As usual, Kevin Williamson puts things well, this time addressing the fascist uproar against Indiana’s providing the merest protection for the consciences of religious Hoosiers:
Barack Obama can run for office as an anti-gay-marriage candidate — which he did, more than once — and that is a ho-hum business, because nobody believed him to be sincere. Brendan Eich was driven out of the company he helped found for holding a substantially identical view sincerely — and that sincerity is an unforgivable sin in a society in thrall to the teapot-totalitarian temptation. When there is no private property — the great legal fiction of “public accommodation” saw to its effective abolition — then everything is subject to brute-force politics, and there can be no live-and-let-live ethic, which is why a nation facing financial ruination and the emergence of a bloodthirsty Islamic caliphate is suffering paroxysms over the question of whether we can clap confectioners into prison for declining to bake a cake for a wedding in which there is no bride.
I’d definitely recommend the whole essay, but for my purposes, here, I’ll emphasize two points. The first has to do with the apparent realignment of corporate interests with the political Left — having moved from a closer alignment with the market-loving Right and through a phase of dogged neutrality on cultural issues:
The people who have hijacked the name “liberal” — the étatists — always win when social questions are decided by the state rather than in private life, because the expansion of the state, and the consequent diminution of private life, is their principal objective. The self-styled progressive sets himself in rhetorical opposition to Big Business, but the corporate manager often suffers from the same fatal conceit as the economic étatist — an unthinking, inhumane preference for uniformity, consistency, regimentation, and conformity. It is no surprise to see Apple and Walmart joining forces here against the private mind. There is a reason that the atmosphere and protocols of the corporate human-resources office are a great deal like those of the junior-high vice-principal’s office: All reeducation facilities have a little something in common.
I’d insist that it isn’t just that denizens of the board room think in terms of institutional organization and conformity. It’s also that a conforming public without all that chaotic diversity of thought and belief can be transformed into a more predictable pool for employment and for customers and, perhaps more importantly, will be less likely to generate disruptive competition that moves the society forward… in ways that leave the established companies behind. When the government begins to lash together all of the power bases of the society to accomplish its supposedly more efficient and humane central planning, powerful forces cease to be in opposition to each other.
That gets to the second point of emphasis I’d pick from Williamson’s article: namely, that religion can be, and has been in its Judeo-Christian forms, a tremendous liberator of individuals. When a religion is founded on belief in a personal God (as in, a conscious being with a personality) who interacts with individual people in accord with some divine intention, the long-run outcome will be increased freedom, particularly with the calls for mutual respect that one finds in greatest abundance in the New Testament. Of course, human beings are ingenious at perverting ideas if it will funnel power to themselves, and Christianity has taken detours in its history, embellishing instruction to the point of dictation, but that’s a shortcoming of human nature that a system of tradition founded in scriptures can gradually overcome, or at least correct over decades and centuries.
With Williamson, I find it likely that the hostile, intolerant hysteria that seeks to leave religious business-owners defenseless against commands that they violate their beliefs is less about tolerance for a small minority than about the destruction of true pluralism. Our freedom is to be restricted to whatever liberties remain to us within the controlling progressive worldview, which is to say, as restricted as in any theocracy or communist country.
Obviously, the goose-steppers for “tolerance” would never admit that much (most would not even acknowledge it to themselves), but thanks to a growing list if incidents, culminating in Indiana’s experience over the last week, it can no longer be denied.