We keep hearing that Christians, especially conservative Evangelical Christians, are under attack being “persecuted.” Of course, we also keep hearing that those in charge of this anti-Christian persecution are liberals, progressives, socialists, Democrats or all of the above.
Really? This writer does not know of any recent cases of Christians being thrown to lions or liberals who are opening up arenas. Nor is he aware of many cases of devout Protestants being burned at the stake since the days of Queen “Bloody” Mary Tudor. In this country, Christians are not usually discriminated against or abused like members of some other religions. Most liberals this writer knows take a “live and let live” attitude toward those of any faith. Still, many Evangelicals confuse disagreement with their religious/political agendas with “persecution.”
Christians enjoy more rights in the U.S. than in other developed, democratic nations. While our Founders were at least raised in some Protestant denomination, they did not establish a “Christian” nation. They wanted separation of church and state which benefits both institutions. Churches do not even have pay taxes. Of course, they cannot endorse candidates but members of the clergy are still certainly free to speak on social issues from the pulpit and they do influence elections. And, in the last three decades, conservative Christians have gained what some would see as a disproportionate degree of political influence and are succeeding in imposing their own values on the rest of us. How is this “persecution?”
Christians and members of other faiths others enjoy wide freedom in religious belief and practice. Our Constitution provides there can be no “religious test” for holding office. Evangelists can be on TV and even legally bilk people for money. In some countries, the law can deny “church status” to religious movements deemed toxic “cults” and/or scams. In America, you cannot differentiate between a “sincere” and a “bogus” religion. It is very easy for religious hucksters to get away with it in the U.S. and some have come here so they can get away with it! Persecution?
Even with all this religious freedom, many still expect the rest of us to support religious schools with our taxes so they can undermine our public schools. Even though they have more freedom than most democratic countries to run their own parochial schools, they still demand control of public education.
Many want to further erode the wall between church and state. This is both interesting and ironic; historically, Evangelical and Fundamentalist Christian sects have often favored strong separation of church and state because they had suffered real persecution at the hands of state churches. Take for example, the Baptists. Historically the Baptists helped develop the concept the separation of church in state. Although many still support it, many leaders of the Christian conservatives bear the label “Baptist.”
They claim that liberals have “taken God out of the public schools” (as it even a liberal had that kind of power!). They misinform the public by saying kids cannot pray in school. Actually, the First Amendment gives students the right to wear religious symbols, possess and read the Bible in school. Teachers and administrators, however, as agents of the state cannot mandate or lead prayers. Kids can read the Bible on their own time. Of course, a teacher can ask a student to close the Bible and open the math book during a math class.
Many even demand that religious myths, such as creationism be taught at “equally valid scientific theories” in public schools. Many also want to eliminate comprehensive sex education in our schools and replace it with “abstinence only” sex ed, which often involves “slut shaming” girls and giving kids gross misinformation. In school districts controlled by Christian conservatives that use the “abstinence only” approach it should come as no surprise that there are higher rates of teen pregnancy and S.T.D. infection!
They falsely assert that the U.S. is a “Christian nation.” Some are even “Christian Dominionists,” strict Calvinists who believe America should be a theocracy where only Christians can vote or hold office and the laws of the Old Testament should be the law of our land and that gay men (not lesbians for some reason) should be subject to the death penalty.
This writer does not “hate” Christians. Nor does he hate Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, pagans, Wiccans, Bahais, Zoroastrians, Jains, Druze, Sikhs, Hindus, Rastafarians, or secularists. He takes a pragmatic view of any religion that would likely have been shared by our republic’s Founders: if your faith makes you a better person, neighbor, friend, spouse, or citizen, then your religion is very likely a positive thing. But, if your faith inspires you to plant a bomb, then it is probably NOT a good thing!
What many of us do dislike are such misuses of religion as “cults” which brainwash and exploit people financially or sexually. Or, the tele-evangelists and mega-church pastors who soak the faithful for money, promising God “will bless them next month” but live in luxury.
The right-wing media have brainwashed many members of the Christian right to where they do not understand the hypocrisy or at least inconsistency of many of their positions. They spend time making up things about the Clintons or Obama but seem to be blind to the fact that we have the most rude, divisive, mean, and narcissistic president in our history.
Of course, many liberals and progressives also find it disturbing when conservative Christians try to impose mean-spirited, xenophobic, and hateful social and political agendas and to find Biblical justifications for them. Unfortunately, more and more people are associating conservative Christianity with the insane agenda of President Trump. There were even a couple of writers to The Sun who told us that God told them personally that we should vote for Mr. Trump! To use as It does not seem to occur to many of these people that there are devout Christians, as well as members of other faiths who are liberal or progressive. After all, there is a “Christian Left.”
Perhaps conservative Christians should think of an Evangelical Christian slogan I heard years ago: “what would Jesus do?” Would Jesus cut assistance to the needy? Would Jesus separate immigrant families and subject the kids to abuse? Would Jesus have put “gun rights” over the safety of children?
Before accusing liberals of persecuting Christians, please show us the lions.
(Scott Cracraft is a citizen, taxpayer, veteran, and resident of Gilford.}