The Scriptures of the last days of the year are full of references to great upheavals in the natural world and the body politic, signs in the sun and moon, wars and revolutions. Some see these signs being fulfilled before our very eyes, but Jesus tells us it is not that simple.

The signs of the times from America are worrying, not because, as some claim, a Trump presidency brings the end of the world a step nearer, but because what the US election shows us is the increasing fragility of democracy and the rise of the dictatorship of relativism so accurately analysed by Pope Emeritus Benedict.

It seems to me highly significant that both Brexit and Trump’s victory confounded the polls. This can only mean that voters no longer feel comfortable telling pollsters their voting intentions. People have become fearful of expressing certain views in a democracy. This is a contradiction in terms: the power of a governing class or a media machine to impose a collective consensus in its image is getting stronger and stronger. It has to. You cannot drive a coach and horses through the right to life, freedom of conscience, natural marriage or the biological reality of gender without a degree of coercion.

The strength of that coercion began with the manipulation of language. Twenty-five years ago we all threw up our hands in amused disbelief at stories of how you were “no longer allowed” to speak of blackboards or sing Baa, Baa, Black Sheep, as this was offensive to a minority. This seemed so absurd to any rational person who had ever seen either of the objects in question, or who knew that the meaning of a word was the sum of its contexts, that the strength of the threat could be missed. Now it has become apparent that this was a pre-emptive attack by self-appointed promoters of minority rights to gain power by demonising the character and motives of anyone who did not share their interests.

Such power is then used not to oppose by engaging with the issues, but to make alternative views unthinkable or certainly unsayable. (Remember how Mr Cameron’s government held a “consultation” on the proposal for gay marriage which precluded opposition to gay marriage?) It is the final irony that to avoid reasoned debate with those who oppose you, a whole list of “phobias” have been invented to stigmatise anyone who disagrees, for whatever reason.

Scenes from the US of those who claim the moral high ground of tolerance, liberalism and inclusivity engaged in rioting, or tweeting to call for the assassination of a democratically elected politician because they are so opposed to “hate”, suggest that the silent majority are safe as long as they remain just so. “Tolerance” now seeks to oppose the will of a democratic majority.

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