The war on faith
By Steven Martinovich
The religious right is generally acknowledged as one of the most powerful influences in American politics today yet one would be hard-pressed to name any significant social policy victories – outside of perhaps the issue of gay marriage – one can directly attribute to their work. While they do seem to play a role in electing federal politicians, most of their bête noirs dating back to their solidification as a movement in the late 1970s still exist today. In fact, given the rise of secularism, it would be hard to argue that religion was anything but on the ropes when it comes to life in the public sphere.
The reason for that, argues Catholic League president William Donohue in Secular Sabotage: How Liberals Are Destroying Religion and Culture in America, is an unending war against religion by the secular left and elements inside Christianity and the Catholic Church itself. With the Catholic Church serving as their primary opponent, secular liberals have been attempting to undermine the role religion plays in the public sphere and gut traditional Christianity of its essential doctrines. By robbing Christianity of its power and moral influence, argues Donohue, the secular left will finally be able to shape society into their image.
It is a multi-pronged attack, as Donohue chronicles. From Hollywood we see unending depictions of the religious as ignorant or busybody meddlers while priests are predators or authoritarian figures. In politics the power of the state has been wielded to drive Christianity – Judaism and Islam are acceptable for now – from the public square. Artists produce artwork insulting the primary figures of Christianity to the acclaim of intellectuals, while those same intellectuals generate anti-Christian screeds by the truckload. All make the most incredible claims about the Catholic Church and Christianity, arguing that they are responsible for most of society's ills and social repression.
Perhaps most worrying, however, is the role that the ostensibly religious are playing in this war. For decades far left Catholic priests, nuns and professors – many under the influence of Marxist liberation theology – have attempted to undermine the authority of the Pope and arguing for the abandonment of everything that makes Catholicism what it is. Although many of the Church's internal enemies are in their 70s and largely ignored by most Catholics, they seem to wield some influence in the training of the next generation of priests, nuns and theologians.
Donohue reports that mainline Protestantism is in an even worse condition. Thanks to a swing to the left by the elite, attendance at Protestant churches in the United States has virtually collapsed with the real possibility of a schism taking place over key social issues like abortion and gay marriage and religious issues which include, incredibly enough, the divinity of Jesus Christ. Fleeing a church that has seemingly lost its way, former Protestants have been finding new homes in evangelical Christianity and Catholicism, writes Donohue.
It could be argued that Secular Sabotage is a bit of a self-serving effort. One certainly doesn't remember hearing too much gnashing of teeth when the power of Christianity was used against those who didn't believe but now that the shoe is on the other foot Christians are screaming persecution. Past sins, however, are no excuse for present ones. History records that no society without moorings to a traditional belief system underpinned by religion has succeeded for very long. Attacks on Christianity may seem satisfying to atheists and members of other faiths, but history also records that those attacks are invariably turned against them as well. Religion, in short, is an important bulwark in a free society.
Secular Sabotage illustrates rather neatly why many atheists do not take Donohue lightly. Whether one agrees with his agenda or not, it's clear that he's more than capable of carrying the flag for Catholics and the religious in general. With this book he's crafted a defence of his position that's both insightful and aggressive, raising a number of questions that only the intellectually dishonest would refuse to answer. What's more remarkable, though not surprising for a man of faith, is that he still seems to have hope that Christianity can be defended from an enemy that wields all the levers of power. Then again, we've read that story before and now how it turned out.
Steven Martinovich is a free-lance writer in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada.
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