There is a lot being said about the war on Christianity. Most non-Christians, and a lot of the more liberal Christians, dismiss it as a tactic of the privileged to hold on to status. Honestly, that is where a lot of the complaints come from. Still, I have to concede that there is a guerrilla war on traditional Christianity, and Tradition is to blame.
The supposed war is being fought, currently, over the Chick-fil-a PR debacle. Chick-fil-a is a family owned and operated business, and the family in question, the Cathys, is a Christian one. They give money and free services to a number of causes, including some that seek to limit the rights of homosexuals, as they believe the Bible requires. This has, rightly, made many fans of human rights very upset.
This has lead to a very public division in the way the company is perceived: those who agree tend to want to go there to show their support, which allows the family, via the company, to funnel more money towards the causes they support. Others, seeing this as the obvious outcome of giving any money to Chick-fil-a, are boycotting the company over it. All of this is perfectly legal and ethical. (ok, maybe not the part where a company can make tax deductible donations to self-serving causes, but that is another post entirely.)
Then, a few elected officials came on board, saying that they would block Chick-fil-a from opening new stores in their districts. This is where we cross the line into unethical behavior, and the part that illustrates that people are starting to fight back against “Traditional Christian Values”. I say “fight back”, because this isn’t a war on a persecuted minority; this is an uprising against an oppressive force. And, while it is long over due, these first truly bold acts of uncivil disobedience are going to hurt more than they help.
For a long time, Americans have used the Bible for their own needs. They claim that it commands slaves to be obedient in order to justify slavery. They claim that it forbids miscegenation to prohibit interracial marriage and to enforce segregation. They claim that the Bible forbids homosexuality, without even getting to marriage, and thus we cannot allow homosexuals the privilege of love, much less legal recognition of the rights of a spouse.
When Christians spread amongst themselves that gay men are trying to convert children to “the gay lifestyle”, while themselves trying to convert homosexuals through tactics ranging from simple prayer to outright abuse, they invite a reaction. When they say that asking employees to greet holiday shoppers with “Seasons Greetings” is a war on Christmas, but not providing the legally required health care insurance is a matter of liberty, they beg for a response. There is a war brewing, and it began in the minds of the conservative Christian population. They fired the first shots.
I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.
Theodore Parker,Unitarian minister and Transcendentalist.
What Parker is saying there is that the world has, since the fall of Rome, been dominated by unjust philosophies of human interaction. Leaders tended to hoard power and knowledge, oppressing those who opposed them and instilling fear in subjects. They once claimed rule by divine right, and that to go against them was to go against God. There was a time when the Catholic Church backed up these claims. When they tried to withdraw them from the King of England, Henry VIII declared a new covenant and founded a church that stands today, making the United Kingdom something of a theocracy. Religion was used as a cudgel, hell a threat for those who opposed the “natural order”, as ordained by God’s chosen ruler.
We have, slowly, been overcoming that mental and civic despotism for centuries. It still has its adherents, though, and they are often loathed to give up their privileged position in the order of things. They claim that the smallest slight to tradition is a war on their very way of life. Sadly, many of them even believe this, because they see their way of life as the right way, and that everyone else is missing out on something, even if the traditional order would clearly dehumanize some of the people.
They declared that any attempt to include other religions, other philosophies, or even just the observations of science were acts of war. Change would not be deterred, though, and so war is breaking out. The Christians’ defense, often of the indefensible, became more aggressive and patronizing. Of course, then, the counter attacks have followed suit.
This leads us to where we are, right now, in the cultural battle over Chick-fil-a. What they are doing is legal under an outdated system that recognizes oppression as a right. They can give their money to “charities” who then spend it to keep family a privilege that only those who haven’t strayed too far form tradition can have. History proves that they are on the wrong side, ultimately, but they have the law on their side.
On the other hand, the tactics of keeping them from operating perfectly legal businesses on the grounds of their moral stance is also the wrong way to go about this. It places undue restrictions on their rights and their speech. It invites them to demonstrate in court that attacks on Christians have crossed the line of legality and Constitutionality.
Historically, battles like this one go poorly for both sides. The old order will fall, but the rebels will have exhausted themselves and fall into petty squabbling over the spoils. In a fight for equality and human rights, we cannot allow this to be our fate. We cannot win equality through oppression. We cannot win justice through unjust means. We have to live out our principles. We have to be better than that which we fight.
In a war of ideas, we cannot win by compromising Principles, any more than you can win a war for land through scorched earth. Your opponent may fall, but what it leaves you is no victory.