HANK HANEGRAAFF: We are interviewing Mary Eberstadt, she joins me from the south of France, she’s written a book titled It’s Dangerous to Believe. Religious freedom is under assault like never before. A country founded upon freedom of speech and religious belief is being changed from within by activists’ hostile to both. Is this what we want the United States of America to be? Well, the rhetorical question is answered with a resounding “no,” but if that in fact is your sentiment, then you have to do something about it. The first thing you have to do is know what’s going on, and then have the discernment necessary to do something significant. I think this book leads us in that direction. That’s why I am passionate about putting it into your hands.
Mary you talk about syllogisms. Syllogism like: “If you are against abortion; therefore, you are anti-woman.” “If you believe in Christian teaching; therefore, you hate people who endorse same-sex marriage.” The syllogism seems to sell, but it’s obvious fallacious.
MARY EBERSTADT: Yes, it is Hank. That’s another thing that I think makes the difference between playing defense and playing offence in these matters. Those syllogisms—the idea that if you’re against the secularist progressive political program; therefore, you’re a bad person—are fallacious syllogisms. They’re illogical. A 6-year-old could pick apart the logic of that. Yet, those syllogisms make up so much of our public conversation out there.
Christians today are called “bigots” and “haters” without any evidence that they hate anyone at all or that they’re bigoted against anyone at all. I think the time has more than come to raise our hands and say, “This is unjust.” Other people are not pilloried [publicly scorned or ridiculed] in this way. Other people are not deprived of a place at the table of public life because of these fallacious syllogisms. This shouldn’t be happening to believers either.
I want to stress, Hank, that I we can make this case with civility and by appealing to people’s reason. There is nothing alarmist about by my argument, but I did write it in order to put it into the hands of religious believers so that people have a blueprint and they have a record in their hands of what’s going on, what kind of penalties are being given out to believing Christians that are not being given out to other people in higher education, the better higher social circles, and the workplace. I hope that empirical record is useful to people not because it should frighten them but because it should empower them to say to their secular progressive friends and neighbors, “Look, what you’re doing is unjust.”
HANK: Talk about Hillary Clinton. You write about this in the book. At the 2015 Women of the World Summit she declared deep seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structured bias have to be changed. What’s inculcated in those words?
MARY: Well, that was about as clear a statement that politics trumps religious liberty as any we have seen. I mean ordering longstanding religions to change their longstanding teachings is a pretty clear statement of the idea that politics is above everything.
There are also a number of statements that President Barack Obama has made over two terms that have inflamed this atmosphere according to which Christians are seen as bigots and haters. He said at a prayer breakfast, for example, a few years ago, that there are less-than-loving Christians. Think about that phrase Hank? Less-than-loving Christians. No President, in fact virtually no citizen would dare say, “Less than loving __________,” fill in the blank with some other religious group there. Yet, here as in so many cases there is a double standard where it is permissible to say derogatory things about Christians and especially tradition minded Christians in a way that it is not permissible to make derogatory statements about other people.
I think the solution to this is not to be free to make all the derogatory statements we want. The solution is to abolish the double standard and to have a level of civility towards Christians that we have toward everybody else.
HANK: This may be a little off point, but you’ve kind of got this going on in my mind, with your comment. I think about Obama and some of the things that he says vis-à-vis Christianity. On the one hand, you have him speaking with soaring rhetoric about the Andalusian paradise, for example, on the other hand, you hear him criticizing Christianity over and over again. What disturbs me about all of this is he professes to be a Christian, I’m not doubting of what he is saying, but why speak with soaring rhetoric about Islam and then demean the Christian faith?
MARY: Well, in particular, what the President has demeaned, and this is a matter of public record, is tradition minded Christianity. That is to say, there doesn’t seem to be a problem with the Christians who have already gotten rid of the unpopular moral teachings of Christianity. It’s the other ones he goes after and other people go after. If you remember from some years back, the statement about rural believers who cling to their guns and their religion, remember that, he said they get bitter and they cling to their guns and their religion? Well, that was about as condescending a thing that you can say of ordinary rank and file Christians in this country.
The point is: This condescension isn’t just a matter of attitude, it really does trickle down. You opened by talking about what’s happening to Christians in the Middle East, it’s one of the most important stories of the world. There’s genocide in the Middle East against Christians; yet, it took our government, Hank, years longer to use that “G” word that it did many other people and other governments. Even the United Nations beat the United States of America in acknowledging that this is genocide. This was despite the pleadings of many scholars, some of them are noted in the book, who begged the United States to recognize that this is what is going on.
Now, I don’t bring this up to suggest anything nefarious about the President and the Administration, I’m not saying they did this on purpose. What I’m saying is this: If you come to politics with a bias against Christianity in the first place, if you think the expression of Christianity in America is a problem, and something that needs reigning in, then of course what’s going on with Christians elsewhere is not going to be at the top of your “to do” list. I think that’s what happened here. It’s one of many ways in which the plight of Christians in the Middle East and the purposeful diminishing of Christians in the prosperous West are related things. No, they are not the same things. People here in America are not being crucified or driven from their homes. But, they are suffering in other ways that make it hard for them to help their worst off brethren. So, these things are related at the root, and we need to understand that.
Mary Eberstadt is an essayist and author of several influential books, including How the West Really Lost God, Adam and Eve After the Pill and Home-Alone America. She is also the editor of Why I Turned Right. Her novel The Loser Letters has recently been adapted for the stage. Eberstadt is a frequent contributor to Time, the Wall Street Journal, the National Review, the Weekly Standard, and First Things. She lives in the Washington, DC, area.
Blog adapted from the August 1, 2016 Bible Answer Man broadcast.