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05 October 2005

Kicking Against the Pricks

A few years ago I wrote an article for a magazine in Tennessee on the controversy over displaying the Ten Commandments in courthouses. In preparing for the piece, I spoke with a few County Commissioners in the Knoxville area, as well as with several pastors, with an ACLU lawyer in Kentucky and with an atheistic professor at the University of Tennessee.

Ultimately the article wasn’t used due to some editorial shifts at the magazine. Nonetheless, several things struck me as interesting while doing these interviews. One was that all the Christians I spoke with were suspicious as hell. The pastors were afraid to go on the record with comments, and, in fact, it took me probably a couple of dozen phone calls to find four or five willing to speak their minds. The County Commissioners supporting a resolution to place the Ten Commandments inside court rooms were rude and belligerent. In contrast, the lawyer for the ACLU, the atheist and the County Commissioners opposed to displaying the Commandments were friendly, warm and eager to help. They returned my calls and answered my emails.

Christians, it seems, at least ultra-conservative ones from the Bible belt, are terrified. They’re scared of the media, of change, of secularism, of what they perceive to be a gradual worsening of society. Because of that, they tend to insulate themselves. Whoever does not agree with us must be out to get us. They are out to strip away everything that we hold sacred, to steal our Bibles and piss on them, to force our children to watch gay porn at knifepoint and then sodomise them, and to force weeping mothers everywhere to have abortions while the doctors smear themselves with blood and sacrifice the foetuses to Satan.

I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s a lack of education or an unwillingness to question those in authority. But this self-absorbed fear is itself very scary.

The other thing that strikes me, in remembering that, is the way in which Christians tend to demonise people and organisations they know little, if nothing, about. The American Civil Liberties Union is a perfect example. Many conservative Christians fear that the ACLU is out to get them. They feel that the ACLU is willing to help people discriminate against Christianity, while other belief systems are championed. Thus, the Bible is forbidden, school prayer is forbidden. But if a student wanted to read the Koran, Marx, anything but the Christian Bible, that would not only be permitted, but encouraged.

The problem, at least with demonising the ACLU, is that the organisation has defended Christians on numerous occasions. So if the ACLU is run by Satan himself, as many Christians seem to insinuate, how do we explain the ACLU of Nevada defending the right of street preachers to preach to people on the sidewalks of Las Vegas?

How do we explain the ACLU of Indiana filing suit on behalf of Pastor John Lewis to get the police to stop harassing him for his street preaching?

How do we explain the ACLU of Washington representing minister Donald Ausderau in a case against the Spokane Transit Authority, ultimately allowing Ausderau to speak, perform and hand out literature at a “central gathering place?”

Or how about the Iowa Civil Liberties Union, which filed briefs in 2002 to defend the rights of students in Davenport public schools to hand out religious literature to their classmates?

Or the ACLU of Massachusetts fighting in Federal district court on behalf of high school students who were disciplined for handing out candy canes with religious messages attached to them?

Or the ACLU in Michigan, which intervened on behalf of a Christian high school valedictorian when the school forbade her from using a Bible verse in her school’s yearbook profile?

Or how about the ACLU defending Jerry Falwell himself?

Or the ACLU of Nebraska defending a Presbyterian church in danger of being evicted?

And there are plenty more examples of the ACLU defending Christians.

So why do conservative Christians gnash their teeth against the ACLU? Is it because they haven’t bothered to spend five minutes using Google? Is it because they believe everything they’re told by those in authority over them? Or are Christians just really good at both lying and believing lies, to the point that those lies have become truth in their minds?

Comments on "Kicking Against the Pricks"


Blogger ninjanun said ... (10/05/2005 02:46:00 PM) : 

Heh. I just replied to a Forward my mother sent me, asking me to sign a petition for Prez. Bush to "put prayer back in public schools." I had to gently explain (well, maybe not so gently) that I was a strong supporter of the Separation of Church and State, and that this petition overlooked the fact that the State can't stop anyone from praying anyway, only the state-sanctioned tax-supported idea of forcing prayer on people in public schools.

Semantics, nuance, and a basic understanding of certain facts seems to be hard for some to grasp when it comes to Church/State stuff. Hooray for the ACLU, who understands that protecting the separation of Church and State protects the Church as well as the State!


Blogger Dan Trabue said ... (10/05/2005 03:05:00 PM) : 

It COULD be part of a larger plot by the ACLU to throw off suspicion. Defending Christians, hah! That's JUST what they want us to think...

Or perhaps you were right that they are SO insular that they only ever hear one side of the story.

I know from my conversations with them that it's hard as hell to engage in conversation sometimes because they don't accept the same facts that I know to be true because they "heard it from a reliable blog, pastor, God hisself..." info to the contrary.


Anonymous Gwen Stefani said ... (10/05/2005 10:10:00 PM) : 

"this self absorbed fear is itself very scary". . . forgive me for the pseudo-therapist response. . . but it makes me want to ask, well G-Daddy K, what were the experiences that helped you get past your own self absorbed fear to be able to see the other angle?

I enjoyed this post. I can relate to the frustrations, I just wonder what to do about it. I hear ya G Daddy K. I hear ya. I just wonder again, how to combat the fears, how to help educate. You know me, always wanting to help get people on board.
thanks for taping Oprah by the way. I've been wanting to see this episode of the "My male lover has donated sperm to impregnate my cousin's highschool sweetheart, and now I'm jealous." It's gonna be a good one man, I only wish I had an audience seat!


Blogger ding said ... (10/08/2005 01:39:00 AM) : 

several disjointed thoughts are about to follow:

-my childhood church used to sing a song called 'jesus, build a fence all around me.' we were very enthusiastic about it.
-persecution fits our eschatology. i mean, our 'end of days' narrative depends on this idea of persecution. without the tribulation what's the point of our salvation? (this is totally rhetorical.) if we aren't made to suffer by the unbelieving, then how can we be examples to (cough) israel?

it's like we (american christians) are the symbolic substitute for a long gone christ; as he was persecuted, so are we. this kind of identification is supposed to shore up our faith and make us happy shiny jesus people.

i think it just makes us crazy, repressed paranoiacs.


Blogger Wasp Jerky said ... (10/09/2005 05:49:00 PM) : 

Yeah, I really dunno. I think it comes down to the fact that some people need evidence and some people don't. Some people will believe anything that anyone tells them. Other people need proof. When you mix that with faith, things get dangerous. When a "man of God" tells you that something is true, those sorts of people believe it, whether it's true or not. Paul told believers to question everything he said, to look it up for themselves. Many Christians seem to think that if the Bible says it, that's good enough. Or if the preacher said it, that's good enough. That's not good enough for me. I don't think it ever was.


Blogger HSJesusChick said ... (10/19/2005 03:10:00 PM) : 

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


Anonymous JC-N-ME said ... (10/19/2005 03:14:00 PM) : 

The ACLU is really more than that. If you really have Christ in your life you're gonna know they're wrong. Why would someone who truly has Christ in there life want to go for gay marriage, abortions, and taking the ten comm. out of our schools? In the bible it clearly says that gay marriage is wrong, abortions are wrong, and God gave us the ten comm. to help us see our faults. You can say that the bible is just some old book, but God gave us the bible to draw closer to Him and understand Him more. The ACLU wants you to think they're good guys. Please consider my word. I'm praying for you, that you will see the truth that is right in front of you. I respect your beliefs but I don't believe in them. God has shown me what to look for when I need truth and everything I need to look for is in His word that contains all truth. Why don't you take a look?


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