By Dwight Longenecker Published on March 18, 2019
Could anti-Christian persecution flare up in the USA? There are troubling signs that leftist activists have Christians in their cross hairs.
In December Brian C. Buescher was being screened as a federal judge. But two U.S. senators Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, questioned whether his membership of a Catholic charity would prevent him from being an impartial judge. Buescher belongs to the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic men’s organization that does charitable work around the world.
Harris — who is now a Democratic presidential candidate — took issue with the Knights being “an all male society.” She said the organization “opposed a woman’s right to choose” and is opposed to “marriage equality.” Hirono stated that the Knights had taken “a number of extreme positions.” She asked Buescher to cancel his membership of an organization which counts as its former members no less than President John F. Kennedy.
Journalist John Allen pointed out that “opposition to abortion and gay marriage are not policy positions of the Knights of Columbus but of the Catholic Church.” He accused Harris and Hirono of employing a “stalking horse.” Their real target is not the Knights of Columbus but the Catholic Church itself.
All those who hold traditional Christian views are targets. In light of sex scandals, progressives find it all too easy to launch self righteous tirades. They damn Christianity as insufferably patriarchal, out of touch and archaic, but also discriminatory, dysfunctional, abusive and dangerous.
Harris and Hirono’s objections echo similar signs of bigotry. Remember Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca)? She challenged Catholic nominee Amy Coney Barrett during her confirmation hearings in 2017 saying, “the dogma lives loudly within you.”
First They Came for the Catholics
Catholics come first as targets. It is part of a long standing anti-Catholicism in the United States. See Philip Jenkins’ The New Anti-Catholicism, the Last Acceptable Prejudice. Anti-Catholic attitudes have been part of American culture from the Puritan pilgrims through to the founding fathers of the country. Next came the riots of the Nativist movement of the 1840s, the “Know Nothings,” the Ku Klux Klan and bigoted resistance to Catholic politicians.
Jenkins points out one of the historic markers of anti-Catholicism. Namely, an unceasing attention and lurid gossip on sexual corruption — both real and rumored. In 1836, The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk, a sensationally salacious piece about lascivious monks and nuns, stoked the fires of anti-Catholicism.
Priestly sexual abuse is a real issue. But it also feeds the flames of anti-Catholic emotions. An atmosphere of suppressed rage and fear develops. With every release of the names of yet more abusing priests and bishops it becomes easier to cast all Catholic clergy as depraved monsters.
An Innocent Cardinal Sits in Prison
With the slightest of accusations a priest gets found guilty in the court of public opinion. From there, it is only a short step to a real trial and prosecution. The appalling case of Cardinal George Pell in Australia is a prime example. Accused of sexually molesting two choir boys after Mass, he saw his first trial result in a hung jury. The authorities hauled him back for a second trial. Then he was duly convicted. The case against the cardinal couldn’t be flimsier. Writing in the National Catholic Register, Raymond deSouza explains how ludicrous the charges were. He calls the case one of religious persecution, fueled by simmering anti-Catholic bias in Australia.
The Methodists Are Next
The temperature is not only increasing for Catholics. All those who hold traditional Christian views are targets. In light of sex scandals, progressives find it all too easy to launch self righteous tirades. They damn Christianity as insufferably patriarchal, out of touch and archaic, but also discriminatory, dysfunctional, abusive and dangerous.
Writing for the Associated Press, David Crary merges the sexual abuse scandals with LGBTQ issues. All to portray traditional Christians in defensive mode. He sketches the abuse crises in the Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist convention. Then he throws in the recent vote in the United Methodist Church to ban same sex marriage and the ordination of LGBTQ pastors.
Angling his article against traditional Christians, Crary quotes a frustrated progressive UMC Minister, Rev. Adam Hamilton. “Three out of four millennials who live in the U.S. support same-sex marriage and do not want to be a part of a church that makes their friends feel like second-class Christians,” Hamilton told the conference. “Many of you have children and grandchildren who cannot imagine that we’re voting this way today. They wonder, ‘Have these people lost their minds?’”
Feeding the anger, Crary quotes Natalia Imperatori-Lee. She’s a religious studies professor at Manhattan College in New York. “We’re in a historical moment where the marginalized voices will not be silenced,” she said. “Victims of sex abuse and LGBT communities have reached the breaking point.” There’s extra anger towards Catholics and Southern Baptists because of their insistence on a male-only clergy.
“You have very top-down, patriarchal institutions representing a kind of power that civil society has left behind,” Imperatori-Lee claimed.
Lumped in With Child Rapists
Will the simmering rage boil over into violence or open persecution? For those who are on the inside there is already a climate of fear and suspicion. Watching their own backs, church leaders are throwing justice and fair treatment out the window. Guided by the insurance men, PR experts and lawyers, they’re all too ready to chuck their own clergy out the window too.
Priests and pastors too frightened to go public will tell you privately. Men across America who have been marginalized, excluded and fired. All for minor infractions or unproven accusations.
Adding to the confusion is a growing ambiguity about the definition of abuse. One assumed that sexual abuse involved unwanted genital contact. That pedophilia was such contact with minors. Accusations needed to be credible. Evidence and proof was required.
The Goalposts Keep Moving
But in the #MeToo atmosphere, “abuse” gets defined as any unwanted sexual attention. And the definition of “unwanted attention” is up to the accuser. Priests get accused of “abuse” against adult men and women when both parties remained clothed. When there was no genital contact. One priest got suspended after a woman claimed he “looked at her son the wrong way.” Names have gone on “the list” of priests who have done no more than view legal pornography. Yes, that’s a serious sin. But do these men deserve to be listed, publicly, with the vile rapists of children?
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All witch hunts go the same. The slightest accusation blows into the worst of crimes. Then lack of evidence becomes evidence of a cover up. An atmosphere of panic, fear and suspicion spirals. Third parties become guilty by association. Should anyone state an objective view? Or call for justice? Maybe defend someone he believes to be innocent?
He will face at least a social media lynching. If he works in the church, he may find himself “separated from employment.” These are not paranoid warnings. They’re events which are already beginning to emerge. That’s what comes from a growing atmosphere of rage and fear. We must pull back, see what is happening and push for common sense to prevail. Or else we may plunge into chaotic anti-Christian outbursts. What follows them is organized, societal religious persecution. If history teaches us anything on this subject, the main persecutors will be fellow Christians who see traditional believers as the enemy.
Those who hold to historic Christianity should hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.
Read Dwight Longenecker’s blog, listen to his podcasts and be in touch at dwightlongenecker.com.