Resistance to alarmism often keeps thoughtful people from sounding needed alarms. More likely they will roll their eyes and hope “this too shall pass.”
In doing so, however, such silence allows religiously-fueled alarmists — who fear nothing more than the loss of cultural dominance — to have their say and get their way.
When left unchecked, politicized religious alarmism — that attracts gullible followers like moths to light — leads to destructive results.
Such is the case now in the way that American evangelicalism (no longer distinguishable from fundamentalism) has molded its public perception and, in many cases, its primary mission.
It is well past time — especially for those pained by this strategic denigration of the faith they hold dear — to speak clearly, loudly and often. Otherwise, the very idea of being Christian will be hard to reclaim.
And it is beyond foolish to pretend that this damage to the Christian witness in America — and resulting damage to America itself — is not taking place. It is visible everywhere one looks and listens.
Even the core ethical standards of honesty and decency that have been espoused by church leaders, teachers and parents for eons as basic Christian behavior and personal character are now considered disposable.
By word and example we see how permissible it has become to ignore all manner of evil if these once-offensive means lead to the promotion of newly defined, highly selective “Christian” values. And it is clear what is being ultimately valued now.
Today the unpardonable sins of conservative Christianity in America are extending equal rights to persons with same-sex attraction and equal access to medical abortion. (That’s a period at the end of the sentence.)
Easily pardonable are incessant lying, misrepresentations of biblical truth, and men who use positions of power against women and youth — if these acts move a step closer to achieving the preferred goals of religiously-justified discrimination.
This religiously-fueled political agenda rests on a faulty and naïve foundation. And any societal move toward social justice is falsely portrayed by alarmist “Christians” as persecution — which really means not allowing one to impose his or her (usually his) religious convictions on others.
Adding to their alarm is the swift shift in public opinion concerning LGBT persons. Even many young, conservative Christians are concerned that their friends and relatives with same-sex attraction deserve to be treated in just and kind ways.
Religious liberty allows Christian groups to exclude and even demean these persons as they choose within their religious domains. But discrimination in the public realm will ultimately fail for two reasons:
One is this changing, generational attitude (although the shift is occurring across generations too) regarding sexual orientation and, two, is the fact that liberty and justice for all tends to win out eventually — even against the religiously-motivated efforts of those damned and determined to resist it based on race, religion or any other factor.
The second unpardonable sin of American evangelicalism — equal access to abortion — reveals the shallow thinking within much of conservative Christianity in America like no other issue. Just turn an ear toward Alabama and hear: “I ain’t voting for no baby killer.” All reason and reasonable results are cast aside for this elevated, emotional response.
Understandably, abortion is a highly-emotional and valid ethical issue. But it deserves a thoughtful approach, not a foolish reaction that puts an unachievable political goal above ever other ethical concern including abuse.
A reminder for those willing to travel a logical path: Even in the unlikely event that the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, the matter will sent to the states. It will not stop abortions.
Perhaps Massachusetts, for example, would permit legal abortion services while Mississippi would not. The result: a pregnant coed at Ole Miss will be flown to Boston for a safe medical procedure that is not available to a poor woman in the delta or depressed city.
The political argument for tossing aside all decency and ignoring abusive political operatives in an effort to “save the babies” is as irrational as one can be. Rather, thoughtful and responsible Christians will deal with the reality that the decline in abortion results from education, adoption and the availability of birth control/disease protection.
Sloganism and political posturing are sorry substitutes for providing needed alternatives for protecting life at all stages before and after birth.
So this is where we’ve ended up — with a redefined Christianity in America. Some may wonder how got into this mess. Here’s a very quick historical overview:
Fundamentalist Christian leaders, who previously considered the political realm to be secular and evil, rallied around Bob Jones University decades ago when its tax-exempt status was revoked due to the school’s policy of racial discrimination. Soon these leaders took on other issues — under the same broad theme of promoting religiously-justified discrimination such as opposing equality for women, access to abortion and gay rights.
Some politicians took notice and began placating these religious right leaders with words more than deeds — and invitations to places of power — in exchange for delivering a bloc vote.
It worked well: politicians stirred the passion of these preachers by expressing alarm over America losing God’s favor and inviting them to dine in high places. In exchange, the preachers told their flocks of the righteousness of these political leaders.
Good ol’ church people fell hook, line and sinker for this political agenda wrongly defined as “biblical” and “Christian.” Distributed widely at churches and beyond, voter guides based on highly-selective social issues conveyed that God favored candidates with the highest scores.
Eventually, however, the preachers began wagging some of the politicians. And Jesus kept getting pushed further and further aside for an ever-narrowing political agenda that makes opposition to equal rights a clearer definition of Christianity than anything found in the Gospels.
As a result, American Christianity will suffer for a long time from this tragic and naïve redefinition of what it means to be faithful. Especially if those who know better continue to say little or nothing.
One more thing: Conservative Christians often emphasize the fearful experience of standing accountable before God on judgement day. It might be a good time to imagine explaining why it was worth tossing aside common decency and the Gospel of Jesus Christ for a narrow political agenda that will ultimately fail and goes against the clear biblical idea that all people are of divine creation.