What Persecution of Churches will Look Like in USA

I wrote about this a few weeks ago at First Things, but here Russell Shaw says it better:

It won’t be a repetition of the Spanish Civil War, just 75 years ago, when death squads of the anticlerical left executed the incredible total of 12 bishops, 283 religious women, 4,184 priests, 2,365 religious men, and an unknown number of laity whose only crime was to be faithful Catholics.

No, the persecution of religion in the United States won’t be like that. It will be a tight-lipped campaign of secularist inspiration in which the coercive power of the state is brought to bear on church-related institutions to act against conscience or go out of business.

Yup. It will be precisely what we’re seeing now — the sort of passive-aggressive bullying that says, “what? I’m not doing anything to you! I’m just making sure it’s all fairs-ies…”

During oral argument [before the Supreme Court of the United States] the attorney representing the Obama administration said in effect that government could compel the Catholic Church to ordain women priests if it reached the point of wanting to do that in the name of enforcing anti-discrimination laws. Never mind the First Amendment.

Shaw is optimistic, overall:

Pope Benedict XVI pointed it out during his September pastoral visit to Germany (as secularized a Western country as now exists). The lesson of history, he said, is that secularization aimed at reducing the worldly power of the Church often has the unintended consequence (unintended by the secularists anyway) of purifying the Church for its spiritual mission.

That’s a comforting thought. But even so religion has a duty to fight back against the secularist impulse — not least, in the United States, in defense of a church-state arrangement that’s served the nation well but now is at risk of falling victim to power-hungry secularism.

I find it comforting, too, although that may seem odd.

We are going to have to face the fact that nothing is static and the world today is not what it was twenty years ago, and the world tomorrow may not look anything like today. That’s what happens; narratives press forward, and we believe ours is pressing forward to a glorious day, but one that will not come without the pangs of delivery.

There is an embolism we use in the mass — a sort of prose-interruption to the Lord’s prayer, before concluding it:

Deliver us, Lord, from every evil, and grant us peace in our day. In your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

In this instance, I prefer the words we are currently using to the upcoming translation changes we’ll pray/hear, come Advent:

Deliver us, Lord, we pray, from every evil, graciously grant peace in our days, that, by the help of your mercy, we may be always free from sin and safe from all distress, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

I think “anxieties” is a good word, one people can relate to. I’m sorry to see it go.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Anchoress, sadly, both you and Shaw appear to be right about this.

    Let us all pray, “Save us from the time of trial.”

    [But why? This is what I don't understand. We know we're going to experience a time of trial. Scripture tells us this. It must happen before Christ returns. Don't we want that? -admin]

  • Kathleen

    I prefer the old “shelter us from all turmoil” which I remember from my childhood, to either of the others. JMO

  • Kim

    I just read that Susan Sarandon called the Pope a nazi:
    http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/susan-sarandon-pope-a-nazi-occupy-wall-street-249260

    [Yes, saw that. She's intellectually lazy woman. We should pray for her! ;-) -admin]

  • http://catholicsensibility.wordpress.com/ Todd

    I find it hard to get excited about this supposed persecution–it strikes me as conservatives trolling for GOP donations. A lot of hullabaloo about FOCA, and man, isn’t that a dead, dead issue.

    I don’t think much of the urge to fight back. There’s nothing to fight about. We have enough to keep our own house clean, and when it comes to individuals, communities, business, or even government overstepping, at that point, we decline to cooperate with injustice.

    The secularism has already penetrated the Catholic bureaucracy: lawyers counseling bishops to be silent rather than minister to abuse victims. The bishops are rather blind to the ways they already act like secular agents for an international corporation rather than as shepherds for the King.

  • http://breadhere.wordpress.com Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

    Call me crazy, but I can’t see it through the same lens. There are problems to be sure, but I can’t get my mind around it in the way that Shawn has, or in your manner as well. We shall see.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    “Times of Trial” are always tough, Anchoress, and while they may work out well ultimately, in the end, there’s no guarantee that we, as individuals, will remain steadfast in the face of them. Many Christians have renounced their faith during persecutions, from ancient Rome on. We don’t really know how we’ll respond when tested—hence, we pray, in the way our Lord taught us, to be delivered from such times. (“Deliverance” in this sense meaning, I believe, either that we will spared outright, or we’ll be granted the grace to endure the trials, when they do come.)

