“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be “cured” against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.”
― C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock: Essays on Theology (Making of Modern Theology)
Lately I’ve noticed that some of the hospitals where I work have banned sugary drinks. Physicians, nurses, patients and their family members can’t possibly tell what’s good for them, you know. Many schools have done the same thing, in an attempt to encourage the kids to drink juice, milk and water. There are, it seems, lots of people who know what’s best for everyone else.
But then, it’s not just food, is it? Although I’m no fan of smoking, I’m amazed that smoking bans are in place almost everywhere. It won’t be long until smokers have to leave not only the building, city and county, they’ll have to leave the atmosphere.
It’s all a little ironic since so many Americans, who are violently opposed to tobacco, are all on board with legalization of marijuana. (Maybe they’re part of the brownie cartel…wait, some schools have banned brownies. Dang it!)
But sugar and nicotine aside, let’s look at other bans. There’s the recent 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling from California. Some rascally kids wore American flags to public school on Cinco de Mayo. They were told to change and a legal kerfuffle ensued. Quick summary of litigation: the court says that they can, in fact, be banned from wearing clothes emblazoned with the Red, White and Blue. If they wore them, hurt feelings might ensue, and we all know how uncomfortable that can be!
In like fashion, many conservative speakers have been all but forbidden to speak at colleges and universities. Former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice canceled plans to speak at the commencement ceremonies at Rutgers University this year, because of protests from bright, tolerant students whose parents are paying vast sums for them to learn to appreciate different cultures and opinions. The students were upset over Ms. Rice’s former involvement in the war in Iraq.
Also this year, Brandeis University was planning to give an honorary degree to Sudanese-American Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a women’s rights activist and critic of Islam (and of the genital mutilation of women, of which she knows first hand). Brandeis decided it might not be a good idea because Ali had also, apparently, caused unpleasant hurt feelings among those she criticized, in a manner inconsistent with Brandeis University ”core values” (of which one appears to be don’t criticize female genital mutliation).
The list of persons asked not to speak at our open-minded institutions of higher education grows every year. But it isn’t just a problem in the hallowed halls of academia. Consider the wailing and gnashing of teeth that happened a couple of years ago when it was discovered that Chick-Fil-A, that iconic restaurant of the South, was owned by people opposed to same sex marriage! Why, boycotts were organized by thousands upon thousands of people…who never went there in the first place. (And the restaurant experienced record sales in a reverse protest of unparalleled chicken eating and sweet ea drinking…that’s my kind of political engagement!)
In addition, earlier this year, Internet giant Mozilla fired it’s CEO, Brendan Eich, when it was learned that he had once (privately) donated to the campaign against Proposition 8, which would have banned same sex marriage in California. (Remember kids, no business should control your body…they should only control your mind and opinions!)
It’s all more and more common, as control of others becomes institutionalized in schools, courts, government and business. It’s just that the magnificent irony is that as I wrote this last week, it was ‘Banned Book Week.’ This is the time when people typically take shots at stodgy conservatives for wanting to limit access to works like ‘Lolita,’ or even ‘The Hunger Games.’ (The Bible is not infrequently banned. Recently it was even temporarily removed from Navy guest lodges. But I guess it’s all the sex and violence.) Now, I’m opposed to banning books. It’s silly and only makes people want to read the book even more. Which, of course, makes it a great marketing ploy. (Did I tell you my latest book was banned? Yep! Buy it and strike against oppression! http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=life%20in%20emergistan&sprefix=life+in+e%2Caps )
However, what I want to know is this: doesn’t this seem inconsistent? We live in a country all misty-eyed over banned books, but thrilled to crush and divert any opposition to behaviors or thoughts that might run counter to popular opinion or wound someone’s infantile sensibilities, or might allow an individual the freedom to do, or believe, whatever he or she wants.
It’s an old ‘straw-man’ argument against the church that all we want to do is control people. That our goal is to take the fun out of life by banning sex, booze or dancing. That’s ridiculous! Catholics and Evangelicals have more kids than atheists, so short of virgin births somebody is having sex. And many Christians do drink; they just don’t make eye contact in the liquor store. As for dancing? Not so much a ban as the fact that white evangelicals are just so bad at it; and probably should be banned by a federal dancing commission.
There are indeed some controlling Christians who go too far. I agree. And for those within the faith, there are certainly things we’re prohibited by God from doing. We sometimes do them anyway, to our spiritual and physical peril, but that’s what repentance is all about.
However, I think controlling Christians have lost the lead. Christians have been far outpaced by the controlling lawyers, health-advocates, professors, politicians, community organizers and legions of politically correct busy-bodies who never tire of telling the rest of us what we can’t do.
The good news is they’ll still let us read ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ and other naughty books. As long as the titles don’t offend anyone, the content is multicultural, tolerant, multi-ethnic, and free of gender bias and nationalist tendencies and printed on recycled, dolphin-safe paper.
And as long as while we read those works, we’re drinking Diet Coke.