Last week Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, gave a very important speech at Oxford University. In the talk, “Varieties of Intolerance: Religious and Secular,” he made a number of important points about the collapse of the West and the rise of a new intolerance – specifically an anti-Christian intolerance.
The entire speech is well worth reading, and I provide the link to it below. Please have a read. But I here offer a few snippets to hopefully whet your appetite. He begins by noting how those groups who most mouth-off about tolerance are often the least tolerant.
Consider the homosexual lobby. Every second sentence from these activists includes the word tolerance. Yet if anyone dares to stand in their way, they turn into a very intolerant gaystapo. Recall the recent US presidential election late last year. A number of other measures were voted on at the time, including same-sex marriage in California.
Proposition 8 was passed, which recognises only marriage between a man and a woman. So how did the tolerant homosexual lobby respond? “Great” they said. “This is a democracy after all, and the people have spoken, so we will happily abide by the decision of the majority”. Not.
As Pell reminds us, “Mormon temples in particular, as well as Catholic and Evangelical churches, have been the focus for demonstrations, often attended by violence, vandalism and intimidation. White powder has been sent to places of worship, and some blogs are calling for them to be burnt down. Individual supporters of Proposition 8 have received death threats and been assaulted. Businesses which contributed to the campaign in favor of Proposition 8 are being boycotted, and individuals who made personal donations are being blacklisted and in some cases forced to resign from their jobs. The situation is so serious that the non-partisan Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which takes no position on same-sex marriage and works with churches and organizations on both sides of the question, ran a full-page advertisement in the New York Times on 5 December condemning the harassment and anti-religious bigotry being directed at Proposition 8 supporters.”
Homosexual intolerance is alive and well, and woe betide anyone who considers taking a stand against this militant minority group. But there are other groups which are intimidating and threatening those who disagree with them. They are intent on proclaiming their supremacy, and are happy to beat the West into submission. Consider militant Islam.
Pell spends some time documenting the rise of recent Islamic intolerance. Many of the stories would be familiar to those who are concerned about the West and its capitulation to its enemies. But Pell offers a nice summary of the many ways in which Islam is seeking to cow the West into submission. Given that the word “Islam” after all means “submission,” this is not unexpected or unsurprising.
After listing some of these examples, including the case of the two Australian pastors in Victoria, he says this: “The expense of defending frivolous hate speech allegations, the time consumed in dealing with them, and the anxiety that comes from being enmeshed in a legal process straight out of Kafka all have an effect on the climate of openness, stifling robust discussion and fomenting intolerance under the surface. Since Ayatollah Khomeini placed a death sentence on Salman Rushdie twenty years ago last month, many in the West have grown used to practicing self-censorship when it comes to Islam, just as we seem to accept that ex-Muslims who criticize Islam and extremism, such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali, require round the clock police protection.”
The battle is on other fronts as well. Consider the family. He notes how anti-discrimination legislation “has been used very effectively to redefine marriage and to make a range of relationships acceptable as the foundation for various new forms of the family. Anti-discrimination legislation in tandem with new reproductive technologies has made it possible for children to have three, four or five parents, relegating the idea of a child being brought up by his natural mother and father to nothing more than a majority adult preference. The rights of children to be created in love and to be known and raised by their biological parents receives scant consideration when the legislative agenda is directed to satisfying adult needs and ambitions.”
He notes that in the past churches and religious bodies were often exempt from such legislation, but increasingly this is no longer the case. He offers numerous examples of how the state is coercing religious groups and individuals into betraying their own conscience and being forced to go against deeply-held beliefs and values. It is part of a bigger push to dethrone God and divinise man:
“The use of anti-discrimination law and human rights claims to advance the autonomy project is not new in itself, but the withholding or retrenchment of exemptions for church agencies and conscience provisions for individuals is a newer and dangerous trend. A number of factors are at play here, but the broad effect is to enforce conformity. It seems that just as the faith and convictions of individual believers have to be privatized and excluded from public life, the services that church agencies provide to society have to be secularized. The service the church gives has always been a source of its growth and strength, and church agencies working in the areas of welfare, family, education, health and aged care bear witness to the values that Christian leaders put forward in public debate. Part of the logic in attacking the freedom of the church to serve others is to undermine the witness these services give to powerful Christian convictions. The goal is to neutralize this witness to the reality of Christian revelation. There is no need to drive the church out of services if the secularization of its agencies can achieve this end.”
He concludes with these words: “Resolving these questions requires us to expand the boundaries of what is thought possible, especially by bringing into focus the experiences and ideas which are not acknowledged or legitimized by the secularist worldview. Put simply, Christians have to recover their genius for showing that there are better ways to live and to build a good society; ways which respect freedom, empower individuals, and transform communities. They also have to recover their self-confidence and courage. The secular and religious intolerance of our day needs to be confronted regularly and publicly. Believers need to call the bluff of what is, even in most parts of Europe, a small minority with disproportionate influence in the media. This is one of the crucial tasks for Christians in the twenty-first century.”
George Pell is in many ways a modern-day prophet. He courageously takes on the many challenges to what is important, what is right, and what is true. He knows that faith, family and life are all under major attack, and he is unafraid to stand up for them, politically incorrect as this may be.
He of course has many critics, even within his own church. But that is always the case with prophets. They are the ones most people refuse to tolerate. But prophets are desperately needed in these dark days. May there be many more George Pells raised up to counter the gathering gloom.