Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Four characteristics of the new intolerance

I found some good insights in Mary Eberstadt's article, "The New Intolerance" (First Things, March 2015), which is an adaptation of the first annual First Things Lecture. Here are some excerpts:
The first fact is that the new intolerance isn’t just a Christian problem. It’s an everybody problem....

... as someone wrote about the forced resignation in April 2014 of Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich: “When people’s lives and careers are subject to litmus tests, and fired if they do not publicly renounce what may well be their sincere conviction, we have crossed a line. This is McCarthyism applied by civil actors. This is the definition of intolerance.” Thank you, Andrew Sullivan.

... You don’t have to be a card-carrying theist to question what’s going on out there, after all—and that’s exactly the point. In fact, much of what’s known today about the post-revolution world, ironically enough, has been mapped over the decades by people without any religious agenda whatsoever.

The new intolerance ... penalizes people who are a clear net-plus for society, people who spend their days helping the poor, clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, caring for the cast-off, and otherwise trying to live out the Judeo-Christian code of social justice. More and more, those people are also witnesses to a terrible truth: The new intolerance makes it harder to help the poor and needy.

I met one such witness last year, a young woman who works for Catholic Charities. She is every inch the kind of paragon who puts the rest of us to shame—someone pulled closely into the Church’s orbit by the sheer gravity of her desire to help the poor.

Much of her time now, she said sadly, is spent not where she wants to be, in soup kitchens or hospitals or nursing homes or with destitute immigrants. (Her particular archdiocese is half Spanish-speaking, and its humanitarian work among immigrants there is critical.) Why not? Because her days are spent largely on countering legal and other maneuvers by activists intent on closing Catholic Charities’ foster care and adoption services—for the sole reason that Christian teachings about the family infuriate sexual ­progressives.

This witness said, “I know the time is coming when we’ll either close our doors, or decide to keep up our work regardless—in which case we’ll end up in jail. But who will take care of the children? Not the people who have sued us out of existence—they’ll move on. Who will take care of all those kids?”

To repeat: The new intolerance is bad for the poor, and concern for the poor is not just some boutique Christian quirk—at least, it isn’t supposed to be. Everybody who cares about social justice ought to deplore the new intolerance.

Fact two about the new intolerance: It’s ­different from what’s come before.... It is not an intellectual or philosophical force. In fact, it’s hardly about ideas at all. It is instead something very specific, taken from playbooks that nobody should be proud of studying. It’s about using intimidation, humiliation, censorship, and self-censorship to punish those who think differently.

... If all the fury directed at religious believers could be pressed into a single word, as it can, that word would not be, say, theo­dicy. It would not be supercessionism. It would not be Pelagianism, Arianism, or other words that parted Christian waters in the past. No, in our time, that single word would be sex.

... The fact that the new intolerance is able to exploit this ubiquitous desire, and to use it to tear Christianity from within as well as to isolate and intimidate people in its way—this is what makes the new intolerance so lethal....

This brings us to fact three about the new intolerance. It is dangerous not only for the obvious reason that it spells censorship, but even more because it spells self-censorship—including within the churches....

Given the sheer malignant force of the thing, capitulation seems to some an obvious if not optimal protective resort. But that’s an illusion. This is not a theological point. It’s a historical fact. Religious capitulation to the revolution’s demands has been tried over and over, and the results are plain to see: The churches that tried to protect themselves in that way are dying....

Fact four about the new intolerance: It claims to command the moral high ground, but in fact it does not and cannot. Let’s start with the briefest of tallies here. In the name of the revolution defended by the new intolerance, unborn innocents are killed by the millions every year, overwhelmingly on the sole ground that they are inconvenient....

Also, as we have already seen, that same revolution is no friend of the poor—far from it. The latest compelling evidence comes from sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox and Robert I. Lerman’s seminal work, For Richer, for Poorer: How Family Structures Economic Success in America. Among the arresting findings:
We estimate that the growth in median income of families with children would be 44 percent higher if the United States enjoyed 1980 levels of married parenthood today. Further, at least 32 percent of the growth in family-income inequality since 1979 among families with children and 37 percent of the decline in men’s employment rates during that time can be linked to the decreasing number of Americans who form and maintain stable, married families.
The revolution, in other words, has been driving one of the most divisive political issues in Western society today: income inequality. It has been driving the middle class into the ground. And that is only the beginning of the problems presented to the poor by a political order that aids and abets the revolution, let alone the attending moral hazards. To name just one, there is no shortage of rich white people whose solution to the problems of poorer black people, especially in Africa, is to tell them to make fewer of themselves (a phenomenon P. J. O’Rourke has memorably dubbed “just enough of me, way too much of you”)....

The new intolerance says it's on the right side of history; it isn't, as a growing parade of witnesses proves....

Of all the witnesses that can be produced to shut down the new intolerance, the most compelling may be the most hitherto unseen. These are the former victims of the sexual revolution themselves—the walking wounded coming in and out of those proverbial field hospitals, the people who are believers not because they want to jettison the Christian moral code, but because they want to do something more radical: live by it..... They are part of the growing coalition of people who defend faith in all its thorniness not because they have known nothing else, but precisely because they do know the revolution. And they reject the idea of marching in lockstep with it. None of them should be on the receiving end of the vituperation hurled by the new intolerance. And neither should anyone else.


0 comments: