San Francisco is known as America’s archetypal liberal city, a bastion of tolerance, diversity and pacifism. A “minority-majority” city where whites comprise less than half the city’s population, San Francisco is a sanctuary city for illegal immigrants and the homeless, and it boasts the highest percentage of same-sex households of any American city. San Francisco’s unfettered diversity extends even to the lesser species, with dogs outnumbering children.
Recently, however, San Francisco has been home to some rather intolerant behavior, highlighting the Left’s erratic relationship with its most cherished virtue.
In late September, organizers of San Francisco’s annual Folsom Street Fair (which marks the culmination of the city’s “Leather Pride Week”) initiated an advertising campaign that openly mocked the Last Supper in ways too vile to describe here. Confusing impudence for wit, organizers then used the Last Supper poster as the fair’s official event guide and reproduced it as collectors posters that were posted throughout the city.
Days later, activists from Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a group of cheerless gay men who dress up in drag as Catholic nuns, attended a Catholic Mass and compelled Archbishop George Niederauer to deliver them the Eucharist, which Catholics consider holy. The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, whose motto is “go forth and sin some more,” then posted a video of their shameful stunt on the Internet.
Shortly thereafter Matthew Hinz was arrested after trying to set fire to a San Francisco convent while six nuns were sleeping inside. And last week “performance artist” Paul Addis packed an ammunition belt full of explosives and attempted to set fire to a historic Episcopal cathedral in downtown San Francisco. Deputy Police Chief Morris Tabak said authorities have no known motive for the attempted arson, but Addis reportedly claimed it was his “religious right.”
It should surprise few Christians that the city named after a 12th Century French saint is home to such un-saintly and intolerant behavior. Unfortunately, however, this most incendiary expression of anti-Christian bigotry hasn’t confined itself to the city by the bay.
Last year, college students torched nine churches in rural Alabama, and 13 church burnings were reported during a 4-month period in Phoenix. According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, 15 to 20 churches burn down every month in America. Between 2001 and 2005, 1,101 churches burned in the U.S., 38-percent of which were ruled arson, 21-percent ruled accidental, while the remainder were of undetermined cause.
Interestingly, the media often seem perplexed about what motivates such attacks. In July, when two Oregon teens burned down a church after spray-painting satanic symbols and swastikas on its walls, most of the media put it down to adolescent tomfoolery gone too far.
Others in the media try to justify attacks on churches as the logical consequence of religion’s intolerance. Attempting to explain the spate of fires in Alabama last year, University of North Texas religious studies professor Joe Barnhart told the Christian Science Monitor, “If you burn a church and nobody’s there, then it’s not murder, it’s a message. Because we do have freedom of religion, consequently it sends a double message: Even as religion binds people together it also often alienates people.”
Even worse, after the recent attempted arson of the San Francisco cathedral, Dorothy Parvaz of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer wrote a blog entry justifying the attack, stating that she could “understand the power of the image to someone who sees the Church as an oppressive institution.” Later, when given an opportunity to apologize for her incendiary comments, Parvaz refused.
All this begs the question: What would happen if there were two attempts to burn down abortion centers, “gay bars” or mosques? Of course we would be inundated with regular media reports detailing how mean-spirited conservatives and hypocritical Christians foment hatred and violence. And there would be demands for conservative and Christian leaders everywhere to denounce the attacks. When the targets are Christians, however, the media respond with a collective shrug of indifference.
But a paradox exists in the hostility towards Christianity. Whether they come from gays in San Francisco, liberals in Hollywood or troubled teens in Alabama, attacks on Christianity are often explained away as responses to Christianity’s inherent bigotry and intolerance. Ironically, however, it is precisely because of Christianity’s tolerance and charity that anti-Christian bigots feel safe to launch their attacks.
Think about it. One rarely sees gay activists reproaching Muslim leaders or mocking Islam despite Islam’s condemnation of homosexuality and even though many Muslim nations outlaw homosexuality and torture and execute homosexuals. These activists refuse to attack Islam because they understand they cannot do so with impunity.
In contrast, Christianity, deeply rooted in the virtues of charity and forgiveness, teaches its followers to “turn the other cheek,” to such attacks. Christianity’s enemies feel compelled to attack it knowing they can do so without inviting violent reactions.
Of course we shouldn’t expect the gay activists in San Francisco to appreciate this irony. In fact, San Francisco’s most recent “cultural event,” the Castro Street Halloween parade, was canceled because city officials determined that it had become too violent. Last year, nine people were wounded when a gunman opened fire at the celebration, and past years have seen stabbings and other violence. Apparently, the peace and tolerance that supposedly define San Francisco have become too much for even the city’s police to tolerate.