Converts and Heretics

Converts and Heretics December 20, 2013

A political and social movement starts to die when it decisively becomes far more obsessed with hunting heretics than making converts.  Over the past couple of days, I have made it pretty clear that, though I’ve never seen Duck Dynasty, I think that  the latest attempt by the Gay Legion of Menacing Visigoths for Tolerance to crush free speech and anathematize Christian sexual morality is, as usual, way the hell out of line. So, by the way, does the refreshingly frank lesbian atheist Camille Paglia.  She can spot a Stalinist when she scents one. Even TIME is voicing its doubts about this latest display of gay fascism and corporate cowardice. I think the suits at A&E and the gay lobbyists who are breathing down their necks are committing another spectacular act of overreach in trying to muzzle Robertson for making some perfectly predictable and justifiable remarks as a Christian who thinks homosex sin. I think they may well get Chik-fil-A’d in reverse and it couldn’t happen to a nicer pack of fascists and corporate suckups.

Moreover, I think the spectacle is just plain hilarious.  A&E leadership was responding in panic to the loudest gay agitprop voices in the blue state bubble and is now realizing that those people never watched the show anyway and they have just killed the cash cow in order to still get invited to the right parties.  There are meetings in well-paneled offices right now in which A&E execs and sponsors are screaming at each other, “WTF DID YOU *DO*?  The highest rated cable show of all time and you decided to go all thought police on the star so that Lady Gaga wouldn’t bounce you from her Artflop afterparty?  Are you insane?” An epic instance of sin making smart people very stupid indeed.  I was and am content to snicker as the riptides of PC thought subject the network to the unbearable tidal stresses of lust for mammon and terror of the wrath of Ganymede. I appreciate it when God casts down the mighty in their arrogance and lifts up the lowly.

All of which is to say, I’m a natural ally for conservatives who honor traditional Catholic sexual morality on this.

But, O the humanity!, I have also noted that the same dude who is being wrongly persecuted for his views on homosex has made some rather embarrassing remarks about life in the Jim Crow South of his youth, basically suggesting that it was a golden age in which black folks had no complaints and just sang happily all the time. That is, not to put too fine a point on it, a preposterous picture of the Jim Crow South.

To be sure, I take his remarks to be a truthful expression of his personal experience, just as I can truthfully say to a Frenchman or Englishman asking about growing up in America in the turbulent 60s that I personally never witnessed a race riot, an anti-war protest, a hippie or even somebody smoking pot (that would happen in the 70s).  I lived a sedate suburban life in Everett, Washington, far from any violence or social upheaval.  I didn’t even see anything out of the ordinary when I was living near Detroit in 1965.  Vietnam was on the boring news my Dad watched.  My brothers were there, but their tapes they sent home were mostly humdrum with no sense that they were swept up in an epic social upheaval transforming America forever.  Racial tensions were completely incomprehensible to me because there was only one black kid in my elementary school and everybody else was named Haugen, Almvig, Olsen and Anderson. When Martin Luther King was murdered, I had not the foggiest idea who he was or what his whole deal was about. I could, just like that guy on DD talking about the Jim Crow South, truthfully say that I never personally witnessed anything of America in the 60s that people think of as “America in the 60s”.

If, however, I let my account stand to my mythical Frenchmen or Englishmen without noting that, of course, my experience was a very tiny and parochial slice of what was actually happening to America in the 60s, they might be forgiven for supposing I was offering a heavily edited view of things, particularly if I compared that Golden Idyll with America today and added editorial commentary on how everything was great “Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare” (meaning “before damn libruls started interfering”) but strangely forgot to mention the great act of liberalism called “the Civil Rights Act”. My mythical foreigners might indeed be forgiven for noting a very strong affinity between such language and exactly the same kind of things said by segregationists about damn libruls 50 years ago. It is, at the very best, inept and infelicitous to suggest that the Jim Crow South was some kind of golden age and to say the black folk under Jim Crow were merely “singing and happy” or to say, “I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!” without the teensy weensiest hint that at one possible reason for that silence was due to a long history of lynchings, Emmett Till style murders, step to the back of the bus, colored only water fountains, huge KKK rallies and (as Jim Crow was falling) bus bombings, church bombings, beatings, shootings and the whole ugly reality of Jim Crow. Whatever its failings, what mortally wounded Jim Crow was damn librulism. And good riddance to it. It was not a golden age. Jim Crow was evil. Period. Some mention of that needed to be made and the DD guy needed to make it–and didn’t.

