Christian "Persecution"Persecution of Christians in America: Say What?
By Frosty Troy
[Frosty Troy is editor of The Oklahoma Observer published 22 times a year for $25, Box 53371, Oklahoma City, OK 73152. Mr. Troy, winner of numerous prestigious journalism awards, is a Roman Catholic married to a Baptist and is a frequent contributor to Christian Ethics Today. Mincing words is not his long suit.]
Persecute: To afflict or harass constantly so as to injure or distress; oppress cruelly, esp., for reasons of religion, politics or race; to trouble or annoy constantly. Webster's New World dictionary.
To hear the minions of the religious right tell it, they are being persecuted across the land, martyrs in a secular environment, victims of a government hostile to the word of God.
Rep. Ernest Istook, R-Okla., has used that agitprop in pushing a constitutional amendment to Christianize the public schools.
Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition, uses the refrain often on his 700 Club TV program, contending that the U.S. Supreme Court is attempting to wipe out any vestige of religious life in America.
Flip on religious radio or any televangelist and hear the same whining from James Hagee, James Dobson, D. James Kennedy and Jerry Falwell, et al.
The accusation of persecution follows this scenario: Christian colonists fomented a revolution to create a country devoted to Jesus Christ. Gradually, secular humanists took the reins of power in the courts and elective offices. Their goal: A secular society.
Buttressed by the support of Satan, secular humanists have brought the family to its knees, destroyed the discipline and integrity of public education by removing school prayer, legalized homosexuality and pornography which debauch the country.
They offer as proof the divorce rate, failing public schools, abortion, porn at the newsstands, on cable and in the movies, a soaring crime rate, AIDS and VD epidemics, and kids going to gangs, not to Sunday school.
It's an ugly picture, attributed to those who would deny this nation its Christian heritage.
The only problem? It's a lie, a clever propaganda ploy that has paid off handsomely--both politically and financially--for those who engineered it. It has ensnared millions of good, decent American Christians in a web of fabrications that rivals anything Paul Joseph Goebbels constructed.
The religious right is strongest in the South, the area dominated by Protestant fundamentalists. The divorce rate in those states is higher than in the godless North.
As Martin Marty noted in Christian Century, Alabama--whose zealous judge wants the 10 commandments hung in a courtroom--has a divorce rate more than double the New England rate. (Fundamentalist Oklahoma's rate is the nation's highest.)
Abortion among Catholic women is 26% higher than the national average--despite a hierarchy that has made abortion a national political litmus test.
The distortion of the nation's history is breathtaking in its sweep. The motley crew of deists, Unitarians and Free Thinkers who crafted the government wanted more than anything to prevent any entanglement with religion--Christian or otherwise. That's the kind of "Christian" nations many were fleeing.
John Adams, Daniel Webster and Thomas Jefferson were Unitarians, Benjamin Franklin was a self-proclaimed Deist, Thomas Payne was an atheist--and the list goes on.
If anyone is guilty of religious persecution in America today, it is the religious right. They routinely defame and trample on non-Christians and Christians who disagree with their asinine interpretation of the Bible and the Constitution.
They launched their jihad with the Roundtable in Texas, spearheaded by those who took over the leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention. They were subsequently joined by a bevy of right-wing Catholics headed by New York's Cardinal John O'Connor and many fundamentalists.
They number at most a noisy 20 million and their goal has always been quasi-political, not religious. The largest of the movements is Robertson's Christian Coalition, legally tax exempt on the claim that it eschews partisan politics.
Check out these excerpts of tape remarks by Pat Robertson at a Sept. 13, 1997 Christian Coalition meeting, released by Americans United for Separation of Church and State:
"I told (Christian Coalition President) Don Hodel when he joined us, 'My dear friend, I want to hold out to you the possibility of selecting the next President of the United States, because I think that's what we have in this organization.'
"...So I don't think at this time and juncture the Democrats are going to be able to take the White House unless we throw it away.
"...We've had a major presence in one of the major parties; we still haven't gotten the influence I think we ought to have inside the Republican Party.
"...I have seen a steamroller of liberalism trying to crush faith out of our life. It's all under the rubric of 'separation of church and state,' and you know that's a distortion of what the framer's of the Constitution intended.
"...Christians are not second-class citizens; we're going to fight for our rights. And if we have to get a constitutional amendment to do it, we'll do it. It's not that hard once you get the Congress to vote. We just tell these guys, 'Look, we put you in power in 1994, and we want you to deliver. We're tired of temporizing. Don't give us all this stuff about you've got a different agenda.'"
That's not partisan politics?
Or check the minions of James Dobson's Focus on the Family, censors-in-chief who want to dictate to a free people what they can read in their libraries. They press for the junk science of Creationism in public schools--earth a mere 10,000 years old. More recently, Dobson attacked a Bible whose translation he didn't like and his power is such that it was withdrawn from proposed publication.
