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Christian Cops Not Wanted

Sign of the times: smalltown Georgia police force pushes traditional Christian out for wrongthink about marriage
Screen Shot 2023-01-30 at 10.09.39 AM

See? See?!:

A former Georgia police officer who was investigated for a religious social media post that claimed "there's no such thing" as gay marriage said he felt pressured to resign after he was told he could be fired for sharing his beliefs.

Jacob Kersey, 19, who quit the Port Wentworth Police Department earlier this month, told Fox News Digital that he was placed on paid administrative leave Jan. 4 after he refused to remove the Facebook post he made regarding his Christian belief about marriage.

"God designed marriage," Kersey wrote in the post that was flagged by his superiors following "an anonymous complaint," according to a Jan. 13 letter of notification first reported by the Daily Signal and provided to Fox News Digital. "Marriage refers to Christ and the church. That's why there's no such thing as homosexual marriage."

Kersey wasn't fired after the investigation, but he said he decided to quit because he was told he could face termination for future social media posts that others find offensive. He said he has spoken with a law firm about possible legal action.

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Unbelievable -- but all too believable. The image of Kersey above is from this interview he did with Tony Perkins. I've been saying for some time now -- in The Benedict Option and Live Not By Lies -- that this is the world we live in now, and increasingly are going to be living in. Normative Christian belief is going to be increasingly hated, and outlawed -- or, in this case, if not outlawed, then will put orthodox Christians at professional risk.

The letter from the department to the cop (you can see if it you follow the link to the news story) informs the young man that there's a question about whether or not he could be "objective" in dealing with a situation involving an LGBT person. What a load of crap. Though I'm a Christian, if a cop posted to social media "God does not exist. There is no such thing as God," I would be appalled if he faced any kind of investigation or discipline. I would not wonder if he could be objective in dealing with Christians or other theists. Why should I, unless there is concrete evidence that he has discriminated against people who believe in God? Why should the onus not be on me to tolerate atheists in the police department? If that hypothetical cop had said that people who believe in God are bad people, that would be a problem. Had Jacob Kersey said gays and lesbians are bad people, well, yes, the problem with that is obvious. But he simply offered an opinion on marriage -- an opinion that is shared by millions of Americans. If a cop had said on social media prior to Obergefell that same-sex couples who wish to marry should have that right, and it is wrong to say otherwise, so what? Why presume that he is incapable of being fair to people who disagree? If you have no actual evidence that a police officer who holds an opinion you don't like has mistreated others as a result of that opinion, then would this not be a case of policing thought?

Again, if a cop says that LGBT people, or persons of color, or white people, or Muslims, or whoever, are no damn good, then obviously that would be a big problem for a law enforcement officer. But there is a substantive difference between saying "there is no such thing as same-sex marriage" and "gay people are bad." There is a substantive difference between saying "God does not exist" and "Christians are bad." There is a substantive difference between saying "I think Black Lives Matter is wrong" and "black people are bad." And so forth. If we are incapable of making that distinction, then we are no longer a classical liberal society, and we have very big problems.

I am guessing that because he quit, and was not fired, his legal options aren't many, but I hope I'm wrong. I hope he sues.

Nevertheless, this is one more example of the special privileges Sacred Minorities have in our post-Christian society. By this point, if Christians can't read the handwriting on the wall, and if they aren't preparing themselves, their families, and their communities for persecution, they might well be ineducable. It is not going to get any better. You should know this. We have to stand up for ourselves wherever we can, but even as we do that, we have to prepare ourselves for a long internal exile. I was talking recently with an English priest about what's here, and what's coming. I told him that I don't fear that my children will be persecuted for their faith -- that's going to happen, even if the persecution is soft (e.g., loss of job and professional opportunities, versus prison or worse). I worry that they will apostatize under the pressure. That is a far, far worse fate. If you are a Christian who disagrees, then not only do you not understand the faith, and the history of the faith (meaning, the role of martyrs and confessors in the Christian imaginary), but you are also eventually going to lose your own faith under pressure, or raise kids who will not have the internal strength to resist.

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Mark my words: this will be the cost of not preparing, of thinking that everything will eventually sort itself out if we just sit back and wait.