Now, here is my main point: If those same Frenchmen and Englishmen were elsewhere being told that I was a paragon of Christian valor about opposition to the sin of homosex, and that anybody who suggested that my analysis of the 60s was either ignorant of or wilfully blind to the larger picture was acting out of malice for my views on homosex, our two foreign friends might well be forgiven for backing slowly out of the room.

Here’s the deal: Christians in the US are, increasingly, foreigners. As such, we cannot take for granted that we are immediately comprehensible to the audience we are trying to persuade. Indeed, we often are not, particularly when it comes to any proposition that challenges the notion that consent is not the sole criterion of the good. That’s why students here in Seattle just staged a mass protest because the bishop told a gay vice principal at a Catholic high school that, no, you can’t marry your boyfriend and continue to be a vice principal at a Catholic high school. This is news even to huge numbers of young Catholics, not to mention the average Seattleite who will no doubt wonder when the pope is going to call the guy and give him his job back. For such a culture, there is no appreciable difference between the Church’s opposition to homosex as sin and racism. Both are irrational prejudices until we make clear the difference. Therefore, if we are smart, we will not give so much as the slightest hint of making excuses for racism. And going to the mat to defend the suggestion that the Jim Crow South was a paradise of happy singing black folk with no complaints until the damn libruls screwed it up is, like it or not, rather likely to persuade most people outside the bubble of conservatve Christianity that, yeah, Christians are irrational bigots.

So, those who want to leap on the culture war bandwagon with the pied pipers at FOX and scream along with the latest 15 minute hate directed (this week) at A&E can do so and allow themselves to be played into appearing to defend the DD guy from all those damn libruls who are so mean for thinking that it’s pretty stupid to speak of the Jim Crow South as a paradise for black people. Or we can be smart and agree with him where he’s right, disagree where he’s wrong, and stick to the subject, which is that opposition to homosex is perfectly legitimate and that crushing the free speech of those who think this is vile and un-American, not to mention an assault on religious liberty.

I say all this because I want our side to *win* on this. People who are interested in making converts will get this. People who are interested in rooting out heretics in the endless search for absolute tribal purity will declare me an enemy for pointing out this bleeding obvious fact. Jim Crow was bad. Anything that so much as *suggests* the contrary is, at best, ignorant and, at worst willfully blind.

“But you were inflammatory, using that picture of that horrible lynching! And it’s not even from the South!”

Last things first: The obsessive insistence some people had with noting that the picture was not from the South (it was from a lynching in Duluth in the 20s) is emblematic of the sort of minimizing of the problem I’m referring to. My point was not “Look at what these Southerners here did”. It’s “Look at the threat of violence black people lived under. Doncha think that might have *something* to do with why they never had a word of complaint?” The source of the picture was irrelevant. For, of course, I could just as easily have found lots of images that did originate in the Jim Crow South, as we all know. I could have posted the horrifying image of Emmett Till, a 14 year old boy tortured to death in Mississippi during those warm golden years of Jim Crow for the crime of not knowing his place and speaking to a white woman. So yes, the picture was inflammatory, because what needed to be ignited was some small light of acknowledgement that “I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!” is the Theresienstadt version of life under Jim Crow and Christians are fools to deny it or diminish it. It’s a *guaranteed* losing strategy if we cheer for that guy’s free speech rights as a Christian while making excuses for when he uses his faculty of speech to soft pedal the Jim Crow South.

So: do we want converts or do we just want to attack disloyal heretics for not maintaining unit cohesion at all costs? I prefer converts. And this is an unusual moment where we can make a few. Even TIME magazine is with us. Or we can screw it up and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by going to the mat for this dumb comment.

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  • Stu

    “If, however, I let my account stand to my mythical Frenchmen or Englishmen without noting that…”

    “Some mention of that needed to be made and the DD guy needed to make it–and didn’t.”
    But here you get to present your complete your thoughts. GQ chose what to present in that interview and without context. You chose to fill in the blanks. Maybe you are right but maybe you are wrong. Discernment would note that void and restrain conclusions accordingly.

    • chezami

      Yes. Blaming the evil media is another excellent surefire strategy that is sure to persuade the neutral outsider. The obvious and prominent void in that quote is the presumed words left on the cutting room floor by GQ, not the words saying that he never heard a word of complaint from black folks against white folks. Good thinking. Go try that and see how it works.

