That's right. For all of their endorsement of the principle that church and state must be separate, American Progressives have made the state the final arbiter of the purity of Christian doctrine, and whether or not the state is willing to permit such doctrines to remain legal. This is a line of action that follows a larger pattern of how Progressives use the power of the state and the implication of state-sponsored violence in order by directing the private and corporate lives of individuals.
For example, Progressives have told us for four decades that any opposition to abortion on demand is rooted in the desire of abortion opponents to "have government in the bedroom" of others, and that pro-lifers want government to interfere in the relationship between "a woman and her doctor." At the same time, those same Progressives have pushed through "informed consent" laws that place government agents in the bedroom in order to evaluate sexual contact between individuals to determine whether or not official consent existed at all times.
Furthermore, Progressives want to expand the law on sexual assault to include a stray phrase or instances of hand-holding between couples that one of the persons years later decides to interpret as "unwanted." The American Law Institute is recommending a vast expansion of criminal statutes covering sexual assault including the following scenario as outlined by Judith Shulevitz in the New York Times:
In [the memo], readers have been asked to consider the following scenario: "Person A and Person B are on a date and walking down the street. Person A, feeling romantically and sexually attracted, timidly reaches out to hold B’s hand and feels a thrill as their hands touch. Person B does nothing, but six months later files a criminal complaint. Person A is guilty of Criminal Sexual Contact' under proposed Section 213.6(3)(a)."
Far-fetched? Not as the draft is written. The hypothetical crime cobbles together two of the draft’s key concepts. The first is affirmative consent. The second is an enlarged definition of criminal sexual contact that would include the touching of any body part, clothed or unclothed, with sexual gratification in mind. As the authors of the model law explain: "Any kind of contact may qualify. There are no limits on either the body part touched or the manner in which it is touched." So if Person B neither invites nor rebukes a sexual advance, then anything that happens afterward is illegal. "With passivity expressly disallowed as consent," the memo says, "the initiator quickly runs up a string of offenses with increasingly more severe penalties to be listed touch by touch and kiss by kiss in the criminal complaint."
The obvious comeback to this is that no prosecutor would waste her time on such a frivolous case. But that doesn’t comfort signatories of the memo, several of whom have pointed out to me that once a law is passed, you can’t control how it will be used. For instance, prosecutors often add minor charges to major ones (such as, say, forcible rape) when there isn’t enough evidence to convict on the more serious charge. They then put pressure on the accused to plead guilty to the less egregious crime.Understand that Shulevitz has outlined a scenario in which someone most likely is going to prison. The ALI has recommended that the new "sex crime" laws be written in a way that require prosecutors to assume sexual assault already has occurred, and it is up to the defendant to "prove" that he (or she, in a few instances) did not commit a crime. In other words, the statutes will overturn the long-held American legal principle of "innocent until proven guilty" and replace it it "guilty until proven innocent," which essentially means that an accusation alone "proves" guilt unequivocally. This is something out of the old codes of the former U.S.S.R. in which legal absurdities were the order of the day.
My larger point is that this movement is driven by Progressives who want to claim they don't want "government in the bedroom," and then place virtual government agents...in the bedroom. Likewise, the doctrine of Separation of Church and State that Progressives claim to support is being replaced by a legal doctrine in which the Obama administration, along with state governments, will scrutinize Christian doctrines to see if they are "homophobic," and if they so judge in the affirmative, will be able to levy brutal sanctions on those organizations holding to such doctrines.
This hardly is paranoia. In the aftermath of Obergefell, President Obama himself has called for Christian churches and organizations to change their doctrines regarding homosexuality as Hillary Clinton has demanded that adherents to religions that don't support abortion on demand change their "long-held beliefs." Commentators in Time and other publications have demanded that churches and religious organizations that don't support homosexual marriage be stripped of their tax-exempt status, and Obama's solicitor general in the Supreme Court hearing this year admitted that the government, should the court rule in favor of gay marriage, will most likely move against Christian organizations.
What does that mean? It means that the U.S. and various state and local governments will determine which Christian doctrines are de facto legal and which will be deemed illegal, and any individuals and organizations practicing those doctrines that are unapproved will find themselves facing harassment. I hesitate to use the word "persecution" because much of the harassment will be mild compared to what Christians in other countries (especially in places like Saudi Arabia and North Korea and Iran) are facing. So far, the U.S. Government does not seem hellbent on throwing Christians into prison or executing them, although I am sure there are plenty of factions on the Left that would champion such extreme measures.
What does this mean for conservative evangelicals?
The late Francis Schaeffer (who was a family friend and, in my view, a true modern prophet) essentially predicted what we see happening how. In October 1969 I attended a number of his lectures given at Covenant College and at that time, he was calling the present age a "Post-Christian Era," a term that definitely fits the current zeitgeist.
