March 1, 2020

Raising Public Awareness of the Dangers of Christian Extremism

danger hazard

I've already shared some of my thoughts about the Democratic primary debate in South Carolina; however, I wanted to bring your attention to a post Chrissy Stroop wrote for Religion Dispatches about Christian nationalism in the context of the debate and the larger Democratic primary contest because I found it thought-provoking:

Nevertheless, if Democrats are serious about dismantling Christian supremacism in America, something on which I believe America’s future as a democracy of any kind hinges, they, along with our major media outlets, are going to have to become more willing to confront Christian nationalists and fundamentalists head on as the dangerous, destabilizing, anti-democratic forces they are. Let our Christian nationalists cry “persecution” all they want. The simple truth is that when they have more or less achieved a hostile takeover of our government, we can no longer afford to coddle them.

She's right. I've been using Atheist Revolution as a platform to call attention to Christian extremism since 2005, and I have repeatedly decried the manner in which our mainstream news media has ignored it. Unfortunately, I see little evidence that this has improved in recent years. It has baffled me that we often have to rely on the news media in other countries to see coverage of our domestic Christian extremism problem. It is difficult to work toward solutions to a problem many people still fail to recognize, and it is clear that the lack of attention to the problem from our news media is not helping.

What can you and I do about this? I suppose the first and most obvious thing we can do is to use every platform to which we have access to share stories about Christian extremism. When we do so, we can use labels like "Christian extremism," "Christian nationalism," and "Christian supremacy" to clearly label the problem as what it is. Beyond that, we can use social media and other outlets to call on our news media to request that they cover these stories and that they do so in a manner that accurately labels the problem. It is not enough for them to present a story about Christian extremism without labeling it as Christian extremism. People need to know that most of these stories are not idiosyncratic fringe elements but reflect highly organized theologies and movements around them. similarly, we can call on those running for political office or who already hold political office and encourage them to describe the problem accurately.

Remember the outrage on the political right during 2016 over what was perceived as a failure by prominent Democratic politicians to address the role of Islam following the mass murder in Orlando? Remember how this fit with broader complaints about President Obama's reluctance to address Muslim extremism and how this was widely perceived as a problem with the political left itself? Many of us encouraged our elected officials to be accurate in how they talked about Islam and Muslims. We need to do the same when it comes to Christian extremism and Christian nationalism.

Christian extremism is anti-democratic, and it needs to be opposed. It is difficult to oppose it effectively when most people are blissfully unaware of it. We desperately need to increase public awareness of the problem, and we need to make it clear to our politicians that we are paying attention to how they talk about it.