  • vox borealis

    The persecution is coming, or rather it is already here. But since many Catholics, it seems, appear to be on the side of the persecutors (whether they intend to be or not), it (the persecution) and they (most laity) won’t raise much of a fuss.

  • vox borealis

    @ 1 admin,

    But Anchoress, no one *wants* trial, even if it is necessary. Christian writers during the times of Roman persecution did not tell their flocks to run out and get executed. Even Christ ask that the cup be passed if it be the Father’s will.

    [I am not suggesting anyone run out and get themselves killed. But JPII and Benedict have made a point of telling us "do jot be afraid..." I am going to try to take them at their words that (as Julian of Norwich said) "all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well." it's God's world, after all, and his victory. -admin]

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Yes, vox, sadly, the church has, in some cases, sided with the persecutors. The problem with allying oneself with Caeser is that Caesar, unlike the Lord of Hosts, is changeable; one day he’s grateful for your support; the next, he finds you a danger to the state! Really, all he’s asking is that you woship him, just a little bit! Put a bit of incense before his statue, really, what harm could that possibly do?

    I suspect some of them will raise a fuss, but, by the time they do, it won’t have much effect. . .

  • Suburbanbanshee

    The problem was that a lot of the early Christian flock did run out to get persecuted, and then they would often find out the hard way that they were in no way spiritually ready to be martyrs. So the later attitude was that you shouldn’t presume yourself ready to be a martyr and could take certain reasonable precautions; but that if God picked you to be arrested, clearly you were ready to be a martyr or confessor whether you thought so or not.

    [I love Flannery O'Connor's line, "she thought she could be a martyr if they killed her quick!" -admin]

  • http://adriddle.blogspot.com Amanda Riddle

    Times are tough, yes. Depressing, almost. No one wants “trails,” most likely.

    These are all of the reasons I love the story of the 40 martyrs of Sebaste. If you don’t know the story, 40 Roman soldiers were told they would be tortured and killed if they did not renounce their faith. When the governor (I think) told them that if on the instant they did not deny Jesus and the Christian faith, they would be forced to stand naked on a frozen lake until death, they responded. And they responded by stripping off their clothes and running for the lake! Did they ask for this trial, no. When they woke up that morning, were they hoping that someone would send them out to a frozen lake to die…I’m guessing probably not. But their faith and fellowship encouraged each of them to hold fast to the belief that our reward lies in Christ. While we live in times that are anxiety-ridden, we must keep our eyes on the goal.

    (And strip off our clothes when necessary:)

  • terry nelson

    Pope Benedict XVI pointed it out during his September pastoral visit to Germany (as secularized a Western country as now exists). The lesson of history, he said, is that secularization aimed at reducing the worldly power of the Church often has the unintended consequence (unintended by the secularists anyway) of purifying the Church for its spiritual mission.

    Yep – the Holy Father says it the best however.

  • SKay

    Will they do the same to Islam?

  • Steve Colby

    Anchoress, I sympathize with you on the new embolism. I don’t know if the new version is a more faithful translation, but it is, to my eye, inferior writing. Two clear sentences are ‘condensed’ into one run-on. In the first we ‘wait in joyful hope’, while in the second we ‘await the blessed hope’. What is our attitude as we await hope? And yes, ‘protect us from all anxiety’ is better, in that it recalls our Lord’s commandment not be anxious for the future. Further, anxiety is internally generated, whereas distress can (arguably) be external.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    No, Skay, they will not.

  • Jane Hartman

    I am scared. I feel that the government will be able to actually shut churches down. The churches and health institutions that follow the Biblical doctrines of traditional marriage (that might become a hate crime for all we know) and pro-life beliefs would lose their tax-exempt status and would probably have to fold. It’s already happening in Illinois with Catholic charities losing their contract with the state because they cannot in good conscience place children in the co-habiting or same sex couples. And it happened in a matter of weeks with not even a complete hearing. The governor signed the bill to dismiss Catholic Charities contract within weeks of the same-sex civil unions law. And Anchoress, the civil-unions law had a religious conscience protection in it. Why was the State of Illinois allowed to disregard that portion of the bill?

