Christian America's 'High Noon' Moment
American films of the 1940s and 1950s provide every allegory one needs. Take the 1952 classic High Noon, starring a particularly rugged Gary Cooper and beautiful co-stars Grace Kelly and Katy Jurado. Cooper plays Will Kane, an honorable marshal on the nineteenth-century frontier, who wants to retire with his Quaker bride, Amy, and turn in his badge. Upon learning that his beloved town Hadleyville is about to be attacked by outlaw Frank Miller and his posse, Kane decides he cannot accept a coward's departure. Even though it will risk his chances of a normal life with a wife and kids, Kane goes back to face the thugs, who he knows will strike at the arrival of the noon train.
In High Noon's climactic ending, director Stanley Kramer visualizes a timeless dilemma facing men of principle. What does one do when one faces a powerful, wicked enemy, and one's own "allies" refuse to help? This is the sad fate of Will Kane. His ex-lover Helen Ramirez and new bride Amy both want to flee town rather than be embroiled in a dangerous shoot-out. Whether they pay lip service to unity or flaunt their pusillanimity, the townspeople, bosses, and direct reports all forsake Will and leave him to face the town's nemeses alone.
(Spoiler alert! Trigger warning!)
In a surprise twist, the Quaker Amy decides at the last minute that she can't leave her groom during his last stand against vice. In usual Grace Kelly style, she rushes off the train and glides through the abandoned streets of Hadleyville, eventually finding a pistol and saving the man she loves by firing a round through a window to take out a lurking gunman ready to shoot Will.
Christians in America are a few minutes away from high noon. In our various ghost towns and rickety Main Street hideouts, we find ourselves increasingly stuck doing crowd control, surrounded by angry mobs pushing hedonism, abortion, sodomy, race war, Darwinism, and other heresies on us. This enormous gang of religion-haters is led by the ruling cadre of secularism, the well funded and shamelessly Machiavellian LGBT movement.
Everyone who was supposed to fight alongside us has conveniently vanished. The classical liberals who once had some influence in the Democratic Party have retired or died off, leaving behind a heartless progressive wing uninterested in religious freedom, academic freedom, free speech, and the preservation of traditional cultures, be they Western or third-world. By now it seems that half the Republican Party, from Ken Mehlman to Milo Yiannopoulos, has come out as flamingly homosexual – what a bonfire in honor of log cabins! – while the other half has to kowtow to the wealthy gays on their staff, with the result that the GOP now stands for a Grand Orgy of Pandering. Don't expect a mad rush to pass the First Amendment Defense Act or a constitutional amendment protecting marriage.
They'll talk a good game about family values, of course, especially when they are asking for money or begging voters to plug their noses and return them to office. Some may even deign to quote Tony Perkins once in a while. But whether it's Jan Brewer or Mike Pence or Chris Christie or countless others, they will end up somewhere shaded and safe, counting all the benefits they got by making sure the LGBT gang got what they wanted and churches got screwed. They will veto religious liberty bills, ban therapy for youths with unwanted same-sex attraction, and okay the Obama administration's overreach on transgender bathrooms. And when they do it, they'll proudly claim they're true Christians conforming to Jesus Christ's generous and forgiving attitude, while those insisting on such measures are meanies.
In other words, they'll take the last train out of town before high noon so Frank Miller and his gay bullies can steamroll the Christians with impunity.
And what of interfaith alliances? Jewish people face their own internecine battle between a highly fertile Orthodox population averse to politics and their Reform and "Conservative" counterparts who embrace politics largely to show gay people how open-minded and not-like-closed-minded-Christians they are. Given the centuries of anti-Semitism and atrocities in Europe seventy-five years ago, we may give Judaism a pass for not exactly rushing to stand shoulder to shoulder with Christians against their present adversaries. Buddhists, animists, and Hindus would find it hard to see theological commonality with Christianity. As for Islam, there's a town called Orlando that serves to remind us that Muslims have no problem violently persecuting gays while also encouraging gays to persecute Christians.
Remember Floyd Corkins?
Christians are like the rabbits in Watership Down, the species "with a thousand enemies," slowly realizing that polemicists like Zack Ford and Sally Kohn aren't harmlessly insane people who might become cute, furry creatures if only shown some love and pity. No, these LGBT commentators are bloodhounds who would like nothing better than to see Christians driven out of public life and herded into windowless basements with duct tape over their mouths.
