Tyranny in Our Day Part 2

Shaming, Silencing, Canceling
For years, I have noticed a common practice among Christians, even in the relatively safe spaces of churches or Christian retreats: They lower their voice when they mention the word “homosexual.” Why? Because they are afraid. They’ve unconsciously adopted this habit out of fear of being shamed, or attacked, or belittled, or bullied simply for broaching the topic. This fear, of course, is an indirect pressure. Other pressures are not so subtle.

Journalist Bari Weiss reports that in California and New York, secret meetings are being held—not on Zoom or Facebook (too public, too traceable, and too permanent), but in backyards.

Wealthy parents of children enrolled in prestigious $45,000-per-year private prep schools like Harvard-Westlake in L.A. or Fieldstone in New York are mortified that their kids are being indoctrinated in the resentment and fear connected with Critical Race Theory (CRT), “collective racial guilt,” and so-called “white fragility.”

They are horrified and they are scared, with most too frightened to speak up. “The school can ask you to leave for any reason,” one parent said. “Then…you’ll be known as a racist, which is worse than being called a murderer.” Students begged their parents not to be interviewed by Weiss for fear of social shaming. “If you publish my name, it would ruin my life,” one kid said.

“They have a pattern of shaming anyone who…dissents from the group narrative,” one mother explained. “Once someone shames one person, many chime in agreement. The times I speak up to defend those they shame, they attempt to shame me.”

“The ideology,” Weiss writes, “has changed children’s self-conception.” The propaganda is so intense and the sophistry so sophisticated, the kids have begun to believe and internalize the lies. Recall the pattern Shirer noted in Germany.

Though Weiss’s focus was on high-end private schools, the same pattern is in play everywhere—even in some “Christian” schools. Public schools are most vulnerable, though, because the Left controls that educational system in many states. “To resist this ideology is to go against the entire institutional world,” Weiss concludes.[9]

Brendan Eich, creator of JavaScript and co-founder of Mozilla, served as its CEO until 2014. Then news surfaced of a 2008 donation of $1,000 to California’s Prop 8 limiting legal marriage to male-female unions. Though Eich never showed animosity towards the LGBT community in his personal or professional life, activists used social media to publicly pillory him, generating 50,000 signatures from those demanding Eich’s resignation. Because of his classical view of marriage, Brendan Eich was canceled from the company he founded.[10]

West Town’s Nini’s Deli was Yelp’s highest-rated restaurant in Chicago and listed as one of their top 100 places to eat in the U.S. three years in a row. A Cuban-Mexican immigrant couple founded Nini’s, and their sons, Juan and José Riesco, ran it. All were Christians and members of the multiracial, ethnically diverse Metro Praise International church. Nini’s sported a celebrated cuisine of Cuban-inspired dishes and had commercial ties with Adidas, Intelligentsia Coffee, Bang Bang Pie, Molly’s Cupcakes, and Nike.

The Riesco’s success story came to a screeching halt in a matter of days, though, in June 2020. Because they did not publicly signal solidarity with Black Lives Matter, and because of their Christian stance on homosexuality, they were labeled racist and homophobic. Droves of former satisfied customers turned on them, and protesters descended on Nini’s Deli like a tidal wave.

Militants threatened to burn the deli down and kill the Riescos. They found out where family members worked and pressed the employers to terminate them, which they did. Under pressure from activists, all of Nini’s corporate partners denounced them and canceled them. Thousands mobbed the previously popular corner deli and shut it down.

“If you don’t put Black Lives Matter on your restaurant, it’s just guaranteed to get destroyed,” Juan said. The video footage of the hatred displayed in the name of anti-hatred is chilling.[11] The family fled its beloved Chicago in the middle of the night. The Riescos now live in Dallas.

Three years ago, Ryan Anderson published When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment. You can no longer buy it on Amazon, though. The book violates the company’s current standards. “We have chosen not to sell books that frame LGBTQ+ identity as a mental illness,” Amazon’s Brian Huseman wrote.

“Everyone agrees that gender dysphoria is a serious condition that causes great suffering,” Anderson replied. “There is a debate, however, which Amazon is seeking to shut down, about how best to treat patients who experience gender dysphoria. Amazon is using its massive power to distort the marketplace of ideas and is deceiving its own customers in the process.” [12]

Amazon is responsible for 53% of book sales in the U.S. and 80% of all e-books. What other books will they blacklist, and how will this affect what publishers choose to publish?

“In July 2020, Niel Golightly, a 62-year-old Boeing communications chief was forced to resign for an article he wrote 33 years earlier. As a 29-year-old navy pilot, he’d argued against women serving in combat. He has since disavowed those views. No matter. Though Boeing admitted that the executive made “substantial” contributions in the short time he’d been there, the company has “zero tolerance for bigotry of any kind”—and, apparently, from any time, even the “bigotry” of a recanted view voiced half a lifetime ago.

Chief executive David Calhoun emphasized Boeing’s “unrelenting commitment to diversity and inclusion in all its dimensions, and to ensuring that all of our employees have an equal opportunity to contribute and excel” (emphasis added). The irony of his own statement escaped him, of course.[13]

Soft totalitarianism is frequently enforced with an almost spiritual passion. Former Attorney General William Barr observed:

The secular project has itself become a religion, pursued with religious fervor…including inquisitions and excommunication. Those who defy the creed risk a figurative burning at the stake—social, educational, and professional ostracism and exclusion waged through lawsuits and savage social media campaigns.[14]

“Hard Totalitarianism”
Indeed, the soft totalitarianism imposed by cultural elites can be harsh. When the government steps in, though, the totalitarian amalgam thus created between soft and hard can be Orwellian. For the sake of space, let me briefly offer two instances, though examples like these are increasing at an alarming rate.

In 2013, former Atlanta Fire Chief Kevin Cochran self-published a book for his men’s Bible study that condemned homosexuality as contrary to God’s plan. For his efforts, he was suspended without pay for 30 days and told not to comment publicly on the affair.

When, in violation of then-mayor Kasim Reed’s directive, Cochran organized a public relations campaign on his behalf, he was terminated, even though the city’s legal team admitted he had not engaged in illegal discrimination. With the help of Alliance Defending Freedom, Cochran sued and settled out of court for $1.2 million.[15]

As I write, a nefarious bill is moving through the United State Congress that, among other things, effectively erases any physical distinctions between the sexes. It’s called the “Equality Act” and has already passed in the House.

Though federal law already prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, this bill treats sex as a psychological state of mind unrelated to biology. Consequently, males who self-identify as females cannot be denied access to female-only areas that guaranteed privacy in the past. Note the bill’s wording:

An individual shall not be denied access to a shared facility, including a restroom, a locker room, and a dressing room, that is in accordance with the individual’s gender identity.[16]

Further, the Equality Act would actually end equality in women’s sports by preventing women from competing on an equal basis with other women. Biological males—normally excluded from competing against females (that’s the point of women’s sports, after all)—could not be excluded, by law, if they self-identify as females. Women will not only lose races, they’ll lose scholarships, too, as also-rans to biological males who will easily defeat them.[17]

Worse, this act explicitly exempts itself from the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, removing any safe harbor for Christians resisting the provisions of this bill on religious grounds.

Since “discrimination against a married same-sex couple could be based on the sex stereotype that marriage should only be between heterosexual couples, the sexual orientation of the two individuals in the couple, or both,”[18] churches would be vulnerable to criminal prosecution simply for adhering faithfully to biblical teaching. That is how far down the slope we have slipped.

The act also prohibits “discrimination on the basis of pregnancy…or a related medical condition,” using wording that has already been interpreted by courts to include abortion. Thus, those who refuse to perform abortions could be vulnerable to punishment.[19]

At times, the tsunami of change we’re facing seems overwhelming for its force, dizzying for its speed, and chilling for its darkness. It’s easy to begin feeling helpless, but that is not our path. There is another way.

