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The Joy of Resistance

Pope Benedict and the Benedict Option. (Gasper Furman / Shutterstock.com)

In a must-read interview with The Spectator, philosopher Roger Scruton discusses his new novel, The Disappeared, about immigration to Britain, cultural collapse, and the systemic cover-up of rape by Muslim gangs. The magazine points out that what Scruton said 30 years ago about the left-wing establishment and immigration — a position he took that destroyed his academic career — has been proven true.

‘The truth is hard. We don’t need reminding that there is a heavy censorship in all matters to do with immigration, to do with the integration of immigrant communities and in particular the integration of Muslim communities. The police forces of those northern cities were heavily intimidated by the Macpherson report, accusing police forces all over the country of institutional racism, which was an incredible injustice, which means they are going to lean over backwards not to get involved in what’s going on in the local immigrant communities for fear of this. That’s clearly what has happened in Rotherham and also people don’t want to write about it because they’ve also seen the penalties.’

He has been hearing the same stories from teachers for 30 years now. ‘If you’re a schoolteacher and trying to survive in these circumstances and knowing that you’re up against all these assembled forces, then self-censorship is not just likely, it’s necessary. But if you’re a philosopher who is self-employed at the end of his career, then it’s pointless to engage in self-censorship. It’s great, I can just say what is true. People will shout and scream, and all the usual things will be said. But more and more people will realise that this self-censorship is not just counter-productive in itself but has actually worsened the problem because it has prevented people from dealing with it. It has prevented the immigrant communities themselves from dealing with it.’

What has disappeared in modern Britain? Says Scruton:

And I think that our society has gone terribly wrong because people have not been confronting the great issues — the loss of the Christian faith, the inability to confront Islam, the loss of the sense of the sacredness of the sexual relation, and the exposure in particular of young women both to external predation and to this moral decay. All these things are real.

But Scruton sees signs of hope — in one instance, in the example of a new school started by Katharine Birbalsingh, a veteran teacher who was more or less drummed out of her profession and harassed relentlessly because she had the audacity to say that Britain’s public education system was failing the poor and immigrants. In her new school, which is serving an all-black student body (except for a handful of Romanian immigrants), the atmosphere is highly disciplined, and the kids are being instructed in traditional subjects, not trendy ones. Scruton says some people will always learn from disaster, and start again, returning to the old ways that have been eviscerated by the revolution. More:

So the battle is for continuity? ‘Yes, and for the survival of western civilisation. It’s not as though we’ve lost it completely. We still have got this civilisation — it’s all we’ve got, and it’s not as though we’re going to be able to replace it with any other. I think that’s really what underlies this story of The Disappeared. A lot of things have disappeared.’

Having been made something of a pariah for recognising these truths early, does he feel any sense of vindication? He laughs slightly. ‘I don’t feel as though I need it. It’s the way the world is. If you say something in advance — if you describe a problem as it arises, people always turn on you because they don’t want to hear about it. But when it’s too late to do anything, they will then turn around and say that you were right. That’s human nature.’

Read the whole thing. It’s quite good. I ordered Scruton’s novel on Kindle, and have it on my queue. So many books to read, so little time.

To be quite honest, after the tumultuous past ten days with the Indiana and Arkansas affairs, and what they reveal about the state of this country, I found that Scruton’s words give me hope. I read them in tandem with a short piece by Princeton’s Robbie George, urging orthodox Christians and others to stand up against the bullies, for once. Excerpt:

The lynch mob is now giddy with success and drunk on the misery and pain of its victims. It is urged on by a compliant and even gleeful media. It is reinforced in its sense of righteousness and moral superiority by the “beautiful people” and the intellectual class. It has been joined by the big corporations who perceive their economic interests to be in joining up with the mandarins of cultural power. It owns one political party and has intimidated the leaders of the other into supine and humiliating obeisance.

And so, who if anyone will courageously stand up to the mob? Who will resist? Who will speak truth to its raw and frightening power? Who will refuse to be bullied into submission or intimidated into silence?

