For decades, Christians have talked about feeling persecuted in advanced secular and liberal democracies. They’ve often sounded a bit hysterical. It’s true that governments and societies have moved towards a kind of post-Christianity. The world in which we live has adopted some of the gentler stuff about love and ignored the challenging stuff about sex. Devout Catholics, Anglicans and Evangelicals can therefore be made to feel a bit weird and out of place. But persecuted? Not really. Christians are on the whole free to live according to their faith without harassment, which is very unlike the situation in some Muslim counties — or China.
Look at the vicious reaction to the big Supreme Court news about Roe v. Wade in America, however, and you see something changing. Enraged by what they perceive as a dastardly plot by the religious right to take back control of women’s bodies, American progressives have turned aggressively on Christian groups.
Masses and services have been disrupted and churches graffitied. A tabernacle has been stolen from a church in Texas. In Wisconsin, Antifa protestors threw Molotov cocktails into a Christian counselling centre. ‘If abortions aren’t safe then you aren’t either.’ Those words were scrawled on the side of the building.
There’s also the very angry group called Ruth Sent Us, named in a curiously quasi-religious way after the late feminist Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Ruth Sent Us published the GPS coordinates for the homes of Supreme Court justices.
The idea, surely, was to encourage pro-abortion activists to harass and intimidate the justices. Intimidating judges is a crime. Last week there were protests outside the homes of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Ruth Sent Us declared on Twitter: ‘Stuff your rosaries and your weaponised prayer… We will be burning the Eucharist to show our disgust for the abuse Catholic churches have condoned for centuries.’
The use of the word ‘weaponised’ there is interesting. If organised religion is just a load of cobblers, how can the act of prayer be a weapon? If the Eucharist is just superstition, why burn it? But the pro-abortion movement is increasingly defined by its rage and militant sense of righteousness. That rage is not deployed to ‘defend women’, whatever pro-abortion protestors may say. It is, as we can see, aimed directly at the many people who still believe in God and the sanctity of life. There’s almost a palpable frustration that Christian views still have any sway in the public square at all.
Of course, abortion is controversial. The issue arouses strong feelings. But almost no reasonable person who has looked closely at the matter agrees that Roe v. Wade is an ideal way of settling a difficult question. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s draft verdict is not an assault on female rights. Even Bader Ginsberg, the patron saint of Ruth Sent Us, agreed that Roe v. Wade was bad law, and countless other pro-abortion legal scholars agree.
The Mississippi case, which Alito was responding to in his leaked draft opinion, doesn’t even ban abortions. It merely proposes to make most abortions illegal after 15 weeks, which means Mississippi abortion law would still be more liberal than, say, the law in France, Germany, Italy or Greece. As the bill for the law states, ‘fully 75 per cent of all nations do not permit abortion after 12 weeks’ gestation, except (in most instances) to save the life and preserve the physical health of the mother.’
The vehemence of the reaction to the Supreme Court leak, however, and the violent targeting of Christians as enemies of progress, suggests that America’s pro-abortion movement is not just for women’s rights, it’s against Christian ones. For progressives, democracies should move away from tolerance if it means that religious people can have power. That’s not liberalism. It’s revolutionary secularism. And it’s frightening.
Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.