THE BLOG
02/21/2013 01:14 pm ET | Updated Apr 23, 2013

What War on Christianity?

It's war, I say! War!

Quite a few of our countrymen believe America has declared war on Christianity. During the recent national campaign, in one of Rick Perry's ads, the governor of the second largest state promised, "As president, I'll end Obama's war on religion. And I'll fight against ... attacks on our religious heritage." Todd Starnes on Fox News found truth here, pointing out that, "Perry's declaration immediately resonated with millions of Christians around the nation who feel their faith is under attack." A piece on ChristianNewsWire.com described a Bible study web site as "a Christian social network with a purpose, to create awareness of the Christian persecution around the world," and insightfully added, "The war on Christianity in America is being ignored by both Republicans and Democrats." At TheTruthWins.com, a headline blared, "Authorities All Over America Are Cracking down ... On the Christian Faith," beneath which appeared a picture of police in ACUs (the standard uniform of the U.S. Army) dragging away a white haired man on his knees.

Sounds terrible. And deserving of further analysis. All true patriots concerned about this state of affairs will want to know more, will want to get to the bottom of what is happening in our country.

One way to analyze this issue is to compare the lives of two presidents from another century.

President Good Ole' Boy (GOB) was a Baptist raised in the Bible Belt, where he also lived most of his adult life. Not only was he born again, the standard website on the history of presidential religiosity referred to him as "the most Evangelical president in U. S. history." Throughout his life he taught Sunday school, and wrote several Christian inspirational books. In the White House, this devout individual still attended church every Sunday, and despite the hectic pace found time to pray several times a day, indicating a deep faith commitment.

President LaLa Land (LLL), while a deeply religious man, slipped from the fundamentals over time. His mother was a member of the Disciples of Christ, and he always claimed he took after her and was also born again.

In later years, however, his faith turned to more conventional beliefs. For most of his adulthood he identified himself as a Presbyterian, one of the most traditional, establishment denominations. As president, he decided not to attend church, since it might inconvenience the other worshippers, despite the fact that his predecessor had attended regularly. Even more amazing, before moving to Washington, his regular church was in Bel-Air, next door to self-indulgent Beverly Hills.

So which one was Republican, which one Democratic? Which one was conservative, which one liberal?

Good Old Boy is that long term Georgia resident, Jimmy Carter; his successor from California, of course, Ronald Reagan. And we all know the two men differed enormously in their politics.

But that's the point. What the right salutes is religious conservatism, not Christianity. If it was just a matter of faith, they would be putting Carter on the pedestal. A recent article in the American Historical Review pointed out, "Although the former governor of California was not pious by the standards of evangelical America -- he gave little to the church and attended services infrequently -- white evangelical voters favored him overwhelmingly." Because his politics matched theirs, not because of his adherence to a fundamentalist church's teachings.

On the other side, progressives aren't reacting to Christianity, but instead to a strain of it they consider hurtful and bigoted. When ministers oppose human rights, declare that 9/11 was God's way of punishing the U.S. because of homosexuality, these preachers are reproached because of their bigotry, not because of their calling. In 2000, Carter left the Southern Baptist Convention; he publicly stated that his Christian commitment remained undimmed, but that the changes in the denomination and his Christian conscience led him to the decision.

So there is no "War on Christians" going on. There is, however, fervent opposition to ministers who deny the rights of Americans they don't like, African-Americans, Catholics and Jews at one time; immigrants, gays, women and Muslims now.

Or Mormons. Jimmy Carter condemned the Southern Baptists when they attacked and tried to woo members of the Church of Latter-day Saints, explaining, "the people in my own local church have no interest in trying to condemn Mormons or trying to convert Mormons to be good old Baptists like me."

This episode raises another sore point. Many of the claims of suppressing Christianity arise, upon due investigation, when government stepped in because a group mandated that everyone pay homage to their deity. Even if you belong to another denomination within the Protestant umbrella. Even if you are Roman Catholic. Or Jewish. Or Muslim. Or a non-believer. Like Jimmy Carter, many Americans reject this attitude of "my church or you hate Christianity." Instead, they believe in respecting all faiths, and condemn the narrow minded.

Take a recent case. A Lutheran minister in Connecticut was forced to apologize by the Missouri Synod for participating in the multi-faith memorial to Sandy Hook, despite the fact that one of his parishioners died in that massacre. In an open letter, the Rev. Rob Morris explained, "I believed my participation to be, not an act of joint worship, but an act of community chaplaincy." Not to mention of mercy and humanity. He was still reprimanded and had to renounce his presence on the same platform as the president of the United States. Is it a War on Christianity to be appalled by such unfeeling blindness?

So stop with the martyrdom narrative; the facts don't bear it out. Yes, if a religion preaches hateful doctrine, it winds up being widely condemned. It's not Christianity that sparks most of the comments, but when faith is in thrall to ideas that oppress the spirit, instead of liberating it.