A reader writes:
I am a non believer who follows your writing with some interest. In the past I have thought that you are a bit of an alarmist when it comes to secular attitudes towards conservative christians, but no longer.
In my home country of Finland, where 80% of the population are registered christians (with means paying about one percent of your income as church tax) police have started an investigation against a member of parliament for quoting the bible!
Mrs Päivi Räsänen , MP for Christian Democrats, commented critically on the fact that the church was a co-sponsor of Helsinki’s gay pride march. She said: “How does the church’s teaching align with being a proud sponsor of something that is according to the Bible both shameful and a sin.”
This comment lead to a criminal complaint, and is being investigated by the police under the charge of “inciting hatred” which under Finnish law can lead to up to two years in prison.
This case is exceptional in many ways, not the least because under Finnish law the freedom of speech -even outrageous speech- for parliamentarians has previously been considered sacrosanct, as it has been considered a necessity for democracy. Apparently PC can overrule even that.
Mrs Räsänen remains unrepentant and says she will interpret the Bible the way she sees it despite the consequences.
Thankfully the likelihood that she will be convicted is small as there needs to be a 5/6 majority in Parliament to waive her immunity, and this is highly unlikely.
All the same, even for a non church member such as I, this is shameful day in what I thought was one of the finest democracies in the world.
Here’s the tweet that got the MP into trouble:
#kirkko on ilmoittanut olevansa #seta n #Pride2019 virallinen partneri. Miten kirkon oppiperusta, #raamattu sopii yhteen sen kanssa, että häpeä ja synti nostetaan ylpeyden aiheeksi? pic.twitter.com/cnjAQCrOc2
— Päivi Räsänen (@PaiviRasanen) June 17, 2019
Here’s a news story about it (in Finnish). The newspaper account points out that the Lutheran archbishop of the country stands behind the church’s embrace of gay Pride.
Stand strong, Päivi Räsänen! It is not permitted to disapprove. You. Must. Submit. In the US, the First Amendment will protect this kind of dissenting Christian commentary from legal action, but that same First Amendment will likely protect the rights of organizations and individuals to punish dissident thought in effective ways. For example, an American business executive who tweeted something like that would have to worry about his job.
As I work on my new book, I’m getting in touch with people all over the US who emigrated from Communist countries. This week I interviewed one who came not long after Communism fell in her country. Like so many others, she’s been made deeply uneasy by things she’s seen emerge here — things that remind her of the old country.
This scientist-professor told me a detailed story about being at a high-level academic conference not long ago in which colleagues — all scientists — stood around after the day’s sessions speculating on the conditions under which political undesirables ought to be eliminated — killed — for the greater good. The academic said this wasn’t a joke to them. She said she remarked that she had actually lived in a country in which this was the practice, and it was a bad thing. The group turned on her, and began defending communism. She then retreated into her shell — a habit she learned in her life under Communism.
The scientist-professor told me that this is not unusual in her world. Academics are so uniformly on the Left that they can’t imagine anybody they esteem — certainly not a fellow professor — could possibly disagree. She said that the uncomplicated hatred for political and religious conservatives she’s observed among academic science types over the years she has been in America is bone-chilling. She said it has pushed her deep into the closet in her university, and within her profession — this, even though she works in science, which you’d think was apolitical. And it has made her afraid for what would happen to her adopted country, the United States, if people like her academic colleagues came to hold power.
“If feels like at some point if [my colleagues] discover that I don’t agree with the things they’re talking about, my career will be over,” she told me. “Everybody is so open, they’re talking in front of me like I’m really one of them. It really looks like this is what’s normal within that community.”
Now, that scientist lives in the United States, and has the protection of the First Amendment. I have no idea what her feelings are about gay Pride parades, but let’s say, for the sake of argument, that she tweeted out something like what the Finnish MP did, what would happen to her career? Based on our conversation (which was much more detailed than what I’m revealing here), she is absolutely convinced it would be over. She would be persona non grata in her department, and within her field. So she remains silent, closeted, afraid. The First Amendment is cold comfort to her. It’ll keep you out of jail, which ain’t nothin’, but it won’t protect your job, your reputation, or even your safety.
This morning I was talking to an academic friend who teaches on the East coast. When he called, I told him that I was working on this post. He and I discussed the ways it is possible to destroy the professional and personal lives of your political enemies without breaking the law. His work also has to do with the STEM field, and he was telling me how terrifying it is to discover how much power companies like Google have over our lives — without being accountable to anybody. It’s not only that Google (Facebook, et al.) have the power to control the information they know about us; it’s that they gather this information, and it’s available to all kinds of people, including bad actors. We are all far more vulnerable than we think.
In Finland, if you so much as question whether or not a Church ought to be approving of a gay Pride march, you can be investigated by the police. In the US, if you did that, the police won’t bother you, but depending on what you do for a living, you could still have your job taken away and your career destroyed. So you tell me: with that kind of social control in place, how free are we, really?
Once again, if you are any kind of Christian, I encourage you to read The Benedict Option. We have to prepare ourselves for the present, and the future. Or if you don’t like the Benedictine idea, then consider it in terms of the Kolakovic Option, named after a heroic Croatian Jesuit who escaped the Gestapo in 1943, and hid in Czechoslovakia. He warned Slovak Catholics that when the war ended, the Communists would likely rule their country — and that Christians needed to be ready for it. He established underground circles of believers who educated themselves and formed themselves in prayer and spiritual disciplines. Here’s what he accomplished:
What’s happening to this Finnish believer is a sign of what’s to come. Prepare for resistance.
UPDATE: Regarding what the STEM academics were saying to the professor, about what should be done to Deplorables, consider this passage from an Alan Jacobs post from five years back. He’s commenting on a passage from a piece by philosopher Rebecca Roache, in which she’s speculating about the future of punishment. Jacobs writes:
There is a kind of philosopher — an all too common kind of philosopher — who when considering such topics habitually identifies himself or herself with power. Pronouns matter a good deal here. Note that in Roache’s comments “we” are the ones who have the power to inflict punishment on “someone.” We punish; they are punished. We control; they are controlled. We decide; they are the objects of our decisions. Would Roache’s speculations have taken a different form, I wonder, if she had reversed the pronouns?
This is the danger for all of us who have some wealth and security and status: to imagine that the punitive shoe will always be on the other’s foot. In these matters it might be a useful moral discipline for philosophers to read the great classics of dystopian fiction, which habitually envision the world of power as seen by the powerless.