Sociologist Peter Berger discusses the Houston mayor subpoening sermons (which have been cancelled, by the way), the progression of punishment for those who do not agree with gay sex, and President Obama as the first president from the “new class” (the elite social class that trades in information rather than tangible goods).
This episode in the heart of the Bible Belt can be placed, first, in the national context of the Obama presidency, and then in a broad international context and its odd linkage of homosexuality and religious freedom. I’m not sure whether President Obama still has a “bully pulpit”; at this moment even close political allies of his don’t want to listen to his sermons, if they don’t flee from the congregation altogether. All the same, every presidency creates an institutional culture, which trickles down all the way to city halls in the provincesAll the same, every presidency creates an institutional culture, which trickles down all the way to city halls in the provinces. This administration has shown itself remarkably tone-deaf regarding religion. This was sharply illuminated at the launching of Obamacare, when the administration was actually surprised to discover that Catholics (strange to say!) actually care about contraception and abortion. Eric Holder’s Department of Justice has repeatedly demonstrated that it cares less about religious freedom as against its version of civil rights. Perhaps one reason for the widespread failure to perceive this attitude toward the First Amendment is that Barack Obama is seen through the lens of race–“the first black president”. I think a better vision comes through the lens of class–“the first New Class president”–put differently, the first president, at least since Woodrow Wilson, whose view of the world has been shaped by the culture of elite academia. This is evident across the spectrum of policy issues, but notably so on issues involving gender and religion.If one thinks of these issues in an international context, coincidentally the issue of The Economist dated October 11-17, 2014, has its cover story entitled “The Gay Divide” about the divergent attitudes to homosexuality in the West and in many non-Western countries. In Europe (with the important exception of Russia) and in North America recent decades have witnessed a victory march of the gay movement and its affiliates in the so-called LGBT community. The widening acceptance and legalization of same-sex marriage has been the iconic victory thus far. Even the U.S. Supreme Court recently capitulated (at least for the time being) when it refused to hear cases in which state laws banning same-sex marriage had been challenged, thus letting stand the pro-gay decisions of lower courts. As far as Europe is concerned one may take as a metaphor a video produced by the Dutch government, which applicants for citizenship are obligated to watch in order to acquaint them with the value system to which they should adhere from now on. Among other depictions of alleged Dutch virtues, the video showed a scene of lesbian love-making. I have written about the Western development of the gay movement before–from the struggle to be left alone (which I applauded, ever since the famous Stonewall Inn riots, when the patrons of a gay bar in New York’s Greenwich Village beat up policemen that had been harassing them), to the struggle to get official blessing of their lifestyle (which I hesitate to applaud without reservation), to the more recent campaign to intimidate critics (which I deplore) by destroying their livelihood (say, by revoking the license to operate a bakery), or by criminal prosecution (for discrimination or “hate speech”).