Christianity is not the enemy
From the (Greensboro, NC) News & Record of Sunday, October 22, 2006
A recent spate of articles in these pages is a collective cry of “Wolf!” over the specter of a lamb. The reviewers and reporters in question--their judgment evidently impaired by ideology—desire that the rest of us furrow our brows, wring our hands and dialogue feverishly about a new menace rising in our midst: the evangelical Christian.

Because the banality of the following episodes is approximately equal, we will consider them in chronological order. In the first week of September, syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts courageously clambered aboard a bandwagon of ill-wishers in response to “moronic” remarks uttered by Rep. Katherine Harris of Florida, who dared to suggest that the separation of church and state is a “lie.” (Never mind that Harris’ point is arguably correct.)

Rep. Harris went on to say that, if Christians do not run for office, ours will become “a nation of secular laws” and that electing non-Christians would be, in effect, legislating sin. Presumably, upon reading these remarks, the “enlightened” reader is supposed to shout epithets at Harris, leap from his recliner and contemptuously fling his newspaper into the nearest wastebasket.

I imagine, however, that the reaction of most readers was somewhat less dramatic than that of Mr. Pitts. Indeed, some of us utterly failed to lose our composure. Meanwhile, Pitts succumbed to an apoplectic fit and argued--without bothering to present evidence--that the GOP’s “putative Christians” desire a theocracy “just like Iran, except with crosses instead of crescents.”
Two days later came a report from The Associated Press, from which we learned that Harris won her GOP primary race in Florida. This despite the fact that, as the AP gleefully reported, her campaign was “widely derided as inept” and “ridiculed even by her own party.” There is evidently a significant disconnect between the GOP establishment and the grass roots; truly “inept” campaigns do not win races.
In the “Ideas” section three weeks ago was a book review by Lex Alexander, an award-winning religion reporter who shared with us his thoughts on a volume called “Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism in America,” by Michelle Goldberg. Alexander and Goldberg, stricken by the same paranoia-inducing virus that plagues Leonard Pitts, warn that the “American Taliban is real.” It is comprised, they argue, not of Muslims, but of American evangelical Christians.

Christian nationalists, Goldberg and Alexander assert, reject The Enlightenment and rely instead upon “supernatural sanction” for their objectives. They “demonize homosexuals” in part, because “racism has become unacceptable” and the movement’s adherents must have some “other” to serve as the enemy. The Christian nationalist also seeks to “weaken and deligitimize the judiciary,” prohibit abortion and “use tax dollars, in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments” to provide funding for faith-based social services.

Fringe elements exist in virtually every ideological movement. One could argue, for instance, that, since the Earth Liberation Front concurs with most of the Democratic platform, the Democrats are radical environmentalists. But the argument is irrational. Likewise, the fact that perhaps a few thousand kooks have, to paraphrase Alexander, “hitched themselves to the Republican Party,” does not mean every Republican is a kook.

While Alexander reminds us of “the many benefits of the Enlightenment to humanity,” he neglects to mention the excesses of “reason.” Among the enlightened, for example, religion is often derided as mere superstition; reason and science are exalted over faith; tradition and ancestral wisdom are abandoned as antiquated obstacles to “progress.”
Two weeks ago, a report from the New York Times News Service disclosed the fact—presumably disturbing to some readers—that Congress has approved “200-plus” pieces of legislation beneficial to religious groups. The article detailed tax breaks and regulatory exemptions granted to churches and many “faith-based” social service organizations. But if faith-based organizations are more effective than government agencies at, say, assisting the homeless, then tax breaks and regulatory exemptions are worthwhile investments.

There is nothing radical or alarming about the mainstream, Christian conservative agenda: marriage consists of a man and a woman, and partial-birth abortion (infanticide) should be illegal. Jerry Falwell does not decapitate those with whom he disagrees. Katherine Harris does not strap bombs to herself and climb aboard buses full of homosexuals and abortionists.

Those who worry about the United States becoming a theocracy are misguided and confused. In several Muslim nations, however, theocracy and Sharia law flourish hand-in-hand. Whatever “intolerance” resides on our soil pales in comparison. Let us not become so distracted by the alleged Christian menace that we forget who our real enemies are.

Charles Davenport Jr. ( ( is a freelance writer who appears on alternate Sundays in the News & Record.

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