Sunday, September 27, 2015


One can certainly understand the joy that LGBT Americans and their supporters feel today. But orthodox Christians must understand that things are going to get much more difficult for us. We are going to have to learn how to live as exiles in our own country. We are going to have to learn how to live with at least a mild form of persecution.
Rod Dreher “Orthodox Christians Must Now Learn To Live as Exiles in Our Own Country
Part of me wants to say, “Don’t talk to me about being ‘Exiles in your own country,’ until the Army makes you march from your homes and communities at gunpoint for a few hundred miles.” But given that I wouldn’t wish a repeat of The Trail of Tears on anyone, to give in to such an urge seems manifestly uncharitable. But I do, however, feel comfortable in asking “To what ‘mild form of persecution’ do you refer, exactly?” If that means simply having the Court of Public Opinion consider you assholes from time to time, “Welcome to the United States! When did you get off the boat?” Sure, I understand that being called out as bigots, or running afoul of anti-discrimination laws really sucks. But if you’re going to ask me to put that in the same category as, say, the internment of Japanese-Americans or the treatment of Hispanics in border areas, you’ll excuse me for not taking you at all seriously.

While I concede that we may one day arrive at a place where Christianity has worn out its welcome to such a degree that openly revealing one’s faith may be met with a perception of imminent treason or suspicion of nationwide trespassing in the eyes of both the citizenry and the government, civil suits over wedding cakes do not rise to that level. While I understand the point that Justice Samuel Alito was making when he said that the Obergefell v. Hodges decision “will be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy,” it seems to me that the same could easily be said of Loving v. Virginia; after all, if someone declined to sell flowers for an interracial wedding, it seems unlikely that they would find many allies among the public at large - or in church pews. But as Walter Palmer (and several people unfortunate enough to share that relatively common name) could tell you, the Court of Public Opinion doesn’t require Supreme Court precedent to render its verdicts. But perhaps more importantly, the Court of Public Opinion is not bound by the Constitution at all - as demonstrated over and over again in American history.

Another point demonstrated over and over again in American history is that a Republic (and world history tells us the same is true for an form of representative government) is not necessarily any more enlightened or aligned with a given understanding of right and wrong as any other form of government. The point behind giving the populace at large a hand in their governance is to allow them to advocate effectively for their own interests, not to create a nation governed by angels. Given this, I find it hard to reconcile that an admission that a Supreme Court decision that mirrors “a view shared by a majority of Americans” to the point of “This is the new normal,” can, at the same time be considered “a threat to democracy.” If a referendum with “one man, one vote” would have carried the day, it seems to me that a Supreme court decision to the same effect is perfectly in keeping with democracy. Now, it may not be in keeping with the Constitution, but the last time I read it, there was no provision for religious sentiment, regardless of how sincerely held, to be interpreted as the de facto law of the land.
The individualism at the heart of contemporary American culture is at the core of Obergefell — and at the core of modern American life.
This is profoundly incompatible with orthodox Christianity. But this is the world we live in today.
Welcome to Earth. Millions, if not billions, of people live in places where there is a fundamental incompatibility between some aspect of what they believe in or the faith they hold, and some value that the culture around them holds dear. Just as there are countless people whose beliefs form those values, and thus are in sync with the society around them. Sometimes, you’re the windshield, sometimes, you’re the bug.

Christian mores and social norms have been the baseline for the United States since before there was a United States. Once communities of Europeans and those they brought with them were large and stable enough that they could see the Native Americans as impediments to wealth, rather than as lifelines (and in certain circumstances, even before then), to not be Christian was to be a lesser form of person. The persecutions that Christians visited upon them were not mild. In this, I understand the fear of the shoe being on the other foot, and understanding what makes a retreat into a new monasticism appealing. But there is an irony in it as well, because it presupposes that the non-Evangelical majority will leave them in peace to live as they wish apart from everyone else. Which was not something that the Christian majority of yore was known for - the school where I spent my freshman year of college was once a boarding school for the forced assimilation of Native Americans - a practice that was reaching its height when I was in grade school. To the degree that religious separatism will work, it will be because secularism doesn’t consider child abduction (and then sending them back as cultural saboteurs) a valid means to “go and make disciples of all nations.”

One of the constant concerns that Americans have with Islam is the idea that it’s incompatible with Democracy and the Constitution. But this is true of any faith that both holds that it has a monopoly on righteousness and “good,” and that governments should be in the business of ensuring that people meet their obligations to the divine. Islam is not the only faith that has elements that hold to this. A local pastor here in the Seattle area once noted that: “The Constitution never says there was a separation of church and state. It is the freedom OF religion, not the freedom FROM religion. And that’s why we’re fighting so hard.” Were I inclined to unilaterally appoint him to the role of Ambassador from Christianity, I could easily make the point that Christianity is incompatible with the freedoms we expect as Americans.

In the National Review, part of David French’s response to Mr. Dreher is as follows:
Christians, following the examples of the Apostles, should never retreat from the public square. They must leave only when quite literally forced out, after expending every legal bullet, availing themselves of every right of protest, and after exhausting themselves in civil disobedience.
Christians have dominated “the public square” for so long that it appears that even to make room for others to enter it seems like a shameful retreat. And this is the issue with the idea of a single path to justice and salvation - any competing ideas, rather than welcome entrants to the marketplace of ideas, become encroachments of evil and injustice.

A genuinely pluralistic society requires a certain willingness to share and compromise. And people dislike compromise when it concerns issues about which they feel strongly. For example, a quote wrongly attributed to Rachel Maddow claimed that rights were specifically exempt from the vagaries of public voting. To a point, questions about whether or not evangelical Christianity should retreat into a new monasticism or seek to reassert itself more strongly come across a being two sides of the same unwillingness to concede that a truly public dialog means having many different voices in it. The fractured nature of worldwide Christianity left an opening for the idea that Christians were sharing “the public square” in the United States with everyone, rather than mostly different flavors of other Christians. If secular America understands the question that Christians are grappling with to be an all-or-nothing proposition - abandon public engagement altogether or seek to regain their former hegemony, Christianity will continue to be seen as an active threat, and an ideology that seeks to dominate those places where it resides. Which may feed into the idea of being persecuted - but doesn’t hold a candle to the real thing.

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