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Exorcising the Public Square

Demonizing the Other and expelling them from the body politic. We have been there before

When the president of Gordon College signed a letter to President Obama asking for a religious exemption to a federal order about LGBT policy, the Puritans of New England set about shunning them as defiled by their stance. Excerpt:

A week after the letter was sent, Salem Mayor Kimberley Driscoll ended the city’s contract with Gordon to manage the Old Town Hall, citing Mr. Lindsay’s “hurtful and offensive” stance. Shortly thereafter, the Peabody Essex Museum cut off its relationship with the school’s museum studies program.

In August the New England Association of Schools and Colleges announced that Gordon would have a year to prove that its “policies and procedures are non-discriminatory” based on its long-standing Life and Conduct Policy against “homosexual practice.” The college calls on all students to avoid sex outside marriage, with a biblical definition of marriage as a male-female union.

At Emmanuel College, a Catholic school in Boston, athletic director Pam Roecker said that Emmanuel would no longer compete against Gordon sports teams after the 2014-15 academic year, according to the student newspaper The Hub.

“The foundation of everything [in Emmanuel athletics] is based on fair and equitable treatment,” said Ms. Roecker in a statement.


“I think our students — especially Lynn Public Schools, we’re a large urban district, we have a high poverty level, we have over 15,000 students, and 85 or 90 percent are low-income — we need all the help that we can get,” said Ms. D’Amico. “My friend had a Gordon student teacher come in for an entire semester for his classes, and she was wonderful.”

Her petition requires the committee to hold another hearing within three months of certifying the petition. So far the school is still awaiting word from the city clerk that the signatures have been certified, said Lynn schools spokesman Tom Iarrobino.

Mr. Gallo said the school district had actually been doing Gordon a favor by helping its student teachers fulfill their community service requirements, adding, “It’s not like the Gordon students were coming in and doing this out of total altruism.”

“Their volunteer involvement was very limited. You have to draw the line somewhere,” Mr. Gallo said. “If the Ku Klux Klan, for example, made the best school lunch in the world, we’re not going to hire them to make the school lunch in the Lynn Public Schools.”

Read the whole thing.  

Several things about this stand out:

1. To the New England progressives, it is more important that they maintain purity on gay rights than that the children of the poor receive charitable assistance in the classroom. Their Puritanism costs them nothing. Not so the students.

2. A Catholic college — that is, an educational institution affiliated with a church that authoritatively proclaims exactly what the nondenominational Gordon College believes as the basis for its policy — is so scandalized by Gordon’s views that it won’t allow its sports teams to compete against theirs. Here, from the Emmanuel College website, is the college’s view of itself:

The mission of Emmanuel includes its identity as a Catholic college, which means universal in breadth and inclusive of all. The College celebrates its connection to the religious and educational mission of a Catholic Church committed to human rights, social justice and world peace within the context of the Catholic intellectual tradition.

If the students of Emmanuel College are too pure to play football against a team from Gordon College, what on earth would the college do to protect its students from having to be in the presence of Pope Francis, who called same-sex marriage a threat to the family?

Between this and the Jannuzzi thing in New Jersey, an emerging reality: that Catholic elites, both clerical and lay, in that region of the US are fully signed up to the campaign to rid the public square of Christians who dissent from progressive orthodoxy on gay rights. Presumably this includes other Catholic institutions faithful to the Church’s teaching. If you find yourself professing what the Catholic Church teaches about sex and marriage, in a way that violates this particular orthodoxy, you may be fired or otherwise disfellowshipped by your bishop or fellow Catholics in positions of authority.

Think about that.

3. A local politician thinks nothing of likening an Evangelical educational institution to the Ku Klux Klan, an organization devoted to racial terrorism, even murder.

If I were any kind of orthodox Christian living in New England, I would be making plans to move to another part of the US. In fact, last night I was talking with a Catholic friend who is doing just that. The Indiana reaction taught him and his wife well.

Meanwhile, a reader sends in a piece by the UK-based atheist libertarian writer Brendan O’Neill, reporting on the fanaticism of the Irish gay rights movement and their elite allies. You have to read this; it is scary as hell. Excerpts:

Pretty much the entire establishment in Ireland, aside from the increasingly uninfluential bishops and priests, backs gay marriage (giving the lie to the gay-marriage movement’s depiction of itself as a beleaguered minority bravely battling The Man for its civil rights). From the prime minister, Enda Kenny, to the vast majority of Dail Eireann, to pretty much the whole media – most notably the Irish Times, voice of the minuscule cultural elite in Dublin that sets the moral and political agenda in Ireland – every person with power is rallying for gay marriage. And barely a week passes when they don’t demonise the other side, the smaller, less powerful side, the side which, in opposing gay marriage, is apparently harming citizens, causing violence and, worst of all, jeopardising Ireland’s political future.

As with all heretics in history, Ireland’s opponents of gay marriage stand accused of directly harming the public. So last month, the Psychological Society of Irelandissued a dire warning that the propaganda of the anti-gay marriage camp could ‘impact detrimentally on people’. PSI said it is ‘seriously concerned’ that this lobby’s claim that traditional marriage is better than gay marriage, on the grounds that a mother and father make better parents than two people of the same sex, could have ‘far-reaching implications’. It chastised opponents of gay marriage for promoting ideas that ‘run contrary to the positions of professional bodies’ – that is, for daring to defy the new priests: the expert class – and said their words could wreak mental and moral havoc.