  • Greta

    Anchoress, it is not surprising that many will want to persecute those in get in the way of their goal of life with endless abortions, faith separated from government and life, and hiring the government to steal from one and give to others who have not earned it. We will be able to trace or decline to the days the people started to accept birth control denying God His right to create life, when courts started their campaign of big lies such as privacy for abortion and special rights for one behavior, homosexuality, the removal of God from America with the big lie of separation, and with “Christians’ voting for those who supported these evils. That is why they do not see persecution because they have been siding with evil for so long. It reminds me of the old slave captain who finally had his eyes open and wrote, ” I was blind, but now I see.” Until we decide as a nation to go back to being one nation UNDER GOD, we will continue to decline. God gave us free will to follow Him and take up the cross, or to go off on our own placing things over life. I fear it will take a very strong version of hell for some to awake and we are certainly headed in that direction. It is more important today to be faithful to God than it was during my birth year in the great Depression. At least at that time had strong faith, strong understanding of self responsibility, and an attitude of doing things for ourselves rather than first look to big government. It will get ugly very fast as already witnessed with the growth of mobs led by our president and his party. We cannot expect less from evil if its existence is threatened and it is the party of slavery, KKK terrorist beating and lynching, denial of civil rights for freed blacks, and now abortion, gay marriage, and big government as their god. What a history. Why would they see persecution of anyone who gets in their path as a problem.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    The government is already trying to isolate Christian charities, and services. Once that is accomplished, I believe the next steps will be, ultimately, persecution, and shutting churches down. We’ve seen that religious conscience clauses are no protection whatsoever.

    I believe the tactic, at this point, is isolation, and demonization (“Intolerant” Christians will not “allow” gays to be married in their churches! How can they be so heartless? Oh, you know the drill!). Once these goals are accomplished, they can move on to the next stages. Pesecution will be surprisingly easy, once the set-up is in place. And, now, with the occupy wall street movement, we have handy, progressive rent-a-mobs, who will be only too happy to harass, those churches that won’t marry same-sex couples, or who are too firm in their opposition to abortion.

    Save us from the time of trial. . .

  • LisaB

    “Deliver us, Lord, from every evil, and grant us peace in our day. In your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”

    I cannot find a reference, but I once heard Bishop Sheen do a talk on this particular prayer where he equated anxiety with doubt. Because I had always been ridden with anxiety in daily life I immediately was able to connect it with doubt in my spiritual life and it was a life changing revelation. Sigh, I really wish more priest would educate from the pulpit using our Lord’s Gospel rather than deliver psycho-babble, for us nominally raised Catholics CCD was useless.

    Pope Benedict has more than once prophesied a Church smaller from testing: “The Church will be reduced in its dimensions, it will be necessary to start again. However, from this test a Church would emerge that will have been strengthened by the process of simplification it experienced, by its renewed capacity to look within itself… the Church will be numerically reduced. ” Cardinal Ratzinger 2001

  • http://jscafenette.com/ Manny

    Anchoress, your fascination with this topic seems to border on martyr death wish. I cannot share your comfort at all. What you are talking about is the elimination of churches, the doing away with Catholic schools, the forced secularization against people’s conscience (such as gay marriage or worse, euthanasia, sex education and practices), all with the effect of sucking out the Catholic sensibilities of our Catholic children and grandchildren. The numbers of Catholics, if you are correct, will be deminished to ghettos, such as the Jewish Orthodox communities are now. And once the numbers are small, the atheists will make their last push to eliminate all vestiges (yes, murder and executions ala the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, and Spanish Civil War) of Chrisitanity. We may not be talking in our life time, but that’s the dystopia you are roughly anticipating. I cannot see how anyone can feel comfort with that!

    Luckily I don’t share your pessimism. We can hold our own through proper catachesis and philosophic engagement. We will attract the religious from other denominations, and possibly even a portion of the Muslims. I’m an optimist. I believe we will still have a billion Catholics 50 years from now.