I’m not asking, which leaders? Though that, too, would be good to know. Are there political or religious leaders who will step forward? Are there intellectual or cultural leaders who will muster the courage to confront the mob?

No, I’m asking what ordinary people will do. Are there Evangelical, Catholic, and Orthodox Christians who will refuse to be intimidated and silenced? Are there Latter-Day Saints, Orthodox and other observant (or even non-observant) Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs? Buddhists?

I have said in this space recently that orthodox Christians and other moral and religious traditionalists who wish to keep their jobs in certain workplaces and professions now know that they have to go into the closet about their convictions, because they will be set upon. I still believe this is true as a practical matter, but I’m wondering if the gloves coming off from the cultural left and their allies in the media, corporate America, and both political parties, isn’t in fact liberating — and should liberate us to speak out whereas before we were silent.

Think of it: if we really believe what we profess to believe is true, and if we believe that the big battles have been lost, then why live by the lie that we buy into a corrupt ideology? Look, no matter how nuanced your views on gay rights and same-sex marriage, they’re going to hate you and try to destroy you. So maybe we should quit pretending that everything is normal.

Read Vaclav Havel’s 1978 essay, “The Power of the Powerless” . It’s about dissent under communist dictatorship, which, God knows, is a very far cry from what we face. But there are lessons here for us today. In particular, these:

The manager of a fruit-and-vegetable shop places in his window, among the onions and carrots, the slogan: “Workers of the world, unite!” Why does he do it? What is he trying to communicate to the world? Is he genuinely enthusiastic about the idea of unity among the workers of the world? Is his enthusiasm so great that he feels an irrepressible impulse to acquaint the public with his ideals? Has he really given more than a moment’s thought to how such a unification might occur and what it would mean?

I think it can safely be assumed that the overwhelming majority of shopkeepers never think about the slogans they put in their windows, nor do they use them to express their real opinions. That poster was delivered to our greengrocer from the enterprise headquarters along with the onions and carrots. He put them all into the window simply because it has been done that way for years, because everyone does it, and because that is the way it has to be. If he were to refuse, there could be trouble. He could be reproached for not having the proper decoration in his window; someone might even accuse him of disloyalty. He does it because these things must be done if one is to get along in life. It is one of the thousands of details that guarantee him a relatively tranquil life “in harmony with society,” as they say.

Obviously the greengrocer is indifferent to the semantic content of the slogan on exhibit; he does not put the slogan in his window from any personal desire to acquaint the public with the ideal it expresses. This, of course, does not mean that his action has no motive or significance at all, or that the slogan communicates nothing to anyone. The slogan is really a sign, and as such it contains a subliminal but very definite message. Verbally, it might be expressed this way: “I, the greengrocer XY, live here and I know what I must do. I behave in the manner expected of me. I can be depended upon and am beyond reproach. I am obedient and therefore I have the right to be left in peace.” This message, of course, has an addressee: it is directed above, to the greengrocer’s superior, and at the same time it is a shield that protects the greengrocer from potential informers. The slogan’s real meaning, therefore, is rooted firmly in the greengrocer’s existence. It reflects his vital interests. But what are those vital interests?

Let us take note: if the greengrocer had been instructed to display the slogan “I am afraid and therefore unquestioningly obedient,” he would not be nearly as indifferent to its semantics, even though the statement would reflect the truth. The greengrocer would be embarrassed and ashamed to put such an unequivocal statement of his own degradation in the shop window, and quite naturally so, for he is a human being and thus has a sense of his own dignity. To overcome this complication, his expression of loyalty must take the form of a sign which, at least on its textual surface, indicates a level of disinterested conviction. It must allow the greengrocer to say, “What’s wrong with the workers of the world uniting?” Thus the sign helps the greengrocer to conceal from himself the low foundations of his obedience, at the same time concealing the low foundations of power. It hides them behind the facade of something high. And that something is ideology.

