The Religious Right Still Plays The Victim

A dear and well-meaning friend sent me an email alerting people to the threat of the recently released movie The Golden Compass. Apparently the Catholic League is up in arms because the film is "based on a book by an atheist author" Philip Pullman. The email alleged that in the second and third books of the trilogy, two children kill God and the Catholic Church is portrayed as "an evil institution."... The email urged readers to "encourage all to avoid this movie" and asserted that "Christians should discourage Hollywood from producing more of this anti-religious, atheist propaganda."

I don't care whether you see this movie or not; but I hope your decision is based on thinking for yourself : not on what some alarmist organization tells you to do. There seems to be all sorts of organizations out there : the Catholic League, the American Family Association, the Liberty Council : that want to tell people what to view, read and believe. What makes the leaders of these organizations think that people's faith is so shaky that it can be undone by watching a two-hour movie? The groups sling around labels like "atheist" and "secular humanist" (and "liberal") as if they represent a threat to the very fiber of their being, when these words merely describe people who view the world differently from the way they do. Fox's Bill O'Reilly describes it as a culture war. Really! A war!

Every year we hear more about the so-called war on Christmas, as religious conservatives argue that their holiday is being demeaned because somebody says "happy holidays" or some radio station plays secular Christmas songs. It's time to point out some things. The fundamentalist religious conservatives and their Republican cohorts control this country. They own the presidency and the Supreme Court. Until 2006 they owned Congress and still have a strong voice there, as they do in most state legislatures. Religious conservatives sit on school boards and town councils everywhere. They dominate talk radio. Fox news gets high ratings. Yet this majority insists on portraying itself as an aggrieved minority, hapless victims besieged on all sides by godless hordes trying to wrest from them everything they hold dear.

Come on! Christian religions are in no danger of being diminished or eliminated. Three large newly built churches (plus Holy Hill) lie within five miles of my house. Religious indoctrination is a mainstay of many Americans' lives. They attend church regularly, send their children to Sunday school and often to religious schools. Their holidays dominate the calendar. They want God mentioned on their coins and in the Pledge of Allegiance. Public officials swear to God on the Bible. It's a pretty fragile religion that requires almost daily validation by every public institution but cannot bear the slightest challenge to its dogma.

What is particularly ironic is the way these fundamentalists hold themselves up as bastions of morality. They should look to their own houses: The Catholic Church is beset with decades of pedophile priests. Public spokesmen for conservative Christians include the likes of Larry Craig, Ted Haggard, Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart and Richard Roberts : all embroiled in sexual or financial scandal. And our values are threatened by a movie? This is a multicultural nation. That means you and I can have different views about morality or spirituality without it being a war. People can choose to see movies or not without mandates from on high.

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