    But my optimism requires fight, and your martyr death wish strikes me as defeatist. I choose to be a Christian soldier, not a martyr. Come on, get your fighting Irish spirit up. :-D

    [What makes you think I'm pessimistic? -admin]

  • http://catholicsensibility.wordpress.com/ Todd

    “The Church will be reduced in its dimensions, it will be necessary to start again.”

    I think this line of thinking borders on a refutation of the apostolic quality of the Church. I sure hope that’s not what the pope is really thinking. If so, the new evangelization is doomed.

    “I believe we will still have a billion Catholics 50 years from now.”

    What a pessimistic thought. Why not two billion, or even three?

    Agreed on the martyrdom complex. Unlikely that any of us will get to pick and choose our sufferings and death. Very unlikely. The martyrdom of ideologues would be much more delicious to contemplate: conservatives lassoing embittered liberals back into the fold, and liberals netting the hidebound conservatives.

    Oh the suffering that would entail! But I would relish it.

  • http://jscafenette.com/ Manny

    @ Todd
    LOL.

    “What a pessimistic thought. Why not two billion, or even three?”

    Good point. But I do see the atheists making gains. It will be hard to really increase from where we currently stand. And perhaps Anchoress’s vision has muted my optimism.

  • kenneth

    Nothing sells like fear

  • Logan

    “I find it hard to get excited about this supposed persecution–it strikes me as conservatives trolling for GOP donations.” – Todd

    Really, Todd? Catholic adoption services shut down in Massachusetts and the same coming soon in Illinois? That doesn’t bother you? And God help the teacher who says anything critical of homosexual behavior. Lutherns dragged into court contesting their ability to decide their own ministers? Can you see a easy jump to priests? Pro-abortion laws designed to impede religious protests? Laws promoted that Pharmacists must dispense birth control? Public education that is attempting to destroy values educations in homes?

    No, nothing to fight against. Yeah. Correct me if I’m wrong, but later in your post you seemed eager to fight for “social justice” – or am I reading too much into your post? Please correct me if I am wrong.

  • zmama

    “Deliver us, Lord, from every evil, and grant us peace in our day. In your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”

    I had a fear recently that this would be changed. After a difficult trial many years ago, these words would literally jump out at me during the Mass and I would cling to them. I think this prayer is perfect just as it is and fits the times that we live in perfectly as well.

    As for your question re. the return of Christ, “Don’t we want that?” I would encourage you if you have never read it to find a copy of Teilhard de Chardin’s The Divine Milieu and read the epilogue. He so beautifully describes the ardent desire we as Christians must each have for Christ’s return. I must say I share his view that too many, when faced with the cost, really don’t want it. I would sadly include many of our hierarchy in that.

  • ahem

    This is looking a little more prescient, eh?

    You half-hearted Christians should all hand in your rosaries.

  • Kenny R

    If the Holy Spirit can convert the hearts of people such as Dr. Bernard Nathanson and the women who were Roe and Doe in the legalization of abortion Supreme Court cases then why noy President Barack (Obama) Abortion.
    So I have prayed for his conversion since day #1. Join with me, why don’t you?

  • Edwarda Harmon

    Kenny R,
    I agree with your comments about the need to pray for hearts to be changed. In addition to those you mentioned who experienced conversion of heart, don’t forget that Saul became St. Paul. In addition to praying for Pres. Obama and others by name, I pray each day for the “conversion of those who promote the culture of death in any way” which covers a lot of territory. I’m sure there are many people praying for that intention who are known only to God.
    EQ

  • http://catholicsensibility.wordpress.com/ Todd

    Really, Logan.

    “Catholic adoption services shut down in Massachusetts and the same coming soon in Illinois? That doesn’t bother you?”

    The Church’s response, especially that of petulant bishops bothers me deeply. But you don’t want to get into a discussion on adoption with me. Trust me.

    The Church has an opportunity to retool its adoption efforts, to promote adoption as a solution for orphans and foster care children. Otherwise, shutting down adoption services is a ruse. Nothing more. The number of infants available for adoption has shrunk drastically since 1970, and the need has shifted.

