The political, social, and moral climate is changing, and it is changing so dramatically and so rapidly that it is hard for people to adjust. That is, it is hard to adjust if a person believes that adjustment is necessary. Take the case of Brendan Eich, former CEO of Mozilla.
In 2008, Brendan Eich gave money to a cause he believed in. He made a donation in favor of political activism that worked to preserve the time-honored definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman. The record of human beings on the earth demonstrates conclusively that, until recently, human beings considered the union of a man and a woman to be a marriage, and they considered marriage to be a high and honorable estate, essential to a healthy society and required for the propagation and nurture of the next generation. When Brendan Eich observed that this most fundamental of all human institutions was threatened, he gave money to people who were working to preserve and protect it. He was not alone in his views, and nobody at that time thought his views were odd, let alone destructive.
Today, in 2014, Eich is unemployed as a consequence of that donation. Yet it is not the donation itself that fated him to lose his job with Mozilla. It is his expression of his thoughts today, about that act years ago, that took him down. Brandon Eich refused to confess that he was wrong to have done such a thing and that he has seen the error of his ways. Brandon Eich refused to apologize. That is his crime.
None of the articles I have read says whether Brandon Eich is a Christian. It is not necessary to know this information about Eich in order to conclude that Christians are threatened by a culture in which a man could lose his livelihood because he refuses to apologize for doing something that was and is both legal and moral. Eich lost his job, because there are a small number of very vocal and aggressive people who believe that it is morally desirable for a person to apologize in public for doing something they dislike. Their position is that they will forgive him for his error if he confesses publicly to having erred in supporting this view. This is what tyrannical governments do to prisoners who are being re-educated.
During the years of the Cold War, news about political dissidents trickled out of the USSR and Communist China. It was not uncommon to hear confession stories about someone who had previously vanished. The criminal reappeared on radio or television and “confessed” to a “crime” and “apologized” for disagreeing with the government. During the Vietnam war, American prisoners were paraded in front of cameras to “confess” and “apologize” for the crime of fighting against Communism. Secular social and political activists apparently want to do the same thing in the USA. They have done it against Brandon Eich.
The evidence is printed for all to see in an article about Eich’s dismissal. The facts of Eich’s story are that Mozilla learned of Eich’s donation and called his attention to it. The story was made known to the media. Eich was interviewed by CNET, a leading voice in the technical world. The interviewer asked him a question: “If you had the opportunity to donate to a Proposition 8 cause today, would you do so?” It is this question that Matthew Riley MacPherson, a developer for Mozilla, considered to be an opportunity for Eich to apologize and show his contrition over the error of his ways. According to MacPherson, “Eich was given the clear chance to publicly apologize on behalf of himself and Mozilla — something called for by many, including myself. When asked if he could do it all over and do it differently: the correct answer was ‘yes’. But he didn’t say he would do it differently. It was at that exact point in time that he failed as CEO. … He failed to execute.” In other words, Eich had the same opportunity given to Galileo for saying that the earth revolved around the sun; Eich could recant. He didn’t.
Many people who are not Christians nevertheless believe that the tradition of marriage is normally and properly defined as the union of a man and a woman. MacPherson’s statement indicts every one of them for thinking wrong thoughts and demands that they be punished. This blog is focused on Christian concerns, but people who agree with Christians in this matter face the same problem. Effective with Brandon Eich’s dismissal as CEO of Mozilla, the culture has said that thinking the wrong thoughts is a crime. The culture, not the government, put Eich on trial, convicted him and sentenced him. Yet given the fact that the federal government has already asserted in numerous courtrooms that someone engaged in business has no right to act on religious convictions, it is not out of order to ask how that philosophy will take shape in both legislation and regulation.
The first paragraph of this post asked if it is necessary to adjust to the rapidly changing political, social, and moral climate. It might be wise to ask exactly what constitutes adjustment. Is it enough simply to live and let live? It seems not. When confronted, a citizen apparently will be expected to do much more than simply stay out of the way of the cultural agenda. It is obvious that there is significant momentum to expect citizens to applaud the cultural agenda, to feel ashamed of ever having resisted this cultural agenda, and to be contrite and pay a price for past moral convictions. Brandon Eich’s case teaches that adjustment is required.
This demand is not a lot different from the threat Christians faced in the Roman Empire. Emperors who were called “gods” expected worship. It was an act of citizenship to bow to a statue of the emperor and to invoke him in prayer. Christians who refused to do so were thrown to the lions. In the US today, political and social activism is creating a climate that threatens Christians for even thinking thoughts in opposition to the notions that currently float at the top of secular concern.
What if a person who is a Christian runs for US Senate? Candidates who were known to be Christians were publicly maligned during the last election for being Neanderthals who were not in tune with the times. It is not a great stretch to imagine that every candidate in the next election will be grilled regarding religion and views toward the LGBT agenda. Brandon Eich’s story is the blueprint for destroying the candidacy of individuals with strong moral convictions, unless they are willing to confess and apologize for past bad attitudes. Debra Saunders says it well: “Eich’s enemies argue that intolerance of intolerance is not intolerance. But of course it is. By toppling Mozilla’s CEO, activists sent the message that having opposed same-sex marriage — a mainstream position also held by Barack Obama just six years ago — can be a career killer. It’s not enough to beat the opposition at the ballot box or in court; you have to ruin opponents’ grass-roots supporters personally, make people afraid to oppose you.”
It is not too late for enlightenment to strike the culture and turn back the venomous and violent dark forces of fear and scorn that threaten a free society. If the federal government wants to do something that will help the situation, let the president speak out in opposition to the mad dog attack on Eich. Let the Senate majority leader demand that the culture show real tolerance for ideas and religious convictions. Let the president of GLAAD declare that it is inconsistent with the values of any good citizen to destroy someone’s career over a cultural argument that has nothing to do with professional competence.
In the meantime, what must Christians do? Christians must do what Christians must do in all places at all times: grow in faith and in Christ-like behavior. Christians must nourish faith by prayer and Bible study. Christians must be faithful in the smallest opportunities to shine the light of Christ into a dark world. It is important to speak out on big issues and take the kind of action that doomed Brandon Eich to the unemployment lines, but it is even more important to share Christ all the time. Early Christians were maligned politically, because the culture that laughed at emperors behind their backs nevertheless thought the public image of compliance was important. Yet early Christians were known personally for their kindness and integrity, as is witnessed in the story of Dorcas (Acts 9:36-42).That kind of living testimony is how they earned the nickname “Christian.” It is important in today’s climate for Christians to be worthy of the nickname “Little Christs.” It is important in every era, because it is that testimony that Christ promised to reward. Additionally, that reputation will be as important to Christians running for political office as the money that funds their campaigns. The best way for Christians to survive the developing political, social, and moral cataclysm is to be faithful in the smallest things. Jesus said that his follower must “deny himself and take up his cross.” The real battle is not the battle with the LGBT agenda; the real battle is the battle with self. Brandon Eich won the battle with self and lost the battle with Mozilla. Every Christian must be ready for that sort of outcome if he fights the real battle.