In the preface to the second edition of The Formation of a Persecuting Society , Robert I. (R.I.) Moore notes that his study of systemic persecution of certain categories of individuals should in no way be interpreted as suggesting is a focused study of a specific period of time and...
In the preface to the second edition of The Formation of a Persecuting Society, Robert I. (R.I.) Moore notes that his study of systemic persecution of certain categories of individuals should in no way be interpreted as suggesting is a focused study of a specific period of time and that extrapolations based upon his findings should be applied with caution. He also warns against interpreting his findings as constituting an indictment of "the Church" relative to other institutions and prejudices, writing that "the Church was not the sole, or even the principle agent of persecution." Moore's point, then, was that the phenomenon of institutional or systemic persecution was not limited to any one institution, such as the Church, or to any one government, people, or culture. And therein lies the enduring problem of persecution: it survives the passage of time and crosses borders. It could be said to be a part of the human condition, and therein lies the tragedy.
One of the principle advantages of Moore's revised edition of The Formation of a Persecuting Society is its expanded examination of the application of his principles or findings to contemporary society, if only briefly, a particularly interesting extension given the continued persecution of some of the same groups discussed in the context of medieval Europe: Jews and homosexuals. Such groups, as well as lepers and heretics (the latter once considered a bygone category of persecuted individual but now revitalized in the age of Islamist terrorism) were the principle groups targeted for persecution in Moore's study. Jews and homosexuals remain persecuted groups today, though homosexuals (and, increasingly, transgender individuals) gradually but steadily gain acceptance in mainstream societies. In the case of Jews, there has been a resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe and, of particular note, across the United States as well, a particularly disturbing development in light of the role the United States has historically played in providing a safe haven for persecuted groups, including Jews.
Moore's central thesis is that the persecution of select categories of humanity cannot be considered as a series of isolated incidents but rather should be regarded as part of a much broader societal propensity to identify and isolate specific groups for any number of reasons specific to each group (e.g., Jews and the crucifixion; lepers and the fear of contagion, etc.). Applying that thesis to perceptions of homosexuality, or sexuality in general, in the United States, one could logically make the argument that the phenomenon of persecution of homosexuals (and, today, transgender individuals) fits into the model Moore identified in his study of the Middle Ages. The same often irrational designation of certain groups as undesirable and appropriate targets for discrimination exists today around the world, including in the United States, as it existed hundreds of years ago in Europe. The thought processes that delegitimize or dehumanize certain categories of individual continue to be prevalent. Moore's thesis can be applied, although it is up to the individual to weigh carefully the validity of that application given the scale of discrepancies between the Middle Ages and today.