Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Fortnight for Frivolity

I promise I’m not trying to become a single-issue blogger.


Pinky swear.

But the US Catholic Bishops’ alliteration-happy “Fortnight for Freedom” campaign begins today. And even though I’ve got posts lined up for next week on Bible translations as a baseball team (that is, which translation would play which position) and on pastoral self-care…I can’t let this one go just yet.

So, God, forgive me.

And dear readers, forgive me even more.


Sometimes, little things annoy me, like the taste of dental floss, or the word ‘cumquat.’

I used to think that people saying, “Christianity is under attack in America!” like Chicken Little saying the sky is falling was one such little thing that annoyed me.

Then the bishops started saying it. And conservative Protestant pastors started saying it. And now how I long for the days when someone saying, “Christianity is under attack in America!” was but a little thing that annoyed me.

Look. If you want to know what Christianity under attack REALLY looks like, visit North Korea. Or China. Or Sudan. Or the 3rd –century Roman Empire. But not here.

What makes this so galling is that the bishops KNOW this. In discussing their “Our First, Most Cherished Liberty” statement, their Fortnight for Freedom point man Rev. William Lori, the Archbishop of Baltimore, recognized “that our religious freedom problems in the U.S. pale in comparison to those problems abroad.”

In other words, they know it—they know that saying that we Christians are being attacked or persecuted in America right now is the height of frivolity—we’re ironically using our freedoms of speech and religion to say that our freedoms of speech and religion are being oppressed, and in doing so, we trivialize legitimate and profound instances of persecution of Christians today.

Which leaves me to worry that the bishops are simply ginning up a perception of being persecuted rather than, you know, actually being persecuted. 

And when church leaders become too heavy-handed like this in their political involvements (like sponsoring the Fortnight for Freedom), the church suffers. As scholar and editor Margaret Steinfels puts it, “Many Catholics, younger ones in particular, are put off in a serious way by religious leaders involving themselves directly in politics, such as telling us how to vote.”

This hits home for me in a big way—literally. Two weeks ago, a rally was held at the Civic Center in the heart of Longview to “assert that the president (Obama) and secular culture are attacking Christianity itself.”  I mean, sure, but in the same way that you attack someone in a pillow fight.  It might be jarring initially, but the damage is hardly permanent.

Now, no doubt parts of secular culture mock us to no end (see also: South Park, Richard Dawkins, and the goofy Darwin fish). But also no doubt, we sometimes deserve that mocking for pulling tone-deaf stunts like this.

There are REAL problems in the world that the Bible is explicit that we as Christians are called to solve. That the government wants my insurance company to cover Disciples employees’ contraception doesn’t even begin to make it to the top of that list.

Bishops, everyone...please take a step back. See the whole picture. There are far bigger problems that we as a church face. Poverty. Starvation and malnutrition. Homelessness. Violence. Not to mention all of the instances of persecution of Christians in the countries I listed above.

Why aren’t you dedicating a fortnight to campaign with the same fervor against any of those?

Yours in Christ,

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