    If the state is truly bankrupt morally by allowing children to be adopted by millions of homosexuals and tens of millions of single parents, wouldn’t you think bishops, their Catholic Charities offices, and the pro-life movement have a greater urgency to flood the market of prospective parents with Catholic couples? That they don’t take this approach leads me to no other conclusion that the whole adoption kerfuffle is more about a lack of vision, a blindness to real opportunity, than anything else.

    A persecuted Church? That’s hilarious. The institutional church is shooting itself in the foot. We have bishops–cardinals even–turning a blind eye to the protection of children a decade after Archbishop Law. Catholics are more endangered–personally and in the evangelical apostolate–from their own bishops that from the government.

    “You half-hearted Christians should all hand in your rosaries.”

    They’re not persecuting. They’re laughing.

  • Jake

    The church isn’t being persecuted by the state. It’s being required to follow the rules for accepting state money. If the church doesn’t like the rules then the church should self-fund.

    If there is not enough money to do that, then the congregants are finding the service offered not worth their time or money. This means an inadequate job is being done from the pulpit to “spread the message” or the message itself is flawed and the people have taken exception to it by withholding financial support.

  • FJ Harris

    Be at ease. Your Lutheran brothers are In the fox holes with our Catholic and Jewish brothers. We are praying mightily together.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Except, of course, Todd, that, in the new, secularized atmosphere, the church will not be allowed to re-tool its adoption services, beause that would be politically incorrect, and insensitive to same-sex couples, and unmarried couples. If government is already forcing out Catholic adoption agencies that are already working for it, you can be sure its not going to allow the church to become a rival to its own monopoly. All it will talk will be one couple, complaining that the church turned them down for adoption because they were gay, or unmarried or discriminated against in some other way, and the government will come down on the Catholic adoption agencies for “Discrimination.”

    People like Kenneth will be tut-tutting, saying we have nothing to fear. You will find it all “delicious” (you seem to think that the Catholic Church is a branch of the Republican party, which is. . . curious.) And it will all be brushed aside as “Move along! Now, now, it’s not persecution, it’s just following government rules!”

    And so on.

    (I suspect there would actually be a lot of children up for adoption if the current unwieldy, and corrupt, foster care system were revised—but it won’t be, because foster care/adoption isn’t really about the welfare of kids; it’s about making adults feel good about themselves, and not condemning them for their lifestyles. It’s all so delicious! Really, what is there to fear? The government is your friend! /Sarc. off.)

  • SKay

    So Todd–should the birth mother have the right to say that she only wants a traditional family (Mom and Dad) to adopt the child–or should the government make that illegal also? I know that Catholic Family Services has allowed the birth mother to choose the adoptive parents — up to this point.

    I can see the number of babies being put up for adoption going down because of this government mandate. The law of unintended consequences begins to emerge.
    Of course for the pro abortion crowd (Pelosi, Cuomo, Biden, the Kennedys to name a few Catholics along with Obama and PP) –it could be intentiional.

  • http://jscafenette.com/ Manny

    “What makes you think I’m pessimistic? -admin”

    Well, if you actually hope for martyrdom, then you’re being optimistic and I’m the pessimist…lol. Oh the irony. ;)

    [I'm not "hoping" for anything, including martyrdom. I just think we ought not to be afraid. I might just be stupid. -admin]

  • Will

    “Lutherns dragged into court contesting their ability to decide their own ministers? ”
    - Logan

    Was the woman a minister or a teacher?

  • kevin

    In my opinion, the United States will collapse long before the Church becomes “tiny” again at the rate things are going.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Thanks to all Lutherans, and others, who are praying with us!

    SKay, yes, in the future I can see birth mothers being told that they can’t pick their child’s adoptive parents, as well as other restrictions coming into play in varous adoption, health and social servies: the law of unintended consequences, indeed! Except I don’t think it’s so unintended, here. And I think that will be the least of restrictions on religion, and personal choice, once things really get going.

