June 19, 2010

Is Christianity under attack?

I have heard this for such a long time and am seriously curious what people think. James Dobson claims Christianity is under attack:
"'The country is in a great deal of trouble and I just felt like we needed to do something about it.'

Like many like-minded Christians, Dobson feels there is a growing attack against Christianity and efforts to eliminate all references to the Christian faith."

I don't see it. Perhaps it is because I live in a state that is virtually dominated by Christian evangelicals, I don't know. I see a lot of idiocy out there, but I don't see either a concerted effort to undermine Christianity, and certainly don't see Christianity fading.

I can see the argument that Christianity is more openly criticized when it does stupid and immoral stuff like supporting torture, but I don't see anyone destroying Christianity. Except Christians, of course.

Am I missing stuff?


LB said...

This is an interesting question you pose. Christianity is not under attack in any sort systematic way as though there were a Dan Brownesq secret society out to destroy Christianity.

That said, evangelical Christians can understandably think along those lines simply because of proselytzation. I think many people see proselytzation as a negative for one of two religious.

One it is a akin to religious fanaticism. If you are so moved by your religion to want to convert people to it, then you must be a zealot, and zealots are the kind of people who blow up buildings. I think this is a small but real contingent of people in the world.

The second reason I think includes more people. This reason is that those who attempt to convert other people to their religion are automatically making a judgment call about two religions and that one is better than the other. Most people in this increasingly post-modern era have been taught that most value systems are relative and cannot be said to be superior to another. Therefore, attempts to convert people fly in the face of relativism. Christianity is looked at from a particularly negative perspective in regards to conversion because of a very real association between Christianity and colonialism and the "superiority" of Western culture.

Given that for evangelicals, attempts to convert others are a central part of the faith, those who attack proselytizers, aka the way many jumped on Brit Hume for his comments regarding Tiger Woods, are not just attacking individuals, they are attacking a core value of the faith, and consequently the faith itself.

In this sense I think evangelicals can see Christianity as being under attack. I don't know that they're right, but I'm not sure they're altogether wrong.

LB said...

Just realized that I meant to say i.e. Brit Hume... and not aka Brit Hume.

Monk-in-Training said...

Christianity in all it's forms dominates the American religious scene and will for some time to come.

I think most evangelicals have such a desire to identify with apocalyptic 'porn' that all they can think of is being persecuted. It one of the deepest ways they connect with their faith. (in my opinion)

I am interested in their reactions to whatever perceived persecution, do Christians respond with right wing vitriol or...?

Romans 12:14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.

Streak said...

Interesting, LB. I think you have some of it, anyway. Certainly proselytization is not seen as terribly positive, though I am not completely convinced it is the issue of relativism. And on that note, btw, I think there is a bit of projection going on in the evangelical circles. If they believe that other groups want to destroy Christianity, it is because for evangelical christians, they would actualy like to destroy Islam and other faiths that they consider to be wrong. Not destroy the people, mind you, but most evangelicals don't see those as legitimate faiths, so it makes sense that they assume everyone else looks at their faith the same way. Perhaps?

I think Monk has a part of this too, because that desire for vicitimization is oddly attractive. Also odd, btw, in that most of the people who denigrate victimology, seem to have their own version of it. Perhaps that is true of myself as well, I don't know.

"Apocalyptic porn." Heh. Well stated. I can't think of a better way to describe that. On that note, if anyone is interested in a really good book on the rise of end-times thought in America, check out Paul Boyer's impressive When Time Shall be No More. Great read.

leighton said...

I really doubt relativism has much to do with people's distaste for proselytization; I don't know many people who see it through the lens of competing communities of reference. For me, the problem is that proselytizing typically involves someone who doesn't know me or have the faintest idea why I live my life the way I do telling me I need to change it. That doesn't make them philosophical imperialists, just assholes.

Bob said...

Where I grew up there was a steady stream of people knocking on our door trying to convert us to some sort of evangelicalism or another. We lived in the middle of no where, so I am not sure why they knocked in our neighborhood so much. Maybe one of our tongue-speaking wacko neighbors turned us in to the evangelical police, so they had to save my sister’s and my soul from the religion of my liberal parents.

These people would knock on our door talk to me, at 8 or 9 years old and start asking me if I feared the end of the world. If someone starts freaking out my kid like that, I am chasing his crazy religious ass down the street with a bat.

Here's a funny sorry about proselytizing LDS boys…

You may have seen the LDS teenage kids who have to knock doors to convert. They typically wear white shirts and ties and sweat to death all summer spreading the word. They wear names tags that say: “Elder Smith” or “Elder Jones,” etc. I met one poor chap who happened to have the last name of Elder, so his name tag said: “Elder Elder”.

Streak said...

Just read your comment, Leighton. It must have fallen through my email net. Made me laugh aloud in the Starbucks. :)

Bob, your stories sound a lot like mine. I recently had some LDS kids try to ingratiate themselves by saying they knew a relative of mine. I didn't know the relative myself, so that didn't help. He then asked if there was anything I wanted to learn about the LDS. I said that I had a phd in the history of the American west and knew more than I wanted to know about Mormonism. :)

My least favorite story, though, was a few years ago when one of those (who does the Watchtower? i think it was them) came by. I didn't mind that, but it was a father who stayed at the sidewalk and sent his small boys to the door. What an asshole. He was playing on the fact that I wouldn't (and didn't) slam the door on some kids. But it was hiding behind those kids.