Whom the Gods Would Destroy
It seems that Obama, in a classic act of hubris, has created the means of his own destruction. Through his great historical contribution, his health care bill, he has struck what was surely intended to be a lethal blow against the oldest organization on earth -- an organization with something on the order of a billion members, with a cadre of hundreds of thousands of highly trained and dedicated personnel, and a history of overcoming political threats that make Obama look like a kindergartner.
I'm referring, of course, to the Catholic Church. Now, I don't mean that the Archangel Gabriel will appear out of the East to scourge the administration with a blazing sword, though I would pay to see that. What I'm saying is that Obama has at last taken the step that we all knew he had in him, the ultimate act of arrogance and contempt that will bring the forces of history down upon him.
The left has always underestimated the Catholic Church. "How many divisions has the pope?" Stalin once asked Molotov, mocking the Church's powerlessness in the modern era. He was not around to see John Paul II rend the Bolshevik kingdom in twain at the climax of the Cold War, utilizing the only forces he required: moral certainty and absolute faith in the divine mission. Most American leftists are a little different, viewing the Church as an anachronism, obsessed with medieval ideas having no place in the third millennium and populated with strange figures in outmoded clothing, if not with an endless parade of child-molesters.
What they overlook is two thousand years of history. An organization does not survive for that length of time -- and no other organization has -- without internalizing things not completely understood by even the deepest thinkers among us. The Church survived the fall of Rome, the barbarians, the first Muslim upsurge, several schisms, the Renaissance princes, the 20th-century totalitarians, and its own plunges into decadence, and it will also survive modernism. Which is in fact what it confronts in Obama: a man of vast though superficial sophistication and little insight who has punched all the tickets available to him in his epoch and culture and truly believes there is nothing else. And now this man, afraid of revealing his own college transcripts, thinks he can take on the Church of Peter, founded a millennium before the appearance of any nation now existing on this earth.
This is Obama's game, despite the fact that it was Kathleen Sebelius who triggered the confrontation. She is not particularly relevant, being simply a tool in Obama's hands. (I have no doubt that she thinks that she's showing that she won't be pushed around by any bishops, several of whom have threatened her with effective excommunication. But this is spiritual vanity, a commonplace and contemptible sin.)
The issue in question is a federal edict requiring that all organizations provide their employees with access to birth control and abortion as part of their health plans. It explicitly includes the Catholic Church -- its schools, its colleges, its hospitals, its institutions -- in open defiance of the Church's basic teachings regarding human sexuality. This edict is a direct product of Obama's health care scheme and is derived completely from his philosophy.
With this move, Obama has thrown down the gauntlet. How will the Church respond? It could be as straightforward as thousands of priests standing before their congregations the last Sunday of October and encouraging them to go into the voting booth to punish the enemies of all that is holy. (Three-quarters of American priests condemned the policy from their pulpits last weekend. Obama has accomplished something there -- the pope himself couldn't get that many priests to agree on anything.) But it will probably be more subtle than that.
History has its own rules that are not our rules. One of them appears to state that a man who overreaches himself will fall in proportion to the extent that he has overreached. Obama has overreached himself as far as any political figure in the American record, and his fall will be proportionate. He cannot avoid this or mitigate it. His action against the Church is an example of that small class of acts that cannot be uncommitted. (I'm sure that some will see this as a scheme by Obama the Clever -- that he will reconsider and revoke the regulations just before the election, thus winning the eternal gratitude of Catholics across the country. Sorry...it doesn't work that way. You can't "reconsider" an attack on basic religious beliefs.)
This will be the kernel around which serious disgust, loathing, and resistance to Obama at last coalesce. It has already worked its way through the Catholic community. In short order, it will move on to the other Christian confessions and to practicing Jews. Believers, no matter what their connection to the eternal, will see Obama as a man who has profaned the temple. A man who sees himself as over and above the divine. They all know their history, they are all aware of what becomes of such types, and they will respond as their faith requires of them.
Serious liberals (a dying breed, it goes without saying) will come to see him as a man who has truly violated the Establishment Clause at the most basic level. (E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post has already expressed this.) They may not turn on him, but many will cease to support him, as a rogue politician who is capable of anything. (It should be mentioned here that he has also thrown away his biggest weapon against Mitt Romney -- Romney's membership in the odd yet wholesome Christian offshoot known as Mormonism. Obama will find it difficult to trample anyone's religion after this.)
But it will not be believers or liberals who at last bring Obama down. That will occur as a result of his own efforts. Consider the ancient Greek dramas -- it is the violation itself that brings about destruction, not any outside response. The gods don't need to step in. The act creates a cascade of consequences, each of which must be dealt with and each of which creates its own cascade, which events must themselves be addressed, until the transgressor is overwhelmed and finds himself in a lonely place, facing the nemesis that he has fled for so long, only to learn that it was himself, always and forever.
This is no longer an ordinary electoral campaign. Through Obama's action, it has taken on the status of the archetypal, with the foolish, proud mortal taking up arms against eternity. We all know how that works out, even if Obama doesn't. But he will learn, over the next few months, while we all look on.
And God help me, I am looking forward to it.