It seems like not more than a day or two goes by without hearing it from somewhere: America is growing hostile towards Christians.
A growing number of Christians– a shocking amount, actually– are convinced that America’s glory days are over and that Christians are now a marginalized group on the verge of having all of their rights stripped away. I recently saw an advertisement for a nation-wide Christian event prior to the election, and the advertisement boasted they would help Christians figure out what to do in a country that was growing hostile towards Christianity. Elsewhere, right-wing politicians and religious talking-heads like Franklin Graham are trying to convince people that “religious liberty” is not only being threatened, but on the verge of disappearing.
In some corners, it’s all out panic. Leaders are shouting it, and the simple-minded unquestionably believe it.
Except– and here’s the kicker– it’s not true.
Christians are not a marginalized minority in America, but the majority and the ruling class. In fact, some polls show that around 83% of Americans are Christians. That long line of U.S presidents stemming back to the founding of the nation? Well, except for Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson, all of them were professing Christians to varying degrees. And Congress? You know, the people who actually make the laws we live by in America? Well, that group of people is actually 91.8% Christian. And let’s not forget the Supreme Court, the body that decides which laws are constitutional and which ones are not– that’s predominantly stacked with Christians too, having two justices who are Jewish, and the rest entirely Christians.
If America were truly hostile towards Christians, that would be a massive indictment against Christians themselves— because America is near-entirely controlled by Christians.
The idea that America is hostile to Christians and that the liberty to practice Christianity is under attack is misguided at best, and a complete fabrication designed to control the fearful and ignorant at worst.
Like all distorted thinking, this idea that America is growing hostile towards Christians is rooted in a degree of truth– most broken thinking is.
However, here’s the part that’s true: America isn’t growing hostile towards Christians– it is growing hostile towards religious bullies, and there’s a big difference between those two things.
Few sane people give a hoot if one is a practicing Christian. There’s no movement to banish churches and put them under government regulation like in China. No one is stopping us from gathering together with other believers, from feeding the poor, or even from standing on the street corner with obnoxious banners that say “turn or burn.”
Religious freedom and free speech is alive and well in America. These freedoms aren’t just tolerated, but embraced.
What is not embraced, and what the majority of citizens (Christians citizens, mind you) are growing increasingly hostile towards, are fringe Christian extremists who are trying to institute their own version of sharia law that infringes on the rights and liberties of the rest of us.
There’s a massive difference between freedom to practice one’s religion in a pluralistic society where we all equally have that right, versus enshrining one’s extremist religious views in laws that are imposed on the rest of us. There’s a big difference between saying that you want to be free and not forced to marry someone of the same sex, versus wanting to deny that right to someone else you don’t even know. There’s a big difference between wanting the freedom to own a business and conduct commerce freely in the public square, versus demanding to run a business that discriminates and infringes on the basic rights and dignities of everyone else.
No one is trying to stop you from being a Christian. The country is not growing hostile towards Christians. It’s just growing hostile towards extremist, religious bullies, who are trying to hijack the nation and force everyone to live under their own set of morals and ethics.
Growing hostile towards that kind of nonsense is not the same thing as growing hostile towards Christianity. It’s not even close.
Perhaps the most amusing aspect of this quest for “religious rights” is the sheer hypocrisy of it all. When the LGBTQ rights movement first got underway, religious conservatives sounded the alarm bells saying, “They don’t want equal rights, they want special rights!” When those on the religious right realized that we have neighbors who are– gasp– Muslim, they say, “Fine, let them have a mosque in certain places we approve, but we have to fight against them trying to make us all live under their religious laws.”
And then, they turn from those discussions and do the very thing they condemned just moments before– they demand special rights, and demand that their religious code influence the laws that everyone else is governed by.
This is precisely the kind of thing that made Jesus throw up his hands and shout, “You hypocrites! You blind guides!” over and over again in the Gospels.
If our friends on the religious right think we’re growing hostile, it’s because it’s true. But no, it’s not because we’re growing hostile towards the practice of our own religion, or hostile towards religious liberty.
We’re just growing hostile towards hypocrites and religious bullies who aren’t content to just live their lives the way they please, but who instead seek to impose their extremist beliefs on the rest of us.
Dr. Benjamin L. Corey is a public theologian and cultural anthropologist who is a two-time graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary with graduate degrees in the fields of Theology and International Culture, and holds a doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary. He is also the author of the new book, Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, which is available wherever good books are sold. www.Unafraid-book.com.