To sharpen the point: there is no question but that we have to fight this kind of prejudice and mistreatment wherever we can. But the fight is not simply external. The fight is also within ourselves, to root ourselves more fixedly in what we believe, and what we do, so we can withstand the test. It's easy to be a Christian when you are not put to the test. The easy days are over. The Christians in the West who find that their lives of faith are without struggle going forward will be those who are willing to change with the times. The ones who hold fast to the faith as it really is are those who have the internal and communal strength to stand firm even when they are made to suffer for it. That cop, Jacob Kersey, seems like one of those people.

If you haven't seen the film A Hidden Life, by Terrence Malick, you should watch it. It's not an easy film -- Malick is not a straightforward narrator -- but it tells the true story of an Austrian farmer who went to prison and sacrificed his life for Christ, rather than conform to what the Nazis demanded. Nearly everyone else in his village of churchgoing Catholics conformed to Hitler's demands. How did this farmer know that what the Nazis demanded was wrong, and find the strength to bear witness to the truth, even at the cost of his own life?

The first question -- the "how did he know the Nazis were wrong?" -- is a profound one. It's one that we, in our far remove in time and place from Nazi-era Austria, struggle to fathom. Last week when Andrew Sullivan interviewed me for his podcast, he asked about how I dealt with the revelation that my late father was almost certainly in the Klan in the 1960s. I told him that it wasn't really a shock, because I had long suspected that it had happened. Many white Protestant men of my father's generation were part of that, or if not part of it, then at least not hostile to it. My dad and I informally agreed to stop arguing about race at some point in the late 1980s, for the sake of family peace. So many white Southerners of my generation have had to make the same arrangement with family members: putting the love of family about our own convictions of what is right and what is wrong. They did the same for us. This is not something that the woke fanatics understand, because they place the abstraction of being Correct over the concrete value of living in community with flawed human beings whom you love, and who love you, despite your own flaws. The ugliest and least human thing about the woke is how they don't see people as people, but solely as bearers of abstract identities.

Anyway, as I told Andrew, one big turning point for me in figuring out how to think about my folks and their generation's racial attitudes was coming to understand the information environment that shaped them. I grew up in a small Southern town in the 1970s, and was in the first generation of local kids to go to racially integrated schools. I realized one day that the only counternarrative white kids of my generation got to white supremacy was through watching network television. It's not the case that anybody sat us down and said, "White people are superior"; rather, it's simply a social reality that you can't end something like apartheid by law, and have all the sentiments it generated, and that upheld it, dissipate overnight. For most of us, the only place we encountered messaging saying that racism is wrong was in national news and entertainment media.

Eventually I put myself in the place of people of my parents' generation. My dad was born in 1934, my mom in 1943. They were fully formed adults by the time the Civil Rights Movement began having an effect. There was nothing in their lives to teach them that racism was wrong. My mom was not raised in the church, but white Southern churches were infamously conformist to the white supremacist narrative. There was no media counternarrative, anywhere. Now, if you had grown up in a culture that told you black people were inferior, and that the races shouldn't mix, and everybody around you agreed with this (and those who did not would have been too intimidated to speak out), then your fundamental ideas about the way reality works would be pretty skewed.

Mind you, I have been told the same thing over the years by teachers who work with inner-city minority kids: that it is very, very difficult for white suburban people to understand how radically different those kids' model of reality is, because their formative experiences in community are so different. It's not an excuse for bad behavior, on the part of anybody. But it must be taken into consideration when you are dealing with flesh and blood people. They don't know what they don't know -- and that is true for you and me as well. You have to have humility, and to realize that there are truths and realities that are invisible to you, because of your own epistemic formation.

I've mentioned here before, and I said it to Andrew, that a breakthrough for me came in 2012, when, having moved back to my hometown, I read a 1964 article from Ebony magazine, that was a long, detailed account of a white riot that broke out on my hometown's courthouse lawn, when a black pastor registered to vote in 1963. I was genuinely shocked to read that piece, because I had not realized how violent the defense of the racist legal and social order had been. Nobody talked about this stuff to our generation. Nobody in the enraged white crowd was named in the piece, but had they been, I am sure I would have encountered the names of men I grew up respecting. Maybe my own father was in that crowd. I hope not, but it's certainly possible. Reading that story, I had to admit that had I been a young man in that time and place, I might well have been there too -- and would have thought I was defending my community, and defending a just social order! After all, it was all I had ever known. This is exactly the lesson the Catholic Church tries to teach its people in the Easter liturgy, when, in the Gospel reading telling of Christ's passion, the church directs the entire congregation to say, with the Jerusalem mob, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" Every single one of us would probably have joined the mob that day in Jerusalem. The mob truly believed it was defending the faith, and the social order, by putting this so-called blasphemer to death.

