Monday, June 20, 2016

It's Dangerous to Believe, by Mary Eberstadt

Mary Eberstadt would acknowledge that it's not as dangerous to be a Christian in the U.S. as it is in, for instance, ISIS-controlled regions, where terrorists cut the heads off Christians.  Nevertheless, as she points out in It's Dangerous to Believe: Religious Freedom and Its Enemies, American Christians are increasingly being pushed to the margins of culture, academia, and politics.

Eberstadt writes of "the mounting toll of a widespread and growing effort to shame, punish, and ostracize people because of what they believe."  The root of the issue is a new form of Puritanism.  The first commandment of the new secularist orthodoxy "is that no sexual act between consenting adults is wrong--possibly excepting cases of adultery."  People who hold traditional Christian views of sex "are seen as a threat . . . [to] laissez-faire sexual morality."

Like their Puritan forebears in Salem, the orthodox secularist Puritans are on a witch hunt.  Their standard of proof and quickness to judge and accuse offenders also resembles the Salem witch trials.  "'You're a bigot if I say you're a bigot' is today's equivalent of 'you're a witch if I say you're a witch.'" For all their talk of diversity, the new secular Puritans have no tolerance for "traditionalists and non-progressive scholars."

Eberstadt's book is chock full of examples, some of which I had seen wide coverage.  Traditionalist Christians are faced with the daunting task of figuring out how they fit in among the secular Puritans.  Just try to get a teaching position at a major university if you don't support gay marriage.  For their part, "Secularist progressivism must find a way to coexist with affronts to its own orthodoxy, not suppress them." Eberstadt offers a couple of glimmers of hope, but I'm not particularly hopeful.  When a professor at a Catholic university can be chastised for defending a traditionalist view of marriage, when a Baptist university seemingly softens its prohibition of homosexual activity, when religious expression is continually excluded from public spaces, it's easy to start feeling like Christians have no option than to pull away from society.

Eberstadt breaks down the societal divide cleanly between those who say anything goes sexually and those who uphold traditional, heterosexual, marital monogamy.  The witch hunt will continue until further notice.

Thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

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