Andrew Sullivan Is Shocked, Shocked to See Religion in Crisis
Yesterday would have been Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s one hundredth birthday. If you haven’t, go out and read his novel The First Circle. As he’d spent the whole of Lenin in Zurich inside the crabbed, bitter mind of Vladimir Lenin, the author here gives us vignettes of the inner life of the man who completed Lenin’s work, Joseph Stalin.
In the book, Stalin is old. His powers are fading. He has imprisoned or driven to exile or suicide his closest blood relations. He has tried as traitors and executed most of his comrades (and rivals) in the Russian Revolution. He’s surrounded by terrified toadies who somehow survived his purges. His eventual successor, Nikita Khrushchev, only managed that because Stalin enjoyed making him do little awkward, humiliating dances. That was during the nightly, nine-hour vodka binges Stalin imposed on his inner circle.
Stalin has already directly murdered millions of non-Russian citizens. Then deported millions more to icy prisons, and imposed mass starvation on Ukraine. He’d shot, starved, and imprisoned in gulag camps more than a million loyal Communists, whose fealty he distrusted.
Sick in body, Stalin’s mind is little better. The absolute tyrant of a totalitarian dictatorship covering 11 time zones and armed with nuclear weapons, Stalin fades in and out of lucidity.
What Happened to Russia, He Asked
In this period, in the early 1950s, Stalin’s paranoia reached a new, bigoted peak. He decided that Jewish doctors were poisoning Soviet patients on purpose. Why? To serve the State of Israel. Or something. His logic wasn’t clear. But his plans certainly were. The “Doctor’s Plot” resulted in thousands of arrests, and if Stalin had lived a few years longer, seemed likely to end in a second, Soviet Holocaust.
And here’s the scene that still haunts me from the novel. At one point, Solzhenitsyn pictures Stalin, weak and ailing, bemoaning the state of Russia. Where, he wonders, are the thriving villages full of rosy-cheeked, hard-working peasants? The ancient monastic churches, with chanting, bearded priests? The shopowners selling their wares? He asks this of one of his lackeys, who doesn’t dare to answer: You murdered or persecuted them all. We live in the desert you made.
What Happened to Faith, He Asked
It’s with the same sense of savage irony, on a much smaller scale (of course), that I read Andrew Sullivan bemoan the state of Christianity in America. In a thoughtful but deeply unself-aware column, Sullivan warns us that the decline of Christian faith in America makes room instead for “illiberal” politics. By that term, he means politics that disregard the individual conscience. That use the power of the state to persecute people for following their beliefs. That target and harm groups with ideas unpopular with the powerful. And hound people from public life or out of business for dissenting from elite opinion.
In other words, he’s describing what the U.S. government has been doing to Christians since Obergefell v. Hodges. And what Obama did to pro-life Americans through his HHS mandate on Obamacare. And what USAID still does to overseas Christian aid agencies.
The fun part here is that if there’s one man most responsible for the victory of same sex marriage, it’s Andrew Sullivan. As Business Insider noted in 2015, Sullivan was the first mainstream figure to make a serious case for same-sex marriage, back in 1989. He used his credentials as a putative Catholic and conservative to render the then-bizarre idea more saleable. He claimed (implausibly and falsely) that imposing the demands of lifelong, faithful marriage on naturally promiscuous male homosexuals would somehow tame their urges. Stretching the definition of marriage further than any human society had ever tried to? That wouldn’t weaken the failing institution. Instead it would recruit lots of chipper, fabulous couples to the cause of “family values.” Making gay marriage legal wouldn’t hurt Christian churches. How could it?
Natural Law Is Now Illegal
Well, we have seen how. For the human cost, look at the Christian professionals who have been prosecuted or sued for refusing to take part in same-sex rituals. Nor is that over. Wait for the next Democratic president and the Supreme Court he or she makes to see Christians ever further marginalized and targeted.
The reason is simple. The argument of Obergefell claims that human dignity and liberty itself each demand that we grant marriage rights to same sex couples. Nor is there any logical stopping point, by that decision’s logic, to polygamous, non-sexual or even incestuous unions. It’s just a matter of time. Opposing same-sex marriage, or other homosexual behavior, is now legally on par with white racism or violent misogyny. It’s crimethink, subject to sanctions, as Justice Roberts, Thomas, and Alito warned us in their stinging dissents. Why shouldn’t campuses and social media platforms purge sexual bigots?
The adoption of same sex marriage was the final step in emptying out our legal system of any notion of Natural Law. That’s the morality which ought to be clear to any honest thinker who accepts the existence of God, using reason alone. Under Obergefell, however, we may not ask what man is. Nor what the natural purpose is of any of his activities, when judging them right or wrong. We can only ask if it impedes the absolute, groundless exercise of his vacuous “liberty.” You know, as Justice Kennedy defined it back in Casey v. Planned Parenthood. That is, the “freedom” to look at the “mystery of life” and make up a moral code as we go along.
The Rise of Menstruating “Men”
The astonishing success of the “transgender” revolution shouldn’t surprise us. When our legal system says that any claim that sex has some natural purpose is equal to white racism, that’s quite a cudgel. Within just the past three years, activists have used it to flatten and censor anyone who considers biological sex a basic fact of life.
When our legal system says that any claim that sex has some natural purpose is equal to white racism, that’s quite a cudgel.
Sullivan praises the “liberalism” that lets Americans live in peace despite differing faiths. But he misses the fact that the only way it remained sustainable was some consensus on Natural Law. If our courts read our Constitution as damning such moral facts as bigoted fancies? Then we descend into the moral chaos and implacable mutual hatreds that worry Sullivan so much. And we goad Christians to look for protection from any politician who’d offer it to them, however much he offends Andrew’s delicate sensibilities.
But really, why write 1000 words when I could sum up Sullivan’s regrets with a short, silent video?
Hold my beer while I do a dance. pic.twitter.com/FMWMbEmRUy
— Hold My Beer (@holdmyale) December 11, 2018