The Left’s Doomed Effort to Coerce the Right

The Left’s Doomed Effort to Coerce the Right, by Megan McArdle. Leftist media Buzzfeed recently ran a faux controversy about Chip and Joanna Gaines, co-hosts of a renovation TV show. The Gaines said they would allow a same-sex couple to be featured on the show, but that was not enough:

Buzzfeed had no evidence that the Gaines family was discriminating. (It is true that they have not featured any gay couples on their show, but they live in Waco, Texas; how many gay couples had applied?)

They had not, as Mozilla’s Brendan Eich did, donated to an anti-gay-marriage campaign. The entire substance of the article is: “They attend a church where the pastor espouses something I find reprehensible.”

The left’s message is becoming less tolerant:

“Sure, the government won’t actually shut your church down. But the left will use its positions of institutional power to try to hound anyone who attends that church from public life. You can believe whatever you want — but if we catch you, or if we even catch you in proximity to people who believe it, we will threaten your livelihood.”

I’ve heard from a number of evangelicals who, despite their reservations about the man, ended up voting for Donald Trump because they fear that the left is out to build a world where it will not be possible to hold any prominent job while holding onto their church’s beliefs about sexuality.

Discussions I’ve had in recent days with nice, well-meaning progressives suggest that this is not a paranoid fantasy. An online publisher’s witch hunt against two television personalities — because of the church they attend — validates the fears of these Christians.

Quick history lesson for the left:

There’s a reason that [the US] constitution was written to enshrine substantial religious liberty, an uncommon idea at the time of the Founding Fathers: We had many different groups who thought that their spiritual victory had already been foreordained, and allowing them to seek total annihilation of the errant losing side would end up in the same ugly politico-religious wars that had roiled Europe for centuries.

The authors of the U.S. Constitution had learned from that history that religious beliefs are a primal force, even harder to dislodge by the sword than by the sermon. Eventually both sides of those religious disputes noticed how fragile their victories were, how easily the swordpoint conversions were reversed when the fortunes of war shifted, and how devastating their own subsequent losses often were. They decided that it was better to live uneasily together than to try to stamp out the other side.

When Elizabeth I famously declared “I have no desire to make windows into men’s souls,” she wasn’t saying she didn’t care about theological error; she was recognizing the reality that England couldn’t stand much more heresy hunting without tearing itself apart.

Subsequent generations realized that this applied as much to cultural sanction as to political persecution, and both England and America gradually allowed Catholics, Jews and other groups the majority considered guilty of grievous moral error to nonetheless become full participants in economic, social and political life. They did so because they valued tolerance, of course, but they also did so because the alternative was a cold civil war that it wasn’t entirely clear the Protestant majority was going to win.

Now apply it:

With America seemingly dividing into two countries, riven by intractable value differences, this is a lesson that culture warriors on both sides need to relearn. Really, what is the cost to society if two HGTV hosts are allowed to thrive without disavowing their pastor’s comments on same-sex marriage? The far greater risk comes from trying to compel them to do so, whether through hard government power or soft private coercion