John Mark Reynolds- Contributor
Mark Reynolds is the founder and director of the Torrey
Honors Institute, and Associate Professor of Philosophy,
at Biola University.
The Religious Order of the LA Times
[John Mark Reynolds] 10/20/03
Why is it suddenly a crime to think your own religion is
true? Lt. Gen. William G. "Jerry" Boykin had the
nerve to express traditional Christian theology in public.
him unfit to be a member of the elite, as defined by the Los
Angeles Times [see Can
the Crusader editorial 9/16/03].
Why? Boykin believes his religion to be correct, which by extension
means he thinks other religions to be (at least somewhat) incorrect.
Basic logic would indicate that if Boykin is a Christian, he
thinks Islam is wrong. Jesus cannot be the Christ and the Koran
accurate. Whether Boykin is right or wrong, Christianity has
an illustrious group of philosophers who would defend his claims.
They make reasonable arguments, whether they are right. Of course,
the great monotheistic religions also have cases to make and
they should be made in the public square.
Old style religious
tolerance meant thinking your friend’s
religion was wrong, but allowing him peace to live his life.
When ethical and political conflict occurs, especially one where
a particular religious view must prevail, democratic and rational
means determine the winner. Abortion was illegal, because we
were a dominantly Christian nation. However, good men did not
jail or persecute people with a different point of view. Eventually
that point of view prevailed and now pro-life persons must be
extended the same grace. Boykin wishes the world Christian, probably
his sort of Christian. As long as he peacefully argues his case,
and follows orders from the Commander in Chief, he is a free
man living in a free country free to argue his point of view.
If some future Commander in Chief happens to believe that Jesus
is not the son of God, then I am happy for him to make his case
in the public square. Let the debates begin.
At this point, some
editor at the Times will hit the macro key that automatically
writes the “religion in public leads
to war and destruction.” There will be requisite quotes
from People for the American Way and the local bishop of whatever
is left of the Episcopal Church. However, religious debates and
disagreements do not breed violence or hate any more than strong
political arguments. Magazines like Touchstone show this is true.
Both secular and religious disagreements can lead to violence
if conflict is settled by bad means. One cannot alleviate religious
tension by emptying every religion of intellectual content so
that they all are equally true by being vacuous. That claim itself
is religious and imposes an orthodoxy more brutal in its efficiency
at silencing dissent than that of the Inquisition. If our freedom
is so fragile that it must silence strong dissent, then we have
ceased to be free.
New style religious tolerance, as defined by the LA
not being stupid enough to think your religion is actually true.
Truth is told to us by scientists and the LA Times. Religion
is to be reduced to a preference, like love for the Green Bay
Packers. In the world of the Times, all religious preferences
are by nature equal, since religion does not really have any
content. The Times will not allow religion to make claims about
the real world.
Catholics, like evangelicals, break this rule often. That is
why the Times must sneer at the Pope when he dares to tell us
how we should live. Popes with attractive art and cool hats are
fine with the Times. Popes who defy conventional sexual wisdom
are not. Baptists with good choirs who sway to inspiring music
are good. Baptists with doctorates in theology who make arguments
about truth, like Al Mohler, are bad. Religious people should
be old or cuddly. They should exhort their flocks to read and
follow the Democrat Party platform. They should not make arguments
that dissent from this received wisdom and claim to be right.
That is the job of the Times.
In the world of the
Times, Christians like Boykin should behave like music
lovers. Religion is a matter of taste and not something
to get worked up about in public. No one would die (I hope) for
the love of Paul Simon's music over against that of Bono.
Secularists at the Times and their useful liberal religious idiots
are tolerant only of publicly meaningless religion. Think you
are right and their religion of secularism and privatized religion
calls for the lions. Freedom of religion to the Times means freedom
to like your religion, but not think or argue for its truth.
Christians were one of the few groups persecuted in the Roman
Empire. Why? They refused to say that Caesar and his all-powerful
state was Lord. For this their blood was spilled. They believed
themselves to be right and the blood stained, over-bearing, dictatorial
state wrong. In Russia, millions of my fellow Orthodox Christians
were butchered for the temerity of thinking that materialism
and science were not the only truth. Later good jobs and high
positions could only be had if one agreed with the utter privatization
of religion. Only secularism was allowed to be knowledge. The
state owned Pravda. Everything else was just a lie.
The Times evidently
finds the second form of persecution palatable. They are becoming
the Pravda for those self-proclaimed “Brights” who
know better than the unwashed masses what is best for the nation.
They recognize that dishwashers may pray the Rosary. Privates
in the army may ask Jesus to help them in battle, but not generals.
Generals are in charge so they must be good members of the Times new religion.
Boykin can keep his job only if he shuts his mouth. Of course,
in the world of the Times, Boykin really should not be in his
job, since we know what he really thinks. Boykin has committed
the unpardonable sin against the elite religion of the Times.
They know that in his heart, he thinks that non-Christians are
wrong! He must be purged. He must be silenced. He has attacked
the religious truth that there is no religious truth.
refused to stand and say, “Secularism is our
public god and the LA Times is its prophet.” If
he had, then he could have put on funny hats, like the Pope,
to culturally interesting music, like the Baptists, and been
allowed his job. I hope we never reach the point, where the only
acceptable Baptist, Catholic, or Jew is the nominal Baptist,
Catholic, or Jew. The one Democrat now running for President
who could conceivably win my vote is Joe Lieberman. If Joseph
Lieberman becomes President, I hope he is free to go to a synagogue
and express the opinion, if he holds it, that Christians are
wrong to think Jesus is the son of God. The Republic will not
only survive such a statement, it would be a sign that it is
Sadly for the Times, this is still a free country. Blogs are
destroying their monopoly over opinion, elite or otherwise. Whether
I agree with Boykin or not, and I surely would have some enjoyable
and strong theological arguments with him, many of us will fight
forever for his right to have a job and be religious in public.
2003 John Mark Reynolds