Missouri Senator Josh Hawley last week persistently questioned Attorney General Merrick Garland about the FBI’s over-reaction last September in its heavily armed arrest of pro-life Catholic Mark Houck at his home––for an alleged assault that local law enforcement had already declined to prosecute. Houck was tried, and a jury acquitted him in just an hour.
For citizens of faith, the raid and trial demonstrate how many “public servants” in our federal agencies have an animus against Christians, a peculiarity given that the DOJ and other agencies are so vigorous in protecting Muslims from alleged Islamophobic persecution. Christophobia, on the other hand, apparently is okay, and Christians’ First Amendment rights can be violated to serve partisan political agendas.
Once again, the self-styled “brights,” the technocratic, progressive ruling elite who “follow the science,” are abusing their power to intimidate and marginalize Christians while violating their 1st and 14th Amendment rights in order to discredit Christianity, long a threat to the technocracy and its authority.
The Houck case is not an outlier in the Feds’ sorry record of targeting Christians. In January there surfaced an FBI field office’s report called “Interest of Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremists in Radical-Traditionalist Catholic Ideology Almost Certainly Presents New Mitigation Opportunities,” which was disavowed only after an FBI whistleblower exposed it.
Or consider the FBI’s double standards in pursuing attacks on reproductive services offices, which are violations of the FACE Act used to charge Houck. According to the Heritage Foundation, “The DOJ charged 26 pro-life activists with FACE Act violations in 2022 alone, but did not charge a single pro-abortion activist with FACE Act charges in 2022, despite over 100 apparent pro-abortion attacks on pro-life pregnancy centers and churches across the nation, according to Catholic Vote trackers.”
Nor is this a recent development. During the Obama administration, starting in 2010 the IRS targeted conservative and Christian non-profits. Losing a subsequent lawsuit did not slow the IRS down. In 2021, the agency pulled a Texas prayer group’s tax-exempt status because it “benefits Republicans.” As Ohio Senator Jim Jordan commented, “The Obama/Biden IRS targeted conservatives for their political beliefs. It looks like the Biden/Harris IRS is already up to no good as well. Every American should be concerned, but sadly, not surprised.”
This disdain for Christianity has been intensifying for a century, and goes back even farther to the 18th century Enlightenment. When not atheists, many of the new rationalists were Deists, reducing God to the “first mover” responsible for the created world. The theology of Christ’s divinity, incarnation, death, and resurrection, and the miracles attending Christ’s mission, was rejected. Christians, when not decried as tyrannical, intolerant instigators of slaughter, were patronized as “shamans or witch doctors from savage tribes whom one humors until one can dress them in trousers and send them to school,” as Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz satirized this attitude.
By 1882, Friedrich Nietzsche memorably expressed this new sensibility and its cause: “Wither is God?” the madman in a fable asks. “I will tell you. We have killed him––you and I. All of us are his murderers . . . . God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.” The only question left is, what will take God’s place as the foundational source of our ideals like virtue or human rights, if these can even survive.
The progress of science and the new technologies that followed, and the spread of political structures like political freedom and equality, human rights, and social justice gave one answer: The new authority of science based on its material improvements changed radically human existence, and disproved the Christian doctrine of mankind’s innate corruptibility. The dream of endless progress brought on by education and scientific new knowledge, took hold and started the long process of secularization. The new knowledge and “human sciences” could now improve human nature and usher in an age freed from the destructive behaviors that once blighted human life.
It didn’t take long for that dream to become a nightmare. Yet not even the 20th century’s gruesome catalogue of industrialized slaughter, genocide, and gulags written by political religions like fascism, Nazim, and communism has weakened this faith among our cognitive elites.
For Americans in particular, this growing authority of science and distaste for religion began to erode the 1st Amendment’s rights of free speech and religion. The provision was distorted to mean a “wall of separation of church and state,” a phrase created by Thomas Jefferson. The “establishment clause” proscribed a church established the federal government with authority over the whole nation, like England’s Anglican Church. State-level established churches already existing in many states were left alone. Now they are forbidden by Supreme Court rulings that extended the 1st and 14th amendments to the states.
Today this misreading of the Constitution has been used to justify banning any public connection of politics to religion, which of course violates the 1st Amendment’s freedom of religion and speech. But this unwarranted interpretation conflicts with the thinking of the Founders about the viability of the Constitution’s freedoms given the destructive “passions and interests” and lust for power that all humans are prey to.
As John Adams expressed this importance of religion for the new nation’s success in his 1798 “Letter from John Adams to Massachusetts Militia”:
“Because we have no government armed with Power capable of contending with human Passions unbridled by Morality and Religion, Avarice, Ambition, Revenge, or Gallantry, would break the strongest Cords of our Constitution as a Whale goes through a Net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
Indeed, even atheists like Voltaire acknowledged the utilitarian value of religion in his famous quips, “If God didn’t exist, it would be necessary to invent him,” and “God is dead, but don’t tell that to my servant, lest he murder me at night.” Or as Napoleon put it, “Religion is a kind of vaccination, which, by satisfying our natural love for the marvelous, keeps us out of the hands of charlatans and conjurers. The priests are better than the Cagliostros [famous occultists and frauds, Andrew Roberts’s gloss], the Kants, and all the visionaries of Germany.”
As advanced materially as we are, as successful as our science has been at unlocking the secrets of nature and using its powers to create life-changing technologies, our science still can’t give us an answer to the question why we shouldn’t just follow our impulses and appetites, no matter how evil. Instead, it falls back on dubious Darwinism like the “God gene,” or various forms of determinism like Freudianism or Marxism, both of which have been dead-ends in the attempt to find a substitute for God. At least Nietzsche was honest, acknowledging that God’s death has undercut all our virtues like charity and empathy for our fellow humans that make us humane rather than just clever chimps.
Finally, the discrediting of faith and the idealization of science as the royal road to ultimate happiness on earth, has created an emptiness in our civilization, which lacks a convincing story of who we are and what is best for us, how we should live and act, what is good for us and what we are good for.
Into that void have stepped cults and political religions like Marxism, which has co-opted much of Christian salvation theology. Only now, original sin is called the “alienation” of people from nature, their fellow man, and their labor, a fallen condition that the abolishing of capitalism and private property will redeemed. And the “born-again” Christian will be the “new man” communism creates through revolution, inheritors of a new “salvation” here on earth––“a higher sociobiological type, a superman . . . . Man will become incomparably stronger, wiser, more subtle,” as Leon Trotsky preached. As the Catholic thinker Andre de Lubac asked, “On which side are the miracles greater?”
We know the cost of this low-rent religion––100 million killed by famine, torture, gulags, and mass murder. Yet still the Left promotes the false knowledge about people and their natures that contributed to such carnage and cruelty. The history of communism alone answers the question that Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov raises: whether “without God and immortal life . . . all things are permitted.”
Yet science still has not been able to give a convincing answer to that question, as all around us belief in more and more secular “miracles” proliferate.