Why silencing Christians will continue…

James Schall

As moral and social disorders increase, the number of things to “never discuss in polite company” multiplies.  Some of the limitations come from legislation, the so-called hate speech laws.  But many, if not most, of the constraints on open discussion reflect dramatically new social realities.


In “Why Silencing Christians will Continue,” former Georgetown University professor James V. Schall explains how these new social realities limit what Christians talk about, both inside and outside the church.


Something new has occurred that serves to further expand the list of things that can only be approved, but never discussed critically. Let us suppose that we have a classroom of high school or college students, or even a church congregation or a public meeting of some sort. We cannot presume that any audience we encounter is firmly rooted in a single culture. We must assume that, in the body of listeners, we will find the results of what may be called “lived multiculturalism.”  That is, in any audience, congregation, or classroom, we will find not a few listeners with divorced parents, relatives, or friends. We will find others who either have had or assented to abortions, even euthanasia.


More and more, also, we will have young people born of in vitro fertilization techniques, whether of parents or various surrogates. We will even find those conceived in vitro but born of a third mother who carried the conception to its completion when the fertilized cells were implanted in her womb. … We will find women who insist on conceiving children long after the normal ending of their natural fertility cycle. We hear of men who have impregnated many, many women.


We increasingly find in audiences members with same-sex parents, whether male or female, and we see some coming from sundry multi-parenting situations. Here the primacy is not the good or need of the child, but of the “right” of parents to do whatever they want. There will also be audience members who have been victims of incest and child abuse. Likewise, it is possible to have children of polygamous families, especially if they are Muslim or sometimes even Mormon marriages. Cultural trends suggest that laws against polygamy will soon be overturned. And soon after we will have polyandry. Though we do not like to admit it, divorce itself is a form of sequential polygamy or polyandry. In many cases, it will not at all be clear just who are the parents of individual children.


While his discussion strays to population decline and the cryopreservation of human bodies, Fr. Schall’s focus is on limits of speech caused by non-traditional familial arrangements.


Let us suppose, for example, that there is a good, reasonable argument detailing the case against divorce as the first step in this long process. We would have to be very careful how to make this case since the room is likely to contain many divorced persons who approve of the practice. Such a discussion of this issue, as with the others, will likely lead to protests and disruptions. Will public discussion of these subjects ever be possible again?


“Hate speech” legislation is designed to prevent any conflict over these issues. If these protected practices are considered “rights,” we are legally prohibited from discussing the consequences of exercising them. The “solution” silences anyone who defends marriage, life, or family. Since all audiences are now populated by people who live in abnormal family arrangements, it is thought best to forbid any discussion that might establish objective, reasonable grounds for opposing or criticizing same-sex marriages, fetal experimentation, divorce, or any similar arrangement.


In a way, this political arrangement is a modern version of what Thomas Hobbes proposed to do to eliminate the causes of dissent in seventeenth century England. By identifying religious and philosophical ideas as the cause of civil discontent, Hobbes was able to justify giving the state absolute power over public expression. This prevention was accomplished by the presumed fear of violent death if the law was violated. In a way, modern public opinion produces the same effect, a kind of civil death in which a reasonable position is simply said not to exist.  If we do not allow anything but what the state or the culture permits, no matter what it is, we will end up with a “peaceful” society that has been intimidated and ridiculed into silence.


As a result, the arguments against these disorders are never heard. Society becomes locked into itself. No one is able to diagnose its ills. But this new form of suppression of dissent works also in the churches. Since their members also display widespread instances of divorce, homosexuality, in vitro births, abortions, and various other ways of life considered to be unnatural or harmful, it makes opposing these things in church also problematic.


Even though Fr. Schall writes as a Catholic priest, his observations are also relevant to Evangelical Christians.


Many basic teachings are simply seldom heard from the pulpit out of fear of dissent in the congregation or the loss of state funds. Politicians and other public figures who advocate positions against basic Church teachings are not expelled. They remain members in good standing. In this context, an ordinary person will conclude that the Church is silent about these teachings because they are indefensible. Protests are immediately heard whenever a strong and informed case is made against these deviations from Catholic teaching; as a result, the Church is often found speechless.


And if the arguments are seldom heard, it will not be surprising if the majority of people assume that the Christian churches have in fact abandoned their teachings as they have been urged to do. There will be in effect two churches. The first is the old-fashioned one, the minority, that still advocates the orthodox positions that are now largely against the civil law and public opinion. The second is the church of the media in which everything is understood as evolving and developing in the direction of what the civil law establishes. This will be presented as what is best for man and what the churches ought to teach. The orthodox Christian view will appear to undermine civil peace. A remnant will be left that will not go along with what modern society permits.



Why Silencing Christians will Continue,” by Rev. James V. Schall, S.J., was published online by Crisis Magazine.  Before retiring in 2012, Fr. Schall was Professor of Political Philosophy in the Department of Government at Georgetown University.  He is the author of over thirty books.  Of special note is his Another Sort of Learning—a stimulating collection of essays that should be read by everyone interested in education.




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2 Responses to “Why silencing Christians will continue…”

  1. Douglas B. Kennard Reply May 5, 2014 at 7:27 pm

    This article is frightening and all true. We need strategies for being faithful and bold. I am on the front line as a conservative, teaching in a predominantly liberal field–sociology.

    On the first day of class (and throughout the semester), students learn where I stand on abortion, homosexuality, religious freedom, and marriage. I take an unapologetically Biblically orthodox position on each of them. I have had some students tell me to “leave my personal opinions out of the class.” What they fail to realize is that they are more than personal opinions. I speak from the world-view of orthodox Biblical Christianity that has shaped Western Civilization for 4000 years! I would like to know of other fellow-warriors. I thank the Lord for courageous people like Dietrich Bonhoffer and contemporary leaders like Eric Metaxas and Robert George whom I can look up to.

    Doug Kennard

  2. So true – an Orwellian scenario, for sure. I wrote about political correctness a while ago… http://correctmaple.blogspot.ca/2012/05/canada-cultivatespolitical-correctness.html

    I also noticed among ‘friends’ you can on longer discuss anything controversial. People no longer defend their views, they simply don’t reply and – avoid those who have a different option than theirs!

    I guess, for now we can still write about it, since few people read blogs or scholarly articles. After all, everyone knows there’s a lot of lunatics posting on the Internet 🙂

    But talking about controversial topics is bound to isolate you socially, and if you hold an important position, such as CEO of a larger company, you will be forced to resign. Welcome to the new world!