      • Stu

        See. You then go from filling the blanks in the interview, to doing the same thing here. I haven’t blamed anyone. I simply pointed out that the quote is incomplete (note the ellipsis within it), lacking in context and without the actual question that started it. In the interest of discernment, many of us would like to see the full quote before passing judgment.

        Now at the end of the day, the full context COULD make it worse. But we don’t know that do we. Well, you apparently do. But for the rest of us mortals who don’t have such abilities, we will refrain from passing judgment until some more due diligence.

        • chezami

          You’re right. I’m wrong. The quote is fully defensible and Christians should devote even more energy to defending it. Good idea. Go do that even more for hundreds of comments.

          • Stu

            Well, you are wrong. But what you are wrong in doing is this constant need to absolutely misconstrue the points people are making sometimes even complete with fake quotes to top off your strawmen. It’s sad really.

            Dig deep and actually try to address the points I have been making with you instead of these responses that aren’t even remotely relevant to what I have presented. It’s not a search and destroy mission Mark. It’s a discussion. Reflect on that too, please.

            • chezami

              Dude. You’ve spent countless comments going to the mat to make excuses for a comment that is at best stupid and at worst dishonest. I’ve made clear why I think that. If you want to continue going to the mat for it, knock yourself out. I think the smart money is on “I know, right? Embarrassing! Let’s agree Jim Crow was not good. But of course that has nothing to do with whether homosex is good or not, and still less with whether it is right to crush somebody’s right to say it with reprisals for their or income.”

              • Alma Peregrina

                I like what you are saying Mark. It is really true that we should not be “suckers” into justifying unjustifiable quotes or interventions, just because they came from someone who is “on our side”.

                However, I agree with Stu. Before commenting about a quote we need to have the complete context. It is only fair… and smart to have an informed oppinion.

                Is it media blaming? Maybe. But, just like it is unreasonable to justify unjustifiable quotes… it is also unreasonable to pretend that the media hasn’t got any blame. The media are NOT on our side, that is a problem and it must be stressed out, for there are many people who do not know that.

                Commenting without a complete context is, for a western christian at this day, completely suicidal. Because I remember people making your exact remarks, Mark, about Pope Benedict XVI’s speech in Ratisbon. No context was needed, Pope B16 should be ashamed of himself for his Islam hating. But, reading in context… that was not true.

                So, paraphrasing what Thomas More said in “A Man for all seasons”, let us give the racist redneck benefit of context for our own safety sake. Since we are talking about the best way to make our point accross, let us not make ourselves fragile by giving our enemies admunition to distort what we say without opposition. “First they came for the racist redneck, then they came for me”.

    • Obpoet

      I still find it telling that no one is criticizing GQ for publishing this article. As if they appreciate Robertson being offered up to be skewered. The goal not being censorship, but murder in the cathedral.

      • LSpinelli

        Of course he was skewered. Dumb comments about blacks and the South notwithstanding, the writer knew that the gays and sinners comment would get a nasty reaction. He doesn’t like or get the family and is surely dancing with glee. “I’m the guy who brought Duck Dynasty down! All worship at my altar!” Gross.

    • LSpinelli

      What’s being lost in this discussion is the likely probability that this was a hit piece. It was written by someone who was tired of this evangelical Christian family’s success and made damn sure those comments got in the piece. He also made damn sure that GLADD saw them. And here we are.

  • A J MacDonald Jr

    Duck Dynasty was produced in order to make Bible believers appear foolish, which it does.

  • Colin Gormley

    >And going to the mat to defend the suggestion that the Jim Crow South was a paradise of happy singing black folk with no complaints until the damn libruls screwed it up

    Except this isn’t what the guy actually said. Nor is that we are saying. The man was asked what his experience was like. He gave his answer.

    One can easily conclude that in his mind the welfare state did far more damage to the black community (i.e. the disintegration of the family) than any external racism did. This doesn’t deny racism. It is a commentary on the disintegration of the black community of today compared to the strength he saw while working beside them.

    • chezami

      Go back and read the quote. That is exactly what he is suggesting. You want to say the welfare state has been devastating on the black family? No arguemnt from me. But don’t do it by suggesting the Jim Crow wasn’t so bad. Is it really so hard to grasp that?

      • Colin Gormley

        >“I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person,” Robertson is quoted in GQ. “Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field…. They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!… Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”

        I don’t see the denial of racism in general or Jim Crow. I see someone who is identifying with the black community because he is “white trash”.