Ideology is a specious way of relating to the world. It offers human beings the illusion of an identity, of dignity, and of morality while making it easier for them to part with them. As the repository of something suprapersonal and objective, it enables people to deceive their conscience and conceal their true position and their inglorious modus vivendi, both from the world and from themselves. It is a very pragmatic but, at the same time, an apparently dignified way of legitimizing what is above, below, and on either side. It is directed toward people and toward God. It is a veil behind which human beings can hide their own fallen existence, their trivialization, and their adaptation to the status quo. It is an excuse that everyone can use, from the greengrocer, who conceals his fear of losing his job behind an alleged interest in the unification of the workers of the world, to the highest functionary, whose interest in staying in power can be cloaked in phrases about service to the working class. The primary excusatory function of ideology, therefore, is to provide people, both as victims and pillars of the post-totalitarian system, with the illusion that the system is in harmony with the human order and the order of the universe.


The greengrocer had to put the slogan in his window, therefore, not in the hope that someone might read it or be persuaded by it, but to contribute, along with thousands of other slogans, to the panorama that everyone is very much aware of. This panorama, of course, has a subliminal meaning as well: it reminds people where they are living and what is expected of them. It tells them what everyone else is doing, and indicates to them what they must do as well, if they don’t want to be excluded, to fall into isolation, alienate themselves from society, break the rules of the game, and risk the loss of their peace and tranquility and security.

The woman who ignored the greengrocer’s slogan may well have hung a similar slogan just an hour before in the corridor of the office where she works. She did it more or less without thinking, just as our greengrocer did, and she could do so precisely because she was doing it against the background of the general panorama and with some awareness of it, that is, against the background of the panorama of which the greengrocer’s shop window forms a part. When the greengrocer visits her office, he will not notice her slogan either, just as she failed to notice his. Nevertheless, their slogans are mutually dependent: both were displayed with some awareness of the general panorama and, we might say, under its diktat. Both, however, assist in the creation of that panorama, and therefore they assist in the creation of that diktat as well. The greengrocer and the office worker have both adapted to the conditions in which they live, but in doing so, they help to create those conditions. They do what is done, what is to be done, what must be done, but at the same time—by that very token—they confirm that it must be done in fact. They conform to a particular requirement and in so doing they themselves perpetuate that requirement. Metaphysically speaking, without the greengrocer’s slogan the office worker’s slogan could not exist, and vice versa. Each proposes to the other that something be repeated and each accepts the other’s proposal. Their mutual indifference to each other’s slogans is only an illusion: in reality, by exhibiting their slogans, each compels the other to accept the rules of the game and to confirm thereby the power that requires the slogans in the first place. Quite simply, each helps the other to be obedient. Both are objects in a system of control, but at the same time they are its subjects as well. They are both victims of the system and its instruments.

What happens if you decide to come out as an orthodox religious believer who dissents from the new intolerance and the ideology it serves? To live as if what you believed were true and worthy of respect? Back to Havel:

Our greengrocer’s attempt to live within the truth may be confined to not doing certain things. He decides not to put flags in his window when his only motive for putting them there in the first place would have been to avoid being reported by the house warden; he does not vote in elections that he considers false; he does not hide his opinions from his superiors. In other words, he may go no further than “merely” refusing to comply with certain demands made on him by the system (which of course is not an insignificant step to take). This may, however, grow into something more. The greengrocer may begin to do something concrete, something that goes beyond an immediately personal self-defensive reaction against manipulation, something that will manifest his newfound sense of higher responsibility. He may, for example, organize his fellow greengrocers to act together in defense of their interests. He may write letters to various institutions, drawing their attention to instances of disorder and injustice around him. He may seek out unofficial literature, copy it, and lend it to his friends.