Schaeffer understood that Christians would lose many of their legal and constitutional protections as the American culture slowly but surely turned against Christianity and its worldviews. For example, in 1955 the New York Times gave a very favorable review of the movie, "A Man Called Peter," something that today would not even be in the realm of the possible. At least Christianity (and not just the "liberal" version of the mainstream churches) was "respectable" in that day, and one cannot imagine the NYT, Time, or any other news or cultural publication calling for governments to scrutinize and approve Christian doctrines, as they now are doing today.
Cultural Christianity was the order of the day 60 years ago, but that era is long passed, as Progressives have moved to a new faith: Non-discrimination. According to the governmental masters of life and culture, Christians no longer are permitted to make choices based upon their faith, especially if those choices have the effect of excluding someone whose actions or lifestyles fall outside of the bounds of what the Christian faith permits in areas of sexuality.
Ours is an age obsessed by sex and superficial beauty (read that, Kim Kardashian), and Judeo/Christian prohibitions on gay sex have been around ever since Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt. Until recently, Progressives and Progressive politicians did not consider such beliefs on sexuality to be a Threat to the Republic, but no more. In the eyes of modern Progressives, and especially the members of the Democratic Party and its satellite organizations, conservative Christian sexual beliefs are motivated by hatred and bigotry, and are tantamount to the practice of Jim Crow laws (which, ironically, were the product of Progressivism a century ago) or the Nazi slaughter of the Jews during World War II.
In the eyes of Progressives, there are no constitutional protections for hatred and bigotry, and it does not matter if Christians are nice people, they help the poor, provide medical care in the worst conditions abroad for the poorest of humanity, and perform other good deeds. Christians are evil bigots that are motivated by pure hatred and nothing else. There is no place in modern society for such wicked people no matter how nice they might seem to be on the surface.
Tish Harrison Warren, an Anglican priest who was a leader in InterVarsity Fellowship at Vanderbilt University, has experienced this reality firsthand, and for her it was shocking. In a Christianity Today piece, "The Wrong Kind of Christian," Warren writes about how her IVF chapter, as well as a number of other Christian organizations, were kicked off Vanderbilt's campus because they violated the university's "non-discrimination" rules, or should I say a new set of rules based upon the secular "faith" of "non-discrimination."
At first I thought this was all a misunderstanding that could be sorted out between reasonable parties. If I could explain to the administration that doctrinal statements are an important part of religious expression—an ancient, enduring practice that would be a given for respected thinkers like Thomas Aquinas—then surely they'd see that creedal communities are intellectually valid and permissible. If we could show that we weren't homophobic culture warriors but friendly, thoughtful evangelicals committed to a diverse, flourishing campus, then the administration and religious groups could find common ground.She first met with some administrators, when first informed that her IVF chapter would have to change its by-laws, and the meeting seemed positive. As the meetings progressed, however, she came to find out that even though much of her political and social thought was in line with the Progressives that run the campus, that was not enough:
But as I met with other administrators, the tone began to change. The word discrimination began to be used—a lot—specifically in regard to creedal requirements. It was lobbed like a grenade to end all argument. Administrators compared Christian students to 1960s segregationists. I once mustered courage to ask them if they truly thought it was fair to equate racial prejudice with asking Bible study leaders to affirm the Resurrection. The vice chancellor replied, "Creedal discrimination is still discrimination."Feeling battered, I talked with my InterVarsity supervisor. He responded with a wry smile, "But we're moderates!" We thought we were nuanced and reasonable. The university seemed to think of us as a threat.
Understand that InterVarsity long ago embraced much of the arguments of economic and cultural Progressivism long ago. The publishing arm of IVF 40 years ago gave the world Ronald Sider's Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, which blamed capitalism for world hunger and called for massive wealth transfers and world governmental authority that would make Bernie Sanders seem almost like Ron Paul, economically speaking.
The organization has embraced radical environmentalism and other political positions of the Left and is much closer to the positions of Sojourners than anything from Liberty University, but it has stuck to the central orthodoxies of the Christian faith (unlike Sojourners, which rejects many of the basic and ancient Christian doctrines, including the doctrine of the Atonement). That alone has made IVF suspect in the eyes of the Progressives at Vanderbilt:
The line between good and evil was drawn by two issues: creedal belief and sexual expression. If religious groups required set truths or limited sexual autonomy, they were bad—not just wrong but evil, narrow-minded, and too dangerous to be tolerated on campus.It didn't matter to them if we were politically or racially diverse, if we cared about the environment or built Habitat homes. It didn't matter if our students were top in their fields and some of the kindest, most thoughtful, most compassionate leaders on campus. There was a line in the sand, and we fell on the wrong side of it.
As I see it, Vanderbilt is a microcosm of what is to come in our society at large. Since the SCOTUS Obergfell decision, a number of Christians have called for a return to the emphasis on good works and doing things that earn favor with unbelieving neighbors, a return to the Christianity of the First Century. Unfortunately, I doubt that will make a difference, anymore.
