What good are Christian soldiers without an enemy?

Christians, most of whom are well meaning, seem unable to grasp how bullying it is to use the power of government to support their views. Christians, like Muslims, Jews, Atheists, and all else are totally free to practice and argue for their beliefs in their homes, churches, and on the street. There has been to my knowledge no attempt to deprive Christians of their Constitutional freedom of opinion, speech, and worship (though Christianity’s historical record on that has been a bit less congenial).

However, non-fundamentalists and unbelievers have become increasingly aware of fundamentalists’ overreach and their bullying actions toward persons who have competing views, an overreach pursued largely by continual attempts to appropriate government power to their own ends. In the United States, that aggressiveness includes a direct attack on the “establishment clause” of the first amendment to the Constitution. Despite the Constitutional safeguard, fundamentalists have forged ahead with actions like getting public schools to teach their views of Christianity and creation “science;” obtaining special tax treatment for churches and for ministers; and political campaigning from the pulpit.

When there is any attempt to roll back some of these ill-gotten gains of power, the cry goes up that Christianity is being attacked. Poor Christians, though none of their citizenship rights are threatened, their power over others is. I can see how that is an unwelcome trend to them, but hardly one to be taken seriously. But take it seriously they do, with great yelps of whining and gnashing of teeth. Somehow their need to be seen as David rather than Goliath co-exists with their decidedly Goliath-like behavior.

Through history, the greatest amount of persecution of Christians has been by other Christians, though there was a time when Christians were truly persecuted by non-Christians. It still occurs in a few places in majority Muslim countries. Sadly, when in a country like the United States that enshrines freedom of religion, they’ve taken the opportunity to turn the tables. Just as in the early colonies, Christians have shown themselves not so much to be for freedom of religion as for freedom of their religion. Their outright persecution against those Christians and non-Christians who disagreed with them showed up as early as our first settlers in the 17th century (can you say Roger Williams?).

I am aware that many Christians disavow fundamentalists’ histrionics. After all, even adamant religionists can only put so much lipstick on scare-mongering, inaccuracies, and outright lying. I appreciate and congratulate whatever disavowals they issue. But what about the alleged present-day persecution of these beleaguered believers, understandably grieving their loss of power over others? Their leaders along with politicians who curry their favor (actually, their votes) sound the alarm with increasing regularity.

Let me illustrate that with the persons quoted below, each of whom has enough of a following to be called a Christian leader or relevant office-seeker. I ask your pardon for my occasional snide annotations. Sorry; I keep up with so much fundamentalist hyperbole that it rubs raw after a while. Anyway, here are but a few of my favorite quotes:

“I’m beginning to think, are re-education camps next? When are they going to start rolling out the boxcars to start hauling off Christians?” Tony Perkins, president, Family Research Council, speaking on Jan Mickelson’s radio talk show, Iowa. 2015.

[Boxcars? My, I wonder what historic visual Mr. Perkins wishes to suggest! He is either psychotic (which I doubt) or just lying. It is frightening to think that there’s a sizable population that believes such overblown, consciously misleading hyperbole.]

“I do think [the jailing of Christians] could very well come…in our lifetime.” Tony Perkins, President, Family Research Council, 2014.

[There is a distinct Chicken Little sound to much of what Perkins has to say. But he makes up in persistence what he lacks in logic.]

“Conservative churches will be dragged into court by the hundreds…pastors may have to officiate at same-sex marriages, and they could be prohibited from preaching certain passages of scripture.” James Dobson, founder, Focus on the Family. Statement to WorldNetDaily, 2015.

[Rev. Dobson has an imagination as impressive as his disinformation. No one has questioned his colleagues’ freedom of religion. In fact we of his opposition are more committed to freedom of conscience than he. While we do mock his stream of cockamamie ideas, we’ve never contemplated shutting him down, not only because he is free to have and preach them, but he is such an irreplaceable example of the craziness religion can embrace.]

“I’m telling you that if the court decides to issue another Roe v. Wade, in this case the Roe v. Wade for marriage, we will not obey it. We’ll go to jail if we have to go to jail, but we will not bow to this agenda and violate our beliefs in God.” Janet Porter, Religious Right activist. 2015:

[Ms. Porter exemplifies a frequent brand of foolishness. What does she mean, “we will not obey it”? Does she think federal marshals will come to force her into a gay marriage? Moreover, how exactly does she presume to say someone else’s marriage violates her beliefs?]

“Your group is a strictly an anti-religion group intending to deprive all organized religions of their constitutional freedoms…The City of Warren cannot allow this.” Mayor James Fouts, Warren, Michigan, in rejecting a citizen’s request to set up an atheist “reason station” station in the city hall atrium in which Tabernacle Church (Church of God) has been operating a “prayer station.” July 2014.

[Really, Mr. Mayor? The group in this scenario sought to have a place in that public square religionists keep referring to. See, it isn’t just that nonbelievers want to keep religion out of the public square, but that religion shouldn’t be given sole access to it. That said, it would be best if religions of all sorts and anti-religion not be hosted by civil government.]

