The Catholic Thing
Imagine No Opposition; It’s Easy If You Try Print E-mail
By Francis J. Beckwith   
Friday, 24 May 2013

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Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace
--John Lennon, “Imagine” (1971)

The late John Lennon implied in this famous tune that utopia requires the absence of real human differences and firm convictions, as if the communities, beliefs, and civil societies that arise from a free people are the enemy rather than the fruit of peace. Lennon imagined a world in which nothing was worth dying for (and thus not worth living for), that the afterlife offered no hope (“above us only sky”), that a man may not own what is rightly his (“no possessions”), and that life’s meaning is forever severed from a transcendent source (“no religion too”). 

Unsurprisingly, Lennon’s cultural children, who now occupy the seats of power in virtually all our public institutions, view any opposition to their flower-child idealism as by its very nature inconsistent with the “good society,” even if such opposition is a consequence of a free people exercising their rightful powers as citizens. Thus, they do not view their visceral hostility to contrary voices as a prologue to tyranny, but rather, as a legitimate reaction to those who propagate “injustice.”  Consequently, given human nature, and the diversity of social, intellectual, and religious paths that arise from a free people committed to ordered liberty, the world of “Imagine” can only be achieved by suppressing the opposition.

As we learned earlier this month, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) admitted that it had over the past few years targeted for “special treatment” Tea Party and conservative groups applying for 501(c) 4 or 501(c) 3 tax-exempt status. For example, according to one report, an Iowa prolife group was asked in 2009 by the IRS to “please explain how all of your activities, including the prayer meetings held outside of Planned Parenthood, are considered educational as defined under 501(c) 3.” They were also asked to “please provide the percentage of time your group spends on prayer groups as compared with other activities of the organization,” as well as “to explain in detail the signs that are being held up outside Planned Parenthood, and explain how they are considered educational.”

In response to these startling revelations, President Barack Obama expressed his condemnation in these wordsIf in fact IRS personnel engaged in the kind of practices that have been reported on and were intentionally targeting conservative groups, then thats outrageous. And theres no place for it. All people of good will should applaud the president for taking such a firm stance.

However, over the past few years, the president, his administration, and his supporters, both in and out of Congress, have conducted themselves in a fashion that seems to give tacit permission for the very IRS actions that the president and most of his allies now rightly condemn. This is because they are at bottom Lennon’s cultural children. For the civil consequences of liberty – the birth and development of free institutions and associations – make the “perfect” world that they “imagine” unachievable.

It began in April 2009 when the Department of Homeland Security issued a report that  suggests, “acts of violence could come from unnamed rightwing extremists’ concerned about illegal immigration, abortion, increasing federal power, and restrictions on firearms.” In 2012, during the president’s re-election campaign, the effort acquired teeth and became concerted.

In March 2012, several Democratic senators issued a press release that included a letter they had written to IRS commissioner Don Schulman asking the agency “to immediately change the administrative framework for enforcement of the tax code as it applies to groups designated as social welfare’ organizations.” And if the IRS didn’t take their advice, the senators promised, “to introduce legislation to accomplish these important changes.”

This press release followed the February 2012 tweet in which President Obama singled out two private citizens by name – Charles G. Koch and Bill Koch – and asked his supporters to “add your name [to a petition] to demand that the Koch brothers make their donors public, one of those now outrageous requests made by the IRS to many of the conservative groups it admits to have targeted.

Around this same time, the confidential tax returns of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) were leaked by someone at the IRS to NOM’s political opponents, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). HRC then gave the returns to the Huffington Post, which subsequently published them online. The disclosure revealed the names of donors that included Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

At the time HRC obtained these returns and allowed them to be published online, its president and Huffington Post contributor, Joe Solmonese, had already been named a national co-chair to President Obama’s re-election campaign. As far as one can tell, the president issued no statement calling for an investigation of the IRS or saying that what HRC did was “outrageous” and that there was “no place for it.”

How could he? When you give tacit permission for your followers to harass private citizens until they disclose what they are not required to by law, and when senators from your own party are calling for an IRS crack-down on tax-exempt associations holding political views you oppose, you’re in no position to declare that there is “no place for” HRC’s misdeed. You would be like Hugh Hefner condemning a brothel owner for promoting promiscuity.

