elsewhere; on what could be called angels and archangels, if you will; on higher powers, whatever they may be; on better principalities, on whatever intercessors may hear us, on Divine Providence—whatever you want to call whomever it is you can hope for and imagine. As I often say, I’ll take any faith tradition. I’ll talk to God in any language—I don’t think forms really matter. I think intention is everything.
I can’t say for sure that God and God’s helpers exist; I can’t. Who can?
But I do think we are at an unheard-of moment in human history—globally—in which I personally believe we have no other choice but to ask for assistance from beings—or a Being—better armed to fight true darkness, than ourselves alone. We’ll find out if they exist, if He or She exists, perhaps, if we ask for God’s help.
At least that’s my hope.
Which I guess is a kind of a prayer. (p. 46)
Though it is unfashionable now to talk about our Judeo-Christian founding and heritage in the West, it should not be. This legacy is simply a historical fact. I do not think one needs to be dismissing of or insulting to Buddhism or Islam (which is also part of the Judeo-Christian lineage, but that’s another story) or Jainism or Shintoism, to acknowledge the fact that the West’s civilization for the past two millennia has been a Judeo-Christian one, and that our Founders in this nation, though rightly establishing religious freedom, believed that they were consecrating a nation in alignment with the will of God as they understood him. (p. 147)
So there is still plenty of theological and philosophical confusion here that she needs to work through. Some of these things are simply not compatible. Not all religions are the same and most of them are logically incompatible with other religions.
And she needs to eventually get some clarification on some of these issues. In her chapter on “The Last Taboo” for example she speaks further of the metaphysical battle we are in. Although she speaks often about “spiritual energies” and the like, which can mean almost anything, she is correct to reject the old materialist worldview that was a part of her tribe:
“The world-spirit now is overtaken by the struggle between good and evil. Nothing stands in between. Everything else now on the planet is secondary to this battle; everything else is a symptom, a byproduct and manifestation, of this metaphysical world-conflict.” (p. 184)
She goes on to say she is still a “devoted rationalist” and is aware of getting carried away, of being seen as fanatical or flaky, and so on. But she insists that we must face the truth that life is more than the material, and a genuine metaphysical battle between good and evil is taking place. Christians can agree with that, although they would want to flesh that out much more carefully – and biblically.
Once again, the bottom line is this: Wolf is not a biblical Christian. But she certainly is now on a journey, on a quest – just as I once was. I know that some Christians will write her off and say she does not talk like a New Testament believer. Well, given that she is not yet one, that is not surprising.
So instead of just being armchair critics, why not keep Naomi – and others like her – in your prayers. Some of the names of public intellectuals I mentioned above may well be Christians now. Others might be on the way. At the very least, we must keep praying for all of them.