Note: This essay first appeared in the
April 2006 Baptist Studies Bulletin.
Late last month two Baptist leaders in America stood before a few
hundred fundamentalists in Washington, D.C., and declared that a “war
on Christians” has been declared by American culture. Baptist
minister Rick Scarborough, head of the theocratic think-tank Vision
led the charge. Standing by his side was indicted Baptist layman Tom
DeLay. Their evidence of “Christian persecution?” Some Americans
dare to say bad things about their particular brand of Christianity
(see USA TODAY, 3/30/06). Ironically, Scarborough’s Vision America
says equally bad things about religious people with whom he disagrees,
including other Christians.
But since when was name-calling elevated to the level of
If there were a real war on Christians by the
establishment, it might look something like this: beatings,
whippings, jailings, charges of child abuse, having one’s children
taken away, refusal to recognize marriages, stonings, bombings,
shootings, being dragged from the pulpit, or perhaps even being
urinated on while preaching from the pulpit.
No, this is not a recount of crimes against Christians in
some communist country, nor is it a listing of events from the
U.S.-established Islamic theocracies in present-day Iraq and
Afghanistan. Rather, it is a summary of court records of 1760s and
1770s colonial Virginia, describing atrocities committed against
Baptists by the theocratic “Christian” government. That’s right; a
“Christian” government making war against Christians. Why? Because
the radical, liberal Baptists refused to obey the laws of the
theocracy, and dared to call for full religious liberty for everyone
and complete separation of church and state.
There is no cultural war on Christians in America today.
Jesus did not teach his followers to complain and whine over
name-calling. But Scarborough and DeLay, in their self-righteousness,
have ignored the Gospel and betrayed their Baptist heritage by
insisting that fundamentalist Christians should receive special
favoritism and privileges from our culture and should be allowed to
control our government and legal system.
Tragically, Scarborough and DeLay’s brand of grossly
misguided theology is echoed by the leaders of the Southern Baptist
Convention and preached from many pulpits in America today. Even more
tragically, underneath their chicken-little rhetoric lies a real war
against Christianity in America.
Scarborough and DeLay are heroes of today’s Religious
Right, an organization whose real values are privilege, greed, worldly
power and deceit ― the very things that the Bible teaches are opposed
to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Thus there is a traitorous war
against Christianity in America today, waged by the Religious Right, a
group who bears the name “Christian” but lives in opposition to that
which Jesus taught and embodied: humility, servanthood, love for one’s
enemies, integrity, honesty, and truth.
No wonder many non-believers view Christianity in a
negative light; too many who bear the name of Christ have prostituted
him for their own purposes. No wonder Southern Baptist
fundamentalists reject Jesus as their criterion for interpreting
scripture: he is far too liberal, far too loving, far too concerned
about justice for the poor and powerless, far too committed to the
truth, and far too much of a peacemaker to suit their agenda.