Peter Kreeft

The Unmentionable Elephant in the Living Room of the Religious Liberty Debate

from Dr. Peter Kreeft, July 2012

The Culture War
Audio Lecture

We are seeing a number of historic firsts in the infancy of the new millennium.

First, the flagship Catholic university, named after the most prolife Woman in history, rewarded the most pro-abortion President in history by giving him an honorary degree. On this occasion the President publicly promised to respect Catholic conscience rights by keeping a conscience clause exception in his comprehensive healthcare program.

He lied. He reneged on his promise.

The result was a second first: for the first time in American history, every single Catholic bishop stood up and drew a line in the sand and said "Not possible!” on a controversial and unpopular issue. God reached down from Heaven and performed the amazing miracle of creating a spine in the back of every single American bishop.

The Administration's “compromise” was that the new law forcing Catholics to pay for abortifacient contraception would not be implemented for a year. Cardinal Dolan of New York said ‘They have given us twelve months to figure out how to compromise our consciences.”  Why has the Obama Administration, for the first time in American history, deliberately trampled on the two most absolute and non-negotiable rights and liberties of humanity, moral (conscience) and religious? Such a large and momentous effect must have a sufficiently large and momentous cause.

It's the unmentionable elephant in the living room. It's sex. Religious liberty is being attacked in the name of sexual liberty.

The current culture war is most fundamentally about abortion, and abortion is about sex. Abortion is backup contraception, and contraception is the demand to have sex without having babies. If storks brought babies, Planned Parenthood would go broke.

Catholics, Orthodox Jews, and Evangelical Protestants are the only groups left in the world who oppose the Sexual Revolution and uphold traditional sexual morality. Everyone else assumes, without question or controversy, that contraception has finally "liberated" sex from its servile connection with baby-making and has turned it into a purely personal, "recreational" option.

Our liberty is being denied because it threatens their liberty. Religious liberty threatens sexual liberty. Our religious freedom of conscience threatens their sexual freedom of conscience.

It's not their behavior that we threaten, it's their conscience. They want us to approve their behavior, at least implicitly, by paying for it. We are the last people in our culture who say no, who judge, who dare to play the prophet. Prophets are always unpopular. There's no profit in being a prophet. Prophets are lights that are a bit too bright. They show up the artificiality in the air-brushed Playboy fantasies. They threaten the fun. Prophets are x-rays that show cancers to patients who are living in denial.

Jews and Christians could just erase two of the Commandments, the ones against adultery and lust, the new post-Christian culture of Western civilization would have absolutely no problem with religion.

They call us "judgmental" and ”authoritarian" but it's because we are exactly the opposite, because we do not claim the authority to contradict our Creator and Commander, because we do not dare to be so judgmental as to judge His judgments to be mistaken, because we dare not erase or change the line He has drawn in the sand. We cannot compromise our consciences because we believe our consciences are His prophets, not Society's.

It's not that we seek to impose our sexual morality (or any other part of morality) on others by force. We propose, we do not impose. We seek only liberty of conscience for everyone, including ourselves.  No one wants to send sexual storm troopers into fornicators' bedrooms.

But they seek to impose their sexual morality on us. They do not merely propose, they impose. They want to force us to compromise our consciences or be punished by a fine (or something worse). Why? We can tolerate them, why can't they tolerate us? Why are they so threatened by our minority view?

Because they know it is not a minority view, but the majority view in all times and places outside 21st century Europe and North America (e.g. every culture in history and "backward" cultures like Africa and Latin America still today), and the view of all the great religions of the world. If our principles were merely quirky, like the principles of a small Native American tribe that see the hallucinogenic peyote as a religious sacrament, or the principles of the Amish that see electricity as evil, the Establishment would not be threatened by these principles and would readily grant these fringe groups the right to be exceptional for the sake of conscience—as they do. They do not insist that the Amish pay a penalty for not using electricity. But they do insist that we pay a penalty for not paying for abortions.

Why?  Perhaps their consciences are still alive, after all, and feel guilty about killing their own unborn children. How could they not?  If they can get us to compromise our consciences, they won't feel so bad about having compromised their own. "Everybody does it" has always been a very effective and convenient excuse for any kind of evil, even slavery or genocide.  That's why this is not just about contraception, or abortion, or whether every human biological life is intrinsically valuable. It's about whether every human conscience is. The Obama Administration has said, in effect, that consciences are still to be respected (e.g. pacifists will not be forced to fight in wars) as long as they do not conflict with the Sexual Revolution.

So we are at war. The two sides in the war are Sexual "Liberty" vs. Religious Liberty, which includes Liberty of Conscience.

Paradoxically, we are fighting for their consciences as well as our own. And they are fighting against their own consciences as well as ours.

Religious Liberty will win. The defenders of religious liberty will win because we will never give up. We will never give up because we can never give up. But the other side can. We cannot tell God and our conscience that Caesar is our God now. But they can do that. In fact they have already done that once, and therefore they can do it again. They will eventually back down, and we never will. Never. They don't believe in a "never," in an eternity, in eternal principles, in absolutes. We do. It's as simple as that.