In monitoring the postings of my friends on Facebook and elsewhere, I sense a genuine surprise among the more benignly liberal that the federal government would actually send the county clerk of Kentucky’s Rowan County, Kim Davis, to jail for refusing to issue a marriage license to a gay couple.

Most of the supporters of same-sex marriage whom I know are not political people. A fair share of them are bright and good-hearted. Most of those are female. More than a few vote Republican.

They waved their rainbow flags this summer not knowing, or refusing to believe, there was a dark side to the gay-rights movement. In that I have been writing a book on the subject, I tried very nicely to warn them, but my warnings, however gently delivered, made me appear in their eyes anachronistic at best, bigoted at worst.

While the activists on social media argue the law to convince these nice people that Kim Davis belongs behind bars, the inarguable fact remains that Davis was not suspended, not fired, but sent to jail without bond for defending an institution that Barack Obama called “sacred” when he ran for president in 2008.

Davis’ imprisonment has caused many of these nice people almost as much unease as has the staggered release of Planned Parenthood videos over the last few months. Some are becoming openly uncomfortable defending actions that their activist allies expect them to defend.

In fact, though, anyone paying attention knew the imprisonment of Kim Davis – or someone like her – was inevitable. Convinced of their own righteousness, leftists have been taking a more aggressive posture, culturally and politically, than generations past. This may explain why they abandoned “liberal” and adopted “progressive” as their preferred self-designation.

The word switch mirrored a political reality. If old-school liberals could content themselves with honoring a fixed set of principles, progressives, like sharks, have had to move forward. At the risk of tautology, progressives “progress.” Their identity depends on it.

One major obstacle – the causes they have fixed on may seem entirely reasonable within their hermetically sealed universe, but to the rest of America they seem downright outlandish.

However outlandish their ideas, progressives have long had the power to hector and humiliate those who do not honor them, but historically they have had only a limited ability to enforce their values through the police arm of the state.

Here in the United States, citizens have enjoyed the added protection of the Constitution. With the ascent of Barack Obama – “the next messiah” as he was called too often and too earnestly— that protection began to erode.

In his campaign book, “Audacity of Hope,” Obama praised the founding documents. The Constitution, he argued, “encouraged the very process of information gathering, analysis, and argument that allows us to make better, if not perfect, choices, not only about the means to our ends but also about the ends themselves.”

Obama no more believed this than he did the lie he told to Rick Warren and his Saddleback Church congregation, namely that that “marriage is the union between a man and a woman.” Added Obama, “For me as Christian, it’s also a sacred union. God’s in the mix.” If you ever want to discomfort your liberal friends, run that quote by them.

Until recently, progressives had shamed many a poor soul out of a job, but they had sent no one to a gulag. Francis Cardinal George, who died just a few months ago, was among those traditionalists who sensed an unhealthy shift toward the coercive in Obama’s Washington.

The government, George observed, was beginning to take upon itself “the mantle of a religion.” In the age of Obama, George feared, a cultural-political “ruling class” was extending its sway over the nation’s institutions and was “using the civil law to impose its own form of morality on everyone.”

From his perspective, these moral czars seemed much too eager to tell citizens “what they must personally think [and] what ‘values’ they must personalize in order to deserve to be part of the country.”

If the nation proceeded apace in disowning its Judeo-Christian roots, George warned, “I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square.”

George added an overlooked modifier that I think is useful to the current debate. Said the cardinal of the martyred bishop, “His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.”

I don’t think we will have to wait that long. There are too many constitutionally minded and well-armed Americans who have no interest at all in becoming martyrs.

Jack Cashill’s brand new book illustrates how the neo-Puritan progressive movement came to mimic a religion in its structure but not at all in its spirit — order “Scarlet Letters: The Ever-Increasing Intolerance of the Cult of Liberalism”

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