The darkest hour of American religious freedom

Peggy Noonan- as usual- is absolutely right: now is the time to pray for the First Amendment.

The juvenile, often slanderous attacks on religion and prayer in the wake of the San Bernardino tragedy should be a wake-up call to anyone who hasn't yet tumbled to the fact that religiously and biblically ignorant secularists- at this point, quite probably a majority in this country- are treating believers with a degree of open intolerance even those who have openly admitted to being bigots have rarely dared display before. Yes, there was a time in America when racist rhetoric reached the level of nastiness the secular Left is engaging in today. But the time is long past when most racists wouldn't feel the need to use innuendo and weasel-words to express the kind and degree of hate the secular Left is expressing quite openly these days.

The fascinating thing is that when I went to Google Images to look for a graphic for this post under the rubric "religious bigotry," what I found was a page full of cartoons and images which exemplified such bigotry under the guise of criticizing it!

Well, maybe not full of them. Westboro Baptist-type creeps and the depressingly fashionable anti-Muslim bigotry that is so shamefully prevalent  on the Right these days was the target of some of those graphics, and justly so. But a disturbing percentage of the pictures and memes expressed the logically flawed notion that moral disapproval of the behavior of gay sex could be described as bigotry,  presumably on the perfectly reasonable ground  that the urge to engage in such behavior is somehow an illegitimate target for disapproval like race or national origin or religious belief.

But what follows is a huge logical leap. Condemnation of people on the basis of sexual orientation is indeed bigotry. Bur there just aren't that many people in America who condemn people on the basis of their sexual orientation anymore. Yes, there are some; mostly they're the uneducated and the unthinking. But Christianity and the other Western religions have never condemned homosexual orientation. In fact, the concept of sexual orientation was unknown until about a century ago!

Before then, when somebody spoke of homosexuality, they spoke of homosexual behavior. That is what St. Paul meant when he used the term (and yes, those intellectually dishonest revisionists to the contrary, the two Greek words in question were generally understood even in antiquity to refer to the active and passive partners in anal intercourse). That is what the Old Testament condemns. That is what is in fact rejected by every stratum of both Testaments.

That is what orthodox, biblical, historical Christianity- in other words, genuine Christianity- has always condemned, and always will.

But the deceit which masks the actual bigotry here is the insistence of the Left on confusing orientation and behavior. They are quite correct in saying that a bias on the ground of sexual orientation would be bigotry. But the deceit lurking behind those images, and the argument of the cultural Left generally- a deceit in which the historically and religiously ignorant media, who tend by and large to share their bias anyway, is actively complicit- is manifested in the logical leap that because to disapprove of a person on the ground of an inclination which is probably inborn and certainly involuntary would unquestionably be bigotry, it is therefore also bigotry to have ethical problems with acting on that inclination.

As non sequiturs go,  that's a doozy. If that reasoning is valid, then we are guilty of discrimination when we jail kleptomaniacs for theft, and even when we refuse to give them a license to steal. The M'Naghten Rule- flawed as it may be- then goes out the window; we can't prosecute anybody for even an act which is against the law and known by the perpetrator to be regarded by society is wrong, and from which he or she is fully capable of restraining himself or herself, as long as it has its origin in an involuntary inclination.

The cultural Left, which relies on changing the subject as a main weapon in any debate, would no doubt respond by bemoaning the equating of murder or theft with sodomy. But that's not the point. Before we get to the discussion of the ethics of gay sex, we have to deal with the fact that there is a big difference between that behavior, which is voluntary,  and the predisposition to it, which is not. We can discuss the ethics of the behavior, and differ about it.

But that's the point. Its ethical character is by its very nature is a matter for individual belief and conviction, a matter of opinion which cannot be bigotry because everyone is morally entitled to have an opinion, no matter how mistaken anyone else may think it is.

The point is that one can be a bigot for condemning a person for something over which he or she has no control. One can be a bigot for condemning people- as the homosexualists themselves routinely do- for having a certain subjective opinion with which one disagrees.

But one cannot be a bigot for disapproving of a behavior. The involuntary inclination which predisposes one to a behavior, yes. The ideas and convictions which are expressed in that behavior, yes. But not the behavior itself.

Which is why so many of those Google images on the page linked to above ring false. Which is why the people who shout "bigot!" the most loudly in the debate over homosexuality (such as it is; intimidation motivated by religious bigotry has pretty much cowed those having the opinion endorsed by two thousand years of Western law, custom, ethics and religion) are in fact themselves the only bigots involved in the disagreement.

That bigotry is widespread. It is gross. It is shameless. And it is not only not condemned, but is actively supported, by the media and the cultural elites.

Which is why Peggy Noonan is right. Freedom of speech has already been so curtailed as to be politically almost meaningless in Canada and England and throughout Europe; it is under deadly siege in this country, too, most notably of late on college campuses.

But freedom of religion is, if anything, in even worse danger. Where bigotry can hide its own nature so readily behind the facade of tolerance, the words may survive. But their meanings cannot.