“The Religious Right” vs “The Screaming Secularists”, episode #289 (the saga continues…)
What is it this time? A new House Resolution, H. Res. 397, introduced by Rep. Randy Forbes of Virginia, which would designate the first week of May as America’s Spiritual Heritage Week. The full text of the bill can be found here.
What is the “Religious Right” take on it? Tom Minnery, Senior Vice President for Government and Public Policy at Focus on the Family Action, calls the bill “one of the more amazing bills ever to have been introduced in Congress” and an “incredible piece of legislation”. He continues:
“If you take the time to read the bill I guarantee you that you’ll have a new appreciation for the role played by the Christian faith in the founding of our country, and you will be much better equipped to sort through the noise as the debate over the Supreme Court vacancy reaches high decibel levels in the coming weeks.”
The bill is also supported by the Family Research Council and the usual list of conservative religious bloggers.
What is the “Screaming Secularist” take on it? Generally a “kill it quick before it grows” response. Writers of sympathetic blogs report having received email from the Secular Coalition for America alerting them to the resolution and urging them to go to the SCA site, provide name and address, and the site will create a letter that readers can send to Congress as-is or edited. And Do It NOW. Why?
Most of the blogs I read quoted the following (with or without attribution) from The Huffington Post:
“[Forbes’] list of historical distortions, misrepresentations, and lies has not changed. Therefore, my debunking of his historical hogwash, used last year to stop H. Res. 888, isn’t changing either. Because of the number of lies in Forbes’s resolution… (etc) The resolution, which purports to promote “education on America’s history of religious faith,” is packed with the same American history lies found on the Christian nationalist websites, and in the books of pseudo-historians like David Barton.”
The real fear, as a couple of blogs put it, is:
There is a larger agenda behind this house resolution that has more to it than simply instituting a national day of prayer and keeping “one nation under God” in the pledge of allegiance. It is an overt attempt at theocracy.
Unfortunately in some cases the previous quote is not far from the mark. There is a small but very vocal minority of radical-right Christians who believe it is both possible and a religious duty to make America a nation ruled by laws taken verbatim from the Bible. (I have often debunked such thinking on this blog and will continue to do so.) However the vast majority of Christians don’t go along with this kind of nonsense; as we study Scripture we quickly come to understand that, as Jesus said, “my kingdom is not of this world“.
Are there other factors involved? Always! On the “Screaming Secularist” side, one need only look at the accusations they’re making to determine the flaw in their arguments. In this case, selective use of primary sources is both their beef and their Achilles heel; and their fear of theocracy is only the flip side of the fact that they really would like to see “freedom of religion” become “freedom from religion”.
On the “Religious Right” side, we are witnessing some majorly bruised egos. Unlike previous presidents, President Obama did not host a formal event for the National Day of Prayer on May 7, nor did he attend any of the related events organized by Beth Moore and Shirley Dobson (wife of James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family). What’s worse, this comes fast on the heels of Obama’s words during a recent visit to Turkey that “we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation….” And of course FOF is looking to use the political momentum from this bill to influence the next selection of Supreme Court judge.
In short, the “Religious Right” is losing power. And they don’t like it. And they’re not sitting still for it.
Where can a thinking Christian stand? Here are some suggestions. First off, this Focus on the Family vs Obama thing is getting downright personal, and Obama is wearing far better quality teflon than FOF is. So if you’re an Obama supporter you’re in great shape, and honestly this H. Res. isn’t going to make it any further than the last one did, so I wouldn’t bother getting your knickers in a twist about it. It’s just a tempest in a shrinking teapot, and Obama is bright enough to know it.
For the rest of us, here are a few things to consider.
- The argument about revisionist history cuts both ways. Proper and unbiased use of original sources — when the original sources can actually be found — is an extremely rare thing. The bottom line is, to the victor goes the spoils… and that includes the ability to write history from one’s own point of view.
- If this bill passes, it will most likely backfire on Christians. It’s highly likely that within the next generation or two the majority religion in America will be Muslim — and then what will America’s Spiritual Heritage Week be celebrating in our schools? Islam’s victory over three hundred years of spiritual darkness in America? Does this sound far-fetched? Have a look at this.
- As Transplanted Lawyer points out in a clever secularist alternate resolution,
“we affirm our belief that the religious convictions and institutions of theistic Americans are surely strong and worthwhile enough to survive on their own merits…” He’s quite right. At least about the convictions part.
- What the “Religious Right” doesn’t grasp, and will always close its ears to, is that true Christianity is, was, and always will be in the minority. “The way is narrow and few find it.” To be a Christian is to put following Jesus Christ and His teaching above all else, including putting Him above love of self, love of country and love of family… and very few people are willing to do that. And it means giving up the desire to be right in one’s own eyes in order to follow God’s command to love above all else.
- What the “Screaming Secularists” don’t grasp and don’t want to hear is that real love — real concern for fellow human beings — isn’t about feelings, it’s about aligning oneself in obedience to the God who exists and whose primary property, elementally speaking, is love. (Not that Christians have always been the best illustrations of this…)
A few words from the ancient prophet Isaiah of Jerusalem to close:
“The Lord spoke to me with his strong hand upon me, warning me not to follow the way of this people. He said:
‘Do not call conspiracy
everything that these people call conspiracy;
do not fear what they fear,
and do not dread it.
The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy,
he is the one you are to fear,
he is the one you are to dread,
and he will be a sanctuary;
but for both houses of Israel he will be
a stone that causes men to stumble
and a rock that makes them fall
And for the people of Jerusalem he will be
a trap and a snare
Many of them will stumble;
they will fall and be broken,
they will be snared and captured.’
Bind up the testimony
and seal up the law among my disciples.
I will wait for the Lord,
who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob.
I will put my trust in him.”
– Isaiah 8:11-17