        >Is it really so hard to grasp that?

        Its not we don’t grasp it. We disagree that is what he is saying. Esp given that as mentioned before this is in a side bar that is disconnected from even the original question that was asked. A person who didn’t experience or see racism but DID see the disintegration of the family due to the welfare state would focus more on that, being a family man and all. Given his values I’ll bet he sees that as far more damaging.

  • Andrew

    Nuances – it’s not what he said, it’s how he said it. I didn’t find anything he said particularly appalling or “hateful” but he said it like an obnoxious, redneck, bore, not a caring, loving servant of Christ. Catch more bees with honey, that sort of thing….

  • kenofken

    “So: do we want converts or do we just want to attack disloyal heretics for not maintaining unit cohesion at all costs?”…………

    My money is on the latter, given a flawless 30 year record of religious conservatives of choosing that option. In the universe of American politics and culture, it is as constant and reliable and predictable as the speed of light or gravity.

    • SteveP

      Squealer the Illiterate Barbarian: you promised your cash to someone else – why are you laying wagers? Do you not keep your word?

      • ivan_the_mad

        You need to lay off kenofken, hounding him across posts like this.

        • SteveP

          As you wish.

          • ivan_the_mad

            Thank you.

    • chezami

      Apart from grace, I would agree. However, God has changed large social currents before–as, for instance, in the abolition of slavery and the birth of the civil rights movement.

      • bob

        Lincoln abolished slavery. Not God. Nor did give birth to the civil rights movement.

        • chezami

          Opposition to slavery in the US and America was absolutely rooted in Christian piety. For heaven’s sake, read the Battle Hymn of the Republic. And the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and *Reverend* Martin Luther King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail tell a different tale than yours.

        • Noah Doyle

          There was that whole ‘Constitutional Amendment’ bit. Which was somewhat beyond the purview of the Executive branch.

          Also, there’s the little matter of a Mr. Wilberforce, and his motivations…

        • Elaine S.

          There is a bit of irony in Lincoln being the president credited with freeing the slaves, because prior to his election as president, he was NOT an abolitionist (though he made it clear he thought slavery was wrong). As a politician Lincoln went out of his way to distance himself from the abolitionist movement because even many Northerners regarded it as a bunch of divisive, fanatical wingnuts harping on one issue to the detriment of the common good (sound familiar?).
          When he was running for Senate in 1858 and for President in 1860, Lincoln emphasized that he did NOT intend to abolish slavery in existing slave states or free slaves en masse; he simply didn’t want slavery being expanded into any new territories. He believed slavery would die out on its own if it were kept confined to the existing slave states. Lincoln’s nomination for President by the Republican Party was extremely disappointing to many abolitionists, who would have preferred the much more vocally anti-slavery William Seward. (That also sounds kind of familiar.)

  • SteveP

    Mark, Christ won. It’s over. Don’t be fooled by the shouting. The conversions will happen regardless of whether or not someone overlays their specific memory with a group memory.

    • chezami

      I was unaware that “que sera sera” was integral to the Church’s evangelical mandate.

      • SteveP

        “Nothing I can do can earn my redemption or redeem anyone else” is indeed que sera sera. The Good News is nothing that happened in history as we know it – or don’t know it – is beyond God’s forgiveness and mercy.

  • Carlos Ramalhete

    Dear Mark:
    This whole “tribal” thing is, in fact, something different. It is a cultural mix of [cultural] Calvinist dualism (saved/damned) and Kantian morals (wherein moral norms are necessarily accessible to the unaided reason, and therefore whoever has a different view is either stupid, i.e., reasonless, or just plain evil), peculiar to American culture. Down here in Brazil, a Catholic country, this peculiar problem is making strong inroads, thanks to the Internet.
    While I always appreciate your way of treating and denouncing the “Visigoths”, “Reactionaries”, etc., I think the most import point is that crazy need for a list of [Kantian] categorical moral imperatives (“positions” one has to take if one is reasonable). After all, the way both American “progressives” and “conseratives” treat the opposition is precisely the same, a Kantian way: “they don’t accept my own list of moral imperatives, therefore they are either evil or dumb”.
    Needless to say, Catholic morals are infinitely more just and, of course, completely different of this “tribal/groupal/Kantian” view.
    From the Brazilian countryside, my wishes of a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

    • Elaine S.

