It’s been a banner week for the opponents of reason and the rule of law.
It will also turn out to have been a banner week for the opponents of tolerance, which includes most of today’s political left.
The left has never been about tolerance. It has always been about opposing what other people believe, as the left defines it – which may or may not even be what those other people actually believe. The left is about opposing things: about setting up definitions that require either affirmation or enmity.
And it’s the tide of the left’s “affirmation or enmity” proposition that will quickly rise around us, now that the Supreme Court has declared that people have a “right” to have their specialized definition of marriage recognized by the state.
What will it mean to administer such a “right”? We haven’t imagined all the permutations of what it implies, but we will assuredly be seeing them.
One of the first ways I expect this ruling to affect religious institutions is in the military chaplaincy. It will not be very long now until Barack Obama’s Department of Defense makes it impossible for chaplains whose sponsoring institutions have a traditional, Biblical view of marriage to serve with the U.S. military.
(Interestingly, those institutions include the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the denomination of Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, where Obama is commemorating the slain pastor, Clementa Pinckney, as I write this. The A.M.E. leadership affirmed its belief in traditional, Biblical marriage in 2004, and one of its leaders did so again in 2012.)
The argument of the forces of intolerance will be that the government should not employ any chaplain who doesn’t acknowledge same sex marriage as a “right,” now that the Supreme Court has recognized it as one. The price of serving as a chaplain with an agency of the government will have to be giving up your religious beliefs.
The same forces of intolerance already argue that people in private business should have to give up their religious beliefs as a price of engaging in commercial enterprise. It will be no stretch for them to advocate an immediate clamp-down on government employees. It won’t matter at all that service members will have to be denied the solace of chaplains from their faith traditions. That’s the consequence of establishing a “right”: other people have to accept limitations on what they get to do.
The same principle will presumably apply to chaplains in other capacities with government, such as the chaplains who serve Congress, the state legislatures, city councils, and police and fire forces.
The Bible itself will presumably become a “symbol of oppression” for many, with vendors like Amazon and Wal-Mart urged to stop selling it – or, more insidiously, publishers urged to put out only redacted versions of it. Governments are likely to ban “unapproved” versions of it on government property, certainly, if only under pressure from lawsuits.
Meanwhile, it will quickly become impossible for public schools to resist being forced, through lawsuits, to institute learning standards based on laundry lists from LGBTQ-advocacy agendas. A “right” to same-sex marriage will be held to throw the mainstreaming cloak of “marriage and family” over the whole basket of topics.
It’s not clear how long private schools or homeschooling can hold out against the onslaught. We’ve largely forgotten, today, the forced-busing crisis of 40 years ago, but we can expect measures that drastic and more to be wielded, in the effort to stamp out “dissidents” – whether it’s people objecting to same-sex marriage, on religious principles, or people objecting to the forcible repression of free thought, even if they don’t care one way or the other about same-sex marriage.
Our government today is set up to come after our recalcitrant hearts and minds from multiple vectors. It’s not just that government agencies will be requiring affirmation of same-sex marriage as a condition of operation or employment. It’s not just that judges will be asked to decide if people homeschooling their kids amounts to an attack on the “right” of others to have their same-sex marriages universally endorsed.
It’s also that our governments will be prowling the landscape of social transactions for “disparate impact.” The federal government’s going to be looking for statistical evidence, and it will set its numerical standards so that we can’t meet them while remaining free to make our own decisions.
We know it will do that, because the federal government already does it. It designs its measurement systems to produce “evidence” of “unconscious discrimination,” so that it can take more freedom away from us. Under this proposition, no one even has to have mens rea for government to have an excuse to intervene and take away our natural right of choice in social transactions (including economic ones). A government agency can override our proper freedoms based on the conclusions drawn by ideologues from statistics.
As the Breitbart link points out, the Supreme Court, in this same eventful session, has declined to rule against this travesty of law.
All that said, the whole American system is so far gone now that I’m not sure we’ll even have to wait for it to produce these particular slow-percolating outcomes. Oversetting the rule of law is more likely to have earlier effects, and quite possibly more disastrous ones, in other areas of American life.
Things to take heart from
The governor is off, in the American polity. But we do still have some important things going for us that our forebears did not have in historical times of equal crisis, such as the breakup of empires after World War I, or the eruption of religious wars in Europe in the 16th century.
One is the existence of a still-strong middle class. We mustn’t be complacent about this, because the American middle class is under intensive attack, and new victims are being claimed every day by overregulation and the resulting bad economy. But there are still enough Americans who live by their own efforts that holding the country at large hostage is good for only a limited form of leverage. The Russian empire, in its collapse and subsequent Sovietization after 1917, lacked precisely this: a strong middle class, one beholden to no feudal ruler.
Another big advantage we have is an already-formed idea of what actual tolerance and religious/intellectual freedom should look like. This is what our forebears of 500 years ago did not have. Having it today is a tremendous advantage – one for which we can thank the victims of, and courageous refugees from, state-waged religious wars and persecution.
We can thank America’s Founders too, who acted from their knowledge of that evil history to limit government, so that it wouldn’t have the power to persecute the people over religious and intellectual disputes. The blessing of having this idea codified for us already is almost inexpressible; instead of flailing toward it in an ocean of our own blood, we have only to act on it.
And a third advantage today is the information technology that makes it possible to have organized alternatives to approved propaganda and political themes. As little as 30 years ago, there existed nothing like a conservative infosphere. Now there is one, and the advances of technology can’t be stuffed back into the genie’s bottle. Even as the existing Internet is deconstructed by internationalization and “net neutrality” – and make no mistake; it will be deconstructed by both – people who insist on intellectual freedom will find ways to connect by going around it.
In the days ahead, it will be imperative that Americans who do understand tolerance and the rule of law hold themselves to a high standard. It won’t be easy to want to say of our misguided countrymen “Father, forgive them”; but it will be important to remember that many of them don’t know what they do.
We’re in white water now, and headed, resistless, for dangerous shoals. Our judiciary, once the last refuge of our natural rights, has lost its collective mind, from a federal judge who imposes a dementedly disproportionate sentence because she’s terrified by a defendant’s idea, to a bank of justices that bases its landmark decision on reasoning that Antonin Scalia aptly likens to “the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie.”
It’s no accident that this is where we have to be, for our polity to affect to make a government-enforced “right” out of same-sex marriage. Moral, intellectual, and political meltdown go together. But which comes first, God and man, or man and the state? We are appointed, today, to answer that question clearly. We will be answering it before the court of history – and defining liberty and tolerance, and whether life will be livable for men, accordingly. Watch on the walls; our turn in the docket is coming.