(Update: Brendan Eich has resigned as CEO of Mozilla. The heretic has been burned.)
Christians have misused power to punish those with whom we disagree. We can all point to time periods where those who claimed the name of Christ used cultural clout or political power to unfairly attack individuals or groups who differed from us.
But religions are not the only ones who punish heretics. Secular government and cultures have exerted pressure and used physical force on those deemed out of the limits of acceptable viewpoints.
No one is threatening actual burning at the stakes today, but many in our culture have decided it’s time to pour some figurative gasoline on the logs and offer up another dissenter to appease the gods of this age.
This time, they want the dismissal of Brendan Eich as CEO of Mozilla, the tech company responsible for the Firefox browser among other things, because he donated to the efforts to block gay marriage from becoming legal in California in 2008.
When this $1,000 personal donation to Prop 8 came to light, he was accused of being hateful and bigoted. Not because of anything he had said or done to actually discriminate against a gay or lesbian individual, but because he donated money to a political cause he deemed worthy.
Once the firestorm re-ignited recently over that six year old “sin,” Eich offered up reassurances of his “commitment to fostering equality and welcome for LGBT individuals at Mozilla.”
But that’s still not enough. The fires are stoked, as it were, and they must be put to use. App developers have said they will no longer support the upcoming Firefox phone. An online dating service now blocks users on the Mozilla browser.
It seems as if many no longer view bigotry as a strong enough concept to use against those standing against the cultural tide. Instead, those who disagree are now heretics. It is an unacceptable violation of the doctrine enforced by today’s culture makers.
What else would you call a demand for doctrinal purity among every person in a place of influence? They do not view him as fit to lead a tech company he helped to found only because six years ago he financially supported maintaining the traditional definition of marriage in California law.
Theirs is a high standard of purity. There is no grace or forgiveness of past indiscretions, when it comes to those sins deemed unredeemable. Drunk driving, drug abuse, child molestation and more can be left in a person’s history, but deviations from the group-think on gay marriage will not be tolerated. Intolerance will not be tolerated after all.
This is what power does to those who have no one to rein them in. Religious people have done this in the past. Irreligious are doing it now.
But while Christians and non-Christians have both fallen victim to exploiting the social and political power they possess, that fact only demonstrates the truthfulness of the Christian concept of humanity. We are so clearly very fallen.
In “Equality,” an essay in Present Concerns, C.S. Lewis explains why he is a proponent of democracy and it applies to why no one – religious or not – needs unchecked power in culture or government.
I am a democrat [one who supports democracy] because I believe in the Fall of Man. I think most people are democrats for the opposite reason. A great deal of democratic enthusiasm descends from the ideas of people like Rousseau, who believed in democracy because they thought mankind so wise and good that everyone deserved a share in the government. The danger of defending democracy on those grounds is that they’re not true.
Whenever their weakness is exposed, the people who prefer tyranny make capital out of the exposure. I find that they’re not true without looking further than myself. I don’t deserve a share in governing a hen-roost, much less a nation. Nor do most people — all the people who believe advertisements, and think in catchwords and spread rumors.
The real reason for democracy is just the reverse. Mankind is so fallen that no man can be trusted with unchecked power over his fellows. Aristotle said that some people were only fit to be slaves. I do not contradict him. But I reject slavery because I see no men fit to be masters. (emphasis mine)
The irreligious pointed out, rightly so in many case, the times in which Christians have becomes the “masters” and mistreated those under us and in opposition to us. What the secularists haven’t realize yet is that they suffer from the same problem – they’re humans.
Humans in power want to force beliefs on others. One of the easiest ways to do this is casting every disagreement as if it were heresy. And as Brendan Eich and others are learning, heretics must be punished.