Do you understand what is being said here? A leading physician’s group is pathologizing dissent, claiming that it is a threat to the health of the body politic. More:

What’s this all about? Why the illiberalism, the intolerance, the ugliness? It’s because gay marriage is not really about expanding freedom at all. Rather, it represents the emergence of a new, post-traditonalist morality, an attempt by at-sea elites across the West to redefine themselves and their moral missions through the gay issue. Gay marriage has become the favoured means through which our rulers, feeling ever-more detached from their old moral worldview, are institutionalising a new, pseudo-progressive, seemingly consensual morality, based, not around the old ideals of family, commitment and privacy, but around the new po-mo values of relativism (all relationships are the same), non-judgementalism (who are we to say that a mum and dad are better than two mums?), and illiberal liberalism, the central political outlook of our times, which under the guise of building a new liberal consensus seeks to censure and punish anyone who deviates from that consensus. The reason the elites, from the political classes to the influential opinion-forming set, are so instinctually hostile to criticism of gay marriage is because they have invested their very moral rehabilitation, their future political and moral legitimacy, into this issue more than in any other. And thus no ridicule of it can be tolerated. For if you knock gay marriage you are not only knocking gay marriage – you are upsetting Western elites’ efforts to establish a new morality that simplistically distinguishes between Us (good, kind, liberal backers of gay marriage) and Them (the old, the religious, the outdated, the Other).

Ireland captures this perfectly.

Read the whole thing. This is what’s happening now. Liberal values like tolerance and pluralism, to which gay rights campaigners have long appealed, were a ruse. Don’t you believe it when the other side appeals to them. They have the power now, and they’re using it to demonize all dissent. It’s here, and where it is not now, it will be soon. Handwriting, meet wall.

To me, the most chilling thing of all this is what the Irish psychiatrists have said. Why? It brought me back to the year 2000, when I was in Jerusalem, and visited the museum at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial. There was an exhibit at the time tracing how the German media and medical establishment paved the way for the Holocaust in the early 20th century by taking advantage of the country’s mania for hygiene, and defining Jews as parasites on the body politic. The health of the German people meant ridding the body of Jews and other parasites.

The exhibit was stunning, because it showed how the mass persecutions didn’t come from nowhere. For twenty, thirty years, the German medical, political, and media establishments prepared the German people for it by training them to think that Germany needed to be turned into a “safe space” for das Volk, and to do that required expelling from public life the demons that threatened the health of innocent Germans. It was not about that at all, of course, but about rationalizing hatred of the Other — a hatred that eventually turned into an apocalypse.

Am I saying a new Holocaust is coming? No, I am not. The Holocaust was an extraordinary event. Nobody knows the future, but let me say on the record that I don’t believe we face that. But just because social demonization of the Other only very rarely turns into something like the Holocaust does not mean that it does not exact a terrible cost on the weak.

Historians have documented how fears of racial impurity were a prime driver in racist brutality waged against black slaves and their descendants by white Southerners. Fortunately it has largely gone into abeyance, but there are still pockets of it around. As I have written here before, I cannot get on my moralistic high horse about it, because I am confident that had I been raised in an earlier time, I would have been in the crowds watching the lynching of black men, and it likely never would have occurred to me that I was part of an evil thing. I would almost certainly have accepted what my society taught me: that such deeds are not pleasant, but they are necessary to keep society from being defiled by Negro taint.

I am ashamed to admit it, but I know all to well how weak and corrupt the human heart is. We all love a scapegoat. Don’t think you yourself are immune to it. I know that had I been a German of the 1920s and 1930s, it is unlikely that I would have been a Dietrich Bonhoeffer, not only because I lacked the courage to do so, but — and this is more important — it likely would not have occurred to me to question the emerging orthodoxy in society. For that matter, I am certain that I would have been in the Jerusalem crowd yelling, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”, or at best would have been like Peter, denying that I knew Jesus at all. If you don’t think this would have been you too, you are deceiving yourself about your own limitations. And if you don’t think it can happen here, you are not paying attention to history and human nature.

A darkness is clotting in Western societies. There is a quickening. You see it in New England. You see it in Ireland. As Brendan O’Neill says, it has become the issue around which modern people rally to express their hatred of the ancien regime. It is proud, it is zealous, and it is perfectly convinced of its own righteousness. We have been assured repeatedly that this sort of thing would not happen as gay rights expanded, but it is not true, and never was true. Learn from history. Read the signs of the times.

UPDATE: I had a 30-minute phone conversation today with a prominent Christian physician who works at one of the great medical institutions in the world, here in the US. He reached out to me through a mutual friend to say to me how important it is to raise the alarm about what’s happening on this front, and to start networking and building institutions to help us get through what is to come.

“This is what I think you mean with the Benedict Option,” he said, correctly. “You need to write that book so somebody can give the public a clear understanding of where we are, how we got here, and what we’re going to have to do to get through what’s coming.”

We were talking on background, so I don’t feel comfortable relating specific details of our discussion here. He gave me a lot of deeply concerning information about what’s happening in the medical world around this and related culture-war issues. He said he’s been watching it unfold for some time now, and he’s been trying to make people understand that Christians in this country are facing something unprecedented in US history.

One of the things he sees coming, and coming fast: the inability of many professionals, and not only in the medical field, to work unless they sign off on things they cannot in good conscience accept. “We’re going to see jobs lost and retirements lost,” he said.

In his institution, said the doctor, every single one of his colleagues believes that on LGBT issues, Christians who hold to the orthodox view are no better than segregationists. This cultural attitude is sooner or later going to be absorbed into the law.

“The thing is,” he said, “these are all very nice people.” The implication here is that this is all going to be carried out by decent, educated folks with tender consciences.

“Your Walker Percy foresaw it all,” he said. “We need to pay attention to him”



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