Sunday morning, November 26, 2017.
Triumph of Faith: Christian Martyrs in the Time of Nero 65 A.D by Eugene Thirion, 1839-1910. Via Wikimedia Commons.
Matthew 5:11-12, about the only passage from the Beatitudes Right Wing Christians seem to know and take to heart:
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
It’s the easiest of the Beatitudes to put into practice. All you have to do is pray loudly in public, hector and annoy and bully and scold anyone who isn’t Christian, and then sit back and feel aggrieved when the people you hector, annoy, bully, and scold tell you to shut the hell up.
The Religious Right knows what’s going on.
They feel persecuted and under attack, because they are under attack. They feel their religion threatened and along with it not only the way of life but their sense of identity and self-worth...by us!
The know what we’re after. The eradication of Christianity as they see it and believe in it and practice it, that is, as the one and only true religion, the one and only way to heaven, and the thing that gives them claim of ownership of this “Christian” nation, or as we see it, their supposedly “scripture-based” justification for hectoring, bullying, scolding, and denying rights and freedoms to anyone who isn’t their brand of Christian.
They know what we’re up to even if we sometimes don’t seem to know it ourselves. Or pretend not to know it.
Our agenda really is to wipe out what they believe in, which is not God but an authoritarian, patriarchal, superstitious---they call it faith-based---social order.
Let’s start with the fact we want to educate their kids. We want to take over their schools so we can teach their children science, which means teaching them that the world doesn’t need a meddlesome sky wizard controlling it to exist and function. That doesn’t necessarily mean that there is no God but it does mean that he doesn’t have a plan that explicitly includes us at the center of it and our fate and destinies aren’t guided every moment by his loving hand. In other words, human beings are not special.
We want to fill their kids’ heads with big ideas. We want to dazzle them with the news that there are interesting and wonderful people and places outside the limits of the neighborhoods and parishes, that there’s more to be found “out there” than dragons and trolls and wild men and women from the east, that the dragons and trolls and wild men and women aren’t as scary as they’ve been told and can even teach us a few things. We want to inspire them to dream ambitious dreams that might take them far from home to realize, and give them the knowledge and skills and opportunity to do it. We want them to have the information necessary and ability to think critically so they can question and defy authority figures who would put a damper on their dreams and keep them, docile and obedient, at home, even if those authority figures are their own parents.
We want to expand opportunity to all and that includes girls and young women. We want them to be free to decide the courses of their own lives and the disposition of their own bodies. We want them to be free to become lawyers and doctors and astronauts and business owners and whatever sort of professional or trade worker that will allow them to live happy, fulfilled, and independent lives, as well as to be wives and mothers, if they chose, or not to be wives and others if they chose, so they are out from under control of preachers and fathers and husbands.
We want everyone to be free to be be themselves and that includes being free to love the person they choose to love, whatever that person’s gender (past, present, or future). Then what happens? Sex! Sex in all varieties. Heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, transexual, whatever sexual but not sexual as God intended, purely procreative and constrained by monogamy.
That means we’re for the liberation of sex from the confines of a marriage bed.
But sex is a destructive force in their world of experience. It breaks up marriages, families, whole communities. It turns good men into beasts. It tempts wives to leave their husbands and children. It causes children to disobey their parents, reject authority, and assert identities that deny what God and nature intended. They live in places where adultery is a spectator sport, addiction to porn is epidemic, and single motherhood a curse, plunging the mothers into poverty and destining their children for lives of dependency, substance abuse, and crime.
But liberals have no inherent problem with sex. In fact, we encourage people to have as much sex as they want, as long as it’s consensual and takes place under circumstances of relative equality between the agreeing partners and they take the proper precautions. As for single motherhood---or fatherhood---we don’t see it as a curse. We see it as a problem for the single parents and the children, but it’s a problem that can be addressed through wise social and economic policy, a strong and wide social safety net, and education, particularly of young men who need to learn to be responsible for their own behavior. It’s not something that can or should solved through prayer and locking up wives and daughters, imprisoning them, as it were, in guilt, shame, and oppressive religion.
Many of us, are religious, however, more faithful and devout by our lights than many of them are by theirs. But they only see by one light, that there is only one light. We see Christianity as one religion among many. They see Christianity---their version of it, the only version there is that can call itself Christian---as the one true religion among many heretical, pagan, heathen, and even satanic false religions and cults.
They know God is a name---and sometimes a face---we give to the hope that this life isn’t all there is, that someone or something benign is out there and cares that we exist, that the universe is a benevolent and welcoming place. But they know we don’t really believe it or in God, at least not their God, the omnipresent, omniscient, omni-powerful one who has a plan that ends with all the faithful eternally happy in heaven and punishes and rewards accordingly, but who leaves it to his preachers and priests and to parents to interpret that plan and exercise authority in his stead, according to his plan. We don’t believe we can know what his plan is, if there is a plan. We even doubt that if there is a plan, we’re a very tiny consideration, and therefore our best lookout is to do what works best to make this life as happy and rewarding as we can. And to do that, we don’t rely on churches, at least not exclusively. We rely on each other and the a government that unites us and coordinates our efforts to take care of each other and makes those more efficient and effective by making them collective.
We see ourselves engaged in a gigantic, nationwide barn-raising, and you’d think they’d like that idea. But they see it as mass idolatry. Worshipping government in place of God, putting human beings ahead of him, putting the focus on life on earth instead of on the life to come in heaven---or in hell.
Of course what they really object to is our collectivism takes authority away from their priests and preachers and village elders and puts in in the hands of bureaucrats, lawyers, experts, and politicians they didn't vote for. It requires them to trust and have faith in strangers who live far away and are therefore invisible and unknowable. It forces them to share the country with people who don't believe what they believe, don 't think as they think, who don't live the way they live, and don't see that as a problem. It takes away their power to impose their beliefs, thinking, and way of life on their children and neighbors and on faraway strangers. It diminishes to the point of irrelevance their ability to assert their will. It even criminalizes the attempt.
When they talk about religious liberty, liberals express bewilderment. You're at liberty to believe what you've always believed, what's the problem?
But their belief requires them to put their faith into practice by forcing it upon others.
As far as they're concerned, this is a Christian nation, and therefore only Christians are entitled to the liberties granted by the Constitution---never mind what the First Amendment says. They know what the founders meant, without having to read it, the way they know what the Bible says without having to read it.
Their preachers and elders tell them. Besides, the founders were Christians, exactly like them, just don't ask them which particular founders and how so. At any rate, one of the liberties is to deny religious liberty to non-Christians, and that's anyone who isn't Christian exactly like them. We won't put up with that and they know it and feel the threat.
And they know that far from accepting that their brand of Christianity makes them the only true Christians, we're not convinced it makes them all that Christian. We think it makes them bigoted, hypocritical, tribal, ignorant and superstitious, bullying, and fundamentally un-American, but not faithful followers of the words of Jesus Christ. They know this about us because we don't exactly keep it to ourselves.
We let them know it, in no uncertain terms, in court rulings, in laws, in news outlets online and off, in movies and TV shows, in novels and plays, and in songs (not to mention posts posts at obscure but laughably self-important blogs).
No wonder they feel persecuted.
But here’s their secret.
They like feeling persecuted. They need to feel persecuted. It’s how they know their good Christians. Like I said, it’s the only one of the Beatitudes they seem to know how to put into practice. But it feeds their self-pity and sense of entitlement, and it gives them their excuse.
It’s how they turn offense into defense, how repression and oppression become liberty.
If they are under attack, then they’re free to fight back.