Next the Sudetenland?

May 30th, 2012
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What do MacLean’s magazine, the struggle of religion in the public square and the Sudetenland have in common? Well, indulge me for a moment.

Let’s start with the Sudetenland and the inside joke it refers to. MrK and I occasionally mused on what we might do if, heaven forbid, our writing morphed into a regular national bully pulpit. Well, I thought it was inevitable that, like so many opinion writers, I would eventually indulge my pet themes. Things like the ethnic cleansing of more than 12 million Germans after World War Two,  and Chico Marx’s piano performances – both topics that are now fairly well represented on Youtube.

So it is that I wondered some weeks ago what MacLean’s twenty-something columniste, Emma Teitel, would do with her soapbox. Given that she has been writing in the mag roughly every other week for almost a year, she’s got about 20 columns under her belt. She led off with an article about Rob Ford and the Pride Parade, shrieked at Republicans, mused on Danielle Smith consorting with paleo-conservative knuckle-draggers (she’s much more dangerous than Rob Ford) and recently expounded on the impropriety of mentioning Jesus on a T-shirt.

Not that I’m keeping track, but that makes it a healthy 20%-plus of her opinion pieces dealing with the dangers of traditional morality and those championing it (or seeming to) in the public square. Seems to me that it hasn’t taken her long to reach her Sudetenland tipping point.

Her criticism last week of 19 year-old William Swiminer, who wore a yellow t-shirt with the words “Life is wasted without Jesus” to his high school, was rather interesting. She apparently advocates a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for the faithful saying “the most sincerely devout people I know are the most discreet”; that their faith is “far too precious to flaunt”. Alright then.

She apparently prefers to be spared the discomfort of Mr. Swiminer’s proselytizing and, one might expect, other public expressions of religious faith she deems too strident. One wonders what she would make of the young man in Cincinnati who won a recent court settlement of $20,000 from a local school board and the right to wear a “T” with the slogan “Jesus is not a Homophobe” to his school. Perhaps that would be more congenial to Ms Teitel? Poor Swiminer only got to wear the shirt.

Ms Teitel has of course every right to defend contemporary social orthodoxy. And it would certainly be convenient for her if people she disagrees with would simply stuff a sock in it.

Silent, invisible religiosity – if there can actually be such a thing – might be advisable if there weren’t clear evidence that religious freedom is under attack. The recent anti-bullying edict in Ontario is just one example: Michael Coren argues convincingly that the assault is much more extensive and serious. While some expressions of faith may be less persuasive than others, one shouldn’t be surprised if many wish to defend their rights – whether Ms Teitel likes it or not.

She bemoans the publicity given Mr. Swiminer and his cause. Just imagine if MacLean’s had chosen someone more like him as an editorial intern last year than the conventionally post-modern Ms Teitel. That would have been news. Telling religious people to shut up? That’s getting a little old.

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By John Weissenberger