So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).

Saturday, February 28, 2015

The New Totalitarianism

The latest copy of First Things magazine has hit the stands at a local bookstore.

Mary Eberstadt, author and senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, has an essay in the latest issue that analizes the new intolerance. In fact, the title of her essay is The New Intolerance. She explains how the title of her essay echoes the theme which has also appeared in "prominent pieces in several venues".

Summary

Eberstadt links her thesis to Pope Francis' call for mercy which she links to a call for mercy toward Christians who challenge the status quo, a secular paradigm that is hostile to religion and people of faith.
For there is no mercy in putting butchers and bakers and candlestick makers in the legal dock for refusing to renounce their religious beliefs—but that's what the new intolerance does. There is no mercy in stalking and threatening Christian pastors for being Christian pastors, or in casting out social scientists who turn up unwanted facts, or in telling a flight attendant she can't wear a crucifix, or in persecuting organizations that do charitable work—but the new intolerance does these things, too. There's no mercy in yelling slurs at anyone who points out that the sexual revolution has been flooding the public square with problems for a long time now and that, in fact, some people are out there drowning—but slurs are the new intolerance's stock in trade. Above all, there is no mercy in slandering people by saying that religious believer's "hate" certain people when in fact they do not; or that they are "phobes" of one stripe or another when in fact they are not. This, too, happens all over public space these days, with practically no pushback from anyone. This, too, is the new intolerance at work.
Eberstadt identifies five key elements of the new intolerance:
1.
The first fact is that the new intolerance isn't just a Christian problem. It's an everybody problem. ...
Like related cultural unleashings, it will not stop at whatever courthouse door it's sniffing at the moment. It will want more.
... Nobody's free speech is safe when little Robespierres write the rules. That includes people who think they are safe because they have preemptively accommodated prevailing (politically correct) dogma and silenced themselves. Guess again. Practicing Christians who refuse to recant are on the front lines of the new intolerance today. But where they stand now, others will in the future.
2.
The new intolerance facing Western religious believers today... 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 (Saul Alinsky's adversarial Rules for Radicals, perhaps?). It's about using intimidation, humiliation, censorship, and self-censorship to punish those who think differently. (I.e., Alinsky, in a nutshell.)
If 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. Christianity present, like Christianity past and Christianity to come, contends with many foes and many countervailing forces. But it's single most deadly enemy in our time, the one with which it i locked in mortal combat, is not the stuff of the philosophy common room. It is instead the sexual revolution.
The new intolerance is a wholly owned subsidiary of that revolution. No revolution, no new intolerance.
... Everyone wants to be loved—or at least not hated. 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.
3.
(The new intolerance) is dangerous not only for the obvious reason that it spells censorship, but even more because it spells self-censorship—including within the churches. Inside Christianity itself, the scramble over the sexual revolution turns a community of sinners united by the shared search for redemption into something very difference: a discrete series of aggrieved factions, each clamouring for spiritual entitlement. It's institutionally destructive.
4.
It claims to command the moral high ground, but in fact it does not and cannot. ... 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 they are inconvenient. The revolution singles out as particularly unwanted the fetuses who are female, millions more of whom are killed than males, to the apparent and bizarre indifference of many who claim otherwise to speak for womankind.
[Eberstadt includes in her examination of the new intolerance the case of the US federal government's attempt to force the Little Sisters of the Poor to provide contraceptive coverage in employee health insurance.]
5.
Readers will have to purchase a copy of First Things or subscribe to read the rest of Eberstadt's informative and incisive article to get the full picture. Visit First Things at: http://www.firstthings.com/
Reflection

Mary Eberstadt examines the battlefield and identifies specific targets, aspects of the new intolerance. Eberstadt identifies the progression that is leading (inevitably?) to a new totalitarianism. That new totalitarianism is a project emerging from the left side of the socio-political spectrum. Progressivism is slowly massaging society into a dark fog of caricatures of previously sacred inalienable rights. These caricatures of human rights are easily disposed with because they are said to be created by the state and are thus not inalienable. The emergence in the West of this truncated understanding of human rights should come as no surprise because societies that divorce power and will from faith united with reason are doomed to ignore and suppress all authentic freedoms. Western societies are beginning to resemble nations which were once more frequently condemned for their horrific human rights violations: China, North Korea, etc.

Is it reasonable to suggest that, instead of reclaiming their true dignity by turning to the civilizing Judeo-Christian ethos, those allied to the new intolerance, driven solely by the will to survive, will turn more and more to irrational ideologies and untenable pursuits in an attempt to rescue themselves from their meaningless social experiments and respective sinking ships? Time will tell.

Historically, a society turned in on itself understands only poorly any external threats tearing at the outer edges of said society. If the adversaries of said society wait long enough, they won't have to expend any financial or military resources to conquer their intended target. The society they intend to conquer will simply crumble from within due to its pursuit of folly and resulting moral bankruptcy. The former adversary, because it is organized and appears to offer stability, direction and confidence, i.e., meaning, will stroll unopposed into the void left by the new intolerance and will become the new (false) saviour of that society.

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"A multitude of wise men is the salvation of the world(.)—Wisdom 6:24. Readers are welcome to make rational and responsible comments. Any comment that 1) offends human dignity and/or 2) which constitutes an irrational attack on the Catholic Faith will not go unchallenged. If deemed completely stupid, such a comment will most assuredly not see the light of day. Them's the rules. Don't like 'em? Move on.