    As Logan points out, it will be an easy jump from the state interfering in such matters as who can, or can’t be a minister, “Hate speech” (no criticizing homosexuality in any state supported venue) and its ongoing support of abortion, to more and more restrictive measures against Christians who simply will not get with the program. It will all be pushed as “Social justice”, “Fairness” and “Equality.” After all, the government is just asking us to obey the rules, right? Don’t we believe in “Fairness?” Christians can just fund these things themselves, right? Except, of course, in the name of “Fairness”, the government will have to go after any, and all agencies that don’t follow the new rules, because everybody must obey the rules, right? Don’t we believe in “Fairness”, and aren’t we against “Hate” after all? “You’re darn tooting!” as our president would say.

  • kenneth

    “People like Kenneth will be tut-tutting, saying we have nothing to fear. You will find it all “delicious” (you seem to think that the Catholic Church is a branch of the Republican party, which is. . . curious.) And it will all be brushed aside as “Move along! Now, now, it’s not persecution, it’s just following government rules!”……………………….

    Tut-Tut indeed! My take on this is that you guys (today’s Catholics and modern Christians in America) don’t have a lot of backbone. You are part of a majority which represents 78% of the population and virtually 100% of Congress, the White House and the Supreme Court. You have the protection of some of the strongest free expression laws in human history, and tax subsidies worth tens of billions of dollars, at a bare minimum (a tax break is a subsidy).

    We have one case in adoption law where a state refuses to pay one of your agencies to break the law, and you guys are ready to enter the bunkers and save a last bullet for yourselves. This is not concern, it is tinfoil hat paranoia, and it deserves to be called out as such. If you’re like this now, and you think every little setback is a catastrophe, you won’t last half an hour under any regime of real oppression. You wouldn’t last half an hour in any of the regions of the world where Christians face REAL oppression.

    Sometimes I honestly think the problem is that you find no meaning and no joy in your religion unless you have an enemy and an apocalyptic narrative to define it for you. That’s true of America at large too. We have no identity of ourselves which does not involve us being at war with someone. There’s also an obsession with the idea of martyrdom and more than a little conceit and melodrama in proclaiming that you’re facing such a call.

    Seriously, you guys need to try to chill out or a stroke is gonna get you long before the gay mafia or Obama’s antichrist gestapo or whoever it is you fear. You have some decades before you become a demographic minority, and you’ll still be a big one at that. Trust me, life as a minority religion is very survivable. You’re panicking at 78%. I’m part of a religion which, in all its forms, constitutes maybe 0.6%. Our highest ranking elected official is a guy on the New York city council. For all that, we do alright. We live our lives and hold our services. When our government does trample our rights out of ignorance or malice, we hire good lawyers and sooner or later, we get (mostly) a fair shake.

  • friscoeddie

    Kenneth: you do a great job of taking the air out of Catholic whiners….. are they martyrs? nah … just political losers..

  • Jake

    Kenneth — excellent comment.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Kenneth, I didn’t realize you were a mind reader!

    You know what all Christians, everywhere, think and feel about their religion? And you know how all Americans feel about their country? And you know they have no real identity, that there’s no “There, there!” to the United States, so to speak?

    Hmmm, that’s some pretty sweeping generalizations, there!

    Unfortunately, I think your messages from the Aether are a bit, um—skewed. I know many Christians who get a great deal of joy from their religion, without having lots of enemies. (And most of them are rather nervous, rather than eagerly anticipatory, about the idea of Apocalypse.) And none of my fellow Americans, whom I’ve met, have ever gone around saying stuff like, “Gosh darnitall, I just don’t feel like an American unless I have an enemy to go after!”

    It’s always seemed to me that it’s the Left, rather than Christians, Jews or your ordinary Americans who need an enemy: “Kulaks”, “Counter-revolutionaries”, “Jew bankers”, “Wall Street”, “Right wing bigots”, “Teabaggers” and the like. The Left, far more than the right, seems to me to need enemies to go after, and overindulges itself in resenment against any group it sees as privilged. In the U.S. it doesn’t yet have the power to act out this resentment, as did in Soviet Russia, and places like Cambodia, Vietname and Cuba—but the same, festering hostility, and envy, is there. Its sympathies, such as they are, are strictly limited to a small group of politically correct victims.

    I think the accusations of identity crisis are—a bit of projection, on your part.

    You dislike Christians, so you automatically dismiss, or ridicule, any arguments in they bring up. Now, if you’re right about there being no persecution in these recent rulings, you can have a good time tut-tutting at us all, when the passage of time proves us all to be wrong. In which case, neither one us will have lost anything.

    If, on the other hand, you’re wrong—well, we’ll have a great deal to lose (and, no, it won’t just consist of becoming a religious minority.) And not just Christians; the entire country will suffer if religious freedom becomes a thing of the past.

  • kenneth

    I’m not, of course, a mind reader. I can’t speak for what “all” Christians or even most are thinking about persecution these days. On the other hand, I can say with great confidence that what I said applies to that subset of mostly conservative Christians who inhabit the Catholic blogosphere these days. I can say that because it’s plainly evident. There is an almost daily drumbeat of “sky is falling” persecution narrative posts on this and almost all similar blogs.

    They are, invariably the most frantic flight of fancy worst-case extrapolations of one or two court cases. Critical facts of these cases are often conveniently left out or soft-pedalled, and the cases are often in their earliest stages of adjudication. Some of these cases are not even based in this country, but in Canada and Europe, which have significant differences in law and culture. It’s certainly legitimate to call attention to these matters, and even to sound a cautionary note or two. It is not reasonable to draw a straight line between these cases and scenarios of Soviet or Khmer Rouge-style persecution in the foreseeable future.

    To do so is either foolishness or calculated manipulation of fear for one’s own personal or partisan ends. It is not a reasonable or logical conclusion to draw from the facts at hand. It is like concluding that you’re dying of some 1 in a million rare blood cancer because you happen to have felt under the weather this week and ran a fever. Could it be true? Yes, but it’s not probable. It’s not reasonably supported by the facts at hand.

    Telling people that a setback in adoption agency rules or an unsettled case in labor law portends physical harm for them or bona fide persecution in their near futures is cynical and irresponsible. It is a calculated and deliberate attempt to manipulate people who are already beset by legitimate fears and who may not have the historical perspective or critical thinking skills to sift reality from the panic you’re feeding them. Stoking and manipulating people’s deepest fears about their personal safety is an appeal to their darkest instincts and is, in fact, the formula behind all real oppression, whether it comes from the right, left or anywhere else on the political spectrum.

    [Growing up we had a neighbor who used to say terrible things about Jews and then he'd say, "of course, I can't speak about "all" Jews, but those I have observed..." A vile man and a bigot. You're not that, I hope? I mean, I expect your generalizations are not borne of feelings of superiority or disdain; they're reasonable conclusions wrought by your thorough and pristine, disinterested and gifted powers of observation. Otherwise you'd be what you hate. And that would make you...well...a lot like the folks you generalize about. You're not that, right? -admin]

  • kenneth

    I had hoped you would be able to engage my arguments in some more substantive way than likening me to anti-semites/Nazis. I see I expected too much. My arguments have nothing to do with suppositions about “how those people are” (Christians or anyone).

    I am taking issue with, and yes, ridiculing, a school of thought and a set of arguments being advanced by people who happen to be Christians. Fear mongering and shabby logic are disgusting regardless of who is propagating them – Christians, atheists or yes, even my “own kind.” For what it’s worth, we do have a subset of my own pagan community who indulges in fear mongering and the politics of hysteria. I regularly call them out on that as well. Despite the obvious absurdity of it, some of them also choose to dismiss/sidestep the substance of my arguments by calling me an “anti-pagan” bigot.