Writing in Time immediately after SCOTUS released its decision, Mark Oppenheimer calls for ending tax exemptions for religious organizations because, after all, anyone can engage in "good works":
Defenders of tax exemptions and deductions argue that if we got rid of them charitable giving would drop. It surely would, although how much, we can’t say. But of course government revenue would go up, and that money could be used to, say, house the homeless and feed the hungry. We’d have fewer church soup kitchens — but countries that truly care about poverty don’t rely on churches to run soup kitchens.
Although Anthony Kennedy gave passing remarks regarding protection for religious organizations whose doctrines do not embrace the "standards" of the Sexual Revolution, his words are legally meaningless. Christian prohibitions on gay sex are seen not in the light of sincerely-held ancient beliefs, but rather in the modern glare of Jim Crow and Hitler's Holocaust. Christian doctrines are equated with racism and antisemitism and have no place on Vanderbilt's campus or larger American society.
Furthermore, the modern political winds no longer hold any respect for religious belief. If Christians do not wish to "get with the program," then let them be anathema and suffer the consequences. For now, it means their churches and organizations may lose tax-exempt status or be treated as hate groups.
As Tish Warren found out the hard way, Progressives do not differentiate between Christian organizations which may hold social and political viewpoints compatible with modern Progressive thought and the Ku Klux Klan. I'm serious. When the U.S. Army was teaching classes a few years ago that claimed the Christian-based American Family Association was a "hate group" (the classes were halted after an outcry, but they certain portend an ominous future).
So, asked Francis Schaeffer four decades ago, "How shall we then live?" That is not an easy question to answer. Whatever "Christian" consensus existed in this country is long dead, but the more important development has been the elevation of "non-discrimination" to a Holy Doctrine and, more important, the expansion of the meaning of non-discrimination.
In the past, Christians like Warren and Ronald Sider could be respected for being against homophobia, be known for treating gays with love and fairness, yet also holding to Scriptural prohibitions of homosexual behavior. That no longer is the case. Sider, who as much as any Christian alive has helped steer much of evangelicalism to the political Left, is denounced as "homophobic," and faces pickets when he speaks somewhere. Warren left Vanderbilt as an outcast.
I believe that things only will accelerate from here. These are the good days, when there is some latent goodwill left over from the good interactions that many Christians have had with secular society. However, the time is coming soon when good works, love, and charity no longer will be seen as having any value as long as Christians refuse to embrace all of the Holy Doctrines of the Sexual Revolution.
That is going to mean massive discrimination, and I believe that the day is coming when it will be as difficult for a confessing Christian to find descent employment in the USA as it was for a Christian to find acceptable work in the old U.S.S.R. Because Progressives also are busily expanding criminal law (and especially the already-malleable federal criminal statutes) into areas where only a generation ago no one even could imagine it being in existence, I look for Progressives to find ways to criminalize thought and religious doctrines that not long ago were acceptable to the majority of Americans.
Yes, I am sure that many readers will believe I am over-the-top in my assessments and especially in my predictions. I would love to be wrong. Really.While I don't believe that these dire predictions will be fulfilled overnight, nonetheless I believe we are on that path.
Look at my point another way. Did any reader believe a decade or two ago that the U.S. Solicitor General would tell a U.S. Supreme Court judge that "it will be an issue" regarding how the U.S. Government and its taxation arm will respond to Christian organizations that do not accept gay marriage? Yet, that is exactly what has happened.
How do Christians respond to the coming onslaught? It is clear we are not going to be able to stem the tide through political action. In fact, as I wrote earlier this year, conservative evangelicals have enjoyed more political power in the past three decades than they have had at any other time in U.S. History, yet the Sexual Revolution has rolled through our body politic unimpeded and today, more Americans embrace that revolution than they embrace anything from Christianity.
At the same time, however, by concentrating so many resources in the political area, which essentially is defined as the "systematic organization of hatreds," Christians have made enemies where they should not have been made. Christians have endorsed the unwarranted U.S. military invasions of Iraq and other Middle Eastern nations, creating death, destruction, massive refugee crises, and earning even more hatred from those directly affected by these military predations.
As I see it, we are going to have to learn to love once again, but understand that at the same time, that love will not "buy" protection. Tish Warren found out that the people at Vanderbilt think of her as they think of people who wear white sheets, and if someone like Warren, who is known by her good works and her compassion, is seen by highly-educated people as a murderous bigot, then I doubt that the rest of "official" America will see the rest of us any differently.
We have to be prepared to lose our jobs, our homes, our children, our identity as Americans. In other words, we have to be prepared to be like our savior, Jesus Christ. If we have not learned yet how to be like him, I believe those lessons are soon in coming, and I only hope that I can embrace those lessons in the way that I once embraced the privileges of being an American.