The other night, I was in conversation with a group of friends, and we were all speaking frankly about how strange this time feels to us all. We all agreed that never did we feel more alienated from America. Somebody ruefully brought up the idea that we might all live to see the United States break up in some way. When I heard that, something in me rebelled against the thought. Really? America breaking up? How would that even work? It was interesting to observe that no one around the table was happy about it, but everybody foresaw it as a possibility, given the trajectory of the culture.
With that in mind, look at this latest outrage from California:
The dating website ChristianMingle.com will now have to let people seeking same-sex relationships post ads, the New Civil Rights Movement reports.
A California judge ruled that the website, operated by Spark Networks, violated the state’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, which forbids businesses from discriminating against LGBT people in offering their services.
The suit was filed in 2013 and resolved this week.
All of the dating websites run by Sparks will have to update their front pages to accommodate same-sex date seekers. Those websites include CatholicMingle, AdventistSinglesConnection, BlackSingles and JDate. JDate, which caters to Jewish singles, was not part of the lawsuit.
Sparks will have to pay each plaintiff, two gay men, $9,000 plus $450,000 in attorneys fees to the men’s lawyers.
The company is based in Los Angeles. If they have any sense, they will shake the dust off their feet and get out of California. I shake my head in astonishment: not even a dating website within a religious tradition that explicitly excludes same-sex relationships has the liberty to matchmake within that tradition.
America is becoming a nation that traduces religious liberty, which was one of the chief reasons for its founding. The hatred of the LGBT movement and its fellow travelers in political, corporate, media, legal, and academic fields for Christianity is frightening, particularly given their power. But what might be even more frightening is their hatred of liberty.
The retired US Marine and Iraq war veteran who wrote earlier today e-mailed back and said:
I bear no ill will towards homosexuals. Those dead in Orlando were Americans too, and they did not deserve to be slaughtered by another Islamic barbarian. I fought for them, too, to live as they wish. What I did not fight for was to have their lifestyle or beliefs imposed on me, or anyone else. All they deserve from me is tolerance, and that is what I voluntarily give, but no more. I will not be coerced. I bow to no man on this earth. What really scraped me raw about the transgender DoD announcement was the tone of it, just like the Obergefell decision. The smug, triumphant, veiled truculence of imposing their will on those they deem regressive, the celebratory lighting of the White House in rainbow colors, it smacks of the self satisfied smirking of Trotsky as he tells the Constituent Assembly in 1917, “You are pitiful isolated individuals; you are bankrupts; your role is played out. Go where you belong from now on, into the dustbin of history.”
Yep. I, with David French, wonder what it’s going to take to get American Christians off their self-satisfied, complacent dopey butts and fight for our religious liberty. Few of us care about the fate of online Christian dating websites. But the principle of the thing here is huge. What happens in California does not stay in California for long.
In related news, Joel Kotkin writes in the Orange County Register of the real religion of California. Excerpt:
In a state ruled by a former Jesuit, perhaps we should not be shocked to find ourselves in the grip of an incipient state religion. Of course, this religion is not actually Christianity, or even anything close to the dogma of Catholicism, but something that increasingly resembles the former Soviet Union, or present-day Iran and Saudi Arabia, than the supposed world center of free, untrammeled expression.
Two pieces of legislation introduced in the Legislature last session, but not yet enacted, show the power of the new religion. One is Senate Bill 1146, which seeks to limit the historically broad exemptions the state and federal governments have provided religious schools to, well, be religious.
Under the rubric of official “tolerance,” the bill would only allow religiously focused schools to deviate from the secular orthodoxy required at nonreligious schools, including support for transgender bathrooms or limitations on expressions of faith by students and even Christian university presidents, in a much narrower range of educational activity than ever before. Many schools believe the bill would needlessly risk their mission and funding to “solve” gender and social equity problems on their campuses that currently don’t exist.
The other bill, which was tabled, would have given the state more power to persecute people who advocated against climate change orthodoxy. More Kotkin:
For the record, I am neither a Christian, nor do I deny that climate change could pose a potential serious long-term threat to humanity. What worries me most is the idea that one must embrace official orthodoxy about how to combat this phenomenon, or question its priority over so many other pressing concerns, such as alleviating poverty, both here and abroad, protecting the oceans or a host of other issues. Similarly, I have always disagreed with holy rollers like Sen. Ted Cruz, who would seek to limit, for example, abortion or the rights of gay people to marry, or would allow school prayer.
But the new progressive intolerance now represents, in many ways, as great, if not more pervasive, a threat to the republic than that posed by either religious fundamentalists or even the most fervent climate change denier. It violates the Madisonian principle that assumed that religious and moral ideas “must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate.” To revoke that principle is to reduce the United States to just another authoritarian state, even if the official ideology is couched in scientific research or estimable embrace of racial or gender differences.
It is no surprise, then, that today many Christians – as much as two-thirds, according to one recent survey – feel that they are being persecuted.
With that in mind, consider this Atlantic piece from Uri Friedman, about how trust in government is collapsing around the world. Excerpt:
In democratic systems, this deep distrust of government is corrosive. For democracies to function properly, the German journalist Henrik Müller recently wrote, there must be “enough common values that [people] trust their institutions, that majorities and minorities respect one another, and that everyone generally deals fairly with one another.”
The anger currently on display in many parts of the world is borne of anxiety, including concern that “we may not know how to architect trusted institutions at scale in public space,” said Jane Holl Lute, the former deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, at a separate session at the Aspen Ideas Festival. “Our institutions—their weight-bearing effectiveness for social problems of enormous complexity is being called into question now across the board.”
I don’t know about you, but it seems that with each passing day, my trust in our large institutions — every single one of them — drains away. It’s a small thing, maybe, what happens to a florist in small-town Washington, or a Christian dating website in California. It’s a much bigger thing what stands to happen to Christian colleges in California if 1146 becomes law. But they’re all part of the same thing.
The time is coming when the church will have to forget the old playbook and stop delegating the defense of its essential liberties to lawyers and politicians. It will have to take direct action, in much the same way that Christian defenders of civil rights once did. California contains many of America’s best and most vibrant churches. Its Christian schools include many of Evangelical America’s best and brightest young students. There are more than enough Christians in the state to form a powerful dissenting bloc, loudly and clearly proclaiming its citizenship and defending its rights. If the church surrenders the culture without putting up a true fight — without fully exercising its right and obligation to defend its constitutional freedoms — then it will richly deserve its legal and political fate. A spirit of timidity does not come from God, but timidity grips the church. If we don’t grow bold today, we’ll only have ourselves to blame tomorrow.
I disagree with David on one point: the church does not own the culture. We are post-Christian now. But I absolutely agree with David that Christians, as well as non-Christian men and women who love liberty, especially religious liberty, had better fight and fight hard. But they — we — had also better fortify ourselves and train ourselves for when the state turns on us, as is happening in California and Washington, and, I fear, will not stop there.
In 1996, I thought Father Neuhaus and the editorial board of First Things had gone too far with their controversial “Judicial Usurpation of Politics” issue, in which they speculated as to what point the American regime became illegitimate. If FT took up the same point in 2016, I would be immensely more sympathetic. I say that as someone who thinks Donald Trump is a bad man who would be terrible for the country. But Hillary Clinton, the Ted Cruz of Blue America, would be too. I can’t see a meaningful moral difference between them.
Sobering thoughts this Independence Day weekend. What does it mean to be an American patriot in 2016? I wonder. What does patriotism oblige us to believe, to do, to feel in our hearts? I’m not asking rhetorically. I really do think about this. If you are a conservative, especially a religious conservative, and you aren’t thinking about this, then you aren’t thinking.