War, What is it Good For?

April 4, 2006 · 12:10 AM EDT

If you listen to some conservative evangelicals these days, we are all standing in the middle of the battlefield of a great war. The War on Terrorism you say? Nope. Bigger. It’s the War on Christians. Whose side are you on?

A recent conference sponsored by Vision America entitled, “The War on Christians and The Values Voter in 2006,” and another event, “Justice Sunday III” sponsored by Focus on the Family Action, have once again shown that some conservative Christians revel in their role as victims.

Some Christian leaders have stepped out of both appropriate and rational bounds in their attempt to label the current state of play in the United States a war.

It’s inaccurate and borderline offensive to equate the current “struggle” of Christians to African-Americans during the civil rights era, the plight of Jews during the Holocaust, and even the suffering of Jesus Christ himself on the cross. But that’s what this particular group of Christians has done recently.

During “Justice Sunday III” back on January 8, evangelical leaders like Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family and Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council sang “We Shall Overcome,” along with the congregation in attendance, drawing a comparison with blacks a half-century ago.

But back in the 1950s and 1960s, African-Americans were struggling to gain full voting rights, to use whatever bathroom they wanted, and to sit in a seat of their own choosing on a city bus. In comparison with today, Christians certainly have voting rights and even patted themselves on the back for reelecting a Republican president and electing majorities in both the House and the Senate.

During this week’s War on Christians event, conservative author Michael Horowitz, who is Jewish, said, “You guys have become the Jews of the 21st Century.” What? Some Christians may not like the moral direction of this country, but no one in the United States is being killed or sent to a concentration camp because they are a Christian.

Also during the conference, Vision America President Rick Scarborough introduced former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R), stating, “I believe the most damaging thing that Tom DeLay has done in his life is take his faith seriously into public office, which made him a target for all those who despise the cause of Christ.” I don’t seem to recall DeLay’s indictments or admonishments by the House Ethics Committee involving an account of his faith. And did almost 40% of Republican primary voters in DeLay’s own congressional district this spring vote against him because he was a Christian?

After DeLay’s speech, Scarborough offered a piece of encouragement, “God always does his best work after a crucifixion.” Wow. To equate DeLay’s legal, political, and electoral problems with Jesus’ crucifixion is simply offensive, and Christians should be outraged over the analogy. I guarantee if Jim Wallis of Sojourners compared the demonization of Sen. Hillary Clinton (D) at the hands of conservative media outlets to the crucifixion of Jesus, these same evangelicals would be livid.

Evangelicals who agree with Scarborough’s sentiment on DeLay should re-watch Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” and then ask themselves if they think that is what the Republican congressman is going through.

This is simply a war with no end because certain Christian leaders and groups have too much to gain monetarily. The war rhetoric is usually accompanied by fundraising pleas through weekly emails and helps spawn events like the War on Christians conference where individuals plopped down $149 each to attend (married couples appropriately got a discount at $259).

The war metaphor is actually a good strategy because it’s so vague. Is the War on Christians a cultural, legal, or electoral battle? To these people it doesn’t matter, it’s more like a moving target depending on the year.

Even when conservative evangelicals win, they lose. They want credit for reelecting the president but then feel ignored. “In the latest election, values voters were used,” said Scarborough, who is upset that Bush and the Republicans have not acted on the constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage and other social issues of concern. So, even though these evangelicals voted for Bush and the Republican majority, the President is apparently now part of the movement against Christian causes.

With a victim mentality, conservative Christians will be able to prolong the war indefinitely, simply by exchanging opponents when necessary. But while some evangelicals are more interested in fighting a war, others want to move beyond inflammatory rhetoric to enact real change in the country.

This column first appeared on Town Hall on March 31, 2006.