The Pokey Finger of God

meditations on religion and culture

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Forever the victim, never the dominant culture

December 27th, 2007 · No Comments · christianity, culture, media

Despite over 1500 years of political and cultural dominance in the West, it continues to astound me the number of people who insist that Christians in the West today suffer from any sort of minority . The “True Believer Is the Victim” ploy plays as well in Peoria as in LA, so why not make hay while the sun shines, right?

This Statesman religion beat article featured Gary Cass and his “Christian Anti-Defamation Commission” (that appears to consist of Gary Cass) peddling his book Christian Bashing. Cass spammed the faith-beat reporters nationwide, no doubt, with his list of seven anti-Christian events of 2007. I thought, “Hey, I’ve got my own blog, too! I can address each point at my leisure.”

Although it’s not clear in the article I read, I will assume that the following text is drawn directly from Cass’ press release.

[Prelude] “The Christian Anti-Defamation Commission (CADC) calls on anti-Christian politicians, Hollywood and New York media elites to stop the Christian bashing and take responsibility for the culture of hate towards Christians they have helped to create. The CADC will work aggressively to stop this dangerous and irresponsible Christian bashing in 2008.”

Quick! Name three anti-Christian politicians at the top of the American political scene. Funny, I can’t name one, either. One has to wonder just how this “culture of hate towards Christians” must manifest, exactly. By the election of Christians to every public office, perhaps? Maybe through nationwide observation of major Christian holidays? If there is any financial or political advantage to deliberate, anti-Christian behavior, I’ve never encountered it.

Without any examples or indications about what the politicians and media elites have done, it’s difficult to know exactly how they could stop any of it. It’s even more difficult to know exactly what the CADC would be trying to prevent. On the other hand, vague threats and veiled accusations are a pretty lame way to start a conversation.

1.) Colorado Church Murders — “You Christians brought this on yourselves I’m coming for EVERYONE soon and I WILL be armed to the @#%$ teeth and I WILL shoot to kill. … God, I can’t wait till I can kill you people. Feel no remorse, no sense of shame, I don’t care if I live or die. …” Posted by a troubled young man, Matthew Murray, 10 hours after killing two at the Arvada missionary base and two hours before killing two at a Colorado Springs church. Churches used to be considered sanctuaries, but now they are targets for the hateful and the deranged. The CADC calls on every church to be prepared to use deadly force, if necessary, to protect their congregations.

Of course everyone should “be prepared to use deadly force” — that’s exactly as Jesus, taught, you know: Love thy neighbor, turn the other cheek, lock and load! Having read something about the event in question, I learned that the “hateful and deranged” gunman was a product of the very evangelical center he attacked, as part of two decades of various high-pressure, evangelical Christian cult training. The sites of his attacks were well familiar to him, as were his victims.

It’s also pretty clear that this guy wasn’t part of any movement or working as an agent of some organization. He went postal on the people nearest at hand. In any case, the extremely divergent theology of the church in question rules out any notion that they were somehow representative of Christianity in general. A gentle reading suggests that this was likely another case of a victim who let loose his rage upon his tormentors. Gore factor 3. Christian bashing: zero.

2.) Federal Hate Crimes Bill — The 2007 Federal Hate Crimes Bill, which threatens religious liberties and lays the groundwork for “thought crime,” which has no place in American law and violates the concept of equal protection under the law. As has occurred in other nations, these laws pave the way for Christians to be silenced and even arrested because they believe that homosexual acts are sinful. It is totalitarian regimes that punish thoughts, not free societies. Thomas Jefferson declares that “the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions.”

You know, all that “love thy neighbor” crap, just really gets in the way, like, all the time, y’know? And I wasn’t even aware that there was some genetic human right to hate queers. Being that it’s just a social obligation here in Texas to hate queers, there has rarely been any reason to inquire upon the political leanings of the genome in this matter.

The equivocation of “thought crime” to hating fags is ludicrous on several levels, not the least of which being that in Orwell’s book, the most heinous “thought crime” was love. Near as I can tell, Cass believes it’s wrong to let people who love each other do what comes naturally and let people who don’t like it shut up about it; it is, however, a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere, to torment and abuse people who do things you don’t like. As hard as I try, I can’t say that this guy doesn’t start from an authentic Christian base.

Excessive, needless legislation it may be, but one has to make some awfully painful gyrations to make the attempted elimination of “hatred” into some kind of attack on Christianity in general. Christian bashing score: zero.

3.) Violence on San Francisco Church — In September, Christians in San Francisco spoke out against a blasphemous anti-Christian advertisement for the Folsom Street Fair, a perverted “fair” for the sadomasochistic, leather fetish community. The ad mimics the classic Christian painting of Christ at the Last Supper. In the ad, Christ and the 12 Disciples are portrayed as sexual deviants provocatively posed before a table of sex toys.

I’m totally lost on how the Christians were specifically victimized here. They were given the opportunity to speak out against the advertisement — there’s that “free speech” thing again. They even got a free makeover for one of their more tired, iconic images. What could be better for the continuity of Christianity than another generation of Velvet Last Supper paintings? Not exactly “Dogs Playing Poker”, but as the publicists say, there is no bad press. I would speculate that there was likely at least some intention to tweak the Uptight Right with the image, so the Christian bashing score: 1 of 10, for ribald satire.

