This has been on my mind for a while now, but I was letting it stew in my brain and doing my research before getting into it. I have a feeling this will make certain people very upset, but it’s something I need to get off my chest:
There is no such thing as the so-called War on Christianity.
As we’ve discussed, I was raised in a seriously Southern Baptist Christian home as a child. I’ve learned—and probably forgotten—more about the Bible and Christian dogma than I can express. I’ve memorized Bible verses out the wazoo. And despite the fact that almost a decade ago I admitted to myself that I didn’t actually believe much of it and subsequently distanced myself from the church, I can still put myself in those shoes and see things from a Christian’s perspective. So I should be able to see and understand why the Christian majority believes themselves to be under attack.
I should, but I just can’t.
I think part of the problem lies in the fact that Christians are the majority and sometimes forget that. According to statistical data found here, Christians make up more than 75% of the people in the United States, and Protestants on their own make up more than 50%. Granted, Evangelical Christians—who in my experience are the ones trying to bring attention to this persecution—only make up about 25%, so I can see where they’d get confused. 25% doesn’t sound like a majority to me.
But let’s put that into perspective: less than 5% of the people surveyed affiliated with another religion. Less than 5%. Only 16% didn’t affiliate. That 25% is looking like a much bigger chunk when you think about it. The Evangelicals are even doing better than the Catholics (at 23%).
I know that’s a lot of numbers, but it illustrates my point: Christians are the majority. 75% of the people you encounter on a daily basis believe in the power of Jesus Christ. So unless Christianity is under attack from itself (which is a whole other post on its own), you’ve got us outnumbered 3 to 1. We don’t stand a chance.
Another part of the problem is that the portion of that 75% that find themselves “under attack” are simply misinterpreting their situation. See, a growing tolerance for the beliefs of others is not an effort to diminish or destroy anyone’s faith. Nor is an effort to keep someone else’s religious mandates out of state-sponsored practices and policies, according to the separation of church and state spelled out by the US Constitution, a devaluing of that person’s beliefs. It is simply an effort to allow people the freedom to live their own lives, free of persecution or an expectation to follow the majority. It is a celebration of both individuality and brotherhood, of what makes us unique as well as what we all have in common.
I could go on about this all day, but you’ve already heard my views on homophobia and abortion. So today, I provide the following example of the reasons why I shake my head at the people who are fighting this “war”: prayer in schools.
This is an issue that was supposedly solved in the courts in the 1960s, but it was still a sore spot here in the South even when I was in high school in the early 2000s. People in the church I grew up in were outraged when we were informed that there would be a moment of silence instead of a prayer at the beginning of football games. The church supplied our youth group with a microphone and sound system independent of that of the stadium so one of the seniors could lead a prayer in protest. So many students circled the field holding hands that the game couldn’t start on time.
I went along with it, because as a good little Christian girl I thought it was the thing to do at the time, but I remember looking back at my friend Jeneé—one of the only Jehovah’s Witnesses I ever encountered in my entire childhood, whose beliefs seemed stronger and more sincere than a lot of the kids in my youth group—who hung back by herself, unable to participate due to the tenets of her own religion.
That was one of the earliest challenges to my childhood belief system that I can pinpoint. It was a moment that led me to question, among other things, why a brief prayer over the loudspeaker before kickoff was so important. If it alienated one of the only people from high school that actually was (and still is) my friend, maybe it wasn’t so important after all.
If that’s not enough to express my point, imagine your child were starting their first day at a public, state-funded school. The teacher gets up, instructs all the students in the room to bow their heads, and leads a prayer to the Hindu god Ganesh.
If you’d be outraged and offended beyond belief, marching up to that principal’s office to rip him/her a new one for expecting your child to pray to a god you didn’t believe in, good. You know exactly how a Hindu parent would feel if a public school teacher led their child in a prayer to Jesus. Or a Jew, or a Buddhist, or a Muslim, or an Atheist. I think that’s a skill a lot of people have forgotten—putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, seeing things from a perspective other than your own.
Which leads me to the last part of the problem as I see it: certain people amongst that 75% seem to have forgotten what the fellow at the center of their religion—Jesus Christ—stood for.
I am in no way talking about all Christians when I say this; I have known some people of the Christian faith who are wonderful human beings. But in my experience, a lot of Christians act like self-centered jerks. They’ve lost sight of how Jesus himself reacted to the world around him. Maybe they’ve been in the majority so long they’ve forgotten what it actually does feel like to be persecuted.
I’m no biblical scholar, but as I understand him, Jesus didn’t win others to his way of thinking by shouting his message in their faces, by demanding their attention, by being insensitive to what they thought or felt. He did it by example, by living what he preached. Aside from one temper-flare in which he knocked a bunch of stuff over in the temple—because merchants were turning a profit off manipulating worshipers into thinking they had to pay big if they wanted God to accept their sacrifices (sound familiar, televangelists?)—Jesus was a pretty chill guy. People were drawn to him because he was kind, because he helped the people no one else wanted to touch with a ten-foot pole—quite literally when you think of the lepers he healed—because he stood up for people who were being taken advantage of, for the downtrodden, for the oppressed. He accepted sinners, tax collectors, rich, poor—it didn’t matter where you came from. Jesus was a hippie—he preached peace and love and togetherness and turning the other cheek. His biggest message was to love everyone as you love yourself, to treat other people the way you would want to be treated.
We called it the Golden Rule in church: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I bet you every Christian can quote that word for word without so much as blinking.
But not every Christian lives that way. They want people to respect their beliefs and listen to them as they spout their message, but when someone with different beliefs pipes in and asks exactly the same thing, the world is against them. They don’t want to be prejudged, but every homosexual is an abomination, every woman who believes in her own right to choose is a whore. They want to live their lives according to what they believe, but don’t want to allow others the same courtesy. In fact, they want to make it law that people have to live their way. Because religious freedom only applies to them, their moral code is the only valid one, and anyone who disagrees or stands up for their own rights is a threat.
Again, that’s not every Christian; we all know that. It’s just the most vocal, the ones who imagine themselves under attack.
The thing is, no one is asking anyone to stop being a Christian. No one is asking anyone of the Christian faith to stop living their lives according to their religious beliefs. We’re not even asking you to stop spreading your message.
All we’re really asking is that you be more Christ-like.
That you show love and—dare I use the word—tolerance to your fellow man. That you try to win followers with kindness rather than force. That if you want to speak your beliefs, you are prepared to listen to someone else’s. That you respect their beliefs and wishes as you would want your own respected. That you don’t condemn those who don’t believe exactly as you do. That you’ll put yourself in the other person’s shoes before passing judgment. That you’ll walk the walk, not just talk the talk; that you’ll put your money where your mouth is. That you’ll live your life according to what you say you believe; that you’ll live up to the name when you say you’re a follower of Jesus Christ.
Because honestly, a lot of us on the outside are convinced that being Christ-like isn’t part of being a Christian today at all.