Throwing Christians to the lions to be eaten alive versus forcing them to engage in a series of lawsuits that will devour their financial sustenance or to close shop and remove to a more tolerant jurisdiction are certainly distinct varieties of persecution, and the former much worse than the latter. But both are religious persecution. It seems the West is now determined to hunt down the very religious tradition that has not only sustained but enabled it to vibrantly flourish, all in the name of the equality of man that Christianity was first to declare and establish. In other words, we’re witnessing a slow-moving cultural murder-suicide.
Patrick Reilly of the Cardinal Newman Society discusses in the Wall Street Journal this week only the latest in our recent series of government intrusions upon religion, in the Washington DC City Council’s decision to amend the city’s “Human Rights Act” to require religious K-12 schools and universities to fund and encourage on-campus gay advocacy groups. It is considering another “reproductive health” amendment that
could prevent religious schools from enforcing contracts in which teachers pledge to be moral examples to students and to abide by religious teachings—including teachings against abortion, sterilization or contraception.
Proponents and opponents believe this amendment also could be used to force the district’s employers—including religious nonprofits—to cover abortion in employee health plans. That would go a step further than ObamaCare’s mandatory coverage of sterilization and contraception, which has been challenged by 55 lawsuits from religious colleges, charities and other nonprofits.
One wonders in passing why on earth DC’s council would attack schools that rescue so many local children from a positively horrific “public” education system that is an international shame to our country—but perhaps that description of it reveals the answer. More to the point, however, these events are merely the latest to herald the growth of illiberal government. We’re moving from “let your freak flag fly” to “only the freaks we condone are allowed to exist in peace.” Gay freaks are in. Christian freaks are out.
That may have been the goal all along. Remember that the LGBT lobby only asked for “tolerance,” civil unions, and “coexistence” when they were less embedded in the halls of power, less ensconced as keepers of cultural and legal privilege. Now that they are the new dead white guys (an amusing image, really), there’s no such liberality.
We used to hear “how can love between two people harm anyone else?” Now it’s quite clear that the LGBT lobby’s version of love has awfully vicious effects. It apparently motivates them to stamp out the livelihoods and peaceful coexistence of those who dare think differently. If this isn’t the result of hate, it’s certainly a vicious form of reactionary self-righteousness, of the kind they project upon Christianity.
A New Kind of Christian Persecution?
Compared to ancient and contemporary persecution of Christians that involve brutal, direct measures such as beheading, flogging, rape, and child slavery, whittling away the ability of Christians to publicly behave as and acknowledge what their consciences demand is softer; but that does not negate it as genuine persecution or political tyranny. Alexis de Tocqueville might relate this to a similar tyranny of our political sphere, which he called “soft despotism.” This is not the brutal despotism of a Middle Eastern or South American dictator, but of “a network of small, complicated rules” that gently but surely squeeze the life out of a people. From “Democracy In America” (of course):
The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.
The effects of such a network of rules are not merely political; they are also spiritual. People will not only be censored and limited by government agencies, but as they navigate this brave new world, they will begin to self-censor and withdraw into themselves to avoid setting off a chain reaction that leads to public unpleasantness. Escapees of totalitarian regimes describe this as the political and spiritual atmosphere of their former homes. People will not only not hire new employees for existing businesses, they will not start new businesses. They not only will not voice their opinion in public spaces, they restrain themselves from voicing it at home, to their families and close friends, and perhaps even to themselves. Schools and other religious institutions may not be able to forthrightly define their criteria for employee behavior, so they must hint at it and hire people through private instead of public channels. People withdraw, and become isolated, both internally and externally.
I turn to Paul Rahe for further explication of these moral effects:
Above all, he was persuaded that where there is centralized administration and individual citizens find themselves alone facing the state, they will succumb to the disposition that Pascal, Montesquieu, and Rousseau had called inquiétude (using a word that has a range of meanings stretching from uneasiness and restlessness to anxiety and outright fear) and, in search of a sense of security, will gradually become passive subjects.
Freedom is not freedom if people are not free to be wrong. It is not freedom if it carries with it no risk, no possibility of failure. People cannot develop new and better ideas if they are not free to experiment, to test the truth and rightness of their present beliefs. So tyranny is not ever just political, but also moral, because what a man may or may not do with his hands and mouth ultimately shapes the habits of his mind and soul.
LGBT activists forcing themselves upon their political opponents are incredibly childish and shortsighted, because they are cutting off entirely the possibility of persuasion, of human and cultural growth, on both sides. They proclaim “diversity,” but clearly do not mean it. Indeed, they are making perhaps the same mistake the Catholic Church did during the Inquisition: assuming that force is not only a just but effective means of persuasion. One wonders why gay activists are so afraid to allow their opponents the freedom to let live.