Thursday, December 15, 2011

Tim Tebow and “Christian incrementalism”

If [Denver Broncos quarterback Tim] Tebow wins the Super Bowl, against all odds, it will buoy his faithful, and emboldened faithful can do insane things, like burning mosques, bashing gays and indiscriminately banishing immigrants. While America has become more inclusive since Jerry Falwell​’s first political forays, a Tebow triumph could set those efforts back considerably.

This piece of anti-Christian effrontery by Rabbi Joshua Hammerman, and the op-ed piece it was part of, have been removed from The Jewish Week website. But not before it caught the ire of “Jammie Wearing Fools”, who posted a vicious fisking on Human Events, and the satirical gaze of Mark Shea:

Many Lefty Jews are stuck in some shtetl in Tsarist Russia and have trouble getting what 21st Century conservative Christians are really about. Part of it, as this piece demonstrates, is sheer class snobbery. Evangelicals like Tebow are seen by this snooty elitist as mouth-breathing Hee Haw lovers just about to erupt in mob violence at the slightest provocation. And this is understandable given the outbreaks of mass Christian violence against Jews that came with the release of The Passion of the Christ. Since that horrible terror erupted, leaving in its wake a nation traumatized by zero acts of violence against Jews (a number that has doubled every day since then), you can see why somebody like the author of this piece has grounds for his fears.

Well, not quite “zero” … there have been a couple of synagogue vandalisms since then. The problem is, since there were occasional synagogue vandalisms before, it’s really stretching things to argue that they were uniquely motivated by The Passion of the Christ. Ordinary anti-Semitic idiocy covers them nicely, thank you very much.

Snooty elitism isn’t confined to the victimology of “professional Jews”[*] such as Rabbi Hammerman. In Shea’s combox, “Dave G.” wrote:

Folks made similar predictions about 9/11. Remember? The entire country was supposed to boil over and millions of Americans were supposed to go staggering through the hills like so many extras eloped [? Perhaps he meant “escaped”? The mental image of zombie couples standing in Las Vegas wedding chapels, having their nuptials celebrated by Elvis impersonators, is hard to banish] from the set of The Walking Dead, butchering Muslims, Arabs, and any would be children of the Middle East. And yet, it didn’t happen either. There were a few attacks, some vandalism, some hate speech. But where were the oceans of blood? Where were the rivers of bodies in the wake of The Passion of the Christ?
Time and again we’ve been told that this is how Americans, especially conservatives, especially Christians, act. And yet, so far, it’s just not happened. You’d think we would start asking if something about the post-modern, post-western narrative isn’t right.

If it’s not right-wing mob violence, it’s right-wing fascism. For the last thirty years, I’ve been amused and disgusted by hardcore pro-abort hysteria over the phalanxes of jack-booted storm troopers coming to rifle through gynecologists’ records and herd women back into the kitchens. Since then, I’ve also been treated to invocations of identical Strosstruppen hurling battered and beaten gays into prisons, where they can be conveniently subjected to electroshock therapy, and frog-marching frightened atheists to church to be painfully subjected to the sight and sounds of God-worship.

Oh, it won’t happen right away. On a previous Shea post, “Slow Learner”[†] writes:

The real problem is that religion, and in particular Christianity, gets its privilege by thousands of small steps. When a judge wanted the Ten Commandments in his courthouse he cited the frieze of Moses in the Supreme Court and “In God We Trust” on the currency as precedent. He was wrong but if we don’t fight the small fights we become a religious state gradually and before we know it we have teacher led school prayer, creationism being taught in school (even if only as an alternative), Bible verses on our army’s guns, troops handing out Bibles to people in other countries, troops being discriminated against for not going to religious ceremonies etc. etc. [bold font mine]

Ah, there it is — creeping incrementalism, also known as the “slippery slope”. You see, there’s no such thing as a reasonable compromise, where we have women CEOs and Presidents of a (relatively) abortion-free[‡] United States, where homosexuals are neither mistreated nor “married” to each other, where a Christian can pray in a courthouse next to his deliberately non-praying atheist neighbor in somewhat-perfect harmony. He who settles for half a loaf will end up with only crumbs.

Of course, the definition of “a reasonable compromise” depends on who’s defining it:

If I am made to walk the plank by a pirate, it is vain for me to offer, as a common-sense compromise, to walk along the plank for a reasonable distance. It is exactly about the reasonable distance that the pirate and I differ. There is an exquisite mathematical split second at which the plank tips up. My common-sense ends just before that instant; the pirate’s common-sense begins just beyond it. But the point itself is as hard as any geometrical diagram; as abstract as any theological dogma.[1]

Why do “progressives” fear right-wing Christian incrementalism so much? Because that’s the tactic liberals themselves have used so successfully.

Over the last fifty-plus years, they’ve managed to impose their vision of a better society through the sort of “thousands of small steps” our atheist friend now shudders to contemplate from us rabid, intolerant-nutso Christians. But the Roberts Court, having wielded its ukase on behalf of conservatives, made it clear that certain tools and strategies such as judicial activism aren’t available only to liberals.

That’s why “progressives” invest minor details — such as Tim Tebow’s squeaky-clean Christianity — with so much drama: They’re reminders that their final victory isn’t inevitable, let alone secure.

[*] I use “professional” as a modifier for anyone who stakes most if not all of his/her identity on just one aspect of their lives … especially when that aspect is used to justify an ad culpam attack.
[†] The potential jokes this handle gives us are too obvious, too easy and too uncharitable. Think them if you must, but don’t say them.
[‡] Yes, some women are “gonna do it anyway”. It doesn’t necessarily or logically follow that abortion should be legal, let alone be the unholy sacrament of “liberated” womanhood.

[1] Chesterton, G. K. (1910). What’s Wrong with the World. Retrieved 15 December 2011 from Wikisource:, Chapter 1.2.