In September 1974, Solzhenitsyn was expelled from the Soviet Union and sent into exile. His final salvo was an essay suggesting a remedy for the common citizen, the ordinary person dwarfed by the totalitarian state. He titled it “Live Not by Lies.”

Most of us are not in a position to effect any immediate change in the culture at large. That does not mean we’re powerless, though, he argued. The lies that drive the system can be resisted by ordinary people being faithful to truth while living lives of simple integrity. This approach entails two things.

First, we refuse to be cowed by pressure to affirm falsehood. Like the noble Christians at Nini’s Deli, we stand our ground. We live consistently with our convictions, firmly holding to truth even when we can’t defend it well or make sense of it to outsiders.

Solzhenitsyn counseled not to say, write, affirm, or distribute anything that distorts truth. Rather, walk out of meetings where discussion is forced and truth is not allowed to be spoken.[20] Refuse to affirm what you do not believe. Just say no, but do so respectfully, even when the price for fidelity is public shaming, silencing, or canceling.

Second, we act. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil,” the saying goes, “is for good men to do nothing.” Resisting takes inner courage, of course, and courage starts with small steps. It also takes a group, a family, the Body of Christ. We stand together. It takes outward virtue, too. We are careful to live with integrity in all areas of our lives.

Be direct but courteous in the face of opposition. If asked what your preferred pronoun is, graciously say, “I don’t have a preferred pronoun. I have a sex. I’m male [for example].” When pressured at the office to participate in “sensitivity” seminars that go against your convictions, respectfully decline. If pressed, say, “It appears you’re using your influence as my employer to get me to accept your politics. Do you think that’s a proper use of your power and authority?”

Be prudent, however. Carefully weigh the risks of resistance, counting the cost. Not all hills are worth dying on—but some are.

If we’re clever, we can leverage the culture’s own values against it. For example, when considering adopting a radical sexual education curriculum, our local school district asked (disingenuously, I think) for input from the community during their public meeting. Here is what I wrote for my wife to deliver that evening:

We are a diverse community, and the school board values diversity. That means there are diverse understandings about controversial issues like human sexuality.

Traditionally, parents have been the ones to carefully inform their children about these issues at a time and in a way appropriate for their age, and within the protected environment of the family. The government—represented here by the school board—has not traditionally been allowed to interfere with educating issues so critical to family and so appropriate to private parental nurturing of their children. To do so would be to have individual family beliefs and values overridden by whatever group happened to be in power at the time.

No one set of personal values should be allowed to dictate the beliefs of our children in a public education system that includes such diverse groups as Muslims, and Christians, and Orthodox Jews, and Buddhists, and humanists, and atheists, and so many others.

Public values shared by all, on the other hand—values like honesty, kindness, truth seeking, integrity, respect, etc.—should be encouraged by all, including the schools, since they are agreed upon by all and are not controversial.

However, contentious and divisive personal views should not be forced upon our children. This is indoctrination and replaces the parent’s rightful role.

When government takes over the responsibility of informing our children’s private and personal moral values instead of the parents and individual families doing so, it is a step towards oppression and a significant and serious violation of the diversity and multicultural respect the school board stands for.

If any group in power gets to force their personal values on our kids, then when a different group gets power, they will be able to force their personal values on that group’s kids. Neither is consistent with diversity, tolerance, or appropriate American liberty.

Please, I respectfully implore you: Leave that job to the parents of the children that belong to them…and not to the state.

Until now, it’s cost us virtually nothing to be Christian in America. I am convinced those days are rapidly coming to a close. “A time of painful testing, even persecution, is coming,” Dreher warns. “Lukewarm or shallow Christians will not come through with their faith intact.”[21]

Choosing not to live by lies can change culture over time, but that is not its immediate purpose, in my view. Its purpose is not principally pragmatic, but ethical. We live not by lies because it’s wrong before God to do so, even if it costs us.

Greg Koukl

Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

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