Fighting Against Christian Extremism: Exhausting but Still Important

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I started writing about the importance of church-state separation in 2005. I'd had enough of the Christian privilege that pervades the United States. I was sick of the bigotry that seems to go along with it. People were being denied civil rights based on someone else's Christian beliefs. We were falling far short of our promise as a secular democracy.

We permitted our president, George W. Bush, to push "faith-based initiatives." This wasn't supposed to be legal. He opposed reproductive rights and same-sex marriage. He explained that he did so based on his religious beliefs. Where was the outrage? We seemed to be heading closer to a Christian theocracy.

9/11 was in the rearview mirror, but we were still dealing with the new reality it ushered in. Part of that reality was a jingoistic hatred of everything connected to Islam and the Arab world. "Islamic extremism" was the phrase of the day. Our news anchors used it almost daily.

I was in Mississippi at the time, and I wondered why nobody was talking about Christian extremism. It was everywhere. It interfered with my daily life in countless ways, fueling hatred of many people I valued. Don't we need to get our own house in order before pointing the finger at others?

Instead of approaching it as a problem to solve, our leaders embraced it. Bush spoke as if he wanted another crusade. True Christian patriots should rise up and deal a blow to the Islamic world. Islamic extremism was a danger we'd acknowledge; Christian extremism was one we'd welcome. It would come to define us.

I started writing about this stuff because I was pissed off. There's no other way to put it. I grabbed ahold of the "Christian extremism" label and was off and running.

I encountered many other terms (e.g., Christian nationalism, Christian dominionism). I went with Christian extremism for two reasons. The first was the parallel with Islamic extremism and the hypocrisy it revealed. The second was that I understood it as a superordinate term that was broader than the others.

I wasn't sure I could have any impact, but I had to try. I did what I could to call attention to the problem. It wasn't long before I noticed that others were doing the same thing. I was far from alone.

I found a few secular organizations. They had been fighting for the separation of church and state longer than I'd been aware it was under attack. I found other atheists, humanists, and secular activists. I found LGBTQ activists and realized we were fighting a common enemy. The forces of progress continued to grow.

It would be great to end here, but there's at least one problem with doing so. The other side grew too. Christian extremism wasn't going anywhere; it was enjoying political success. It was paving the way for the rise of Christian nationalism. This stuff never disappears. It goes underground for a time and then comes roaring back. It is back now.

That's why I'm still at it. The threat is still there. I won't deny that we have made progress. But I also won't deny that Christian extremism seems like more of a threat now than it did in 2005.

As exhausted as I often feel, giving up the fight is not an option. Too many people are being harmed by Christian extremism. Children are still told that they are Christian. They are still taught to fear and hate those who are not.

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