It’s really not shocking that far right wing Christians truly believe that the government exists to take away all of their freedoms as Christians. Witness the writhing over the religious freedom of military chaplains being breached by the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
Now, to prove that growing threat to religious freedom (especially Christian religious freedom), Dr. Gary Cass at the web site Defend Christians has come out with his top ten “Anti-Christian Acts of 2010.”
Coming it at number one on the hit parade is the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that ended employment discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Americans. Cass warns that the new law “would force ministries to hire people who oppose the beliefs or values of the organization.”
That might be something to worry about if it were true, but it’s not. ENDA was passed with specific religious exemptions that allow churches and other religious organizations to exclude LGBT.
The rest of the list is fairly familiar to anyone following religion and politics over the year — the overturning of Prop 8 in California (which continues to be fought in the courts), and the designation of such religious groups as the Family Research Council as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The list is curious, though, because while it may be a list of perceived indignities and injustices visited upon some people who subscribe to a far right idea of Christianity, the list as a whole doesn’t even scratch the surface of actions last year that may have offended Jesus — or any person of faith or good will, for that matter.
So, I submit my own list of the top five “Anti-Christian Acts of 2010.”
Let us begin by defining our terms. When I speak of Christianity — I take the guiding principles of what it means to be Christian from the Apostle Paul who told us in Galatians 5:22-23 that when the Spirit of God is present so are these qualities: “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” I also take Jesus’ direction when he told us to “love our neighbor as ourselves” in Mark 12:31.
With these as our stated values, let us look at some acts last year that totally violated them.
1. The growing gap between the rich and the poor. According to Salon:
The income gap between the richest and poorest Americans grew last year to its widest amount on record as young adults and children in particular struggled to stay afloat in the recession.
The top-earning 20 percent of Americans — those making more than $100,000 each year — received 49.4 percent of all income generated in the U.S., compared with the 3.4 percent earned by those below the poverty line, according to newly released census figures. That ratio of 14.5-to-1 was an increase from 13.6 in 2008 and nearly double a low of 7.69 in 1968.
And yet we’re told in Leviticus 25:35: “If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you.”
Deuteronomy 15:11 tells us: “There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.” Even Jesus gets in on the act in Matthew 25:40 telling us, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
2. Growing unemployment. While claims may be down this week, the nation’s unemployment rate is at 9.7 percent, and Reuters reports :
A total of 8.77 million people were claiming unemployment benefits during that period under all programs.
As Jesus made it clear in Mark 12:31 we are to love our neighbor just as much as we love ourselves — we areour brothers and sisters keepers. While the wealthy continue toward a grand economic recovery, the poor are not keeping pace, and companies continue to stockpile money, downsize and refuse to hire.
3. Defeat of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, or DREAM Act. The DREAM Act would provide a path to citizenship for immigrants who came to the U.S. before the age of 16. Failure to pass the Acthas left “65,000 illegal immigrant children who will graduate from American high schools in the spring living in limbo unable to further their education, seek gainful employment or become productive, taxpaying members of society.”
Not only that, it has violated Holy Scripture.
Exodus 22:21 instructs: “Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt.”
Leviticus 19:34 is even more direct: “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.”
4. Ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
So much for “blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9) or Jesus’ admonishment to “Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52). War can never fulfill our values of “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
5. The ongoing persecution of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people in the name of God. Cass’ list mentioned the inclusion of the FRC and other anti-gay Christian outfits on a new list of hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an un-Christian act. While name calling and list making of this sort does seem to violate the value of forbearance — the FRC and others have been violating, with impunity, the values of love, peace, kindness, and gentleness when it comes to LGBT people. The FRC and others like Bryan Fischer at the American Family Association continually spread lies about the LGBT community. Fischer, in particular said in a blog post last May 27 that “[h]omosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine and 6 million dead Jews.”
Such rhetoric from supposedly Christian organizations does nothing but spark hatred and violence toward the LGBT community. It does nothing to create love, peace, or kindness.
Those are just my top five. I could have included other events like the protest of Elizabeth Edwards’ funeral by Westboro Baptist Church, or the cynical holding of the middle class and the jobless hostage so the wealthiest one percent can keep their insanely low tax rates, but I think I’ve made my point.
Feel free to add to this list in the comments.