Christians Must Unite to Fight for Freedom
The single most hopeful development in the past 50 years has been the coming together of faithful Christians across once-bitter denominational lines around the issues of “the culture wars.” Leftists proclaim that with the Supreme Court’s approval of same-sex marriage, those wars are finally over — and that the Church and its allies have been comprehensively crushed. It is now just a matter of shooting the prisoners.
Harvard Law professor Mark Tushnet recently wrote that religious conservatives ought to be treated like the defeated Nazi Germans or Japanese:
The culture wars are over; they lost, we won. Remember, they were the ones who characterized constitutional disputes as culture wars (see Justice Scalia in Romer v. Evans, and the Wikipedia entry for culture wars, which describes conservative activists, not liberals, using the term.) And they had opportunities to reach a cease fire, but rejected them in favor of a scorched earth policy. The earth that was scorched, though, was their own. (No conservatives demonstrated any interest in trading off recognition of LGBT rights for “religious liberty” protections. Only now that they’ve lost the battle over LGBT rights, have they made those protections central – seeing them, I suppose, as a new front in the culture wars. But, again, they’ve already lost the war.). For liberals, the question now is how to deal with the losers in the culture wars. That’s mostly a question of tactics. My own judgment is that taking a hard line (“You lost, live with it”) is better than trying to accommodate the losers, who – remember – defended, and are defending, positions that liberals regard as having no normative pull at all. Trying to be nice to the losers didn’t work well after the Civil War, nor after Brown. (And taking a hard line seemed to work reasonably well in Germany and Japan after 1945.) I should note that LGBT activists in particular seem to have settled on the hard-line approach, while some liberal academics defend more accommodating approaches. When specific battles in the culture wars were being fought, it might have made sense to try to be accommodating after a local victory, because other related fights were going on, and a hard line might have stiffened the opposition in those fights. But the war’s over, and we won.
That’s the same message given, with a different emotional spin, by advocates of the separatist and defeatist “Benedict Option,” who add to it only a mewling hope that our triumphant opponents will be magnanimous in victory. They won’t. It’s not in their nature, any more than radicalized Muslims in Europe who watch their numbers grow and influence expand are likely to soak in Western liberalism and turn into tolerant, secular Swedes.
Indeed, there are many resemblances between the treatment that faithful Christians face under aggressive secularism and their condition in traditional Muslim societies such as Pakistan. Our freedom to evangelize would be legally circumscribed. Our right to educate our children as we see fit would be subject to laws that are biased against our religious beliefs. We would pay a punitive tax — imposed by an IRS that decertified our churches because they will not cater to the homosexual agenda, in much the way that an Islamist government collects the jizya prescribed by sharia. We would even face fines and legal prosecution (effectively) for blasphemy, if we spoke against the pieties of the Sexual Revolution (in one case) or of Islam in the other.
So there can be no truce, no respite, no surrender. As the price of calling ourselves Christians, we must make our case for natural law, religious and economic liberty, the sanctity of life and the truth about sex, year in and year out, regardless of the vagaries of particular candidates and party platforms. Pragmatically, we have no other option, but that is just as well: All those truths are either integral parts or inevitable implications of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which He ordered us to preach even in the face of literal, bloody persecution, offering us this promise:
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matt. 5: 10-12)
Millions of evangelical Christians have seen as clearly as many Catholics have the need to keep fighting. My eloquent friend Eric Metaxas has a powerful new book that explains the urgency of Christian civic engagement. In critiquing the latest outrages proposed by sexual revolutionaries, some evangelical leaders and theologians have come a long way toward accepting the necessity of natural law reasoning long used by Catholic thinkers, instead of reliance on scriptural proof-texts alone or cultural inertia and natural repugnance.
We must all meet on the neutral ground of reason, and speak to each other from our common store of biblical faith. When Catholics talk about economics or politics, we should never argue from “authority” by citing Vatican documents as if they settle a question. Those documents themselves do not pretend to do that. Instead, they wisely and richly explore the implications of today’s problems in the light of reason, a reason illumined by the fundamental truth that God is real, that He made man, and did so in His image. We should no more try to resolve debate about politics or economics by resort to a Vatican press release (or even an encyclical) than we would by citing the Virgin Mary’s words to shepherds at Fatima while trying to convince a Baptist preacher. It’s not just ineffective; it’s intellectually unsound.
As the ecumenical effort to fight back against the Obama administration’s HHS mandate showed, Christians can prevail when we act together — as the Protestant owners of Hobby Lobby did with the Little Sisters of the Poor. There are many organizations that serve the cause of protecting religious freedom, individual rights or unborn life across religious lines, which we should support:
- The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty
- The American Center for Law and Justice
- The Family Research Council
- The Susan B. Anthony List
- Students for Life
- Movie to Movement
- The Acton Institute
- The National Organization for Marriage
- The Homeschool Legal Defense Association
- The National Association of Scholars
We should also work energetically with other organizations that protect the basic rights of Americans to economic initiative, self-defense, private property and free speech. We must embrace the vision of ordered liberty that America’s mostly Protestant founders inherited from the Catholics who fought for the Magna Carta. That liberty is all the Church ever needs, and all it asks for today. It is profoundly under threat by a massive, expanding, inveterately hostile and intrinsically secular modern State, which threatens the rights of many Christians and non-Christians alike.
We cannot — as too many believers seem still to dream — grab Leviathan and baptize it, infusing the modern leftist nanny state with a true Christian vision of social justice. The image of man underlying modern progressivism is too incoherent, too rooted in pseudo-science and adolescent sexual rebellion, at once Satanically proud and degraded by animalistic indulgence of brute instinct. We must look back to the dignified, free, responsible vision of man upon which our great Republic was founded, a profoundly Christian vision, which is catholic (that is, universal) because it is true.