4.) Attack on Jerry Falwell — CNN reached a new low when Anderson Cooper invited Christopher Hitchens, editor of Vanity Fair Magazine, on his show the day of Jerry Falwell’s death to make critical remarks about Falwell. Hitchens made the most reprehensible and offensive remarks one can imagine against a Christian minister, Jerry Falwell, even on the day of his death. Christopher Hitchens called Falwell “a little toad … a horrible little person…an evil old man… a conscious charlatan and bully and fraud…an actual danger to democracy, to culture, to civilization.”

First off, I hardly can see how an attack on Falwell, who was a horrible toad of a man, constitutes in any way a generalized attack on Christianity. Hitchens said a lot of nasty things about Falwell, and I’d be hard pressed to defend the Reverend on most of the indictments, except for the most obvious hyperbole. (An actual danger? Unlikely!)

That these remarks would be made on the occasion of Falwell’s death is hardly surprising, when no news directly would ever expect to have the occasion to air that man’s name again thereafter. Tacky? You bet, but my better wager says that a majority of Christians had a low opinion of the Good Reverend by the time he shuffled off this mortal coil. Christian bashing score: zero.

5.) CNN’s “God’s Warriors” and HBO’s “Friends of God” — Two biased, anti-Christian documentaries were produced and aired. One by Nancy Pelosi’s daughter, Alexandra, “Friends of God” on HBO and the other by CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, “God’s Warriors.” At least they tried to act as if they wanted to be fair. Of course, they failed. Evangelicals are almost 100 million strong and very diverse but are reduced to cliched caricatures or are portrayed as the moral equivalents of Islamic terrorists.

Here’s the first item I haven’t personally seen any of, so I cannot judge just how biased any of the material was. No matter how bad it may have been, no press is still far worse than bad press, so lighten up. I personally find it difficult to discern significant differences between the motivation of renegade fundamentalists of any stripe, be they redneck vigilantes or Islamo-fascist narco-terrorists. What is abundantly clear is that such groups very specifically do not represent any major division of their respective faiths, since if they did, they wouldn’t be renegades. Christian bashing score: zero.

6.) John Edwards’s Campaign Bloggers who called Christian supporters of President Bush his “wing nut Christofascist base.” One asked, ‘What if Mary had taken Plan B after the Lord filled her with his hot, white, sticky Holy Spirit,’ to which she replied, ‘You’d have to justify your misogyny with another ancient mythology.’ They posed the thoughtful question of religious conservatives, “What don’t you lousy %#*@!+# understand about keeping your noses out of our britches, our beds and our families?”

Yum, baby. Hot, white, sticky Holy Spirit. That’s the way to woo a virgin.

I wouldn’t want to have to explain point #6 to my 4-year-old, as “adult” content takes a lot of explaining. But I just don’t see anything here that is an intentional slap to the average faithful, or to Christianity on the whole. None of it is particularly polite, but it’s also not inaccurate. We’d probably have to break this one out into bullet points to fully address it all.

Let’s skip the debate and go directly to the key point that the Jesus birth narrative is generally irrelevant to the overall theology. The blogger’s tale may be an ugly distortion of some commercial imagery, but it’s hardly a threat to the fabric of culture. While the nativity makes for great pageant in the winter months, it is the passion narrative that forms the center of the Christian theological world. Even had St. Matthew chosen to not include the birth narrative in his Gospel, we today would still probably be celebrating the birth of Christ with decorated trees, gifts, feasting, and uncharacteristic generosity. What does it have to do with Christianity otherwise? Nothing.

Here, at least, is some overt Christian bashing: 2 points out of ten for abusive language and a rude, confrontational style.

7.) “Golden Compass,” the movie — Phillip Pullman’s atheistic answer to C.S. Lewis’ “Chronicles of Narnia” series, because destroying the church and killing God in the mind of every child is the best revenge. Why be damned alone when you can take a few million souls with you and get rich on the proceeds?

Again, I’m at a disadvantage here, as I haven’t yet seen the movie or read the books. But I have read the Narnia books and thoroughly enjoyed the most recent Hollywood version. While Lewis’ theology was humanistic and liberal, his poetic sense was somewhat clumsy and thick-fisted. Throughout the stories, it’s difficult to avoid that football-spirit-team, feel-good sense that Christianity was the side of goodness and light and that everything else was, uh… yucky.

It’s not surprising that that epic theme would be reused by someone with a more complex theology and a better sense of poetry. Even if it was a deliberate attempt to undermine Christianity by creating a better story, that’s just competition. Christian bashing score: zero.

Summary — The total I come up with is three points out of a possible 70. While I certainly have a bias unlikely to find sympathy for Christians victimized for their faith, I believe even Mr. Cass would have a difficult time supporting the idea that most of these events represent actual instances of “Christian Bashing”.

Nonetheless, the very idea that the vast majority of the people in this country are in any sort of danger or distress because they are members of the dominant faith is three kinds of stupid. I’m astonished and amazed that someone could hold that thought long enough to count to seven, much less come up with seven “examples”. What wonders God hath wrought.

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