Well, Franz Jägerstätter, the Austrian farmer who resisted the Nazis, not only knew that Hitler was an Antichrist, but found the strength to accept death to bear witness to the truth, and to not betray Jesus. How did he do it? The Malick film is frustratingly light on that part of the story, but the obvious answer is that the Catholic Franz lived in such a way in times of peace that when put to the test, he not only knew what to do, but was able to do it.

Here is a key scene from the film. In it, Franz is inside his parish church, assisting a painter who is decorating the church with Biblical scenes. The painter says that he shows "their comfortable Christ, with a halo over his head," but the actual life of Christ requires suffering. That, he says, is how you can tell an admirer of Christ from a disciple (a point straight out of Kierkegaard). The painter says "a darker time is coming," one in which men won't fight the Truth, but rather simply ignore it. Watch:

Look around you. The days are darkening. The late Benedict XVI, writing to the Slovak statesman Vladimir Palko in 2015, said that the power of the Antichrist grows and grows. It will become harder and harder to find clarity in the darkness now descending. I read in the Seewald biography of Benedict that one reason he was committed to the Second Vatican Council as a young priest serving as a theological adviser there was because he was so grieved by the Nazi legacy in his homeland. Joseph Ratzinger came from an anti-Nazi family -- a family that understood the evil of Nazism because it practiced its Catholicism faithfully. Yet according to Seewald, Ratzinger believed that the fact that the Nazi regime came to power is a sign of how de-Christianized Germany had become. A truly Christian Germany would not have accepted Nazism. Young Father Ratzinger's hope for the Council was that it would revitalize the faith, and make it more plausible to modern people, in part as an inoculation against Nazism and other anti-human extremisms.

On his 2006 visit to Auschwitz, Pope Benedict XVI said:

The rulers of the Third Reich wanted to crush the entire Jewish people, to cancel it from the register of the peoples of the earth.  Thus the words of the Psalm: “We are being killed, accounted as sheep for the slaughter” were fulfilled in a terrifying way.  Deep down, those vicious criminals, by wiping out this people, wanted to kill the God who called Abraham, who spoke on Sinai and laid down principles to serve as a guide for mankind, principles that are eternally valid.  If this people, by its very existence, was a witness to the God who spoke to humanity and took us to himself, then that God finally had to die and power had to belong to man alone - to those men, who thought that by force they had made themselves masters of the world.  By destroying Israel, by the Shoah, they ultimately wanted to tear up the taproot of the Christian faith and to replace it with a faith of their own invention: faith in the rule of man, the rule of the powerful.

He also spoke of anti-Nazi Germans who died there:

The Germans who had been brought to Auschwitz-Birkenau and met their death here were considered as Abschaum der Nation - the refuse of the nation.  Today we gratefully hail them as witnesses to the truth and goodness which even among our people were not eclipsed.  We are grateful to them, because they did not submit to the power of evil, and now they stand before us like lights shining in a dark night.  With profound respect and gratitude, then, let us bow our heads before all those who, like the three young men in Babylon facing death in the fiery furnace, could respond: “Only our God can deliver us.  But even if he does not, be it known to you, O King, that we will not serve your gods and we will not worship the golden statue that you have set up.”

We have to hope and pray that whatever is coming for us will not involve the kind of persecution that destroyed the lives of six million Jews, and other enemies of the Nazi regime. But worse than losing our lives would be losing our faith in God. It is far easier to imagine that happening than to imagine arising a new gulag archipelago or extermination camp network. It's easier to imagine, because it is happening everywhere now. To be an elderly European today is to have lived through the de-Christianization of your society and culture. When my kids, born at the dawn of the 21st century, are elderly, absent a great and unanticipated movement of God, this will be their story too: to have witnessed the de-Christianization of America. That a police officer in a small Georgia town could be made to fear for his job because he posted on social media a statement of faith in the Bible's model of marriage is a flashing-neon sign of the times.