“If homosexuals are allowed their civil rights, then so would prostitutes, thieves, and anyone else.” Anita Bryant, former entertainer and anti-gay leader.

[This is dated, of course, but I include it to make the point about the bullying gays have endured at the hands of a substantial proportion of Christians for years.]

Legalizing gay marriage will lead to preachers being arrested for hate speech just for reading the Bible.” Rafael Cruz, active in the campaign of his son, Ted Cruz, U.S. Senator and announced presidential aspirant. Nov. 2013.

[Normally, a relative of a leader should not be put in a list such as this, except that Senator Cruz’s father is active in his campaign and his views have not, to my knowledge, been repudiated by his son. ]

“I would warn Orlando that you’re right in the way of some serious hurricanes, and I don’t think I’d be waving those flags in God’s face if I were you . . . it’ll bring about terrorist bombs, it’ll bring earthquakes, tornadoes, and possibly a meteor.” –Pat Robertson, on “Gay Days” at Disneyworld.

[The Rev. Robertson has made enough such proclamations as to be entertaining. Likely most Christians find him a bit over the top, but his fans continue to support his unabashed nuttiness.]

“[The gay community will] abolish age of consent laws, which means we will do away with statutory rape laws so that adults will be able to freely prey on little children sexually.” Michele Bachmann, former member of U. S. Congress. 2014.

[Ms. Bachmann has long made questionably intelligent and questionably accurate pronouncement, but enjoys a large following among the most fundamentalist wing.]

“That’s what [Freedom from Religion Foundation] is attempting to do – eradicate Christianity in the public marketplace of ideas.” Todd Starnes, author of “Florida School District Replaces Football Chaplains with ‘Life coaches,” writing for Fox News about Florida’s Orange County Public Schools’ ending the long-standing tradition of having local ministers serve as volunteer chaplains for football teams. 2014.

[You got that all wrong, chaplain. FFRF was seeking to stop Christian “life coaches” from being granted a monopoly on the public marketplace of ideas.]

“[Some in the United States] wish to criminalize Christianity.” Mike Huckabee, presidential aspirant, 2015.

[I follow these matters fairly well, but I’ve never read or heard anyone, even among the most adamant atheists, indicating anything even close to such a wish.]

“Not yet.” Bill O’Reilly, Fox News, replying to John Stossel’s 2014 criticism of his {O’Reilly’s} reference to a “war” on Christianity, saying “you’re just a 10-foot-tall crybaby. Christians aren’t being killed.”

[Thanks, Mr. Stossel. OK, Bill, I suppose this is just an extension your “war on Christmas” campaign that was,  for you, unfortunately limited to a few weeks shelf life. Now, a “war” has year-round relevance…and makes just as much sense.]

“We’re involved when the government says you can’t have a nativity scene, you can’t sing Christmas carols. We’re already involved when we’re told that we can’t have a marriage ceremony that is limited to one man, one woman.” Mike Huckabee, presidential aspirant, Jan 2015.

[But, Mike, when has the government ever said you can’t have a crèche, sing carols, or get married any way you wish? Oh, wait, I get it. Indeed, some parts of the government have said public property can’t be used for your nativity scene to the exclusion of other beliefs, you can’t use the public schools to spread your hymnal worship, and you can’t tell gays they can’t marry because your god said they shouldn’t. Again, governor, I understand you are incensed to give up your theocracy, but there’s no war against your religion to respond to.]

“The Supreme Court has spoken…on something only the Supreme Being can do-redefine marriage…The Supreme Court can no more repeal the laws of nature and nature’s God on marriage than it can the law of gravity…If accepted by Congress and this President, this decision will be a serious blow to religious liberty, which is the heart of the First Amendment.” Mike Huckabee, presidential aspirant, June 2015.

[There you go again, Mike. You are confused—or more likely invested in a lie—about the civil use of the word marriage versus your religious use. The former is not a religious matter; churches don’t get to define it. The latter is a religious matter, but no one has taken away your right to it. I don’t recall the Supreme Court decision fighting “laws of nature and nature’s God” on this matter, because it wasn’t relevant. Besides, humor me, please name just one of those “serious blow[s] to religious liberty” other than the one you perceive to grant religion the “liberty” to force its beliefs on others?]

 

Most of us are accustomed in political science to the invention of fake enemies as a tool in domestic politics. Apparently it applies to matters of religion just as well. Unhappily, leaders of Christian soldiers, at least the fundamentalist sort, need to fabricate enemies to keep the troops stirred up.

About John Bruce Carver

I am a U. S. citizen living in Atlanta, Georgia, having grown up in Chattanooga, Tennessee, graduating from Chattanooga High School. I served in the Electronic Security Command of the U. S. Air Force before receiving a B.S. degree in business/economics and an M.Ed. in educational psychology, both at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. I then completed a Ph.D. in clinical (and research) psychology at Emory University. I have two daughters and three granddaughters. An ardent international traveller, I have been in over 70 countries for business and pleasure. My reading, other than novels, tends to be in history, philosophy, government, and light science. I identify philosophically as a secular humanist, in complete awe of the universe including my fellows and myself. I am married to my best friend, Miriam, formerly of the United Kingdom and Canada.
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