If Christianity with political power looks like the US right now, I’m pretty sure I don’t want to live in a Christian theocracy.
Between laws passing in the U.S. forcing women to undergo invasive procedures in the name of convincing them that abortion is wrong, to Focus On The Family’s efforts to have anti-bullying laws shot down so they can keep taunting gay kids in school, Christianity hasn’t managed to make itself look this bad since the days of witch burnings and the Inquisition.
Let’s take a look at some of the things being done in the name of Jesus Christ:
- Forced transvaginal ultrasounds in Virginia and Texas
- Anti-gay marriage bills in North Carolina and elsewhere
- Opposition to anti-bullying laws in Illinois and Ontario
- Anti-science education bills in Louisiana and Tennessee
And let us not forget the televised circus of national religious leaders solemnly declaring that they could no way, no how, pay for their female employees’ birth control, presumably because the pope got on the phone to God and He said the budget couldn’t sustain it. Oh, and because any woman on birth control was obviously a slut (pretty close to Jesus’ response to the woman caught in adultery, right?).
In addition, every winter, we are treated to Fox News’ annual vitriol-fest where they declare Christianity under attack because non-Christians have the effrontery to greet people with “Happy Holidays” instead of affirming the superiority of one particular religion.
The myth that Christianity is in any way suffering in North America drives Christians to otherwise unthinkable positions, but it’s predicated on an untruth. Christianity is not under attack in North America. Christianity is still the most highly-regarded religion to most Americans (just try getting a Muslim elected President, or an atheist), whether they be believers or not.
Not only is North American Christianity doing fine, saying that it isn’t does a disservice to those Christians who really are enduring persecution for their faith. There are places in the world where Christians are jailed, beaten or even killed for their belief. I can’t help but wonder what those brothers and sisters in faith would think of our persecution complex in the North American church.
As Jon Stewart put it in a recent broadcast, religious leaders are confusing a war on religion with not getting everything they want. Just because mainstream culture no longer dogmatically conforms to a particular reading of Scripture (if it ever did) does not mean that the faith itself is under attack. Last time I checked, we were still able to go to church when we want to, still permitted to own Bibles, still allowed to wear a cross in public, if those are our desire. There are no jackbooted police kicking down the doors to our Sunday Schools, no tear gas grenades being tossed through our stained-glass windows, no Molotov cocktails igniting our sanctuaries. There are places in the world where those things do happen, but you know what? Even in the worst kind of oppression that governments can find to throw at the church, faith survives. Blossoms, even. Perhaps the North American church should experience some real persecution…
Instead, we have the spectacle of Christians using their freedoms, including religious freedoms, to oppress those with whom we disagree. We cling to blind dogma to sling epithets at those most vulnerable members of society, all the while telling each other that we’re protecting (and protected by) our religious freedom. We force dehumanizing procedures on people who have a different point of view instead of trying to bring them around to our point of view (because nothing will convince a woman in the midst of a difficult decision that you are correct more than invading her most intimate personal space).
Instead of trying to protect the most downtrodden members of society (our modern widows and orphans), we blame them for their predicament and craft laws that strip them of even the meagre benefits to which they had been entitled. We tell ourselves that in so doing, we are practicing “tough love” like that old Bible verse “God helps those who help themselves” (it’s in the back somewhere, I’m sure of it).
Christian leaders seem surprised by the societal backlash at these actions, as though they were expecting people to thank them for preserving religious freedom through their accomplishments. Like the Catholic church in the time of Luther, the excesses of the church are just part and parcel of business as usual. Guess who came out ahead in that confrontation?
The North American church needs to get back to the words of Jesus Christ:
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
Looking at the actions of the adherents to the church that claims Jesus as its head, there seems to be a distinct lack of love in its dealings with those who need the love of Christ the most.