Progressives: Puritans with a Different God


Indiana has gone from becoming a standard-bearer in the battle for religious liberty, to a routed coward who unhands the ensign, careful not to trip over the pole on the way to the rear.

State versions of the federal RFRA are a red herring, which in no way inform legislative or social policy, except in very specific situations (such as a city council passing a narrow ordinance compelling businesses to participate in same-sex weddings—just to pull one out of a hat).

We conservatives take it for granted that those city ordinances will now be passed in Indiana, as they have in a basketful of other cities, which is why there’s such a groundswell to pass state RFRA laws, and why the leftie-loonies are so opposed.

Cleveland, Ohio (not to be confused with Cleveland, Tennessee, home of Church of God-affiliated Lee University) is the latest city considering a shore-up of their “anti-discrimination” laws to prevent such “indignities” like “refusal of service in restaurants and other places of public accommodation, and even vicious verbal and physical assaults.”

The public accommodation law, for example, allows a restaurant to deny a transgender woman use of the women’s restroom. This exception similarly permits a clothing store to deny a transgender man use of the men’s fitting room. An employer may deny a transgender employee use of workplace facilities consistent with the employee’s gender identity.

Oh bother!  There they go again, with the restroom rights.

In any case, RFRA would not prevent this kind of legislative diarrhea issuing forth from any lawmaking body.  Few could ever claim a religious right to keep a restroom only for cisgendered penis people (perhaps Eros or Aphrodite worshippers, with Saul Goodman as their attorney).  At best, RFRA would allow businesses or individuals to have their day in court, in front of a judge, which Andrew C. McCarthy at National Review believes is not such a good thing.

Messrs. Clinton, Kennedy, Schumer, et al., knew what they were doing: Progressives like transferring decisions to the courts, which are more likely to share their predilections than the public. They also knew their movement. As long as the RFRA was being invoked on behalf of radicals in an effort to buck the law, it would be dandy. But the moment it was relied on by traditionalists to safeguard their Judeo-Christian values, the left’s shock troops would brand the traditionalists as “haters” and no one would care to remember that Democrats wrote the law.

As a lawyer and former prosecutor, McCarthy believes that law is best left to lawmakers and social policy is best left alone.

Trumped up controversies like the one in Indiana are needlessly divisive. There would be many more Americans supportive of, or at least resigned to, the concept of gay marriage if it were just a matter of live-and-let-live tolerance. Instead, the Left’s agitators have made it the leading edge in a campaign to suppress traditional religious belief. They demand not toleration but compulsory approbation — with dissenters stigmatized and subjected to the prohibitive expense of legal fees.

We should not allow the law to be used this way. The law is supposed to be a reflection of our social consensus, not a cudgel to impose an unpopular outcome that breeds resentment.

Fair enough.  But there’s a long (really, really long), tortuous, aching history of progressive moral busybodies rubbing society’s nose in their moral dictums.  As McCarthy himself admits, religious freedom in and of itself is perfectly fine with these consensus engineers, as long as the religion being granted freedom fits their own designs.  When it doesn’t fit, then religious freedom is a very bad, terrible thing vomited forth from the moralist pulpits of hate-filled ministers of bigotry.

McCarthy’s colleague at NR, Jonah Goldberg, attributes this reflexive obsession with moral preening to a progressive personality disorder:  megalothymia.

Megalothymia is a term coined by Francis Fukuyama. It’s a common mistake to think Fukuyama simply took Plato’s concept of “thumos” or “thymos” and put a “mega” in front of it because we all know from the Transformers and Toho Productions that “mega” makes everything more cool.

But that’s not the case. Megalothymia is a neologism of megalomania (an obsession with power and the ability to dominate others) and thymos, which Plato defined as the part of the soul concerned with spiritedness, passion, and a desire for recognition and respect.

Fukuyama defined megalothymia as a compulsive need to feel superior to others.

Yes, I believe Jonah has a major point here.  Progressives feel the need to preach down from the mountain of high dudgeon, self-righteous heroes of sanctimony.  Our country has been infected with them since its founding, balanced by those who valued freedom of conscience and moral liberty.  The Puritans of Massachusetts were counterbalanced by Reverend Wiliams and his Providence Plantation settlers (whom they expelled as heretics).

