Who, Me, Fear-Mongering? A Humanist Liberal’s Look At Conservatives

By Tom Gilson Published on October 22, 2017

Spencer Grady-Pawl, commentator at The Humanist, visited the Values Voter Summit last weekend. The Humanist presents some of America’s most committed atheists and social liberals. Want to know how we Christian conservatives look from the other side? Here’s how he summed it all up.

I realize that I emerged with useful insight into how the social conservative machine operates. It has experts, calm and reasonable, explain to audiences that Christians are the most persecuted group in America; that your community could soon be under Sharia if the Muslim tide is not stemmed; that social justice and humanism are code words for an attack on the values that built this country. It unites disparate organizations, from the NRA to the Heritage Foundation, to broaden its reach and appeal. And in doing so, it creates an effective movement against many of the values we have come to take for granted.

Really? He Thinks That?

I could take that whole summary apart, noting how Christians are indeed, per solid sociological research, the group most persecuted by wealthy, influential elites who have the power to make it stick. I could show how social justice and humanism aren’t “code words” for an attack on core American values; they’re labels those attackers have taken on for themselves.

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I could question how these people have “come to take for granted” the “values” enshrined in Obergefell v. Hodges, which was what? Two years ago? For that’s one of the values Grady-Pawl considers part of a “slow but steady trend in [social liberals’] favor when it comes to societal advancement.”

Or I could wonder whether he might be overstating the case a tad when he says conservatives are warning of Sharia coming “soon.”

Grady-Pawl’s “Open Mind”

I could dwell on all that, but I’d be preaching to the choir. Most Stream readers know all that already. Instead I’m going to speculate on what could possibly have happened to the “open mind” Grady-Pawl says he tried to bring to the Summit. It was “proved wrong,” he says, when he was “handed a bag of conference goodies that included an ad for a book titled The Health Hazards of Homosexuality” and material supporting the military transgender ban from the Family Research Council, a “Southern Poverty Law Center-designated hate group,” he quickly reminded his readers.

For him that was evidence that his open mind was a mistake. Doesn’t take much, does it?

He was handed a bag. It included an ad for a book on homosexuality’s health hazards. For him that was evidence that his open mind was a mistake. Doesn’t take much, does it? Homosexual practice does have health hazards, after all. 

Virtue Signaling

His other evidence was an FRC pamphlet supporting a political decision he disagreed with. He almost sounds surprised over it, which leads me to wonder what kind of “open mind” he thought he was coming in with:

“Look at me! I’m coming in here trying not to be prejudiced in any way. Who knows? Maybe these conservatives aren’t really conservatives after all! I’d be open to that. — But oops, they are. Dang. So much for being open to possibilities!”

So much for virtue signaling, too.

Fear is indeed a motivator. Grady-Pawl should know.

I don’t know if he met any FRC representatives there. If he had, do you suppose his mind would have been open to the possibility they weren’t haters, as the SPLC claims? Feel free to laugh.

I’ve got to credit him, though for his manly and persistent attempts at virtue (signaling) against all the evidence. The Summit “made me consider, for the first time,” he says, “that perhaps many of the people at this conference were victims.” You can almost hear the compassion oozing out of him. (Almost.)

Victims, you ask? Yes, victims, he goes on to say, of “of self-interested speakers and authors and think tanks who counted on the fear they sowed to keep the money coming in and keep themselves relevant.”

Who’s Fear-Mongering Now?

Fear is indeed a motivator. Grady-Pawl should know. Listen to some of the words he uses to describes conservatives:

  • hate group
  • deeply Islamophobic
  • open homophobia
  • transphobia
  • double standard
  • fear-mongering
  • tone-deafness
  • echo chamber
  • self-interested
  • led … to a darker place
  • hatred for social progress

Pretty frightening if you ask me. At least to his humanist readers. Yet it doesn’t include the final paragraph, where he really gets down to stoking the fear. Social conservatives aren’t stupid, he finds. We’ve got an “effective movement” going on, attacking (pardon the repetition) “values we have come to take for granted.”

Fear-mongering. Caught in the act.

I left a word off that bulleted list. Grady-Pawl thinks we’re hypocritical. Maybe he’s free of that flaw. Maybe his “virtue” isn’t merely signaling. I’d be glad to keep an open mind about it — if it were only possible.


For an example of interacting authentically with people with opposing beliefs, see Sean McDowell’s story of attending the gay-affirming Reformation Project conference.

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