      Carlos, a very Merry Christmas to you also! I find your take on the American “culture wars” very enlightening. Could this, perhaps, be part of the reason that some American Catholics have issues with Pope Francis — they try to read everything he does through Calvinist/Kantian glasses. If, as you seem to indicate, this way of thinking is not really part of the South American Catholic culture or wasn’t until recently, then I would presume that Pope Francis, being from Argentina, would not have been accustomed to approaching issues in this manner.

      • Alma Peregrina

        Being a european, I could wager (but I could be wrong) that the reason that some american catholics have issues with Pope Francis has to do with some particularities in the USA mindset.

        First of all, a little idolatry for America as a moral compass for the rest of the world: so, everything that Francis says is, really, directed at american politics, at Obama, etc…

        Second, the typical american economic liberalism. Americans must understand that, for the rest of the world, this idea that “The State does it, therefore evil, evil, socialism” is absurd.

        In Europe, we have a tradition of kings who took up arms to govern every aspect of human life, either economic or moral, and the Church was right by their side.
        I’m not saying those kings didn’t commit excesses, I’m not condoning everything they did… but they were not socialists. They were statists, but not marxists. The Church, being 2000 years old, lived that period, and it had an impact on the doctrine she formulated.

        American catholics are so rigid on that point. People from around the world get the chills (chills!) whenever they see americans (especially american catholics) say that the State should leave the poor to starve or the sick to die before the State would regulate a tiny bit of the corporations’ greed and lust for profit. That goes for Europe, that goes for South America, from where Pope Francis comes.

        I think that is the greatest issue american catholics have with Pope Francis, from what I read in blogs and articles. As you said, Pope Francis, being from Argentina, was not accustomed to approaching issues in this manner. But it is not just Pope Francis… everyone in the world was not accustomed to approaching issues in the american manner. Americans need to know this when they comment on Pope Francis, or any non-american catholic comment.

        • The state doing it does not recommend itself as automatically moral either. The problem, I think, is that fundamentally the US has absorbed the lesson that the state is less efficient at doing most things than the private sector so unless there is an overwhelming reason to keep the state doing something, it is better to privatize state activities on efficiency grounds because doing so leads to more spare cash floating around to do worthwhile goals like feeding the poor.

          To purposefully choose to do things less efficiently for ideological reasons, in knee bone connected to the hip bone fashion, to more people shivering in the cold, hungry, and thirsty. Ultimately, this is the problem with communism, that over a hundred years of experience and many, many experiments later it is like none of that economic decline and misery matters. For the big government statist, the next experiment will obviously work and we should try one more time. Why? There is no pragmatic reason to do it all over again. And given the results, to insist ideologically on more misery seems, well, evil, even when it is well hidden like a con man playing an excellent game of three card monte.

          Softer brands of socialism are not different in kind when it comes to economic inefficiency, merely degree.

          Pope Francis’ argument is one against depending on mere statistical arguments that of course someone will emerge to take care of the poor. He is arguing for passionate and personal involvement to help. I have no qualms with that. Neither do many free market capitalists including a lot of people who are criticizing Pope Francis. Pope Francis is speaking in a language that the left has long appropriated here. But the appropriation was not honest and the involvement mostly turned into mere checks delivered to pacify the poor, something that Francis actually rejects as a long term solution. Pope Francis needs to make clearer his difference with these welfare state leftists before this unfortunate confusion will be resolved. This actually doesn’t mean changing his position, merely emphasizing what he has already said and which the left is so determinedly ignoring here.

          • Alma Peregrina

            There are some things on your comment I completely agree, and some I disagree. I’m not a statist myself, even though I would be called socialist in an american mindset.

            But it is not my point to argue for or against statism in this thread.

            What I tried to convey (and maybe I was rude to budge in in Elaine and Carlos’ conversation) was why America has so much trouble understanding the rest of the world. And vice-versa. Americans do have a particular way of approaching the issues concerning State involvement in society. So, you should keep that in mind when you see the world’s reactions to your way of thinking. To us, it is like watching a mentality from an alien planet, a planet that has a culture completely foreign and bizarre.

            We don’t have this kind of “State-phobia” that caracterizes America. Maybe we’re wrong, maybe you’re right. But until americans understand that, for the rest of the world, State is not a bad word, it will be hard for us to comunicate with each other. I’d wager that it will be hard for american catholics even to comunicate with church doctrine.

