In 1978, a young scholar in his early 30s named Bill Donohue, working on a book about the ACLU, went to New York City to interview its founder, Roger Baldwin. Donohue asked him why the ACLU was opposed to a moment of silent “meditation” in the classroom. Baldwin responded, “I suppose you could get by with that, but it’s a subterfuge, because the implication is that you’re meditating about the hereafter, or God, or something.”
That revealing moment allowed Donohue to confirm that Baldwin opposed a moment of silent meditation because he feared some student might actually think about God — Baldwin’s impulse, and that of the ACLU, was not the “separation of Church and State”; it was the extinction of religious faith itself.
His interview with Baldwin provided Donohue with a glimpse of the secularists’ psyche he has never forgotten, which has served him well as president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. It is also the reason Donohue’s recently published book Secular Sabotage: How Liberals Are Destroying Religion and Culture in America does two things better than any other book of its kind.
First, it demonstrates how fear and hatred drive the secularists’ attempt to quash the presence of Christianity in American society. Second, Donohue proves that the “secular sabotage” he describes is deliberate and intentional.
Why is this important? I have often wondered, and I am sure Donohue has as well, why Christians have not protested more loudly against both the loss of their religious liberty and the relentless mocking of Christianity, particularly Catholicism, in the media.
The faithful, I think, are disposed to give their critics the benefit of the doubt, not wanting to see in them the kind of hatred toward their beliefs that Donohue reveals in his book. Similarly, Christians often offer benign interpretations of the secularists’ agenda, exercising their capacity for tolerance in ways that allow the secularists to establish their beachhead and gain credibility.
As Donohue puts it, many have failed to see that liberalism has evolved from the egalitarianism of the civil-rights movement to mere anarchy. The left-wing secularists aren’t working toward a vision of a better world that went “up in flames with the crash of the Berlin Wall, the Soviet Union, and all the other Marxist wonderlands,” which is the source of their despair: “That they have absolutely nothing to offer in the way of an alternative social order not only reveals their intellectual bankruptcy, it explains their rage. This is the revenge of the nihilists.”
Secular Sabotage leaves little, if anything, out of its account — Donohue includes chapters devoted to multiculturalism; sexual politics; the arts, primarily painting and sculpture; Hollywood films; the Supreme Court; the Democratic Party; Catholicism; and Protestantism. Throughout his narrative, Donohue translates his gift for the perfect sound bite on a cable news show to providing the most jaw-dropping illustrations of the anti-Christian bigotry he describes. Here is one I missed in the controversy surrounding former President Bush’s nomination of a Catholic, John Roberts, to the Supreme Court:
NPR’s Nina Totenberg opined, “Don’t forget his wife was an officer, a high officer of a pro-life organization.” Then she went in for the kill; “He’s got adopted children, I mean, he’s a conservative Catholic.” Adopted kids? That’s a sure sign he doesn’t like abortion. Probably believes in God, too. How Roberts survived all this is still unexplained.
One strategy used by Donohue to defend religious liberty and the Catholic Church is to simply restate the issue by substituting other religions, other ethnic groups, or sacred icons. This came in handy when dealing with artists desecrating images of Jesus Christ or the Virgin Mary. For example, when Donohue asked a Jewish defender of Serrano’s Piss Christ — a crucifix submerged in urine — “if she would be offended if someone put a Star of David in a bowl of feces, she expressed horror at the mere suggestion.”
In story after story, Donohue underscores the fact that the secularists he challenges will not abide the same ridicule of Judaism, Islam, or Buddhism that they perpetrate against Christianity. Even more troubling, however, is the lack of a single instance when his common-sense arguments changed anyone’s mind. Why have the secularists become incapable of rational exchange? The description Donohue applies to those who charged the Bush White House with theocracy seems apt: “They harbor a hatred against them [Christians] that is so visceral as to make them mad.”
Beyond providing the definitive chronicle of a secularist attack on Christianity in America, Donohue has issued a wake-up call to soft-hearted Christian citizens who refuse to see that, for decades, Christianity has been systematically targeted for removal from the public square and, ultimately, destruction.
If more Christians in this country realized they were facing a genuine enemy, one motivated by an ill-camouflaged hatred, perhaps their resistance would be more sustained and vigorous. In publishing Secular Sabotage, Donohue, one of the most influential lay Catholics in America, has thrown the equivalent of a Molotov cocktail back at the radical liberals with whom he has locked horns for many years. Whether his book will incite others to follow his example remains to be seen. I hope it will, because Secular Sabotage could not arrive at a more opportune moment.