The Religious Right dominates the air waves and controls thousands of book stores where only politically correct texts are sold. Radio and TV evangelism is a billion dollar a year business, making millionaires out of Robertson, Dobson, Falwell, Kennedy, Hagee and others. (They cleverly say they take a salary. Check and see who controls the enterprise, who owns the private jets.)
There are now 1,648 "Christian" radio stations, an increase of 500 in the past five years--one in seven stations on the dial. Most are owned by fat cat evangelists, airing some of the most venomous commentary since Father Coughlin.
Secular talk shows are invariably allies of the Religious Right. Together they are a drumbeat of bigotry that would make Cotton Mather blush.
Right-wing evangelism permeates television--faith healers, gospel music, partisan politics, talking in tongues, and old fashioned fire and brimstone.
Private prayer was never taken out of the classroom--only rampant proselytizing by Fundamentalists. (Ask the child whose mother objected to teacher-led classroom prayer. The teacher put a football helmet on his head as she continued prayer. Ask the Del City child whose ugly nightmares resulted from a teacher who told her students they would burn in hell unless they accepted Jesus.)
The religious right operates under a double standard. If critics assail Falwell's litany of hate on the Old Time Gospel Hour, they're persecuting him. If the Baptists boycott Disney, they're expressing their First Amendment Rights.
If Ted Kennedy is slammed by Cardinal O'Connor for his vote on abortion, the cardinal is only expressing a constitutional right. If O'Connor is blistered for his chronic Republican partisanship from the pulpit, his critics are anti-Catholic.
If voter guides are slanted to gain votes for Religious Right supporters, its good government in action. If an editorial mocks the pseudo religious politics of televangelist D. James Kennedy--a braying jackass if there ever was one--he is being persecuted.
James Hagee, the porcine preaching clown of San Antonio, pummels President Clinton's morality but doesn't tell the TV congregation he dumped his wife for a younger chick.
James Dobson is the radio evangelist whose purring programs mask the most vicious political wing of the Religious Right. A former aide writes that Dobson prowls through the offices and desks of employees after hours for any evidence contrary to his sick religious views. He raked in more than $100 million last year.
The Republican Party's foremost religious icon, African American Rep. J.C. Watts of Oklahoma, mesmerizes radio and TV audiences with his Southern Baptist rhetoric. He doesn't mention the child he sired out of wedlock which he refused to support, the bills he didn't pay, the money he took from a lobbyist but failed to report as required by law.
"Character is what you do when no one is looking," Watts said in responding to the President's State of the Union address. He should get a first degree burn when he touches a Bible.
The Rev. James Watkins, writing in the Freedom Watch, said that in 28 years in the pulpit he has never been muzzled. "Radio, TV and the Internet are full of religious expression," he wrote. "American houses of worship are the single largest nonprofit enterprise in our society."
He said when a religious body wants to get into partisan politics, all it has to do is give up its tax exemption--the same exemption that applies to all nonprofit organizations, not just churches.
There is genuine persecution of Christians in several countries but America is not one of them. Nor is America a "secular humanist" society. No other western nation equals American church membership, attendance, or volunteerism. A whopping 96 percent of Americans believe in God, 42 percent believe the Bible is the literal world of God--up five percent since 1987.
If there is divorce and disarray in the American family, it has more to do with the failure of the church than the government. Sunday remains America's most segregated hour. While some Religious Right congregations seek to erect giant crosses and entertainment complexes, there is hunger and homelessness in the nearby inner city. What would Jesus say about that?
Crime was also a pestilence in the colonies, usually a product of poverty and injustice, just as it is today.
A Church of Christ preacher believes welfare is a sin because the Bible says, "Anyone unwilling to work should not eat." But what about this one: "Give to everyone who begs from you." Who is infallible? Jesus or Paul?
Selective reading of the Bible is a Religious Right specialty.
If you seek prime examples of overt religious persecution, consider the chronic bashing of Mormons by the Southern Baptist press.
Watch those "devout" Catholics of Operation Rescue terrifying women seeking a legal abortion.
Look what religious fanatics--mainly Focus on the Family followers--seek to do to America's libraries.
Witness the chronic defamation of public school teachers.
A counterfeit revival approaches and Americans are going to have to choose a side. The Religious Right is shackled to ignorance, disciplined by fear, and sheathed in superstition. Followers trudge toward control of every facet of American life. They are gullible and pitiful, swept along by false prophets. They mean this nation real harm.
Those familiar with George Orwell's classic novel 1984 will recognize Newspeak as practiced by the Religious Right. They are hard at work in the corridors of secular power while the corporal works of mercy go begging. They seek to be Big Brother, to manipulate and deceive. The soft snow of euphemisms cover their real agenda--a theocracy.
The day they win is the day America dies.