If what I have called living within the truth is a basic existential (and of course potentially political) starting point for all those “independent citizens’ initiatives” and “dissident” or “opposition” movements this does not mean that every attempt to live within the truth automatically belongs in this category. On the contrary, in its most original and broadest sense, living within the truth covers a vast territory whose outer limits are vague and difficult to map, a territory full of modest expressions of human volition, the vast majority of which will remain anonymous and whose political impact will probably never be felt or described any more concretely than simply as a part of a social climate or mood. Most of these expressions remain elementary revolts against manipulation: you simply straighten your backbone and live in greater dignity as an individual.

So, why not straighten our backbones? Roger Scruton paid a heavy professional price for saying what he thought was true a generation ago, and his vindication surely brings him no pleasure, because it has come about because of the fragmentation and demoralization of his country by the force of ideology. But Scruton held on to his dignity, and built a career for himself outside of the system that rejected him. Katharine Birbalsingh appears to be doing the same thing. There will always be people who are sick and tired of living by lies. Our task is to find each other, and figure out where we can go from here, together, to keep the truths we hold about God, the meaning of life, of what it means to be fully human, from disappearing.

There is a way forward for us in this. This is what I mean by the Benedict Option: finding ways to resist — effectively, humanely, and joyfully — the cultural revolution that has been upon us for quite some time, but that is entering a more dangerous stage.

If you stand to lose everything by standing up for yourself, you have already lost those things, because they can and will be taken from you. And if they never are, if you stay hidden and prosper within the system that hates you, you will lose something more valuable than your professional status.

Because this blog’s readership is much smaller on weekends, I want to bring to your attention something very important that happened. Over the weekend, New York Times columnist Frank Bruni wrote a piece saying that there is no excuse any longer for Christians to say that homosexuality is sinful. Bruni declares that Christians must “rightly [bow] to the enlightenments of modernity.” And a prominent liberal Evangelical he quotes in the piece identifies the enemy:

“Conservative Christian religion is the last bulwark against full acceptance of L.G.B.T. people,” [David] Gushee said.

Bruni ends by saying:

Gold told me that church leaders must be made “to take homosexuality off the sin list.”

His commandment is worthy — and warranted.

I wrote about this over the weekend, saying that I found it absolutely chilling that a New York Times columnist, having magisterially declared that 2,000 years of Christian teaching about sexuality is nonsense, concludes with an endorsement that church leaders must be forced to recant their religious belief. How exactly does he propose to accomplish this? We will find out. He’s not the only one who believes that.

This is not a battle between the church and the world. This is a battle within the churches too. Gushee has chosen sides and told the victors that the only thing separating them from total triumph are people like me and the people at my church. When I called him on it, Gushee tweeted that he doesn’t believe that Christian dissenters should face “external coercion,” but changed the subject to focus on the pain of LGBT victims — a real and important concern, but one that does absolutely nothing to allay the concerns about free speech and religious liberty millions of people in the church have, or ought to have, after Brendan Eich, Indiana, and Memories Pizza.

And then there was this apparent imprimatur on the shocking Bruni column, by one of the best-known Catholic priests in the country:

The Bruni column denies two millennia of authoritative Catholic teaching, and calls on orthodox Catholic and other traditional Christians to be “made” to recant. And Fr. Jim Martin tweets it out with no comment?! That tells you something.

In the early 1960s, Archbishop Joseph Rummel of New Orleans took a bold stand for Catholic teaching by excommunicating Louisiana Catholic politicians, segregationists who were trying to use the power of the state to force him and other Catholic leaders to betray the Church’s teaching on race. Specifically, they were trying to pass a law that would forbid Catholic bishops like Rummel from integrating Catholic schools. Authoritative Catholic teaching on racism was unpopular with white Catholics of that time in Louisiana, but Rummel finally found his footing and stood firm. Nobody was going to “make” him recant.

But that was a long time ago. Times have changed. So has religious leadership.