Like Will Kane hoping that, at the very least, some of our own might stand with us, Christians who hope for help from other Christians are sure to be disappointed. The LGBT movement shrewdly backed a phony counter-theology based on the seductive but biblically unsound theories of dissenters like John Boswell, author of Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality, and Mark Jordan, author of The Invention of Sodomy. Now there is a whole generation of theologians like Jeff Hood, the queer-affirming organizer of Dallas's infamous Black Lives Matter protest, and Matthew Vines, the boyish Bible-quoter who thinks Scripture supports men's wrecking their bodies with anal penetration, as long as they do so in a loving, St. Paul-offering-his-body-as-a-living-sacrifice kind of way.
In a recent interview with former pornographic performer Joseph Sciambra, I struggled to make sense of "gay-affirming" ministries. I can remember when I studied under John Boswell and sat enraptured by his Yale lectures in the early 1990s, enthralled by the welcome notion that somehow Christianity, Judaism, and Islam could all be construed as rubber-stamping and even glorifying homoerotic urges. One couldn't resist the sheer theological shamelessness in sanctifying lusts that I'd seen played out in Manhattan sex dungeons, full of middle-aged white perverts and Puerto Rican boys paid to dress in chain harnesses.
As Sciambra points out, the folly of the "gay-affirming ministry" is a new blight on Christianity, and we must accept that the blight has disabled a large percentage of our fellow believers, if not a vast majority. Perhaps the first warning sign I saw was the common practice of gay Christian churches renting out their multi-purpose rooms to sadomasochism societies and boyfriend-swapping clubs. Protestant churches can bloom like mushrooms after a rainfall, and the multitude of fly-by-night pro-gay congregations in the 1990s were bound to set off a domino effect, eventually dashing any hopes of orthodoxy in the mainline denominations – the United Church of Christ, Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and Disciples of Christ. That my faith – the Southern Baptists – is still maintaining its position on sexuality and marriage is nothing short of a miracle.
Pope Francis's most prescient comments came when he stated that gay marriage is the tool of the Devil. For almost all of the mainline Protestant churches to be split and ruined by this one issue, one would have to conclude that there is a global evil at work in the LGBT agenda. The agenda has perhaps little to do with improving gay people's lives and much to do with destroying Christianity everywhere. But Catholics are gradually going the way of others in Hadleyville when they defend every disturbing quote from Pope Francis on the topic of homosexuality. True to his Jesuits and Latin America's penchant for liberation theology, he did say that the Church should apologize to gay people. Catholics who keep struggling to see an orthodox pontiff in him are sliding, one yard at a time, into error.
In context, Pope Francis's statement about apologizing to gay people is far worse, contrary to what many of his apologists argue. He stated the following:
I think that the Church must not only ask forgiveness – like that "Marxist cardinal" said (laughs) – must not only ask forgiveness to the gay person who is offended. But she must ask forgiveness to the poor too, to women who are exploited, to children who are exploited for labor.
I have pious Catholic friends who want desperately for this quote to mean nothing ill about the Vatican's future. They are kidding themselves. Yes, it is true that the pope shifts attention to paupers, women, and children – subjects better suited to a true Catholic mission – but he does so by equating these groups' vulnerabilities and historic grievances with the situation of "gay" people.
An intelligent Christian should not concede that "gay" people exist, because they don't exist. God created men and women for each other. He did not create other subcategories of sex and sexuality; all human beings are oriented toward finding the opposite sex and forming a procreative union with them. Some of His creations rebel against God's vision and defile themselves by engaging in sodomy. But gayness is not an identity; it is a fallen condition for individuals who have revolted against God and set their own desires above the call to follow their Creator's design. Christian churches have almost always maintained that these are children of God who need to be saved from such iniquity with prayer and compassion.
Women have been ravaged by sexism. The poor have been exploited by the high and mighty since the days of the Old Testament prophets. Children have always been prey for slavers and abusers because they are small and lack the protections that come with adult development and maturity. Women, the poor, and children are identifiable groups who can claim to have suffered injustice across millennia of history. Gays have no such claim. They are not collectively identifiable by any trait other than their willingness to rebel against God. They thrive in contemporary societies that cater to their every need with special counseling, lavishly funded parades, and disproportionate social prestige. Many if not most people with this identity have lapsed into the behavior of petty tyrants punishing anyone who dissents from them.
The Will Kanes of the world cannot stand up to the Frank Millers of the world if the pope takes away the former's weapon and tells Will to apologize to Frank for making him feel bad. While it is true that many of the most articulate defenders of traditional marriage and the pro-life cause, like Maggie Gallagher and Austin Ruse, come with Catholic credentials, Catholics who stand up to irreligious oppressors will be going increasingly against their pontiff and standing against a mob.
What are Christians to do? As bleak as this looks, we must watch High Noon again and hearten ourselves. Gary Cooper's performance as Will Kane was one of his most unforgettable. We will have to be heroes in our little Hadleyvilles and hope that someone remembers our courage later.