What can we learn from the American left’s apoplectic reaction to Pope Francis' meeting Kim Davis?
Perhaps nothing; the reaction is entirely predictable. By turns disillusioned, gasping in disbelief, screaming “I TOLD you so!”--the progressive left is now more or less united in writing off Francis as a loser and a bigot and not someone any respectable person could support.
As for those few liberals who still remain sympathetic to Francis--“even after he met with her”--Charles P. Pierce aptly caught their mood in Esquire:
This is, obviously, the dumbest thing this Pope ever has done. It undermines everything he accomplished on his visit here. It undermines his pastoral message, and it diminishes his stature by involving him in a petty American political dispute.
Pierce sees the meeting with Davis as the end of the Pope’s honeymoon with liberal America. Note his particularly obtuse suggestion that it is all so sad--because the Davis case, after all, is just “a petty American political dispute.”
There’s the rub right there, the crux of liberals' odd misreading of Francis. The assumption that gay marriage is “just, like, so obvious”; that of course a man as progressive as Francis must see this; that any individual, such as Davis, who’d risk legal repercussions for refusing to go along with the gay agenda is just being “petty”.
I myself don’t think Davis has conducted her conscientious objection very wisely. But I do think she counts as a conscientious objector. And from the Pope’s words during his visit it’s pretty clear (pace Pierce) he doesn’t consider struggles over religious liberty, or individuals with the guts to wage them, at all “petty”. In any case, I don't think the Davis meeting was or is important on the Pope's visit agenda. It is one short encounter among many.
Still, after the news hit, I stopped by at the “progressive left” DailyKos community to see which way the wind was blowing. As if I couldn't guess. It was the usual righteous fury one sees in that crowd whenever anyone disagrees with one of the Holy Gender Tenets.
The meeting with Davis proved that Francis was obviously, as one person put it, “just another misguided, anti-gay bigot who pretends to be loving and compassionate”. Another instructed as follows: “Add poison to an otherwise nutritious soup, and all of it is poisoned.” A third waxed poetic: “All I can say now is, hypocrisy, thy name is Francis!” And on it went.
Yes, there were some mentions of the good that Francis had done on climate change, but in general the mood was: Bigot. Hypocrite. Fool. Fake.
Francis’ radicalism on so many issues supposedly so dear to this American left would no longer influence the Kos majority. No, if you don't dance to the LGBT movement's every new tune, you don’t get a pass with this crowd.
I commented as follows:
Listen to you all. “I’ve no more use for this Pope." "This Pope is slimy." Etc., etc.
At present Pope Francis is probably the world's most consequent voice calling for serious action on global warming. He's a trenchant critic of unfettered capitalism and outspoken supporter of the dignity of workers and of unions--to the point that he sets the Fox crowd and the Limbaughs into shivers of rage.
But the fact that his thinking (as is very likely the case) doesn't line up with yours on same-sex marriage means you've all suddenly "no use" for his stance or voice.
"No use" for Francis' stance on climate change? For his stance on free-market madness? For his stance on militarism?
Again you show that sad old trait of yours. Any figure who doesn't check all the same boxes you've come to check in your own historically specific cultural setting, any person who doesn't see eye to eye with American progressive liberals on EVERYTHING, especially those things related to sex or gender, is necessarily "slimy" or of "no use".
What kind of mature politics is that? It is cultural imperialism is what it is.
You think the Pope is being hypocritical?
The Pope's remark "Who am I to judge?" came at the end of the following statement spoken of a gay or lesbian person: "If someone is trying to live a holy life and seeking God, who am I to judge him?"
Why would progressives assume that the whole first part of that sentence was irrelevant to the Pope's meaning and why would they read into the last five words something like: "Though I'm the leader of the Catholic Church, I'm utterly against its teachings on sexual ethics."
It is very likely Pope Francis does not consider same-sex marriage to be marriage. It is very likely that when he refers to "attacks on the family", he is thinking in part of things like the Obergefell decision. (For the record, during his tenure in Argentina he did express support for something like civil unions for non-heterosexual couples. Which makes him more liberal than most in his church.)
So assuming that Francis does not acknowledge same-sex marriage, and recognizing the importance of religious liberty and the right of conscientious objection in his vision (how many of you, by the way, believe in conscientious objection? or perhaps you only believe in it when the objector agrees with you on all sex/gender/marriage-related issues?)--assuming this, why would it be hypocrisy on his part to meet with Kim Davis? Has she advocated jailing gays and lesbians? Has she picketed funerals with "God Hates Fags" signs? No, she has taken the one step of refusing to allow her name on licenses for same-sex marriages. As a purely negative action, a refusal to act, it's actually a pretty classic conscientious objection stance: "I won't bow to or sign my name to or perform such-and-such an action required by," etc., etc.
