Contrary to what we are told, it was rather easy to stay on the right side of the old Western Church. In general, a baptized Christian was required to confess his sins at least once a year, attend mass fairly regularly, pay his tithe, and refrain from teaching heresies. This might not have satisfied God, but it satisfied the Church, and for many people satisfying the Church was enough.
These requirements were simple, clear, and well within the reach of just about everyone. What is more, a man could know, and quite possibly prove, that he had satisfied them. Keeping the Church off you back was largely, as we now say, a matter of checking the boxes. There were, of course, more exacting levels of discipleship for those who had a taste for such things, but the yoke lay rather lightly on the necks of the laity.
The old Puritans hated this arrangement because it meant the Church was stuffed with publicans and whores, and Puritans believed that publicans and whores must be purged. They must be hounded out of the Church, and, if possible, hounded out of the world. Staying on the right side of the old Puritan Church was hard because the old Puritan demanded evidence of saving grace.
In other words, the old Puritan insisted that there could be no difference between being on the right side of the Church and being on the right side of God, and he therefore began the terrible practice of looking into the state of every man’s soul. To avoid persecution, it was no longer enough to periodically recount one’s sins, attend a mass, pay the tithe, and refrain from teaching heresy. These objective requirements were replaced (perhaps I should say supplemented) by a more or less subjective evaluation of a man’s spiritual condition.
Because the old Puritans never really succeed in taking control of society, publicans and whores found some peace outside the old Puritan church. There they might run afoul of secular law, but secular law was objective, and staying within its limits was within the reach of just about everyone. A man generally knows if he is trespassing on his neighbor’s farm or committing adultery with his neighbor’s wife, and when he is wrongly accused he can often produce evidence of his innocence.
The same cannot be said of the spiritual sins of coveting his neighbor’s farm or lusting after his neighbor’s wife. The old Western Church taught that these spiritual sins were grievous in God’s sight, but it had the good sense to leave a man’s heart alone. A man’s heart might be full of sin, but objectively blameless living was good enough for the old Western Church.
The new Western Church is Political Correctness, and this is run along distinctly Puritan lines. Racism, antisemitism and homophobia are its spiritual sins of the heart, and since the new Western Church admits no God, just chastisement of these sins cannot be left to God. To carry any of these sentiments into conduct is, of course, especially wicked, but suspicion of their presence in the heart is sufficient grounds for persecution.
I know that my employer assumes, without evidence, that every employee and student is a racist, anti-Semite and homophobe, and it therefore persecutes us with mandatory training and struggle sessions. One can, of course, “check the boxes” by submitting to these requirements, but this alone does not put one in the clear. In the new Western Church, almost everyone is under permanent suspicion of a black heart. That is why mandatory training and struggle sessions are recurrent.
One problem is that these new spiritual sins of the heart are much more amorphous than coveting my neighbor’s farm or lusting after my neighbor’s wife. Each of them can easily be defined in a way that leaves almost nobody innocent. I have seen it asserted, for instance, that unwillingness to date a transgendered person is evidence of the spiritual sin of transphobia. It is now pretty well established that racism can take in every opinion that not taught by the faculty of a race and ethnic studies department. Some people have no difficulty conjuring antisemitism from the simple fact of saying no to a Jew.
I do not know about you, but I cannot honestly say whether or not I am guilty of the new spiritual sins (allowing for the moment that they are spiritual sins). But I do know that there are fanatical Puritans (what we call SJW’s) who believe they can see into my black heart if I give them the slightest pretext. Some have merely to look at me.
And that is why it is not at all easy to stay on the right side of the new Western Church.