The Washington Post had an interesting article about a supposed war on Christianity a few months ago, that I was reminded of following recent attempts to restart the subject (and here we are, only in September!) I particularly like this quote from the Rev. Robert M Franklin:
“This is a skirmish over religious pluralism, and the inclination to see it as a war against Christianity strikes me as a spoiled-brat response by Christians who have always enjoyed the privileges of a majority position”
It did get me thinking about a couple of aspects of this putative war. The majority of Americans identify themselves as Christian – 75% in fact, and that’s after a drop of several percentage points. That leaves us with a choice; either Christians are waging war on themselves, or the other 25% are able to overcome the will of the great majority of the people.
The first option prompted my first thought. How ‘unChristian’ do you have to be before you cease to be a Christian? So far as I can tell, either the huge majority of Christians are self-deluding, or the only absolute to the faith is a belief that Christ is Lord (or however you want to phrase it). Now there are obvious practical considerations in play here; could one really eat babies as a snack and believe that Christ is Lord, for example? But in general there is enough wiggle room in most Biblical teaching that you can do most ‘normal’ things and argue for your place in heaven. And even if some of those people are wrong, there’s only one judge of that, and it isn’t Jerry Falwell.
This led on to my second thought. Assuming, then, that the majority of self-identifying Christians are indeed Christians, it seems nonsensical on its face that they are waging this war. They may be guilty through apathy because they aren’t sufficiently zealous in defending their faith, but they’re not trying to eliminate their own faith. We’re left then, with the choice that 25% of the population is waging this war; an insurgency, if you like.
We’ve just said that a significant number of Christians may have been rendered useless by apathy. I’m going to assume that there’s nothing intrinsic to Christianity that makes its followers apathetic. So let’s narrow the field down to 12%, a pretty generous assumption given the levels of apathy I see generally (and practice myself in many areas). Let’s knock that down by half again to allow for those who don’t believe in Christianity, but wish its practitioners well in their delusion (that would include me). And while we’re on a roll, let’s halve it one more time to allow for all those evil-doers who would gladly roast Christians over an open flame, but they’re too busy at the cabin / making minimum wage / torturing puppies.
We’re left with a generous estimate of 3% of the population, under a million people, who are waging a war with alleged wild success on at least 225 million people. These people have essentially no political representation (being elected in the US is almost synonymous with being a Christian). They may have some help from overseas, but American culture is such that the influence of foreigners is pretty muted. I’m sure some of them are rich, but then so are their opponents (presumably by a 3:1 margin). Their debased message might seem appealing, except that most (75%+) of the target audience is religious, and hence inspired to resist such errancy even while their sinful natures may be drawn to it.
So what does that leave us with? I’m sure there are people in the US who genuinely wish to destroy Christianity; they certainly exist in other countries, so why not there? But we’re talking about such a small minority of people with this level of passion and the ability to do something about it that this is simply not a significant factor, certainly not for stupid cultural wars about ‘Happy Festivus’. What we have instead is a war on right-wing Christianity, the sort of narrow-minded, “you’re with us or agin us” bigotry that labels any disagreement a declaration of war. Such a war would be terrible, if the right-wing Christians are right about the nature of God. Fortunately it doesn’t take much studying to realize that so much of what they espouse is a gross perversion of Christ’s message. That doesn’t make them any weaker, of course. It just makes them wrong.