So I would think, in Francis' book, Davis' case would count as a valid instance conscientious objection. How not?
Yes, I also have some doubts that the story is legit. But if Francis did in fact meet with her, it wouldn't shock me--as it seems to have shocked so many of you. Is it because so many of you can't imagine there exist people who might agree with you on A, B, and C, but not on D? Is it because that's just too much of a stretch for your "progressive left" cultural imagination?
As myself a Catholic on the left, I admire Francis all the more for the way he screws up the expectations of both the American left and right. And it isn't any wonder. American left and right are both growing to be about equally bigoted and deranged.
I knew I’d mostly be attacked for this comment, and I was. After all: Who was I, “a Catholic”, to be calling anyone a bigot? How “ironic”. Etc.
But what does all this reveal about the current American left? I’d have to put it bluntly: They’re not so much left-wing in any traditional sense as they are obsessed with sexual identity politics. In my comment I mention the need to check “all” the boxes they do, A to Z. But of the boxes one must check to be heard in this crowd, that marked "LGBTQ, etc." is by far the most important. How has it come to this?
A pathological Gay Fundamentalism has taken over the American left. And of course, since we’re dealing here with a fundamentalism, it is no longer by any means enough to respect LGBT people or defend their rights. No, one must agree to recognize the validity of every new right they might demand. One must, first of all, acknowledge that "gay marriage" is an obvious right; that a household centered on a gay or lesbian couple is a perfectly healthy environment for raising children; and that those who refuse to recognize such marriages or the wisdom of gay parenting deserve to have their careers destroyed and be sued out of house and home. But in addition to walking and talking the new marriage orthodoxy, cobbled together just last Tuesday, one must also express delight in LGBT people’s vanguard role in other central social arenas. Because, don’t you know, it is LGBT people who are leading the charge to reform our schools, to police our speech, to correct our outmoded ideas of sex and gender. For who is it if not gays and lesbians who’ve taught us that great and eternal human truth, namely: Male and female sexuality have no inherent relation to male and female biology. Where have we learned this important truth if not from the our new authorities on sexuality, our LGBT brothers and sisters? Yes, thanks to gays and lesbians, now everyone can--and should!--bend any such supposed relations between biology and sexuality as much out of shape as possible. For only then will the "patriarchal ideology" that made these false relations be broken. Only then will one be free to be "oneself"! Which is . . . whatever one demands oneself to be.
Disagree with these fundamental truths and you are a “bigot”. And in this crowd, a bigot is the worst thing you can be.
On the left myself in many things, I cry bullshit to all this. I’m sickened by the cultural demagoguery that has hijacked our political life. These Gay Fundamentalists have been the main attraction for more than a decade now, and they think they own the place. They must be stopped, but with the youth almost entirely under their sway, and with the few sane adults in the room cowed into silence, how is this to be done?
The basic truths are clear. But is anything accomplished by simply stating basic truths in a culture that’s given up on the idea that the universe and humanity even have truth?
Trying to communicate with these people, one finally has the exasperated feeling one might get trying to explain to an especially dumb geometry class that they can’t draw four-sided triangles, even if they wanted to.
And so, yes: Boys will be boys and girls will be girls. That exceptions exist does not mean this paradigm is somehow wrong; it means only that these exceptions aren’t part of the norm to which the vast majority fit. And sorry, but that's just the definition of norm.
A just society gives space to and doesn’t persecute the exceptions. A sick society fetishizes the exceptions and uses them to destroy the norm. A sick society lets the exceptions remake the whole culture in their own image.
This is what is happening in our society now; our public spaces, our speech codes, our education system. Gay Pride has morphed into Gay Arrogance. The media and fashion industry cheer in perverse glee at the newness of it all, if only because “newness” is the very definition of media and fashion. And the American public, or at least those who take their cues from media and fashion, don’t want to feel left behind.
Thus a new Gay Fundamentalism is given carte blanche to impose its agenda on our schools, our legal system, all central institutions. Anyone who dares oppose this agenda will be fined, run out of business, jailed. The new gay commissars know what is right, they are watching, and woe to you if you don't bow to their wisdom.
We must have the courage to call out this fundamentalism. If we don't, it will not stop until it has ferreted out every pocket of sanity. You think things are ugly now? They will only get uglier. And so: We must dissent loudly and clearly. We must begin by calling this movement what it is--an illiberal gay fundamentalism, a gaythoritarianism that has abrogated to itself rights it doesn't have. We must use labels like these, and we must make them stick.
Anne Widdecombe got it precisely right in this 2012 speech: