The Christian Menace
What is one to do with a throwback like Ashcroft, someone who holds absurd views like, 'thou shall not kill'?
BY: Ralph McInerny
So-called Christian ethics is as negotiable as any other to them. All the articles of the Secularist Creed are embraced by the majority of Christian theologians. So, secularists, relax. It is Christians who can most effectively handle the Christian menace. Garry Wills and James Carroll will tear down the church to which they professedly belong. No need to worry about their American credentials. Let the whole enterprise continue to be dismantled from within.
A.N. Wilson, a troubled and intriguing writer, argues in his recent "God's Funeral" that it was professed believers who brought about the demise of Christianity. He laments its going, if only for aesthetic reasons, regretting that he cannot believe it to be true. It may seem churlish of Wilson to give Christians credit for all this, but surely he has a point. Who more effectively than theologians and church leaders have carried water for the view that sees Christianity as a menace to public life?
But what is one to do about throwbacks like John Ashcroft? For this man, "In God We Trust" is a motto as bright as when it was first minted. He obviously does not think God is a menace to human freedom. He doesn't think that the common morality that reigned supreme until yesterday thwarts and oppresses. He probably thinks murder would go on being wrong even if the Supreme Court said otherwise. He doesn't want to use the law to back up his religion but rather vice versa. He is undoubtedly a menace to the American Way. But is he typical? How many churchmen rose to his defense? We can be thankful the pope did not get into it. He has called those who regard Christianity as a menace proponents of the Culture of Death. People like him go on and on about the million and a half abortions every year.
Make no mistake about it, Christians like John Aschcroft and the pope would put an end to human sacrifice if they could. But does anyone really think that they will prevail? The Founders recognized the menace of religion and made every provision to expel it from the public square. Of course, many of them professed belief in God, but this was simply a
façon de parler
. If they had really believed God had created all men equal, they would have sold their slaves. It is their vision that has been slowly realized over time as the Constitution was read as a living document. No one has stated the fundamental tenet of the American Creed more succinctly than Justice Anthony Kennedy in his so-called Mystery Clause, the dogmatic heart of the Casey decision. Each of us has a constitutional right to define life as we choose, to define the universe itself as we choose. Here is the right to choose in its quintessential form, and only an idiot would think it compatible with belief in God.
The lines are drawn, the battle is clear. There is to be a struggle between the American Way and Christianity. Patriots must insist that all candidates for public trust express their faith in the articles of our Creed. Not even a smidgin of heresy can be permitted in high places. Look at what happened to the Roman Empire. We must be ruthless as Diocletian. Heads will roll. No one who questions the Right to Choose as defined by Justice Kennedy is fit for public office. It is no defense for deviants to say that they choose to believe in God but everyone else is free to choose not to. This is a ploy. People like this do not think that God exists only in the privacy of their own homes, or on the campus of Christian colleges; they think he is everywhere! They refuse to believe that being an American is incompatible with being a Christian.
All this panic is of course misplaced. People for the American Way do not have to be mobilized to stop the encroachment of religious belief in public life. The churches can be relied upon to perform the task. No one is more committed to the privatization of religious belief than religious leaders. What sophisticated believer is not embarrassed by public professions of faith, testimonials to personal conversion, and claims that Jesus saved me from perdition? The episcopal winces are almost audible. Theologians are busy about their father's business, emptying the Christian message of its content, proving that it is simply a mythical expression of the human need for something or other.