The battles of the culture war look increasingly one-sided. Some of the supposed generals on the conservative side are more like defectors. Take Robert Gates, president of the Boy Scouts of America, who recently urged the organization to succumb to the demands of its critics. He essentially told the Boy Scouts that their Christian principles, not his counsel of capitulation, threaten the group’s future.
He urged the group to bow to the “social, political, and judicial changes taking place in our country” and declared that the “the status quo in our movement’s membership standards cannot be sustained.”
In the past, the Boy Scouts served God and country by upholding the organization’s principles. Now, according to Gates’s perverse spin on the code, service to God and country means abandoning those principles: “Our oath calls upon us to do our duty to God and our country. The country is changing, and we are increasingly at odds with the legal landscape at both the state and federal levels. And, as a movement, we find ourselves with a policy more than a few of our church sponsors reject, thus placing Scouting between a boy and his church.”
If Gates is right, that the condition for the group’s survival is moral surrender, then why work for its survival? It might as well dissolve. It was founded to Christianize children, not corrupt them. But Gates is not right. The group could remain true to its principles and survive. It might be smaller but it could survive. What Gates is presenting as a survival strategy is nothing more than his ideological preferences for the group.
The ease with which the Left is toppling institutions is explained by such figures as Bob Gates. They aren’t fighting the culture war themselves and don’t want anyone else to fight it either. It is clear that an institution’s demise is imminent when the statements of its enemies and its “leaders” become indistinguishable.
Another striking example of this phenomenon in recent days came from Ireland, where gay marriage passed easily in a popular referendum. The initiative’s supporters and opponents didn’t sound all that different. Its opponents didn’t even want to be known as opponents. “The Church’s decision not to lead the No campaign marks a new reality,” read one headline in the British press.
According to press reports, some priests voted for the initiative. One priest even wrote an open op-ed in support of it, saying that “I am one of those clergy-persons who intends to vote yes, not to cock a snoot at the leadership of my church, or to jump on a popular bandwagon, but because I think it is the right thing to do.… As a follower of Jesus, the à la carte Jew who recognized when certain laws had run their courses, I am convinced that now is the right time to have marriage equality.”
An ostensible opponent of the initiative, Dublin’s archbishop, Diarmuid Martin, reserved most of his rhetorical fire for bashing the Church. Her teaching on marriage has been “harsh” and “dogmatic,” he said, an odd declaration given the liberalization within the Church for decades. He then made a weak and apologetic plea for a “pluralist society” in which “people of same-sex orientation have their rights and their loving and caring relationships recognized and cherished in a culture of difference, while respecting the uniqueness of the male-female relationship.”
A Huffington Post headline also captured the waffling character of the initiative’s opposition: “Irish Bishop on Gay Marriage: ‘I Would Hate For People To Vote No For Bigoted Reasons.’” That bishop, Donal McKeown of Derry, wanted gay marriage supporters to know of his great respect for their stance: “I don’t doubt that there are many people who are practicing churchgoers of whatever church background who will in conscience vote yes and that’s entirely up to them. I’m not going to say they’re wrong.”
Ireland was once a Catholic country that sent missionaries out to the world. It is now a secularist country in need of them. It is clear that the bishops aren’t up to the task of spreading the faith if they can’t even oppose gay marriage straightforwardly.
The Left is making progress in the culture war not in spite of “conservative” opposition but because of it. Before the battle even begins, leaders like Bob Gates and Diarmuid Martin are waving the white flag. To paraphrase Yeats, the conservatives lack all conviction while the liberals are full of passionate intensity.