Tag Archives: First Things

The New Dhimmitude

A Reflection on an Article by R.R. Reno

“When people talk about religion in America they almost always mean
Christianity. The desire of many on the left to restrict religious freedom
reflects their commitment to limiting the influence of Christianity over
American society, especially in the area of sexual morality, which has
become a preoccupation of contemporary liberalism.

Today elite institutions can be relied upon to provide anto-christian
propaganda. Steven Pinker and Stephen Greenblatt at Harvard publish books
that show how Christianity pretty much ruined, and ruins, everything, as
Christopher Hitchens put it so bluntly. The major presses put out books by
scholars like Elaine Pagels at Princeton that argue that Christianity is for
the most part an invention of power hungry bishops who suppressed the
genuine diversity and spiritual richness of early followers of Jesus.
Journalists like Garry Wills reprocess and reassemble this sort of
scholarship to show that Christianity is a tissue of lies. They can count
on the New York Times to praise their books.

We can dispute the accuracy of these works, and generally there’s a great
deal to be criticized on scholarly grounds. This is necessary, but unlikely
to be effective in altering the influence of someone like Greenblatt, whose
recent book The Swerve was panned by scholars but nevertheless received the
National Book Award for nonfiction. That’s not surprising, because he and
others serve an important ideological purpose. Many liberals today want
Christianity to be discredited, because Christianity and Christians are in
the way. This is clearest in fights over abortion and gay marriage, but we
can see it elsewhere.

We’re in the way of medical research unrestricted by moral concerns about
the use of fetal tissue. We’re in the way of new reproductive technologies
and genetic experimentation. We’re in the way of doctor-assisted suicide.
In other words, we’re in the way of liquifying traditional moral limits so
that they can be reconstructed to accord with the desires and needs of the
powerful people who don’t like being hindered.”
R.R. Reno, “The New Dhimmitude”, First Things, April, 2013, p.5

How come I took the time to type this and then send it to you? Well, I was
struck by Reno’s mention of this guy Garry Wills, who has only recently
risen above the horizon for me. He was once in a Jesuit seminary. When I
was a kid he would have been called a “failed priest”. He was recently
praised, and his ideas and writing applauded in all the right places, and
among all the “smart” people; the ones for whom the inside of a church is
most likely only viewed when it has become the venue for a nice evening of
music, and then praised for its acoustics. But others too have been
generous in their praise of the man, and see merit in his ideas, and hope
for a better day which they are sure will come if things were just a little
bit easier; only just a little bit, after all.

Many of those who write books, folks like Pagels and Greenblatt, would have
been called what they are years ago too, heretics, and not scholars, they
and their works condemned. Certainly, what Reno mentions, here, as being
the reason for their ascendancy may strike some who read this as being just
a little paranoid. I mean who, really is in favor of creating human animal
chimerae? They would be the fools who rush in where angels fear to tread,
the “useful idiots” Vladimir Ilyich loved so much.

Who is in favor of such wild and dangerous science, such crazy
experimentation with the human race? Very crudely, Hitler’s Third Reich
was, and millions thought nothing of it. They were filthy Jews, Poles,
Russians, Gypsies, subhumans all whose sacrifice in the name of science was
merely the moral equivalent of mixing reagents for a chemical reaction; if
morality is a term that applies to anything the Nazis did except in the
negative. Today, I could probably produce a rather impressive list of
“scientists” who are embarked on the same Mengelean madness, and of their
supporters in the wide world from a short Google search. We know how many
millions just “love” reproductive rights. We have a president who probably
has a vigil light before a picture of Margaret Sanger on his bedroom wall.
Is he not powerful? And, has he not been more than ready to show in his
actions that Christianity, and particularly the Catholic Church, is “in the
way” ?

Reno’s is a piece of prophecy, a sort of warning of what is coming. And, it
doesn’t look good. He ends on a hopeful note, in a minor key, a paragraph
or two about a faithful remnant which he precedes by thise ominous words:
“…I think many powerful forces in America would like to impose a soft but
real dhimmitude upon religious people, especially Christians, that severely
limits the public influence of religion. To some degree, they want to do so
by legal means. But the larger project involves cultural intimidation.”

“Church? Oh, yes, ” she said,  “I went to church a couple of months ago, when Tony and Tina got married. It was a scream! You should really see it. Very campy.”

(This appeared in a slightly altered form on the Facebook page of The Christian Book Corner.  Visit them for great discounts on good books and other things.)