When an attempt was made to railroad George Zimmerman into prison for defending himself when assaulted, most conservatives fell silent, and some joined the lynch mob — and, to the best of my knowledge, not a single public official stood up to denounce what was going on.
More recently, when A&E suspended Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty for having the effrontery to repeat age-old Christian doctrine in an interview with GQ, Sarah Palin, Bobby Jindal, and Ted Cruz let A&E have it. But the Republican establishment was present and accounted for only in its absence from the scene.
Moreover, when Mark Steyn blasted GLAAD in his inimitable way for trying to shut down public discourse, his editor at National Review Online took offense and went after him. Mark, being Mark, knew how to respond, and others at NRO have since rallied to his support. But I am nonetheless struck by the timidity on the right.
Even more to the point, however, I am really struck by the silence of the clergy. We can debate whether what Phil Robertson said was right or wrong, but the priests and ministers of the various Christian sects profess precisely what he said, and they have been ostentatiously silent. Did a single Catholic bishop speak up? If so, I missed it. Did the presiding officer of the Southern Baptist Convention speak up? If so, I missed it. Did any other clergyman speak up? If so, I missed it, and I tried hard—via Google—to find an example.
What bothers me about this is that it is tantamount to surrender. Christianity is being driven from the public square. Over the last half century, there has been one court case after another aimed at requiring that the federal government and the governments of the states and localities treat religion as a form of leprosy that one must never have any contact with—and that is part of a larger pattern.
When was the last time that you heard a religious Christmas carol at a shopping center? It has been a long time in my experience. Have you tried recently to purchase religious Christmas cards? We did, and we could not find any on offer from Hallmark or similar outlets. We ended up turning to a museum.
If someone like Phil Robertson cannot repeat standard Christian doctrine in the public square, if he cannot express disapproval for fornication, it means that prelates and preachers will soon find themselves harried for doing so as well. If they will not defend their right to preach the Gospel, then why should anyone else bother? It all suggests on their part a decided unwillingness to confront the zeitgeist and to stand up and be counted.
But perhaps I have been wrong. Perhaps, somewhere, there has been, on the part of a clergyman, an eloquent defense of Robertson. I hope so. But I fear that, to an ever increasing degree, men of the cloth in the United States are cowards. We live in an era in which, as William Butler Yeats once put it, “the best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”