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Fighting the right enemy

Posted by Tim :: Tim's thoughts

So I don't know how many of you have been tracking with this, but I have been keeping a casual record of every time those values voters (in other words, conservative Christians) are discussed by the mainstream media.
My attention was first caught by the rather innocuous comments made the day after the election. The surprise, amazement, and puzzled looks of the commentators was interesting to note.
Then came the onslaught of criticism, attack, and outright ridicule:
1) A voice on public radio was implying Christians were hypocritical to vote for Bush because "Jesus was the greatest pacifist that ever lived" and yet "more people have been killed in the name of God than for any other reason". That latter thought, by the way, is categorically not true.
2) The New York Times ran a commentary by Garry Wills where he said, “Can a people that believes more fervently in the Virgin Birth than in evolution still be called an Enlightened nation?”. He then compares conservative Christians to the radical fundamentalists of Muslim countries. He predicted that “moral zealots” will “give some cause for dismay even to non-fundamentalist Republicans. Jihads are scary things.”
3) CNN, which I catch parts of on a daily basis, ran a full length documentary on these Christians who stole the election. They contrasted a Christian home-school family (interviewing their 10 - 12 year old fiery red-head) with a pastor who resigned from the Southern Baptist Conference. The key themes exposed were Christians "intolerance", "exclusivisity", and "dangerous and divisive beliefs".

The thought I've been taking away from all this bombardment of the Christian faith is that we need to not add to the ridicule and harassment of those who are trying to live out the Christian faith. It's such an odd thing that while the world is firing its assault on us, we join them by shooting at our own kind. The world is getting increasingly hostile to our faith, friends. As Christians, we need to watch each other's backs, not shoot each other in the back. We need to believe the best of each other, and not join in the criticisms and accusations of other believer’s sincerity or motives.
Let's aim our weapon, truth and love, at the real problem: a world ensnared by the evil one. We have shown what our unity can do with a divisive election. Now let's show what it can do for a lost world.


Remember back in the 70's, when the guys running for President didn't run negative ads? They referred to the opposition as "my distinguished opponent" instead of "liar".

The trouble is miscommunication and deception. Politicians from both sides use religion as a political tool to convince voters that they're just like them (and therefore "good"), or more to the point, they demonize their opponents as actually "bad". Please. Most people who get into politics do so because they want to better the public good. But they fall into the trap of running negative ads which demonize their opponents because it's been proven that that's what wins elections. A lot of people have been convinced by this rhetoric that "the other side" is all about forcing them and their kids to give up their religion, and live in an evil-run world.

That, in my opinion, is where the "intolerance", "exclusivity", and "dangerous and divisive beliefs" are coming from.

I don't think I know of a Christian who sets out to take away the legal right of people to believe in or pray to Allah. And I don't know of a Muslim (or Wiccan or atheist etc.) who views keeping church and state seperate in the U.S. as an "assault" on Christianity.

Tim's point about Christians is spot-on. And it's actually true, in an even more general sense, of all the people who hope to make tomorrow's world a better one: We need to believe the best of each other, and not join in the criticisms and accusations of others' sincerity or motives.

Posted by: ken welsch at November 19, 2004 01:31 PM

Nice to hear from you, Ken! You're a blast from the past.
You might be interested in reading a document given to the Congress recently that records over 50 pages of documented examples of hostility toward religious expression in the public sphere... most under the guise of separation of church and state. A link to it is:

Posted by: Tim at November 19, 2004 11:43 PM

Thanks, Tim. That's the kind of thing I'm talking about! I only looked at the first three cases I found more info on via the web (the kum-ba-yah girl, the praying-at-lunch kid, and Zachary Hood's case), but each one was either misexplaned, or simply a misunderstanding of the law. That's different from an actual hostility towards religious expression in a public sphere because of who (or how) one worships.

I don't doubt a few teachers, who are hostile towards religion in schools, exist -- fanaticism is part of the human condition. But much more common is a teacher who doesn't understand the law, and who believes taking a conservative stance and being overly-restrictive will save her and the school future headaches. She is misinformed rather than hostile. I can't get upset at folks who are confused and trying to be fair. We should stay alert for that and correct it, like any other civil liberty that's stepped on.

If I have invective for anyone, it's for a person who repeatedly shows that they're hostile towards harmless beliefs that they don't share. Like someone who starts a fist fight over which football team is better. That's a dangerous and I'd say stupid individual. But I know he's not part of an organized conspiracy to stifle the wearing of other teams' jerseys in schools.

Tim, if you're anything like you were in college, you're still laid back and really nice to everyone you meet. If we followed your example, we won't go around spreading inflammatory criticism and accusations towards others, and instead we'll give each other the benefit of the doubt -- especially in isolated cases like the ones you pointed out, since we can't claim to know others' motives better than they do. So again, I think your point about people believing the best of one another is a great message for everyone, to make tomorrow's world better.

Posted by: ken at November 30, 2004 08:22 AM

It's good to discuss these things with you, Ken. Since the document you looked at was submitted to Congress by a private institution, I'd like to think they got their facts straight. But, alas, to err is human.
I do agree that there is a lot of misinformation out there, and I think that a lot of it is motivated by fear that groups like ACLU will sue a city or school over the anything that smacks of religion or belief in God.
By the way, the church is by no means immune to misinformation or fear. A lot of church leaders refuse to speak out on hot potato (or is that potatoe) political issues out of fear that the government will come in and steal away their tax exempt status.
It's a strange world out there and we're in the middle of it.

Posted by: Tim at November 30, 2004 09:21 AM