Dark Christianity
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May 2008
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Old and new Evangelism

LJ-SEC: (ORIGINALLY POSTED BY [info]catvincent)

Sara and Dave at Orcinus are going deep this week...

From Dave's "The freedom to oppress":
' Ever notice how, for some Christian fundamentalists, the freedom of religion means the freedom not only to discriminate against other religions or other beliefs, but to actively promote hatred of them, to advocate their exclusion and oppression?

Take Republican Rep. Bill Sali of Idaho for instance. He thinks Muslims should not have been allowed to say a prayer in the hallowed halls of Congress, nor should they even have representation there:

Last month, the U.S. Senate was opened for the first time ever with a Hindu prayer. Although the event generated little outrage on Capitol Hill, Representative Bill Sali (R-Idaho) is one member of Congress who believes the prayer should have never been allowed.
"We have not only a Hindu prayer being offered in the Senate, we have a Muslim member of the House of Representatives now, Keith Ellison from Minnesota. Those are changes -- and they are not what was envisioned by the Founding Fathers."

Well, perhaps they were, perhaps they were not. As far as anyone can discern, they were silent on the subject of Muslim American citizens. Some of them were in fact unrepentant racists, so seeking their advice may not be all that useful anyway.

But what we do know about them is that they believed in the freedom of religion. It's one of America's true founding values. See, e.g., the First Amendment.

If you talk to most Christians, actually, they get this. They understand that the freedom of religion -- the absolute freedom to find and practice any belief system you like, whether it's Abyssynian fire worship or atheism -- is what keeps us all together as Americans. It's our national glue. That's because it prevents any one belief system from imposing its values on any of the others. It implies an automatic respect for others' private religious beliefs.

This is true of a number of fairly conservative belief systems, including Mormonism (see the onrunning battle within the Republican religious right over Mitt Romney's candidacy), Catholicism (which has a long history of facing outrageous discrimination and demonization in America, e.g., the anti-Catholic Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s), and, for that matter, Islam, which behaviorally speaking is generally quite conservative, especially by Western standards.

People who come from these faiths instinctively understand that what enables them to practice their faiths as they wish is the freedom of religion. And Keith Ellison's presence in the House, and the saying of a Hindu prayer in the Senate, are crystalline examples of that freedom in action.

No one can say whether the Founding Fathers could have envisioned a day when international trade and communication were daily commonplaces in American lives; when immigrants would come to our shores from around the globe, bringing with them not just industry and creativity but also their various religious beliefs; when Muslims would become Americans and Americans Muslims. But that day certainly has come to pass. And in a competitive global economy fueled by the high technology we produce, we are the better for it. '

From Sara's "Some Are More Equal Than Others:

' Evangelical Christians of all political gradients have always considered it their first duty to convert the world to Christ. In fact, that obligation to spread word of their faith is perhaps the core definition of what it means to be "evangelical." Different sects have different thoughts on why spreading the Gospel is important; but they all think it is important -- the most important work of their lives.

However, historically -- at least, since the Revolution -- American Christians (of all stripes) have gone about their conversion efforts in fairly low-key way. Before the Revolution, too many of the original colonies had state churches that were overweening in their use of government -- via taxation, zoning, ordinances, and so on -- to hobble the activities of other faiths. These persecutions fell particularly heavily on the Baptists --who as a consequence have, for most of their history, had a visceral understanding of what's at stake when the wall of separation falls, and thus have a long and illustrious tradition of being strikingly militant in its defense. But it's fair to say that the Revolution was almost as much about liberating religion from the colonial state churches as it was about getting out from under a bad king.

For a long time after the Constitution put an end to these persecutions, proselytizing churches continued to cherish the protection of that hard-won wall of separation. For 200 years, most of them have clearly understood that their freedom to practice their faith is a reciprocal deal -- they are only free to follow their faith as long as (and to the extent that) others are free to practice theirs. This understanding has, through the years, made Evangelical ministers some of the country's most persistently loyal and passionate defenders of the wall of separation. More often than you can recount, local Evangelical ministers have usually been the first ones on the scene whenever religious freedom was being threatened. They understood, all too well, that whatever persecution they allowed in their towns could, sooner or later, be loosed on them as well.

That sense of reciprocity also informed their conversion efforts. If you don't want to be coerced, you don't coerce others. If you want the right to raise your voice in the town square, you cannot silence others when they do the same. The only authentic conversions are the ones that result from mutual respect -- God doesn't want forced souls bowing before him, and no church wants people who are there under duress. And because most American Christians understood religious freedom in these reciprocal terms, small towns like mine (6,000 people, 22 churches) found it easy to co-exist for centuries; and big cities could edge over to make room for Jews, Muslims, and many other faiths as well. This mutual respect is a deep and cherished part of the American religious landscape. It's one of the things that has made this country special.

But that consensus has been shifting over the past decade, largely due to the Dominionist movement's ability to move extremely radical anti-Constitutional memes down the transmission belt and into the center of the national consensus. They've been working on this one since the 80s (it took awhile, because it's so contrary to everything we stand for); but, over the past three or four years, it's begun to take root in places you might never have expected. The idea that our traditional reciprocity no longer applies to Evangelicals -- that their special relationship with God endows them with more rights than the rest of us -- has been gathering a serious and unmistakeable head of steam. The implications of this one idea for the country's future are many and frightening. '

Between these pieces a short bit on the neoNazi teenybopper girl group "Prussian Blue".

Do read them all. Smart writers facing the same morally deluded arrogance that so characterises the Dominion, but never forgets the sincere Christian, even Evangelist, who understands the difference between balanced debate and conquest.

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