The first chapter of Ken Ham’s The Lie begins with a bold statement: Christianity is under attack! I’ll let the inimitable Jon Stewart speak on that notion as only he can:
Yes, the long war on Christianity. I pray that one day we may live in an America where Christians can worship freely! In broad daylight! Openly wearing the symbols of their religion… perhaps around their necks? And maybe — dare I dream it? — maybe one day there can be an openly Christian President. Or perhaps, 43 of them. Consecutively.
Christianity has a pretty sweet ride here in the United States. In my county alone, there is just about a church for every 250 people; they’re everywhere! Pastors and church leaders are respected members of the community. Church or worship service-like programming can be found on television at all hours of every day. The President of the United States has a spiritual advisor who is a Christian, and next to a highway in Kentucky, a 1:1 scale model of Noah’s ark stands as a brazen testimony to Judeochristian fundamentalism.
If there is an attack on Christianity, at least here in the United States, it’s not a very overt attack. So let’s look at what Ken Ham is talking about here.
“These are challenging days,” Ham says on page 17. “On the whole, society is becoming more anti-Christian.”
On this point, I’m not sure I disagree with Ham. We may have vastly differing understandings regarding what being “Christian” means, however; suffice it to say, society has been “anti-Christian” or better, unchristian) for nearly two millennia. Anyway, back to Ham:
We are seeing steady increases in homosexuality, support for abortion on demand, unwillingness to obey authorities, unwillingness to work, marriage being abandoned, clothing being abandoned, an increase in pornography, and an increase in lawlessness, to name but a few areas.
I’m not going to take the time to dig up numbers for each of these to see whether they are increasing or decreasing or simply fluctuate all all times in human history. However, it is clear that Ham’s idea of society becoming “anti-Christian” is simply “sinners being sinners” (with apologies to my LGBT readers; you are not sinning by being who you are!).
However, one does not define being a Christian as someone who doesn’t have an abortion or as someone who is straight or someone who, well, wears clothes.
Rather, a Christian is someone who actively obeys the commands found in Jesus’ speeches throughout the Gospels; the crux of Christianity is humility, self-sacrifice, charity, and so on.
Speaking of Christians, Ham states that “Christians are fighting for their freedom even in so-called ‘Christian’ nations.”
No. Just… No. I’m only speaking for the United States here, but I can say pretty assuredly that Christians here can attend their churches, worship their god, and live a life of self-sacrifice and humility all without the government caring much at all.
What Ham is probably thinking about and calling “freedom” is the ability for Christians to discriminate against other people. Think about it: The Bible was once used to justify slavery, until slavery was abolished in the nation. The Bible was once used to justify segregation of blacks from whites, but that was abolished as well. The Bible was used to justify outlawing “sodomy” and preventing homosexuals from getting married, but that has been done away with for the most part as well.
In other words, where Christianity is “attacked” is in where it attacks others. If Christianity requires the ability to lord over others, dictating how they are to live their lives, then it is rightfully attacked in those areas, if only to protect the dignity of all who would call themselves Americans.
What has happened in society to bring bout these changes? Why is it that many people are cynical when you talk about Christ and seem to be closed to the gospel? There must be some foundational reason for this change.
Whatever forthcoming answer Ken Ham has, I suspect the more likely reason for folks becoming progressively disillusioned with Christianity is that we are increasingly further removed from being a society of naïve illiterates who rely upon the local clergy to instruct them of what the wise men of old set forth.
We have become a society which is globally interconnected, and for a few decades now, we have had unimaginably large sums of human knowledge available to us in the comfort of our homes via the Internet.
What we aren’t now is a loosely connected society wherein a bump in the night in one person’s home could grow via word of mouth to become a local legend of a haunted house. The sort of defense inherent in a massively connected, technological society is bad news for a wide array of myths and legends, including those which make up Christianity.
Years ago, our society was based on Christian absolutes.
I’m going to let the Treaty of Tripoli speak here, as it was signed by President and Founding Father John Adams: “the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”
Further, what Christian absolutes?! Choose two churches at random, and you’ll find that they disagree on some fairly fundamental matters!
One matter which most (not all) Christian churches will agree on, though, is that you must worship God, else you will in some way be punished. On the other hand, the American founders made the very first freedom afforded to the citizens of their fledgling nation something which is completely contrary to the biblical mandate of worshipping God: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
Were our society actually based upon “Christian absolutes,” the First Amendment would have began something like, “Congress shall make no law contrary to God’s law, and the free exercise of other religions is prohibited.”
People knew what was right and what was wrong. Behaviors such as sexual deviancy, easy divorce, public lawlessness, abortion on demand, pornography, and public nudity were considered to be wrong. Varrying punishments for offenders were meted out by soiety. Value judgments were basically built on biblical principles (for example, the Ten Commandments). Most people accepted or respected a belief in God.
Let’s be straight here: Just because something is considered “wrong” doesn’t mean people didn’t do it. “Sexual deviancy,” for example, has existed throughout America’s history, right back to its founding on “Christian absolutes.” The founders themselves are exemplars to that effect.
In fact, I’d wager that not having access to easy divorce is a precursor to sexual deviancy because, like it or not, humanity is not a naturally monogamous species. Societal pressure to maintain monogamy results in secret affairs, presidential scandals, and so on. It happens in plenty of marriages that the love will be lost or that circumstances will change to make the marriage no longer beneficial to both parties. It should be that folks should be able to freely exit a relationship which they freely entered into.
I agree that public lawlessness is an issue, but crime has been a problem for millennia, in every nation which forms laws which can be broken.
“Abortion on demand” has been available for millennia, and abortion in general for even longer, induced abortion having been around since at least the 16th century BCE. Christian theologian Tertullion even ascribes to the father of medicine, Hippocrates, the ownership of tools used for abortions.
What has changed is that abortion is no longer a clandestine activity undertaken in unsafe back alleys using questionable techniques. Women seeking an abortion are now able to get one safely, in hygienic environments.
Pornography and public nudity have been around for as long as humanity has been in some form or another. A trip to any art or history museum will reveal that much. As technology marches on, though, the production, distribution, and consumption of pornography has increased, not because humanity has new lusts that need satisfied but because it’s ever easier to satisfy the urges which we have always had. Public nudity, on the other hand, is more a backlash against pornography and other forms of exploitation than anything else; it’s a form of de-objectification, a way of saying that a woman can go topless with dignity just as a man can. The human body isn’t scandalous! Normalize its natural, nude beauty and you take dull the teeth of pornography.
Moving on, yes, the Ten Commandments and other religious teachings were influential in how society has been run, but they are not themselves law in our society. This influence is part of the respect folks had for religion and the religious, as mentioned.
What has changed is that an increasing number of people through the years have stopped defaulting to a position of respect for religion; rather, they’ve taken the free thought approach to questioning what, if anything, religion has done to earn the respect so many give to it.
And we must always question. Everything. And we must do so with careful scrutiny any system which demands our fealty or which defines our behavior toward others.
The Bible and Christianity aren’t under attack, at least not directly. Rather, we are increasingly realizing, at least on matters of practicality, that the Bible’s code(s) of conduct aren’t necessarily applicable in today’s society. We’re discovering a world full of global connections, diverse cultures, and infinite possibilities, and we’re doing all of it in ways which either redefine what the Bible says away from its literal meanings or remove us from the Bible altogether.