I’ve been hearing a lot of complaints from conservative Christians about how hostile American culture has become to Christianity. One major claim is that is that Christianity is being driven out of the public square. As an outsider, I just can’t see this happening. Let me just describe the Christian expressions I see just during my hour long morning routine:
- On the morning news there was a commercial for a local church. This church runs a commercial at this time slot everyday.
- There’s a news story in the paper about a legal action by the FFRF. The paper gets quotes from both sides.
- During the morning commute of ten miles, I pass by twelve churches and several affiliated structures. Most have signs out expressing a religious point, whether it’s the topic of the weekly sermon (“Sin and Temptation”) or an aphorism (“Lost? The Bible is your GPS.”). Most seem healthy, and there have been no church closings along my route.
- I spin the radio dial. There are four explicitly Christian radio stations. One is playing a recorded sermon, one has a Bible lesson and the other two are playing Christian rock. I’m not counting the college station for the local Catholic university, nor the talk channels that lean conservative Christian, nor anything on the AM channels.
- I see several cars with Jesus fish and Christian bumper stickers. (I lost track of the number, and couldn’t get close enough to identify several.)
- I pass a demonstration in front of the local Planned Parenthood. This is a small demonstration (1-5 people), but it is present every day, throughout the day. Everyone has signs, about half of which are religious (“God knew you in the womb,” “Pray to end abortion,” etc.)
- There are no Christian billboards at the moment, but there have been in the past. I’ve seen ads for churches, political arguments sponsored by churches and evangelical billboards. One of the latter was a picture of Jesus with the caption “Call him and he will come,” in english and (I believe) hebrew.
Let me make clear that I am not objecting to any of this. But It seems to me that religious Christians have many outlets for the expression of their faith into the community in which they belong. If a simple 25 minute commute produces this many examples of Christian voices speaking about their religion, then what exactly is missing? What should this look like? What would be there if Christian voices weren’t excluded from the public square?
Another point: with the exception of a single “Coexist” bumper sticker, there was no representation from any religious source other than Christianity. The Capitol region is diverse, and I know Sikhs, Jews, Muslims, Pagans and other religious people in the area. And yet, none of these people are represented in the area through which I commute.
I suspect, having talked with some representatives of minority religions, that many people simply don’t want to deal with the flack they’d catch from conservative and evangelical Christians if they were to speak out. A sign advocating a Muslim opinion would likely be vandalised within hours. A car with a Jewish bumper sticker would quickly be buried underneath evangelical tracts.
If we’re going to talk about how social pressure is forcing Christianity out of the public spaces, and yet there are still all these Christian voices, shouldn’t we start by talking about how social pressure is completely forcing out all other religious voices first?