What these initial schisms had in common was their foundational belief in Biblical morals, and their faith in God.  Truly, when it came to issues like slavery, they found themselves on the same side.  But along with abolition, the religious revival which propelled that movement also carried the germ of progressive moral busybodies:  by 1861, Massachusetts, Maine, and a number of other states had passed alcohol prohibition legislation.

By 1917, all the temperance movement needed was a progressive in the White House, and boy howdy, they got one.  Woodrow Wilson used his pen and phone (there was a whole switchboard installed by that time) to implement a “temporary wartime prohibition” to save grain for WWI.  It was only a matter of time before the 18th Amendment became law—which it did on January 29, 1919.

The nation suffered Prohibition for almost 15 years, and only another progressive, FDR, got it repealed—not because he believed in liberty from moral busybodies (indeed, he was one)—but because it didn’t suit his own morality.   Roosevelt liked his martinis dry, but not his country.

It’s humorous that modern progressives attribute Prohibition to the “religious right,” as if that moniker included any church-going, Bible-believing prude and could only be worn by a big-business-loving, labor-smashing Republican.  It’s so far from the truth, you know it came from the Left.  Wilson was a Democrat.  FDR was a Democrat.  They both were progressives, and Wilson with a capital “P” as he gave the Progressive Movement its official name.

The only difference between today’s progressive liberals and those who brought us—then repealed—Prohibition, is the cut of their jib.  By that, I mean that Wilson was a Presbyterian, a peacenik, and a globalist.  He won the Nobel Peace Prize.  FDR was an Episcopalian, which shares a picket fence with the Presbyterians.  He attempted to pack the Supreme Court in support of his New Deal policies, wanting to increase the body with up to 6 more justices.

Both Wilson and FDR were proto-Obamas.  Neither believed that Congress was a useful body to make policy when the President could simply rule by edict and then let the courts sort it out (while manipulating the courts).

President Obama is the fulfillment of the progressive dream:  a president with no compunction about flying in the face of jurisprudence and legislative imperatives.  He simply does as he pleases and asks “what are you going to do about it?”  What’s different about Obama from his prototypes is morality itself—or the lack thereof.

Jonah Goldberg’s column titled “Moral Heroism without Morality” is dead-on-target.  The progressives are no longer religious moral busybodies, they are now loose cannons willing to defend any fort, as long as they can identify an enemy worth fighting.  By “worth fighting” I mean anyone they can use to feed their own feelings of moral supremacy without physical endangering their lives or their livelihoods, which automatically eliminates most large corporations, Muslims, and Hollywood.

So who’s left?  The religious right, who embrace a real morality which doesn’t allow death threats, sabotage and endless revenge.  In fact, the progressive Left depends on the religious right to act consistent with their beliefs.  They use the very bedrock of faith they attack as the launchpad of their own civil society—the one where they can do what they want, but have the foundation of moral truth to keep things from descending into anarchy.

Isn’t it wonderful for them to have their cake and eat it?  To lay peacefully upon the assumption of a civil society based on laws, morality, and God’s truth (murder is wrong, theft is wrong) while contemplating subjugating those whose brows sweat from the labor of maintaining that society is a singular act of cognitive dissonance and hypocrisy worthy of the most unhinged lunatic.  And the Left revels in it and the more lunatic the position, the more they reward it.

Quoting Jonah:

I take real offense when people insist I am a bigot just to make themselves feel good. It’s literally quixotic. Don Quixote was sure windmills were dragons because he was sure he was a chivalric knight. But Quixote’s certainty didn’t transmogrify the windmills into dragons — his certainty proved he was crazy. I watch the preening jack wagons of MSNBC picking heroic fights with straw-men and I see the same lunatic alchemy at work. Scream loud enough at imaginary demons in America today, and someone will salute your courage as a demon slayer. But it won’t be me.

It won’t be me, either.  No lucid conservative should ever appear on a Left wing media television show without calling out the questioners on every single presupposition, loaded question, and baited discussion.

The jack wagons deserve to have their disorder exposed to ordinary Americans.  And when they cut off the microphone, like MSNBC host Ed Schultz did to The Heritage Foundation’s Ryan T. Anderson (Ph.D. from Notre Dame, B.A. from Princeton, magna cum laude) everyone will see them for what they really are:  drooling sycophants shilling for the moral loose cannons who are nothing more than Puritans with a different God.