Although I can provide many other examples, the bottom line is this: the president and his allies undoubtedly knew that their tactics, if effective, would result in the suppression of political groups that, if allowed to flourish, would not be congenial to the president’s electoral success.

Imagine no opposition; it’s easy if you try.

Francis J. Beckwith is Professor of Philosophy, and Resident Scholar in Baylor’s Institute for Studies of Religion, Baylor University. Among his many books is Politics for Christians: Statecraft as Soulcraft (InterVarsity Press, 2010)
The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

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Comments (17)Add Comment
written by Jacob, May 24, 2013
Even Lennon couldn't buy into the nonsense for long though and claimed to be Christian shortly before he died (he remained conflicted, but it's interesting that they've made an ideological hero of someone who was so unsure of their secularist religion).
written by Deacon Ed Peitler, May 24, 2013
Does anyone recall how the Clintons perfected the art of demonizing the opposition and used other methods to silence and ultimately destroy them? But, then again, they are the flower children of the sex, drugs and rock n roll generation whom the Beatles serenaded. They, along with Obama and his ilk learned well from their high priest Saul Alinsky. It is this crowd that has created the culture that we now live in. Can anyone tell me any of the cultural achievements of the past 50 years? Just what I thought.
written by Jack,CT, May 24, 2013
The "Culture of Fear" placed into investigative
reporters like Fox and Rosen is a scary reality!
It is almost as if the press is being warned if
you use your "contacts",you risk being Violated.
The current culture in Goverment has made an
impact in reporting as stated by the president
of the "AP" stated earlier this week,'Contacts
are afraid to call"!
It is very hard to believe scandels of this kind
could happen here!
As a conservative you feel like u have a target on
your back!
I suppose in this culture of corruption we should not
be suprised and when a society devalues "Life'
anyone is fair game,Pray for our Nation as we
wait this one out......
written by Grump, May 24, 2013
Seems Lennon may have had a good point, if not good intentions considering that religion is at the root of ancient and modern conflicts:

Protestant v. Catholic
Judaism v. Christianity
Islam v. the "infidels," or people who don't believe what they believe. The result: perpetual war for perpetual peace.

Chris Hitchen and many others have deftly described the evils of "religion," including the countless murders and atrocities done "in the name of God" down through the ages.

According to the Bible, it all started with God's arbitrary preference of Abel's offering to that of Cain's provoking Cain to commit the first recorded murder and kill his brother Abel. It got much worse from there. The Pentateuch reads like a police log in Chicago as the Israelites, usually led by Joshua, slayed tens of thousands with the assent of Yahweh.

Nowadays, we hear "God is Great!" when throats are cut or lives are otherwise ended with savagery.

What would the world be like without religion? We'll never know but it might have been a much better place had Noah put a lot more dogs on the ark and a lot fewer humans.

In the words of Tom Paine, "Of all the tyrannies that affect mankind, tyranny in religion is the worst."

written by Aramis, May 24, 2013
Mr. Grump,

That is a very orthodox Baby Boomer view. Unfortunately it is also the foundation of relativism and and an aspirational post-God culturally Marxist philosophy which when taken to its logical conclusion ends with the denial of the intrinsic dignity of the human person and a hatred of life itself where there is no good beyond the quantifiable satisfaction of the 5 senses.

Anyways, Stalin and Mao seemed to do ok in the killing business and they were not regular attendees at Mass.
written by Ken Tremendous, May 24, 2013
First, Obama already won reelection fair and square. So I'm not sure how this IRS mickey mouse helps his "electoral prospects."

Second, 501c4 organizations are not tax exempt. The only advantage is that individuals can give money to them anonymously.

Third, I personally wish that many of these tax exemptions would go away in any event. Our tax code is already way too complex. Moreover, this whole let's- not- do anything- to- jeopardize- our- precious -5013c- status effectively neuters the USCCB as an effective sign of contradiction.

Fourth,--to the substance-- let's not kid ourselves that both parties do not do things that attempt to defund the opposition. Much of the GOP's anti-labor and anti-govt. agenda boils down to cutting off money that's used to help mobilize Democrats and defeat their candidates. There's nothing new here. Both parties have been at this game for as long as we've had parties.

