vistab

March 26, 2007

Christian Nation Advocates Claim ‘Christian Persecution’ by Michele Swenson

Filed under: Education — vistab @ 11:33 pm

The religious political right has consistently subverted language and meaning, portraying themselves as ‘persecuted,’ even as they aggressively attack the rights of disfavored groups – women, gays, minorities, adherents of other religious traditions, etc.

During House floor debate in 2006, Rep. John Hostettler (R-Ind) attacked Democrats who proposed a bill condemning “abusive religious proselytizing” at the Air Force Academy, in the wake of accounts of anti-Semitic treatment of a Jewish cadet; a chaplain urging condemnation of fellow cadets “who are not born again” and are destined to “burn in the fires of hell”; and a cadet dubbed a ‘heathen’ for failure to attend religious services. Hostettler accused, “The long war on Christianity in America continues today on the floor of the United States House of Representatives.” He railed against “those who would eradicate any vestige of our Christian heritage,” accusing Democrats of “denigrating and demonizing Christians.” Investigation of religious intolerance prompted the accusation of ‘reverse discrimination’ against Christians by William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.

The litany of alleged Christian oppression is extensive among those who blatantly reject any pretense of religious tolerance. Non-procreative sex (‘eliminating our posterity’), gun laws, AIDS research, environmental protections or international cooperation, public schools, the United Nations, teaching evolution, sex education, or ‘nonbiblical’ roles for men and women–in brief, any perceived challenge to right-wing political intent–have all been named assaults on American ‘Christian’ heritage. Castigating differing faiths as ‘demonic and satanic,’ and church-state separation as ‘a lie of the left,’ Pat Robertson has likened Christian oppression in the U.S. to that of Jews in Hitler’s Germany. The literalist “World” magazine denounced pluralism, multiculturalism, tolerance, equality and religious freedom as ‘rejections of a biblical ordering’ of society. Multiculturalism amounts to denigration of men of European descent and ‘western Christian culture,’ asserted Robertson. Citing the absence of biblical Christian teaching, Jerry Falwell has called for elimination of public schools.

Failure of the biblically orthodox to claim their divinely ordained place of leadership invites God’s wrathful judgment. Their imperative: Change government or abolish it. Reading biblical allegory as history, and defining America’s destiny in terms of end times battles between good and evil, Robertson outlines the mission of his Christian Broadcasting Network–to establish ‘God’s government’ in preparation for Christ’s second coming. In Robertson’s historical formulation, the original U.S. settlers set out to “claim the land for Christians.” Theologian Walter Capps relates that Francis Schaeffer, a doctrinal father of the modern religious right, rewrote western intellectual history to align the intent of the founding fathers with the Reformation, the New Testament and the political goals of the modern religious right. Describing aspirations of the religious right as more nationalistic in intention than religious, Capps notes that Robertson evangelicals read the Bible as contemporary political commentary, transferring biblical covenant status from Israel to America.

Schaeffer, Robertson and former Nixon aide Chuck Colson describe two worldviews that “cannot coexist”–that of biblical literalists vs. secular humanists. Denounced as heretical ‘state-mandated religion,’ the term secular humanism encompasses all twentieth century civil rights gains and religious freedoms. It is viewed as threat to divinely ordained capitalism and such instruments of order as capital punishment, nuclear weaponry and a strict hierarchy of white Christian male dominance. Derided for the teaching of critical thinking (termed ‘brainwashing’ by Tim LaHaye), secularism denotes a slippery slide to immorality. Ecology courses are suspect due to the implied need for family planning, and global cooperation becomes capitulation to Satan. Robertson has invoked the wrath of God against such ‘demonic spirits’ as abortionists, gays and Democrats, even as Ralph Reed targeted left-wing unions, gays and feminists. Democrats are corrupting the culture, compromising America’s divine role. The global economy is regarded the precursor to economic and social collapse that will usher in the end times. The term ‘secular humanism,’ in short, is catchall for any deemed assault on Christianity.

Expressing their seminal role in advancing the final period of history, Dr. Jerry Horner, dean of Biblical Studies at Robertson’s Regent University, pronounced the need to “establish our dominion… and bring our exile to an end.” Robertson predicted civil war if evangelicals fail to establish control by ‘God’s people’ over government and all institutions in preparation for the second coming. In the political right’s pitched battle for America, pitting biblical against mainstream Christians, tolerance is deemed a betrayal of biblical truth. Good works and social justice for their own sake, rather than as means to the ends of proselytizing, are heretical. Forbidding Christian proselytization, advises Robertson, is like “failing to inform a patient he has cancer.”

‘God-centered’ often resembles ‘Christian white male-centered’ dogma. As God’s ‘true heirs’ to power, only select white Christian males are deemed worthy to vote or hold office. Tim LaHaye (author of the “Left Behind” series) is among the orthodox demanding replacement of all humanists in public office with ‘pro-moral political leaders.’ Nixon’s administrator of OEO and Moral Majority co-founder, Howard Phillips invokes ‘one-family-one-vote’ as means to restore ‘traditional family values.’

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