My Tuesday column is up over at First Things. It occurred to me that one must stretch out in order to sow seeds of change, but eventually the stretch becomes an overreach that ends up perverting and weakening a movement, whether it’s feminism, labor unions, even grassroots efforts or churches.
On some level, what is weak knows that it is weak; it understands that foundationally, it cannot support the weight of its own ideas, much less endure an opposing wind. And because weakness knows this, it goes out of its way to deflect the opposition by sowing confusion, chaos, guilt, fear. These are the by-products of weakness and its attendant insecurity. They are the telltale signs of weakness.
When feminists must torture a liturgy to expunge all male pronouns from ancient prayers in order to protect their “strong” sensibilities from being struck too harshly with equally strong male references, they are exhibiting insecurity, and so they sow the weakness of enforced conformity through “patriarchal” guilt. When they declare that a woman cannot be “real” unless she embraces a pro-abortion position, or they bring lawsuits against others for merely daring to consider that the different chemistry within the sexes might foment genuinely different interests, they are exhibiting their insecurity and sowing weakness through social intimidation and fear.
In the end, their over-reaction to dissenting views reveals that the foundations upon which they have built their philosophies are too weak to bear a shifting wind, or a thought out-of-line. What rises up in response to guilt, to fear and intimidation is the strength of genuine resolve—the sort of resolve that initiated and drove the feminist movement itself, until it became entrenched, and then too-comfortable, and then over-reaching.
But don’t think this is a just me picking on feminists. The truth is, this descent into cynical overreach is all-too-common to every movement. And that should sound a few cautionary notes, even to politicians and the Tea Party. Become too comfortable and entrenched and you foment stagnation and end up relying on cynical manipulations to insure the status-quo.
Cynicism is weakness; it is the easiest thing in the world to cultivate, and it brings forth a bumper crop of bravado and smugness, neither of which can stand, when strength rises up.