The hysterical reaction to Indiana’s law can only be described as insane.
Or is it?
Why do so many young adults paint absurd caricatures of Christians who request government protection of their religious freedoms, arguing their true goal is to ban gay men from sitting at the local lunch counter? Why do they spread falsehoods about legislation, insisting that bills like the one recently signed by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence will unleash a Republican-led Jim Crow revival aimed at the LGBT community? Why do so many people, Gen Xers and younger, invent a monster of anti-gay bigotry and keep screaming the monster is real despite a mountain of contrary facts standing before them?
The answer is “social studies.” My generation engages in straw men, misinformation, and lies because, in every year of social studies class, we studied the civil-rights movement not as history, but as hagiography. We didn’t just learn what events happened on American soil, we were encouraged to mimic the segregation-defeating holy ones and merit for ourselves a place alongside them in glory. Combining that admonition with our general aversion to hard work, we concluded that the only thing necessary to be as righteous as the saints who fought racial injustice was to decry an injustice that no one else was. And we became so desperate to find that injustice, we lost our minds in the process.
So, we trained people to be this way? We very well may have. Did you see Lynne Cheney in the Wall Street Journal this morning:
No one worried much about the College Board having this de facto power over curriculum until that organization released a detailed framework—for courses beginning last year—on which the Advanced Placement tests on U.S. history will be based from 2015 onward. When educators, academics and other concerned citizens realized how many notable figures were missing and how negative was the view of American history presented, they spoke out forcefully. The response of the College Board was to release the sample exam that features Ronald Reagan as a warmonger.
It doesn’t stop there. On the multiple-choice part of the sample exam, there are 18 sections, and eight of them take up the oppression of women, blacks and immigrants. Knowing about the experiences of these groups is important—but truth requires that accomplishment be recognized as well as oppression, and the exam doesn’t have questions on subjects such as the transforming leadership of Martin Luther King Jr.
The framework requires that all questions take up sweeping issues, such as “group identity,” which leaves little place for transcendent individuals. Men and women who were once studied as inspirational figures have become examples of trends, and usually not uplifting ones. The immigrant story that the exam tells is of oppressed people escaping to America only to find more oppression. That many came seeking the Promised Land—and found it here—is no longer part of the narrative.
Is it really insane to act in accordance to how you are taught? But there is more at work here, something deeper. Jonah Goldberg:
The war for gay rights has been won, and that’s basically fine by me. But there are a few holdouts — most famously devout Christian wedding planners, florists, photographers, and bakers — who don’t want to be part of such things. Why a gay couple would want a photographer who is morally opposed to their wedding to snap pictures of it is a mystery to me.
But we live in an age where non-compliance with the Left’s agenda must be cast as bigotry. Everyone is free to celebrate as instructed. This is what liberals think liberty means today.
There is a a destructive impulse at play. This whole thing is about more than “getting what you want” or “realizing your dream,” or even “actualizing your potential.” There is a desire not just to win, but to destroy the opponent. Which brings me to Kevin D. Williamson.
The ancient rival to étatism in the Western world is the church militant, both in its formal institutional expression and in the relatively newfangled (and thoroughly American) choose-your-own-adventure approach to Christianity. For the culture warrior, bringing these nonconformists to heel is a strategic priority. Gay couples contemplating nuptials are not just happening into cake shops and florists with Christian proprietors — this is an organized campaign to bring the private mind under political discipline, to render certain moral dispositions untenable. Like Antiochus and the Jews, the game here is to “oblige them to partake of the sacrifices” and “adopt the customs” of the rulers. We are not so far removed in time as we imagine: Among the acts intended to Hellenize the Jews was a ban on circumcision, a proposal that is still very much alive in our own time, with authorities in several European countries currently pressing for that prohibition.
“I expect to die in bed,” Francis Eugene Cardinal George famously remarked. “My successor will die in prison, and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.” Perhaps it will not come to that. But we already are on the precipice of sending men with guns to the homes and businesses of bakers to enforce compliance with dictates undreamt-of the day before yesterday.
Yes, render unto Caesar, and all that. But render only what is Caesar’s — and not one mite more.
We live in perilous times friends. This is not an argument, or a debate or a policy fight – it is not even a legal contest. This is has moved far beyond that point. This is a cold war.
It is time our side started to act like it, lest it become more.