The Suffocating Neo-Puritanism of 'Progressive' America

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Alexandra Pelosi’s HBO documentary Fall to Grace tracks the evolution of New Jersey’s disgraced, self-dubbed “gay-American,” former governor, Jim McGreevey. In one passing scene, McGreevey enters a church ostensibly more welcoming than the judgmental Catholic Church of his childhood. The message board on the church front reads — and this is a close paraphrase — “Lord help us overcome the sins of racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia.”

Had the message board been bigger, the good pastor might have added nativism, Islamophobia, and xenophobia. In a postmodern world that prides itself on “non-judgmentalism,” these have emerged as the seven new deadly sins, and God help the man, woman, or child who commits one.

Unlike the Catholic Church McGreevey abandoned, his newfound Neo-Puritanism is unforgiving. It shows sinners little mercy and offers them no path to absolution. Indeed, like Hawthorne’s Hester Prynne, the sinner is publicly branded with her sin.

Celebrity chef Paula Deen did not commit the sin of racism; she is a “racist.” She must forever wear the Scarlet R, just as Mozilla’s Brendan Eich must wear the Scarlet H for “homophobe,” and activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali wears the Scarlet I for “Islamophobe.” From the Neo-Puritan perspective, nothing else counts; that letter is their identity.

The cult’s clerics add new sins regularly and new sinners daily. Of late, in addition to Eich and Hirsi Ali, Cliven Bundy, Phil Robertson, even Alec Baldwin have joined the ranks of the damned. Hawthorne described his seventeenth century ancestors as “being of the most intolerant brood that ever lived,” but these “little Puritans” had nothing on the big ones that would flourish four centuries later.

In both the old and new Puritanism, worshippers achieve a sense of moral worth simply by designating themselves among “the elect” — no good works required. To validate that uncertain status, however, they feel compelled to heap abuse upon the sinner lest they too be thought guilty of the sin.

This, LA Clipper owner Donald Sterling has been learning the hard way. Sports-minded progressives who have found mercy in their hearts for dog killers, wife beaters, child deserters, lethal DUI drivers, steroid abusers, cocaine addicts, serial baby daddies, and abortion enablers have not spared a drop of it for a cuckolded old sugar daddy whose comments on race had been so teased out of him that they are impossible to quote. Hell, even a psycho throat-slasher like O.J. Simpson has retained a larger public cheering section than Sterling.

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