There is nothing less than a full throated irritation among some today. Some contend Christians are being persecuted, some think that claim is risible and biting into a NothingBurger, some come back with responses of incredulity that anyone cannot see this, and others say this is alarmism pure and simple. More of some of this when I blog about Rod Dreher’s new book The Benedict Option.
For today I want to trot out what I read recently in Mary Eberstadt’s little book It’s Dangerous to Believe: Religious Freedom and Its Enemies.
My contention is that we should distinguish between breakdowns of genuine freedom of speech and persecution of Christians, we should recognize that some in the latter think their freedoms are restricted in a way that is not only un-American but hostile to faith, and it would be good if we could at least have a reasonable conversation about these distinctions and the reality of the latter. To call this alarmism simply doesn’t help and it’s yet another good time for us all to read some Rich Mouw on civility, beginning right here: Uncommon Decency: Christian Civility in an Uncommon World.
Here is some stuff from Mary Eberstadt’s It’s Dangerous to Believe:
‘Where will we go?”
In the three years since that night in Denver, I’ve learned that this question is being asked all over. I’ve heard it from Baptist ministers in Texas, for example, explaining their astonishment that theyor any other Americans—had lived to see the day when a mayor of Houston would subpoena the sermons of five Protestant ministers, to see if their words about sexuality ran afoul of a new city ordinance.
‘Where will we go?” has also been asked by undergraduates whose religious club, Inter Varsity, one of the largest collegiate associations in the country, has lately been “derecognized,” or denied the privileges allowed to other student groups, on campuses in numerous states—this, for being what one writer dubbed “the wrong kind of Christian,” that is, those who believe traditional moral teaching.
Homeschooled Protestant evangelical college students in upstate New York; members of the Anglican Communion in Virginia and elsewhere; Dominican friars and other clergy around the English speaking world; faculty members and administrators at several Christian colleges and universities: a lot of people feel so culturally disenfranchised that they, too, are now wondering the same thing.Small wonder. The ranks of other people pilloried and deprived of their own “pursuit of happiness” now grow apace: the high school football coach suspended in Washington State in 2015 for kneeling to say a prayer at the end of a game; the American military chaplains who claim to have been reassigned on account of their faithfulness to traditional Christianity; the small business owners working in the wedding industry at a time when vindictiveness in the name of the sexual revolution is apparently boundless; the Christian staffer at a day-care center who would not address a six-year-old boy as a girl, and was fired on account of it; the teacher fired in New Jersey for giving a curious student a Bible; and related cases in which acting on religious conviction has been punished, at times vehemently. …
An adjunct professor at the University of Illinois, Kenneth Howell, hired to teach a class in modern Catholic social thought, is suspended from the classroom for teaching modern Catholic thought about natural law.15 The head of the religion department explains that his explication of Church doctrine concerning homosexuality caused accusations of “hate speech.’ …
A U.S. Marine in North Carolina is court-martialed, given a bad-conduct discharge, and denied military benefits because she pasted a motivational passage from Isaiah 54:17 near her office computer (“No weapons formed against me shall prosper”). According to a military judge, the quotation “could be interpreted as combative … [and] could easily be seen as contrary to good order and discipline.’
These disparate stories taken from recent headlines are examples of a toxic new force now hurtling across the United States and other advanced societies. They are part of the mounting toll of a widespread and growing effort to shame, punish, and ostracize people because of what they believe. This is moral and social change for the worse—and not only in the United States, but across the boundaries of what can still be called Western civilization.
Whether you like her angle on these stories or not is not as important as distinguishing between freedom and persecution while recognizing hostility toward traditional expressions of the Christian faith.
What do you think?