Friday, July 19, 2019

Too Hot to Handle: The Pendulum Swings

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

Pride Month in Canada has come and gone, but there are still rainbows everywhere: in banks, fast food outlets and all sorts of corporate venues where you wouldn’t have seen them a decade ago. Our office building had a display in the lobby. If we were to judge the general acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle on the basis of such evidence, we would have to conclude public support for a practice the word of God condemns as an abomination has never been higher.

Not so, say the polls. Interestingly, it’s Millennials who most egregiously dissent from the “conventional wisdom” of their peers.

Outside the Comfort Zone

Tom: A report of the results of a recent Harris Poll study commissioned by the LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD shows that the number of Americans ages 18-34 who feel comfortable interacting with LGBTQ people dropped a full 10% between 2016 and 2017, and a further 8% in 2018. Approval currently sits at 45%, compared to an all-time high of 63%, which means the LGBTQ community has lost almost a third of its support among Millennials in a mere two years.

That’s not a trivial drop, and it’s occurring in a rather unexpected demographic. Care to speculate why that might be, IC?

Immanuel Can: I can’t imagine. It seemed inevitable that subsequent generations would be more blasé about sexual immorality of all kinds, given how much pornography is now widely available, and how much effort the media have expended in mainstreaming it. Do you have a thought, Tom?

Possible Explanations

Tom: The article offered a couple of possibilities. John Gerzema, CEO of The Harris Poll, said these findings raise serious questions about the common conception that young people are more progressive and tolerant than older generations. Maybe we have been wrong about Millennials and their blasé attitude toward alternative lifestyles. That’s certainly one possibility.

But I also noticed the people who commissioned the poll drew some conclusions of their own. LGTBQ activist Brandon Straka said, “Our community has been overtaken by a very sort of extremist, very political faction that has tried to essentially politicize everything under the umbrella of LGBT.” He believes activists are alienating the public by pushing the gay agenda too stridently. I definitely agree. I certainly feel alienated when I walk into a bank to withdraw money and find rainbows plastered everywhere. The message I’m getting is “If you can’t get on board with this bank’s social change agenda, we don’t want your business.”

There’s a third possibility I think may be relevant, and that is immigration. People coming from Third World countries, especially Muslims, are way less tolerant of this sort of in-your-face lifestyle choice. As the number of immigrants rises, we should expect to see approval for LGBTQ self-expression continue to plummet like a stone. In England, where high levels of Muslim immigration have been a thing for some time, The Guardian reports that the rate of LGBT hate crime per capita rose by 144% in the last five years. I can’t be sure that’s a major factor on this side of the Atlantic yet, but if it isn’t, it will certainly become one shortly.

Mainstreaming Evil

IC: You raise an interesting point. The LGB-whatever community has become more and more radical, more and more extreme, and more and more absurd. What was once a figure of mockery has been offered as mainstream. The latest thing is a concerted effort to approve pedophilia — a thing that the radical sexual libertines assured us as recently as a decade ago would never happen — and at some point, any sane person is going to say, “Stop the train; I want to get off.”

Tom: Well, many young mothers are certainly feeling that way. We did a post together this time last year on the “drag queen story hour” trend in public libraries. There is tremendous pushback from families against this sort of thing. The people objecting are not all Christians by a long shot, but the general feeling among the protesters seems to be “Do what you like in private, but leave our kids out of it.” And I get that.

IC: Well, maybe the agenda has reached a few of those “stop the train” points. I would guess that it has. But moral people never got on that train in the first place.

Tom: No, that’s for certain.

The Rights of the Majority

What doesn’t seem to be acknowledged is that giving a fringe group of sexual perversity zealots a platform to express themselves actually infringes on the freedom of the majority to enjoy the public spaces we are all paying for. The LGBTQ crowd are all for “free speech” when it means they can throw a Pride Parade or conduct a Drag Queen Story Hour, but you can bet they would not be the least bit open to someone wanting to do library readings for kids from the Old Testament. That would violate their interpretation of the “separation of church and state”.

