After I published one of my pieces critiquing Christianity, a Christian I love very much got in touch. She said something to this effect: “You have politicized Christianity and are only focusing on those misguided ones who are the loudest, and ignoring the many real Christians just minding their own business and quietly helping people. You know they exist, you were one of them.”
This made me stop for a minute. Was I ignoring the silent faithful in favor of going after the easy targets? Was I being unfair to “real” Christians (or worse, logically inaccurate) by calling out their problematic counterparts as though they spoke for the whole belief system?
I thought hard about this and did some research, the atheist version of “praying on it.” Ultimately, I decided that no, I was not being unfair or flawed in my logic. In fact, the silent “real” Christians might be the true downfall of this country.
First, just to get things out of the way, Christians politicized themselves back in the 1970’s, I didn’t do it for them. I’m simply respecting them enough to take them at their word. The origins of the Religious Right is something I’m fascinated by, but I’ll save that for a later post.
Now, onto the primary premise of this argument. Just to illustrate a current example with some fun statistical evidence, born-again Christians overwhelmingly backed Trump during the 2016 election at 81% (with white Catholics and Protestants coming in second [60%] and third [58%] respectively):
Lest you think that Christians have learned their lesson since November of last year, “According to exit polling conducted by Edison Research, 80 percent of white voters who self-identified as born-again or evangelical Christians voted for [Roy Moore].” You remember Moore, correct? The pedophile who wants to revoke all but the first ten amendments and claimed that 9/11 was God’s judgement on America? Yeah, that guy.
True, 20% didn’t vote for a sexual assaulter and open racist in 2016 or a pedophile and bigot in 2017. But would you agree to an operation procedure that had an 80% fatality rate? Or jump out of a plane with a parachute that only worked 20% of the time? You see where I’m going with this?
Of course I am not saying that every Christian who voted for Trump or Moore loved them. I understand that many were voting party lines, or voting in paranoid spite over the mainstream media, or voting for the “lesser of two evils,” or voting for a write-in (which is equally ineffectual and does nothing except assuage the individual conscience). Am I saying that Christians didn’t write sad articles in Salon or Mother Jones about it? Certainly not. But their individual silence-breaking is not enough… not if “real” Christians want to walk away from this entire Religious Right fiasco with any credibility as a force for morality and justice.
For example, let’s take a more recent event. It was reported on Friday that the Trump administration is banning the CDC from using seven words in next year’s official documents: diversity, entitlement, vulnerable, transgender, fetus, evidence-based and science-based. The one Christian jumping to free speech’s defense in a public way is John Pavlovitz, one of my absolute favorite Christian writers. He sounds the alarm:
As a Christian and twenty-year pastor, one who’s served for much of that time in the American Bible Belt — the list is eerily familiar.
It’s the extreme Evangelical Christian Right’s signature mix tape, the careful curated playlist they’ve had on heavy rotation in their indie gatherings for the past 60 years — only now it’s getting wide release, thanks to the monster they’ve aligned with; one who’s perfectly happy to disseminate it to keep their union intact.
Every sick, perverse Right Wing religious line of attack is there within those words.
Over the weekend, some very influential special interest groups gave statements condemning this list: the National Coalition Against Censorship, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Center for Science and Democracy, as well as various professionals in the medical and scientific fields.
After coming up empty on a general search, I Googled specifically for “Christians against the CDC ban” and found nothing. I did find a Patheos article on the subject, which gave me hope. Then I realized its author was Hemant Mehta, a popular atheist spokesperson. Whoops.
Where are these real Christians who are disgusted by the politicization of the faith? If this kind of grossly unconstitutional and authoritarian act misrepresents them so badly, why are they not rising up in protest against the horrible misapplication of their beliefs?
Now, again, I’m not saying there aren’t individual Christians who are outraged by this massive overstep of church into state. There might even be quite a number of them, they might even go out and join a protest, or share an article on Facebook. But there is nowhere for this outrage to be channeled in an effective manner, and there should be.
If you want some good ideas for how to combat religious extremism in your own faith, take a page out of the Muslims’ book. They have organized international tours, marches, and entire organizations specifically focused on coming out against terrorism not just as peace-loving individuals but as Muslims. Here are some of Muslims Against Terrorism’s (MAT) goals:
1. To work with the western media in providing Muslim perspectives on issues related to Terrorism.
2. To establish and strengthen the working relationships with the non-Muslim communities especially Christian community, and help them in understanding the issues and problems of Muslim community.
3. To work with other Muslim organizations in order to stop terrorism.
4. To provide assistance to the victims of terrorism.
5. To help young Muslims in social, economical and educational matters.
That’s a whole heck of a lot more than just praying or donating to charity every once in a while. That’s not a group of churches issuing a public statement for or against something. That’s a full-scale, action-oriented movement with the aim of getting noticed and making tangible change in the present. I applaud MAT their dedication and assumption of responsibility.
As part of due diligence, I started Googling “Christians against…” hoping to find a similar organization. This is what autofilled:
Okay, but seriously. Apart from the hashtag #christiansagainsttrump, I could find no national group specifically dedicated to visibly coming against the Religious Right in a way that sets “real” Christians against the 80% of the flock that has strayed to orange-ier pastures.
Now I know for a fact there are Christians who disagree vehemently to what is happening in our country and what has been happening over the last fifty years. I have Christian friends who are fiercely liberal and take activism as seriously (if not more seriously) than their secular counterparts. I admire and respect them for it, and dream of a day all Christianity reflects their thoughtfulness, eloquence, and compassion.
But here’s the thing: I wouldn’t know they existed unless I had been one of them. They keep to themselves for the most part, ignoring “the things of this world.” They go into their room and close the door and pray. But now is the time to be standing on street corners, seen by the world. Come on, Evangelicals, you’re supposed to love that kind of thing!
Ultimately, “real” Christians, until you actively take a stand as a united front against the bigotry, perversion, and exploitation that is happening in the circles of the Religious Right, until you break the dutiful silence of minding your own business while the world burns around you, you are complicit. These are your people misbehaving, your God being misrepresented, your faith being wielded as a bludgeon against swaths of the disenfranchised. You’ve let this get out of control — either because it benefited you or because you simply didn’t care to see it — and that makes you just as bad. You have the numbers, you have the money, you have the influence, you have the respect, so use them. Great movements have been started with much, much less.
You know the saying: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” I’d be so bold as to suggest that those who do nothing in the face of evil cannot be called good.
Originally published on Medium in December 2017.