    [I did not suggest that our either our neighbor or you are "nazis" so you've gone too far there, and misrepresented me -- when I have time (which I admit is rare than I'd like it to be) I do try to engage commenters on "more substantive" levels but I'm working nearly 80 hours a week right now and its all I can do to keep up with the spam problem since we moved to the new WP and also moderate comments for slander, filth, etc. I don't really have time to respond to the number of comments ppl make, particularly when sometimes they would require almost a line-by-line rebuttal. You like to say "absurd" and "fear mongering" and to be dismissive. Fine. You have a forum for that, here, and unlike some bloggers (and more than a few on the left) you don't get edited or censored for your difference of opinion. But you must have realized that you've been getting broader and less charitable in your sneers, b/c you felt the need to put the mild disclaimer up there, yourself. I'm just suggesting that you're feeling pretty good about looking down on those who have a different take on things than you do. I see a government actively working to take the churches out of the public arena. You see no problem with that. History suggests that such action can be the start of something very ugly. We agree to disagree, but let's remember that decent people can disagree and still be decent people. It was beginning to look to me like you were forgetting that, and so I jabbed you a little -- in yes, an over-the-top way -- to see if you could see that? And I wonder sometimes about the whole internet thing, and how people can find so much pleasure in frequenting sites of people they don't like, just so they can demonstrate their disdain. What do we as humans get from that? It's just tiring. Maybe I'll close comments. That would solve the spam issue, too! I'm tired. -admin]

  • kenneth

    If I misjudged your intent, I’m sorry, but when someone infers your arguments are probably coming from the same place as some anti-Semite bigot you once knew, it certainly hits the ear like Reductio ad Hitlerum/Godwin’s Law.

    To the extent I am being uncharitable, it is primarily aimed at what I see as an abuse of logic and rhetoric, and one which I see having a real and toxic impact in our culture. There is a lot of room for reasonable people to disagree about the future implication of present events. At the same time, there comes a point when conclusions become so dissociated from established facts and probabilities that they become wild speculation.

    Talk of cultural and literal genocide (not specifically on your part, but other posters), is insanely out of proportion to any reasonable read of the facts at hand. I can’t prove that it will never happen, but I’ll turn to the medical example again. A couple of days of abdominal pain may in fact herald something serious like liver cancer. At the same time, can you imagine a doctor making such a diagnosis with such limited facts and telling a patient to get their affairs in order and find a hospice program?
    Most people who buy into wild speculation are decent folks. Mistaken and misled, I would argue, but decent. Others, especially many of those in politics, know better but choose to exploit that fear to the hilt. I do have a great deal of disdain for that, because it has lead to a toxic and dangerous civic culture. Every policy vote or court decision is cast as an existential struggle against an evil “them” who must be stopped at all costs.

    That’s a proven formula for breakdown of democracy and true oppression. To the extent we allow this sort of debate to be cast as Christian Dominionists vs Stalinist Atheists, over time, all more reasoned voices will lose their impact. It will become the dark struggle we fantasized about. I have nothing to gain in such a scenario, so that’s why I frequent sites to vigorously debate issues like this. It has nothing to do with me liking or not liking Catholics or anyone else. You will notice that I never give grief to people for being Catholic or Christian, and I tend to stay away from debates like women priests or other “inside baseball” issues where I really don’t have a stake.

  • http://catholicsensibility.wordpress.com/ Todd

    ” … the church will not be allowed to re-tool its adoption services …”

    Huh? Nobody’s stopping 130,000 Catholic couples from entering the public sphere and adopting one of the children currently in foster care with absolutely no legal entanglements.

    “I can see the number of babies being put up for adoption going down because of this government mandate.”

    No. It’s already rock bottom. Pretty much because of 1973.

    In my diocese, Catholic Charities facilitated five adoptions in seven years. When I interviewed a CC social worker, she said it just wasn’t worth the time for her or her staff to continue with adoption services. They can make referrals to an adoption agency and focus on other matters.

    Some of you people need to read up on adoption. You’re taking the culturewar(TM) talking points way too seriously. The lack of imagination and effort on the part of bishops leads me to no other conclusion that there’s a lot of bigotry and narcissism going on. Go to my blog and search my adoption posts. Get informed. It will help. It won’t make you afraid, but it will get you better information.

  • http://theelvesareheadingwest.blogspot.com/ Eric

    One more sad example of the flattening of language. I am an Anglican priest and just this morning had a wonderful conversation with a parishioner about the depth of the words in our rite. We had of course been using the 1662 rite and not the latest version with ‘more accessible language’, or to put it another way ‘flat – dull – banal – vacuous’ language stripped of and profound reference point. The proof that our culture is nihilistic is revealed in the nothingness of speech

    Thank you Elizabeth for your blog and your thoughtful First Things article on OWS which was not only insightful but sparked some very thoughtful comments both for and against


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