Friday, April 24, 2009

Christian wars?

When I was fresh out of university and flush with energy and unbridled optimism (despite living in Reagan’s America), I made a disparaging remark about an anti-gay rightwinger’s Christianity: I suggested that the bigot in question wasn’t really a Christian.

I was immediately reprimanded—gently—by a close friend, far more leftist than I was, who was also a committed and practising Christian. “You can never know what’s in someone’s heart,” she said to me, “so you can’t know if their Christianity is real or not. That’s up to God to decide.”

I took her advice, partly because being a Christian at the time, I deferred to her, and also because, good Liberal that I was, I didn’t want to oppress anyone. Despite provocation, I’ve held to that line for more than 25 years. I go out of my way on this blog to talk about “christianists” rather than “Christians” because I want to make clear that there’s a difference between religious faith and those who would use that faith for (conservative) political ends.

So, while in my heart I may have doubted the Christianity of my opponents, I never again said that publicly.

The far right isn’t so Christian in its outlook. Today I was at a wingnut site and I stumbled across the most blisteringly bigoted attack on Christians I’ve ever seen—by someone who says they’re Christian.

The bigot drew a metaphor of identity theft, then said “The ‘victim’ is biblical Christianity, and the operatives of this fraud are millions of Americans, both clergy and laity, who are walking around using that identity with no right to do so.” I thought maybe he was going to attack Christian political activists on the left, until he added:

“Many will insist that we all have the right to practice Christianity as our conscience dictates. Wrong. We have the privilege of living out a faith based on absolute truth as given to us by the Author and Finisher of that faith without error or omission in His written word. If we want to invent our own religion, we are ‘free’ to do so, ‘free’ to reap the consequences and ‘free’ to call it anything we want—but Christianity.”

This struck me as the same sort of absolutist mentality that the Bush-Cheney regime shoved onto America, but all the more troubling because it attacks and defames the majority of America’s Christians.

According to 2008 estimates, Christians of all sorts make up 76% of Americans, of whom 25.1% are Roman Catholic, the rest Protestant of all types. Evangelicals/Fundamentalists combined make up 36.6% of Americans, but only 3.5% of Americans are Pentacostal/Charismatic and a mere 0.9% are Evangelical/Born Again (the rest are various types of conservative and/or fundamentalist protestant denominations). On the other hand, 15% of Americans have no religion (of whom 1.6% are atheist—nearly twice as many as there are
Evangelical/Born Again).

All of which means that this wingnut was attacking those who are by far the majority of Americans. My question is, why do I have to call attention to this, and not mainstream Christians themselves?

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