Dr. Beckwith, you have alot of gifts as a Catholic theologian and social commentator. Might I gently suggest that you ply your efforts in that realm rather than descending into crass right-wing punditry--which this piece smacks of?
written by Sir Mark, May 24, 2013
Ah yes, the 8th grader defense, "They're doing it, too!"
written by just somebody, May 24, 2013
To Ken Tremendous:
Although I am an avid reader of TCT, I have never posted a comment. Mostly because I think I lack the skills of written argument and response. But here goes:
Ken Tremendous: your response is B.S.
Making this a partisan argument? EVERYONE should be extremely alarmed by the actions of the IRS and the Justice Department, both right and left. Their actions have crossed the line and cannot be explained away by personal opinions of tax codes, and a "the other side does it too" attitude.

There. I have posted. And I feel better, already :).
written by Waylon, May 24, 2013
Taken in the whole the IRS scheme was a successful attempt to rig a presidential election. This goes to the root of our polity.
written by Deacon Ed Peitler, May 24, 2013
Ken Tremendous, who actually administered the KoolAid that you obviously have consumed?
written by andrew, May 24, 2013
Mr. Grump, I hope that you are able to read this. First of all, religion is man's attempt to reach God. There are many religions in this world that are not after the one true God (John 14:6). Many religions do not recognize Jesus as God and therein is the contradiction (Hebrews 12:3). So, many wars are instigated through the evil in man's unredeemed heart. An evil root produces evil fruit. However, a good root produces good fruit.

Secondly, If you read Genesis 4:1-8 then you'll see that God preferred Abel's sacrifice over Cain's because of his heart. In Hebrew's 11:4 it says, "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh." Abel had the witness of the Holy Spirit that he had a right standing with God. This verse in Hebrews is inferring that Cain, because of his own heart knew that he did not have a right standing with God. But, God wasn't against Cain. He loved Cain. He even counselled with him. This is revealed in verse 7 of chapter 4, "If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him." God was saying to Cain, you are the first born. I accept you but do you accept me and believe me? And you should rule over your brother Abel but you need to change your attitude and love your brother. Cain needed to get over his envious attitude toward Abel, but instead Cain let his emotions run wild and in his anger killed his brother, Abel. It wasn't God's doing, it was Cain's own heart that condemned him.

People do alot of wrong things in the name of god. But, that is not in the name of the one true God. God is the same in the old testament as He is in the new testament. The Bible says that God is the same yesterday, today and forever. 1 John 4:8 says that God is love. That is his nature.

Mr Grump, please see that I'm trying to reveal the truth of who God is through scripture and that He loves you and me and desires a relationship with Him as a loving Father. Thanks for reading this and for your understanding heart.
written by Tony, May 24, 2013
Dear Grump: The overwhelming majority of wars in the history of the human race have not had a darned thing to do with religion. The novelist and essayist Marilynne Robinson, no conservative (but a great and Christian writer), has wondered whether people like Hitchens have ever troubled to read Thucydides.

I have just heard today, from Rose Tennent (sp?) of the Quinn and Rose Show, that IRS workers belong (or are "encouraged" to belong) to a Treasury Employees' Union, and that this Union wrote a letter to various congressmen, urging them to contact the IRS so that the IRS could examine more closely the activities of TEA Party organizations. The same Union contributes money to the campaigns of these congressmen. That doesn't just smell. That is a rotting corpse.
written by Children Activities, May 24, 2013
I admire the valuable data you provide in your articles or blog posts.
Very interesting topic, thanks for posting.
written by Jack,CT, May 25, 2013
Dear "Just Somebody",
You made perhaps the best atatement.
I thankyou and hope you continue to
make your "Voice" heard.
written by Grump, May 25, 2013
andrew, read and soaking in.
written by SoCalChick, May 26, 2013
Not at all tremendous Ken... Keep telling yourself that Obama
Won "fair & square" ... Maybe you'll swallow that lie, but
Truth always prevails. The Democrat party out of Chicago is
About as far away from fairness as possible. Voter fraud, voter
Registration fraud, election law violations were at an all
Time high. These criminal acts coupled with the suppression of
Facts from the Benghazi incident and this monstrous IRS
Tyranny are but a tiny piece of the fraud that hovers over Obama.
Keep lying to yourself Ken, because the truth is apparently
Too scary for you and your fellow Obama-bots
written by Deacon Ed Peitler, May 27, 2013
Knocked it out of the park, SoCalChick...well done

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