While Christians may still be in plentiful supply across America’s heartland, they are fast becoming an endangered species in the rarified habitat of our coastal cities and cultural heights. The purveyors of our pop culture propound anti-Christian stereotypes with increasing frequency and intensity. So much so that even those few, brave elites who have personally embraced the faith often feel compelled to publicly condemn it.
The latest cultural darling to denounce Christianity and all of its works is Ann Rice. This famous vampire novelist and pop theologian announced last week that she was rejecting Christianity as an organized religion. She is still a Christian, mind you. Simply a better one than those millions who actually go to church.
In particular, Ms. Rice informed us that, regarding Christianity, “It’s simply impossible for me to ‘belong’ to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group.” She further explained her decision by noting that she refused to be “anti-gay,” “anti-feminist,” “anti-science” and “anti-Democrat.”
Good for Ann Rice. She should absolutely reject such hatreds and any institutions that promote them. Had she belonged to the Ku Klux Klan or the American Nazi Party, I’d absolutely applaud her apostasy. But Christianity? It seems that Ms. Rice has conjured up a Christian world every bit as dark as that inhabited by her blood-drinking protagonists. And one that is equally fictitious.
Christianity is anti-feminist? Historically speaking, Christianity has actually been an enormous boon to women. Until Christianity came along, the Greeks and Romans who dominated European culture were proud practitioners of infanticide. They commonly killed their baby girls as expendable errors in their quest for sons. The same still happens to this very day in China, India and many other countries around the world, although sex-selective abortion has replaced infanticide as the corrective of choice.
As for the present day, I’m not sure what church Ms. Rice attended. But the hundreds that I’ve had the privilege of visiting around the country typically help their members rise above the petty preoccupations of our culture - from alcohol and video games to pornography and vampire novels - to embrace family, service and love.
Christianity is anti-science? Please - let’s not trot out that tired old charge yet again. It is far more historically accurate to claim that Christianity fostered science. By asserting that our world was designed by a creator according to a logical blueprint, Christianity helped give birth to the idea that we could benefit by studying creation and discovering these underlying patterns. The opposition of some Christians to the teaching of evolution today hardly renders the diverse body of Christendom “anti science.” In fact, if we who support the teaching of evolution would be a little more sensitive to the way this theory has been consistently abused and misconstrued over the decades to justify everything from eugenics at home to genocide abroad, we might find our skeptical counterparts more willing to permit their children to be exposed to it.
Christians are “anti-Democrat”? That’s just too rich. Good thing Ms. Rice wasn’t advising Barack Obama during the 2008 campaign. Candidate Obama competed hard for the white evangelical vote, and won one out of every four that were cast. And this figure fails to take into account the African-American and Hispanic evangelicals who voted for Mr. Obama in far higher proportions. And these were evangelicals - arguably the most Republican of Christian blocs. Want to talk Catholics? President Obama won 54 percent of their votes.
Christians are “anti-gay”? This, of all of Ms. Rice’s charges, contains a semblance of reality, yet it remains a gross exaggeration. The fact is that biblical literalists - mainly evangelical Protestants as well as orthodox Catholics and Jews - take seriously the Bible’s prohibitions against homosexual sex. As a result, they tend to oppose homosexual “marriage.” And it is also true that in their opposition to it, some religious spokesmen have engaged in rhetoric that crosses the line into intolerance. Yet to tar an entire faith as anti-homosexual due to the excesses of the unrepresentative few is an exercise in stereotype that would be the envy of any intolerant soul. Let’s face it - when it comes to homosexual “marriage,” we face a difficult clash between reasonable people. I’m sure Mr. Obama - who opposes homosexual “marriage” - would agree.
No, the Church is not perfect. And neither is the synagogue. And no, it’s not easy to live an active faith. It requires being in the muck of this world, rather than fleeing to the sterile purity of our imaginations. Yet it is precisely in the muck that so many heroes have demonstrated the ongoing relevance of their faith to a hurting world.
It is no coincidence that when we look at the front lines of the struggle for humanity in Africa, Asia and right here at home, we so often see committed Christians and Jews leading the way. Their deep connections to the faith tradition that remains the primary source of Western compassion drives these modern saints to sacrifice themselves - and often risk their lives - for the sake of their fellow human beings. Those who turn their backs on the very source of our goodness rarely offer more than fairytales to salve our wounded world.
David Brog is the executive director of Christians United for Israel and the author of the newly released book “In Defense of Faith: The Judeo-Christian Idea and the Struggle for Humanity” (Encounter Books, 2010).
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