We need religious leaders like Rummel today. We need religious followers with the same commitment. Many, many orthodox Christians (and Orthodox Jews, Muslims, Mormons, and other traditionalists) will have to self-censor because they and their children would have too much to lose. I am not going to judge them. I remember standing outside a newsroom once, talking to a Baptist reporter who had been discovered to be a religious conservative. She was scared for her career, because she knew how much prejudice there was in that newsroom. I heard the top newsroom editor make a crude anti-Christian joke in a news meeting. This was normal.

But there are a lot of us who don’t have as much to lose as that young reporter did, or who are willing to lose what we have because we are tired of this charade. I do believe that the big battles have been lost, and recognizing that is necessary to mount an effective resistance. But that does not mean surrendering and performing our culture’s equivalent of fumie. 

If we refuse to surrender, we will certainly be demonized; but everything will depend on whether we refuse to be demoralized. Courage displayed in the cause of truth—and of right—is powerful. And it will depend on whether ordinary people—Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Mormons, Muslims, others—inspired by their faith to stand firm, will also be willing to stand shoulder to shoulder, and arm-in-arm, with their brothers and sisters of other traditions of faith to defy the mob.

Over the years, a number of readers have thought that I have been alarmist about the Law of Merited Impossibility (which states, “It will never happen, and when it does, you bigots will bloody well deserve it.” I have received a number of e-mails since the Indiana backlash from readers who said they used to think I was overstating things, but Indiana changed their minds.

Many liberals who read my writing about the LMI thought I was nuts because they couldn’t imagine such a thing happening, and figured it was right-wing paranoia. Now that it’s happening, now that mom and pop business owners are being severely punished for dissent, and now that Brendan Eich has, as the French saying goes, been shot to encourage the others — well, sure they agree with it, because no counterrevolutionary bigot deserves mercy.

Conservative people who thought I was exaggerating tended to think that the common sense of the American people would not let things get out of hand. What they didn’t see is the effect of two decades of media propaganda that framed traditionalists as latter-day segregationists, no better than the wicked racists of the Old South. Now they do. See this report from CNN’s Gary Tuchman from the other day for a classic example of how unbelievably biased coverage is. And they failed to understand how the replacement of authentic Christianity with Moralistic Therapeutic Deism — a failure of at least two generations of Christian leadership, but clerical and lay — laid the groundwork for this in the church.

Other conservatives didn’t take me seriously because they had no exposure to environments in which most people, especially those in authority, believed the ideology without question, and saw themselves as moral agents on a mission to stamp out hatred. I knew what was coming because I have worked with really smart, usually kind people who, on this issue, willfully closed their minds completely to the idea that the issue was not as black and white as they thought, and refused to see that it is important to uphold, as much as we feasibly can within a pluralistic society, the freedom to dissent, and the right to be wrong.

They too conflated this issue with the black civil rights struggle, a movement that was meant to address the effects of 400 years of slavery, unspeakable brutality, grinding poverty, and legal apartheid deeply embedded in the culture of the American South. With the exception of Native Americans, none of us can claim to have suffered remotely as much as African Americans have. To don the mantle of the civil rights movement is an act of scandalous vanity. But the audacity of appropriating that legacy was brilliant cultural politics. Even though sexuality is not like race in fundamental ways, and even though gays, who really have suffered (and who, let us not forget, were justified in demanding better), were not remotely as abused by the majority as blacks were throughout US history, getting people to believe that one thing is like the other was a key to victory.

The point here is that many conservatives failed to understand what it meant to have themselves thought of as no better than Bull Connor for believing about sex and marriage what most every culture in the history of the world has believed until the day before yesterday. And they had no appreciation for the zeal of the left on this issue. Many religious conservatives have come to realize that we have wronged gays and lesbians in the way we have treated them, and ought to be more loving — even as we stand by what we believe to be true about sex and marriage. I assure you, because I have seen it for years, that there is very little self-doubt on the other side about religious traditionalists — Conor Friedersdorf is a valuable exception, and I’m grateful for his writing these days — and this is only going to get worse for us.

