Let’s start with the obvious: Poland is not the United States of America.
Whenever people try to tell me that America is a “Christian nation,” I argue that America is not a Christian nation — it is essentially a Protestant nation. It’s impossible to pin one religion label on the founders, whose perspectives ranged all over the place. (yes, including the views of Deists and the Thomas Jefferson enlightened Neo-Unitarian crowd).
No one perspective would rule. But the free exercise of religious beliefs and convictions would be protected — at the level of the First Amendment.
That said, the most religious corner of the American Bible Belt has nothing in its cultural DNA that resembles the history of Polish Catholicism, especially in the 20th century. Believers there know what a tyranny of iron looks like. They have fears and concerns that Americans cannot understand.
Obviously, this history includes hellish, horrible wrongs committed in the name of religion — like Polish individuals who cooperated with Nazis to crush Polish Jews (while others, like the future Pope St. John Paul II worked to protect Jews). The Catholic DNA in Polish life has also led to almost transcendent moments of constructive, positive action in public life. Think Solidarity.
So what is happening in Poland right now, with the clashes between Catholicism and the cultural armies of the European Union, “woke” multinational corporations and American popular culture?
It appears that editors at The New York Times are absolutely sure they know what is happening, as demonstrated in a recent story with this headline: “Anti-Gay Brutality in a Polish Town Blamed on Poisonous Propaganda.” Here is the overture:
BIALYSTOK, Poland — The marchers at the first gay pride parade here in the conservative Polish city of Bialystok expected that they would be met with resistance.
But last week when Katarzyna Sztop-Rutkowska saw the angry mob of thousands that awaited the marchers, who numbered only a few hundred, she was shocked.
“The most aggressive were the football hooligans, but they were joined by normal people — people with families, people with small children, elderly people,” she said.
They blocked her way, first hurling invective, then bricks and stones and fireworks, she said. From the balconies, people threw eggs and rotten vegetables. Even before the march started, there were violent confrontations, and by the time the tear gas cleared and the crowd dispersed, dozens were injured and Poland was left reeling.
First things first. It’s obvious that horrible violence took place, while different groups inside Poland may argue about the details. Second, it’s easy to find “poisonous propaganda” in Poland on LGBTQ issues.
But here is the big question raised in this story: Can readers trust the college of cultural cardinals at the Times to draw an accurate line separating violent opposition to European-style gay rights and the actions of Catholics — Pope Francis, even — who fear that some LGBTQ “reforms” are a form of aggressive Western colonialism in new garb?