Monday, July 21, 2014

"The peaceful majority were irrelevant"

You may see this sign crop up on Facebook statuses, Gravatars and other places. You may already know what it is, and why people are adopting it. If you don't, here's why:

This symbol is the Arabic letter Nun or Noon (ن), phonetically equivalent to the Latin N (oddly enough, the Hebrew equivalent, נ, is also called Nun and pronounced Noon). As such, it's the first letter in the word نصارى Nasara — "Nazarenes", or Christians. Wherever the terrorist soldiers of ISIS spray-paint this letter in the ravaged, outraged city of Mosul, there the occupants are targeted for plunder, rape and death.

And so one of the oldest Christian communities in the world dies ... with nary a protest or a condemnation from what people still call The Free World. Qui tacet consentire videtur: "He who is silent is seen to consent."

Here in the United States, a few Christians have been ... discommoded, more or less. We've suffered a few incursions into "free exercise" territory in the name of the "establishment clause" or of other social causes du jour. Some may be permanent, while others will prove to be more or less temporary.

However, the First Amendment guarantee of religious freedom has proven to be still fairly robust, as was shown when a Senate measure to override Burwell v. Hobby Lobby was defeated. As tough as it may get for some Christians in the next couple of years, we're not facing public decapitation and unhindered looting of our material goods just yet.

We're still not wrong, though, to consider the general trend in social ethics. It seems that the society progressives want to produce is a "nice society": a society where everybody accepts everybody, where nobody judges and nobody condemns, where nobody is an "outsider". My argument here isn't that such a society is impossible to produce this side of the New Jerusalem. Rather, a recent study based on the famous Milgram experiment found that "conscientious" and "agreeable" people are more likely to follow authoritarian orders that give high-intensity electric shocks to a victim.

Now, the study did find a political variable, in that liberals tend to be less willing to hurt others. However, nice, non-judgmental, tolerant people seem to be less likely to dig in their heels in the face of egregious wrongs. Ironically, the reason why progressive activists have been so successful so far at pushing their agenda is that the activists really aren't nice, tolerant, non-judgmental people themselves.

A nation full of friendly, conscientious and agreeable people might be ideal when all you're trying to do (you believe) is expand liberty, but it's also ideal for the spread of totalitarianism. To protect liberty, you have to have intolerant, self-righteous moral absolutists who are willing to be disliked or unpopular. Even the loudest advocate of moral relativism becomes an equally loud moral absolutist when values he gives preference to are at stake.

In a panel on the Benghazi massacre last month, Brigitte Gabriel of Act! for America, a Christian native of Lebanon, threw a classic rant at a Moslem student who pulled out the "Islam is a peaceful religion" line, reminding the young woman:

When you look throughout history, at the lessons of history, most Germans were peaceful. Yet the Nazis drove the agenda. And as a result, 60 million people died, almost 40 million in concentration camps. 6 million were Jews. The peaceful majority were irrelevant.
When you look at Russia, most Russians were peaceful as well. But the Russians were able to kill 20 million people. The peaceful majority were irrelevant.
When you look at China for example, most Chinese were peaceful as well. Yet the Chinese were able to kill 70 million people. The peaceful majority were irrelevant.
When you look at Japan prior to World War II, most Japanese were peaceful people too. Yet, Japan was able to butcher its way across Southeast Asia, killing 12 million people, mostly killed by bayonets and shovels. The peaceful majority were irrelevant.
On September 11th[, 2001,] in the United States we had 2.3 million Arab Muslims living in the United States [sic]. It took nineteen hijackers — nineteen radicals — to bring America to its knees, destroy the World Trade Center, attack the Pentagon and kill almost 3,000 Americans that day. So for all our power of reason, and for all us talking about moderate and peaceful Muslims, I'm glad you're here. But where are the others speaking out?

"The peaceful majority were irrelevant." Another study conducted a couple of years ago by the Rensselaer Institute found that it only takes a relatively small but dedicated proportion of a population, about ten percent, to produce widespread changes in that population. For instance, abortion-upon-request has been able to survive these forty-one years not because so many people are rabidly for it but because the vast majority of the population are nice people who don't want to create trouble or be seen as nosy parkers — what I call the "mushy middle". They would never have an abortion themselves, but .... These aren't people you want to depend on when your freedom is at stake.

"The peaceful majority were irrelevant." If religious freedom does come to an end in the United States, it won't be because more than fifty percent of us want it so. It'll be because a relatively small number with their hands on the levers of power do, and because half of the rest of the nation will "go along to get along". They won't wish to expose themselves to censure or sanctions, and will be grateful for whatever religious breathing room is provided. Nor will the government have to spend time and money subverting churches; many churches have already subverted themselves.

Now, to lighten this prediction of doom and gloom:

About four months ago, 95-year-old Corp. Joe Bell, who served from 1942 to 1946, went out in front of his house in full uniform to cheer on runners who were participating in the annual Pat Tillman charity 8K run in San Jose. Instead, he almost brought the run to a halt, as participants left the race to shake his hand and thank him for serving his country. A nearby woman with a cellphone captured the touching moment on video, and the video went viral. And just moments ago, I found out that he served as Grand Marshal of San Jose's annual Red, White and Blue Parade on Independence Day.

On the ABC News page that tells the story, you find that on Friday, November 11th, the news company will start a new ongoing series of reports, "Standing Up For Heroes": "Through this ongoing series of reports Bob Woodruff and Martha Raddatz will shine a light on critical issues facing veterans and their families while showcasing the ways Americans can come together to help those who have served and sacrificed."

I think back to when I was a kid during the 1970s, when it seemed half the nation despised the military and everything (and everyone) connected to it. Now, thirty-five and forty years later, we may criticize the civilians who send our soldiers into combat zones, we may criticize the policies for which they go into danger, but we love and respect our brothers and sisters in uniform. And it reminds me that, no matter how crazy or bad things may seem right now, in thirty-five or forty years things can change one hundred and eighty degrees.

Nothing is inevitable, so long as there are enough intolerant, self-righteous moral absolutists who are willing to risk their livelihoods and reputations by pushing back. No one can be on the right side of a history that has yet to be recorded.

So we display the letter Nun in solidarity with our Christian brothers and sisters who are undergoing a far more visceral and brutal persecution than we can envision for ourselves even in the not-too-distant future ... a future which may yet never be. We should not — we must not — give our silent consent to the Islamic Caliphate born of lawlessness and hatred, not even out of respect for the millions of peaceful Moslems in the world. As J.R.R. Tolkien wrote in The Return of the King, "It takes but one side to make a war; and those without swords may yet die upon them."