Rick Wilson, writing in The Federalist, says that the hysterical rhetoric and rage of the Social Justice Warriors is going to result in somebody being hurt one of these days:

At some point, the social-justice warrior crowd is going to incite their people into something more than Ferguson or Occupy or Internet harassment. At some point, their fanatic desire to erase God from the hearts and minds and actions of red America will cross a threshold. Someday, in some town, a Christian shopkeeper who becomes the focus of the 4chan or Reddit Rage Machine will be killed by some militant atheist or black bloc kid or some other flavor of crazy. That day, their rage won’t come from the click of a mouse, but from the barrel of a gun.

On that day, instead of reacting with horror and disgust, someone important enough in their social-justice-warrior universe–be it a political figure, a celebrity, or just a popular activist–will say something like, “I abhor violence, but…”

On the day that “but” becomes acceptable on the Left, it’s a ratchet that turns only one way. When political violence becomes mainstreamed, it infects a society quickly. It’s a short, quick slide into hell. The tolerance crowd will read that scenario and explode with denials. They’re never going to call for violence. Leftism is a peaceful religion. (Sound familiar?)

Sorry, kids. The twentieth century (really, every century) is replete with examples of the boundaries of civilization fraying when the cause of the day made religiously or ideologically driven violence acceptable. In almost every case, the owners of the dominant share of cultural and social power did let it happen there. I fear that even here, even now we’re not beyond it.

We are not there yet, and I hope we never get there. But we are very much in the Gushee moment, when prominent figures on the left, even within the churches, can say that they abhor coercion of orthodox believers, but let’s not allow their rights to get in the way of our therapeutic concern for LGBTs. And they have handed the media a powerful weapon to use against dissenting Christians: the authority of their word that there is no good reason for any church to hold to tradition on this issue.

Very well. We are where we are. It is a time of testing for orthodox believers, and a time of testing for Americans who don’t share our faith, or who at least don’t share our convictions on this issue, but who do profess to care about the First Amendment. Having lost the culture war decisively, and seeing that the terms of our surrender will be nothing short of Versailles, grants us a certain liberty to stand up for what we believe to be true. There is no appeasing the other side. It has, and will continue to have, all the levers of power at its disposal. It is time to do peacefully, but constructively and deliberately, turn aside from the task of shoring up the American imperium and cease to identify the continuation of civility and moral community with the maintenance of that imperium. (I paraphrase, obviously).

To be liberated from one’s comforting illusions is painful, but inasmuch as it is always better to live in truth, it is liberation all the same. So live in truth, humbly but confidently. These are not normal times. There is joy in resistance. What Wendell Berry (who is no ally of traditionalists on this issue; read Jerry Salyer’s important essay on the roots of Berry’s support of SSM) said in another context is true for us:

I will never agree with those saleswomen and salesmen who suggest that if I will only do as they say, all will be fine. All, dear reader, is not going to be fine. Even if we all agreed with all the saints and prophets, all would not be fine. For we would still be mortal, partial, suffering poor creatures, not very intelligent and never the authors of our best hope.

That’s true for every single one of us in this country, on both sides of the issue. Recognizing where we really stand in the eyes of the power holders in this country — in politics, in media, in corporate America — ought to sober us. What has happened is that they are behaving as human beings always behave: thinking themselves perfectly virtuous, charged by History to use the Ring of Power to wipe out evil. This will not end well for any of us. But at least now orthodox Christians no longer have any illusions about our present or our future.

Rejoice and be exceedingly glad. Times are going to get hard, but this is a blessing, this is a liberation. As Pope Benedict XVI, who coined the term “the dictatorship of relativism” to describe the West’s condition, said on his journey to the Czech Republic in 2009:

Q: Twenty years have passed since the fall of the communist regimes in Eastern Europe; John Paul II, visiting the various countries that had emerged from communism, encouraged them to use their regained freedom with responsibility. What is your message today for the peoples of Eastern Europe, in this new historical phase?