Here’s something I’m thinking about though: I’d get excited about a drop in acceptance for public displays of sinful behavior if I thought it was coming from a spirit of repentance and reevaluation of the downward course our society has been on since not long after the end of WWII, but I doubt very much that’s what these poll results reflect. And intolerance that is not informed by Christian values and a Christ-driven agenda is just ... intolerance. There’s nothing terribly useful about it, and it may even take a turn in a rather nasty direction.

IC: Possibly. But it may also indicate that some people have consciences that still work in some measure. Maybe that’s only temporary.

Tom: So there’s still enough “Christian” in “Post-Christianity” to fend off a full-blown Sodom? Perhaps.

Expressions of the Flesh

IC: The problem is that both immorality and rigid, legalistic morality are expressions of the flesh. So it wasn’t a huge leap from the transvestites and pimps of the Weimar Republic to the totalitarian moralizing of Hitler. Indeed, the former set up the latter beautifully. When we become morally bankrupt in our public life, a new legalistic cruelty may not be far behind. They aren’t opposites: they’re two sides of the fallen human coin.

Tom: That’s well put, and that’s exactly what I was trying to get at. Thank you.

In the meantime, I think Christians are probably split on this issue strategically. Some would like to see a clampdown on public displays of LGBTQ behavior, and would happily vote for anyone promising to take us in that direction. Others look down the road and make the argument that if we pursue taking away the “free speech” rights of some group now, we may find our own rights to speak freely in the name of Christ curtailed later. So we should do unto others as we would have them do unto us, or something like that. Vote for their “freedoms” now in hope they’ll give us ours when it becomes an issue. That seems to be the current position of American conservatism. Does their argument hold any water for you?

IC: Not really, and I think you sense why.

Unqualified “freedom” leads eventually to slavery and totalitarianism, by a route longer but not less sure than direct authoritarianism. Where freedoms become profligate, they tend to make their own arguments for the clampdown. That’s why freedoms and personal rights must forever be balanced with moral responsibility and kindness to others. Whenever they are treated as opposites, the authoritarians will inevitably win.

Maintaining a Balance

The Christian interest is in maximizing freedoms — even of those with whom we disagree strongly — because we believe a man cannot be saved except by appealing to his conscience. Force cannot save anyone. But on the other hand, Christianity emphasizes that we have duties to love our neighbors and to live sacrificially for the good of other people; and we willingly moderate our freedoms because we are grateful for them and have a God-ordained obligation to put others before ourselves. However, secular society has no such imperatives. It can tip over from selfish, toxic indulgence of liberties, on the one hand, to authoritarian brutality in the name of public order, on the other; and can do so at any time. No balance of these two is mandated outside of relation to God.

Tom: Another consideration might be the fact that when given the upper hand in government, history shows the Left has little inclination to be reasonable, let alone generous, with freedoms for those who disagree with it. Personally, I would have no difficulty voting to curtail the whole spectrum of special indulgences currently being granted to so-called ‘marginalized’ groups. In almost every case those extra “rights” (things like freedom from hurt feelings, freedom from prosecution when committing otherwise-illegal acts in public, freedom to exploit children under the cover of trans rights, and so on) are being exercised at the expense of — and very much against the interests of — the majority. But nobody is giving us that option. And while it seems to be forgotten these days, democracy is in principle about the greatest good for the greatest number, not about indulging and celebrating the pet projects of special interest groups who already enjoy the same rights and protections under the law as everyone else.

When Democracy Fails

IC: I think that although Christians have a natural affinity with democracy, democracy itself will not assure our rights or protect us. The day will come when the majority will turn against Christ, and against us because of our association with him. But for the moment, democracy offers us the best advantage — freedom for the gospel, and minimal persecution. However, it’s not a permanent refuge. I don’t think it can last.

At the end of the day, what matters is not whether or not righteousness presides over the government and its policies — we can’t trust in that. It’s whether or not we find ourselves personally standing for the righteous balance of freedoms and principles. For that, we must keep our eyes not on the shifting political winds, but on Christ himself. The right balance is always to be as he is.

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