Christian militancy corrodes American ideal
Thursday, May 5, 2005
By MARY ELLEN SCHOONMAKER
IF YOU WANT some insight into the Christian right’s thinking, check out one of the books in the Left Behind series. It’s a novelistic version of Revelation, the biblical description of the end of the world. More than 62 million copies of the 12-book series have been sold.
Its breathless prose depicts the end time, the ultimate battle between good and evil. The conflict pits believers in Christ against the Antichrist and his forces in the days of tribulation, marked by nuclear attacks, demon locusts, soul harvests, cosmic battles and graphic violence. Non-believers are executed by Christ.
Reading it, you realize that whether it’s the Apocalypse, gay marriage or who will sit on the federal judiciary, that’s how the most militant evangelical Christians see all battles - in the starkest terms of good and evil. They see themselves at war for the soul of the nation.
Even their nightly news is measured against the Good News.
Columbia Journalism Review reports that six national television networks are controlled by conservative Christians, and millions of viewers watch Christian nightly news shows that tally the day’s headlines on a spiritual scorecard. They also watch “Prophecy in the News,” a program that interprets current events in terms of biblical prophecy. World events take on a religious context. For example, God sent the United States into war with Iraq so that Muslims could learn the truth about the Gospel.
The Christian broadcasters’ lobbying group, National Religious Broadcasters, has 1,600 members and is a favorite of President Bush. The group’s president, Frank Wright, is the former director of a Christian organization that trains Washington lawmakers how to “think biblically about their role in government.”
Thinking biblically apparently doesn’t include tolerance. Wright spoke at the NRB’s recent convention, where he said “calls for diversity and multiculturalism are nothing more than thinly veiled attacks on anyone willing, desirous or compelled to proclaim Christian truths.”
Another speaker at the convention was Tony Perkins, the man who organized the recent “Justice Sunday,” which featured Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and labeled Democrats who oppose Bush’s judicial nominees as “against people of faith.”
The most militant conservative Christians are known as Dominionists. Harper’s magazine, which covered the NRB convention last winter, reports they believe Christians should have dominion over the United States. Opponents are viewed as “agents of Satan.”
Under such dominion, our laws would be based on the Ten Commandments, public education on Christian teachings, and the media would become a vehicle mainly for proclaiming the Gospel. Censorship would keep movies, TV shows, music and other entertainment within line.
If this sounds like a theocracy to you, you’re right. If it scares you, that’s good, because to the most extreme evangelicals, there is no middle ground and no room for compromise.
“Dialogue” and “tolerance” are code words that identify those who don’t recognize the “truth.” Open-mindedness is associated with liberalism and moral relativism. If there is only one truth, then there’s no need for discussion, agreement or trying to find commonality.
This war has been fought most publicly in recent months over gay marriage, Terri Schiavo and the federal judiciary. But it also includes the fight against abortion rights and stem cell research, and the fight for school prayer, teaching creationism and giving federal money to religious institutions. The immediate top priority is getting one or more conservatives appointed to the Supreme Court, which would pull America to the far right for years to come.
The rallying cry is that America is a Christian nation because it was founded by Christians.
But that ignores a central fact of our founding, that our first identity was as a haven from religious persecution. This has always been the place people came to practice their religion freely. Religious freedom is at the very core of our history.
The United States has never suffered the religious wars that have plagued Europe and the Middle East, even to this day. The reason is because we believe that not only are all men created equal but all religions have an equal right to be here.
No one religion is elevated over any other, and the government does not decide which religion has absolute truth.
There is no way that the United States could be a Christian nation and those precious freedoms could continue to exist.
Copyright ? 2005 North Jersey Media Group Inc.
Originally published in The Record (Bergen County, New Jersey). and reprinted in The American Muslim with permission of the author.