            Which is too bad, for you could teach us a lot about free market and subsidiarity. We, the rest of the world, surely need it. But I think that we could teach you too a little about solidarity as well.

            • Alma Peregina – I recognize that you were making a intercultural understanding point. The misunderstanding goes both ways. There is something about europe that has preserved the social acceptability of of objectively evil political, economic, and social arrangements and europe does not seem to understand why so much of America does not share in its willingness to tolerate these evils.

              I think that solidarity, as Francis is preaching it is not fundamentally a difficulty for american society. He is using the language that he is comfortable with and not one that is particularly familiar with US conservatives except as camouflage for communists but there are analogues within the free market community of long standing respectability dating back at least to the 1970s. Jack Kemp and his ideas on empowerment are what I am talking about and I was just a kid when that was percolating. The pedigree might be older. I am not a political historian by trade.

              What is needed is an intellectual gathering of these established threads of US conservatism and showing how they map quite well onto what the Pope Francis is saying.

              The one real difficulty is more a mathematical dispute. Does the natural statistical distribution of human action (given supply side stimulus) lead to real spillover effects that benefit the less well off and has that effect been documented in the professional literature?

              If such studies exist showing this effect to be real, the Pope is simply mistaken on the point where he says there is no evidence that this works. American conservatives would do well to do a professional literature search or perhaps do some studies if this is an underexamined area rather than fling themselves into a hot debate with Pope Francis.

  • Kirt Higdon

    I’ll note once more that Visigoths were not known for being gay or especially intolerant. Nor did they persecute the Duck Dynasty.

    Kirt Higdon

    • wlinden

      But they were known for persecuting non-Arians. (Thats ARIANS, not “Aryans”)

      • Kirt Higdon

        For the most part, they went pretty easy on Catholics. Such Arian tribes as the Vandals and Lombards were a lot less tolerant of Catholics. The Lombards, like the Visigoths, were eventually converted to the Faith while the Vandals were destroyed and dispersed by the Byzantines, though their name lives on. The terms “goth” and “gothic” (though not specifically Visigoth) also live on in a variety of different meanings. None of those meanings were associated with “gay” until Mark decided to pin that one on them.

        Kirt Higdon

  • bob

    “For such a culture, there is no appreciable difference between the Church’s opposition to homosex as sin and racism. Both are irrational prejudices until we make clear the difference. ”
    OK. I’m interested. Please make the clear difference.

    • chezami

      Nah. Cuz you’re, you know, not interested.

      • bob

        Not true. I love to watch frauds justify themselves.

        • chezami

          And you’re gone.

  • Dave G.

    One of my sons said it best: this is the type of thing Americans today would fight about. I couldn’t say anything else. I sometimes wonder what future generations are going to think of us. Sometimes I’m glad I’ll never know.

    • Elaine S.

      If you had been an abolitionist in the late 1850s, you might have been tempted to think your movement was on the verge of failure. A thoroughly corrupt, proslavery president (James Buchanan) was in the White House; the Supreme Court had declared slave ownership a fundamental right and slaves to be non-persons (Dred Scott); Congress had removed longstanding (geographic) restrictions on slavery (Kansas-Nebraska Act); and the federal government was forcing persons opposed to slavery to cooperate in sending escaped slaves back into bondage (Fugitive Slave Act). Meanwhile, Southerners were becoming increasingly aggressive in their attempts to defend slavery as a positive good and an essential part of their culture, rather than as merely a necessary evil; and they were not above resorting to “thought police” measures and violent intimidation toward that end (Bleeding Kansas).

      On top of all that, the anti-slavery movement was divided amongst itself, between those that insisted upon immediate emancipation of all slaves and non-cooperation with the evil Slave Power (William Lloyd Garrison was the best known figure in this group) and those who thought a more moderate approach — simply preventing the expansion of slavery into new territories — was preferable.

      Add all that up and there were plenty of reasons for someone who believed slavery was a terrible evil to feel discouraged. Yet as it turned out, the end of slavery was, historically speaking, right around the corner, and the pro-slavery victories of the 1850s were really the last desperate gasps of a doomed system. Are we at a similar turning point today with regard to abortion and gay marriage? I can’t say for sure, but who knows.

      • Julia

        Your analogy does give hope that the culture can change. Unfortunately, going around that corner cost half-a-million men their lives, and countless others their health and livelihood.

        Come, Lord Jesus