A: As I have said, these countries suffered in a particular way under dictatorship, but in suffering they also developed concepts of freedom that are relevant, and that now must be further elaborated and realized. I am thinking, for example, about something that Vaclav Havel wrote: “Dictatorship is based on lying, and if lying could be overcome, if no one would lie anymore and if the truth would come to light, there would also be freedom.” And in this way he elaborated this nexus between truth and freedom, where freedom is not libertinism, arbitrariness, but is connected to and influenced by the great values of truth, love, solidarity, and of the good in general.

So I think that these concepts, these ideas developed during the dictatorship, should not be lost: now is exactly when we must return to them! And in a freedom that is often a bit empty and lacking in values, again recognize that freedom and values, freedom and goodness, freedom and truth go together: otherwise freedom is destroyed as well. This seems to me to be the message that comes from these countries, and must be actualized at this time.

More Pope Benedict:

Q: “We are building a dictatorship of relativism”, you declared in your homily at the opening of the conclave [in 2005], “that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate standard consists solely of one’s own ego and desires.”

That is why we must have the courage to dare to say: Yes, man must seek the truth; he is capable of truth. It goes without saying that truth requires criteria for verification and falsification. It must always be accompanied by tolerance, also. But then truth also points out to us those constant values which have made mankind great. That is why the humility to recognize the truth and to accept it as a standard has to be relearned and practiced again.

The truth comes to rule, not through violence, but rather through its own power; this is the central theme of John’s Gospel: When brought before Pilate, Jesus professes that he himself is The Truth and the witness to the truth. He does not defend the truth with legions but rather makes it visible through his Passion and thereby also implements it.

Q: In a world that has become relativistic, a new paganism has gained more and more dominion over people’s thoughts and actions. It has long since become clear not only that there is a blank space, a vacuum, alongside the Church, but also that something like an anti-church has been established. The Pope in Rome, one German newspaper wrote, should be condemned for the sole reason that by his positions he has “transgressed against the religion” that today “is valid in this country”, namely, the “civil religion”. Has a new Kulturkampf started here, as Marcello Pera has analyzed it? The former president of the Italian Senate speaks about a “large-scale battle of secularism against Christianity”.

A new intolerance is spreading, that is quite obvious. There are well-established standards of thinking that are supposed to be imposed on everyone. These are then announced in terms of so-called “negative tolerance”. For instance, when people say that for the sake of negative tolerance [i.e. “not offending anyone”] there must be no crucifix in public buildings. With that we are basically experiencing the abolition of tolerance, for it means, after all, that religion, that the Christian faith is no longer allowed to express itself visibly.

When, for example, in the name of non-discrimination, people try to force the Catholic Church to change her position on homosexuality or the ordination of women, then that means that she is no longer allowed to live out her own identity and that, instead, an abstract, negative religion is being made into a tyrannical standard that everyone must follow. That is then seemingly freedom – for the sole reason that it is liberation from the previous situation.

In reality, however, this development increasingly leads to an intolerant claim of a new religion, which pretends to be generally valid because it is reasonable, indeed, because it is reason itself, which knows all and, therefore, defines the frame of reference that is now supposed to apply to everyone.

In the name of tolerance, tolerance is being abolished; this is a real threat we face. The danger is that reason – so-called Western reason – claims that it has now really recognized what is right and thus makes a claim to totality that is inimical to freedom. I believe that we must very emphatically delineate this danger. No one is forced to be a Christian. But no one should be forced to live according to the “new religion” as though it alone were definitive and obligatory for all mankind.

But that’s where we are, and that’s where we are headed. Indiana shows this quite clearly, for those with eyes to see. Pope Benedict knows the stakes. Roger Scruton does too. If you are an orthodox religious believer and the past ten days have not opened your eyes to the reality of American laïcité, and the future for traditionalists in post-Christian America, you are in serious trouble. So I say it again: embrace as a blessing the joy of resistance.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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