Pat Buchanan laments:
Politics follows culture. And the cultural revolution of the '60s is triumphant. Traditional Christianity, driven out of schools and the public square, is being whipped back into the churches and told to stay there.
America has gone over to the revolution.
Looking back, the sweep of the capitulation becomes stark.
First came the plea of atheists not to have their children forced to participate in prayers at school. Fair enough. Americans do not believe in compelling people to do as they disbelieve.
Then followed the demand that no child be exposed to prayers or religious books, including the Bible, nor have any day or week set aside as a holiday if connected to Christianity.
Out went Christmas and Easter. In came winter break and spring break. Coaches of high school teams were ordered to dispense with prayers before games. The coaches complied.
No matter what the majority wanted, the minority prevailed, thanks to a Supreme Court whose dictates were never challenged by democratically elected presidents or Congresses, nor ever defied by a Christian majority.
In the sexual revolution there came first the plea that abortion in extreme cases be decriminalized, then legalized, then subsidized, then declared a right. From crime to constitutional right in two decades!
Unfortunately, this outcome has been pretty much inevitable since the north won the civil war. Here’s why: while the first amendment of the constitution prohibited congress from regulating religion, the individual state governments were free to do so, and could impose a state religion if they so desired (in fact, quite a few states were founded for the purpose of having a state religion, e.g. Rhode Island). The federal government was intended to form an economic and political union among the states, and was thus entirely secular/political in nature and operation precisely because its main function was consolidate selected areas of political power to ensure that the various American states could have more sway in the global realm and thus be less subject to the overreach of European powers.
As long as the federal government amicably resolved disputes among the states, the union would be preserved, and the federal government would be relevant and have some degree of strength. To keep the government in check the ability for states to secede from the union was implicitly understood, for if the states could not secede, than what would prohibit the federal from simply dictating to the states? Thus, the importance of the civil war becomes obvious, for if states cannot secede, then the federal government must necessarily trump over them, and ultimately all states must adhere to the federal constitution.
Thus, when the north won the civil war, it was all but inevitable that the federal government would overpower the states and, more to the point, that secularism would triumph over religion because the federal government is secular, not religious. While the various states still had the option to leave the union, they also had the power to establish their own religions. Once leaving was no longer optional it of necessity became the case that religious pluralism would take hold, only to be overcome by secularism. Funnily enough, religious pluralism is exactly what enabled the triumph of secularism because, for as an astute internet commenter has noted in the process his recent Rabid Puppies campaign, a house divided against itself cannot stand. In order to preserve religious pluralism, it is necessary to have an irreligious moderator keep the various divisions from overpowering each other (a religious moderator could not be trusted, as it would be widely assumed to have a vested interest in something).
As pluralism increases (i.e. as more denominations pop into existence), the secular power that keeps them in line must necessarily become stronger to prevent the system from breaking down. Thus, the great irony takes shape: freedom of religion is death to Christianity. Only a secular state that is given authority over religion can preserve pluralism.* And what the state giveth, it can take away.
The silver lining in all this is that the inevitable persecution will cleanse the church of its evildoers and lukewarm members. There are two things holding the church back in America: heterodoxy and patriotism.
Heterodoxy holds America back because it absolutely demands the need for a secular government. As long as American Christians demands the “right” to each determine their own hermeneutic and consequently draw their own lines of fellowship and recognition, they will inevitably be doomed to being regulated from above by a secular government. (Also, given that the government is essentially playing the role of baby-sitter, it should be obvious why religion is more or less mocked in America and looked upon as inferior to secularism.) There is a reason why Saint Paul condemned the divisions that cropped up in the CorinthianChurch: Internecine squabbling weakens the church and subjects it to harm from without.
As a side note, this is precisely what happened during the crusades. Whenever the Christians won, they eventually wound up bickering with each other over petty questions of power and rule. While they bickered, the Muslim forces would recover and regroup, then attack the Christians, often successfully. Internal division makes the church highly susceptible to outside attacks.
As bad as heterodoxy is, the American combination of religion and patriotism is even worse. Many Christians in America seem to take pride in having religious freedom, or at least some form thereof, and therefore feel that America is a country blessed directly by the Father himself because America enshrines religious liberty as a right. There is much to say about how the entire notion of “rights” is bullshit, to say nothing of the stupidity of manifest destiny, but those will be posts for another time. For now, suffice it say that as long as American Christians are proud of their nation’s enshrinement of religious tolerance, they will always be valuing secularism over Christianity, whether they realize it or not.
Thus, the RFRA hullabaloo can be seen as a sign of the times, as a warning of things to come. Given that religion conservatives are mostly modernists through and through, and continue to cling to the notion of somehow restoring America to its glory days of religious freedom, it is inevitable that widespread persecution will occur. As long as division—seeds of dissension sown by Satan—is lauded as beautiful and desirable, the church will be persecuted until the wheat is separated from the chaff. Though this will be painful, it is a necessary and good thing.
Fortunately, persecution is essentially a form of hormetic stress: what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. My belief is that the persecution of the church in America will ultimately turn the heterodoxy into orthodoxy. Weaker and more delusional sects will disappear (think Mormons, JW’s and the Pentecostals), while larger and more orthodox sects will combine and become more rigid, and thus more resistant. My guess is that Calvinism will finally get stamped out.
From this, I think one of two scenarios is quite possible. I think there is a decent chance that the pluralist denominations get subsumed into the Catholic church (either Roman or Greek, the former being more likely). Alternatively, I think that fundamentalist sects merge into an orthodox group that practically turns in to the Greek Catholic church after a very long time.
Now, while widespread persecution is likely inevitable, it doesn’t have to be this way. There is no reason why American denominations cannot stop their bickering, join together and have a uniting faith and doctrine. Aside from pride, that is. There are a large number of nominal Christians in this country. As long as they are willing to work together while still in large numbers, there is no reason to think that the tide cannot be stemmed. However, this seems to be an unlikely development as long as Christians continue to splinter off from each other and celebrate their inferiority to secularism.
* Pay close attention to this quote too: “Last week, the Republican-dominated state legislature passed a vaguely worded statute called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. It was promptly signed by Gov. Mike Pence, a Republican often touted in conservative circles as a potential presidential candidate. Ostensibly, the law simply states that the state courts in Indiana cannot intrude on an individual’s religious liberty unless it can provide a “compelling” state interest to do so.” Even the RFRA bill assumed the state’s authority over religion! If that’s what so-called religious conservatives are defending, no wonder they’re losing!