The coming generations of American kids are going to be acculturated to a worldview that is no more comprehending of the Bible's teaching about homosexuality than my parents' generation was of the Bible's teaching about racism. I remember hearing older folks -- maybe my dad, but I honestly can't remember -- talking about how the Bible taught that racial segregation was God's will. I recall starting to read the Bible for myself when I was twelve years old, and going to my dad to ask how come if the Bible says this about race, and how to treat other people, that we all thought the opposite? He had no answer for me. He had not read the Bible; he had just accepted what his culture taught him, and figured that the Bible must support it. We look at that today with shock and disbelief, but the same sort of thing is happening now around homosexuality and the Bible, particularly in Christian circles. Many contemporary Christians are not interested in knowing what the truth is, and conforming their lives to it, even if it's hard; rather, they just want to ignore the truth, because it makes their lives uncomfortable.

I get it. I'm not really much different. If an angel of the Lord came to me and pointed out to me how I personally fall short of the word of God in my own life, I would likely be genuinely shocked. We don't know what we don't know. But we ought to try our hardest to be open to learning, and to form within ourselves an ethic of humility and repentance, so that when our sins are made known to us, we turn from them, or at least undertake a sincere effort to try. That's what it means to be Christian. It was easy for me to judge my parents' generation for their racism when I was a young man, and the truth was so clear to me. But now that I'm older, and I have come to understand much better how weak human nature is, and how fiercely we resist the truth when it makes us uncomfortable, or is painful, I am more merciful. When Jesus said, from the cross, "Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do," he was modeling for us radical forgiveness, based on the mob's ignorance. All of us are a potential mob. All of us are fallen. All of us are tempted to baptize the ethics of the culture to which we belong. If you are a Christian who looks back on those white Christians of the Jim Crow times and wonder how on earth they could have believed those things when the Bible is so clear, but you also have reconciled yourself and your faith to the sexual ethics of our day, then I would tell you that you owe those racist white Christians an apology. You have done the same thing as they did: made Scripture say what you wanted it to say, for the sake of conforming to the social order, in part because it was too hard to say, "We will not serve your gods."

The Benedict Option and Live Not By Lies are not about escaping the world. We can't escape the world. It is about trying to create communities of formation and discipleship that will teach people to be like Shadrach, Meshech, and Abednego: working in the world, but when put to the test, choosing suffering, even death, over apostasy.

We do not have that today, and it shows. We don't have all the time in the world, you know. Let the fate of young Jacob Kersey be a sign. And if it's not a sign to you, then you had better ask yourself: what's it going to take? What has to happen before you to rouse yourself from your comfortable slumber, and prepare for resistance?

UPDATE: A reader writes:

The bigger issue is that even in small town Georgia there is now a ready commissar that is ready and willing to purge dissenters. Everyone is now Winston Smith. This is why the soft totalitarianism is exceedingly unlikely to remain so.

That being the case, reader, what are you doing about it? Most Christians under Soviet communism conformed. Those who did not developed strong practices and communities to help them endure. As you know, Father Kolakovic and his helpers prepared the Slovak Catholics for what they saw coming, even when some of the Church's leadership denied anything bad was likely to happen.

UPDATE.2: Evangelical writer Trevin Wax:

Christians will continue to face mounting pressure to signal our support for LGBT+ causes, to say “love is love,” to display the Pride flag—whatever pinch of incense will satisfy today’s Caesars. Why? Because unless everyone everywhere pretends there’s no substantial difference between male-female marriage and same-sex relationships, the spell is broken. The charade doesn’t work. It’s why the wars over pronouns and bathrooms are so heated. Unless we all play along, the jig is up.

Ivan Provorov’s dissent exposes the lie at the heart of the sexual revolution. And let’s face it: now that transgender theories are mainstream, we’ve moved beyond the question of morality. At the center of controversy today is the question of nature and the meaning of embodied reality. Why is there such pressure to fall in line? Because unless we all act like gender difference is superficial and irrelevant, the ancient view of marriage will persist and the newly invented view of marriage will be seen as the imposter it is.

Do you get it? There can be no dissent. It was always going to be this way -- which is why some of us understood from the beginning that the whole circa 2005 "How does my gay neighbors' marriage affect me?" line was nonsense. You must affirm the Lie -- or else!