Clash with the Rival Faith of the Secular Progressive Alliance

Eberstadt, Mary-Rival Faith of Secular Progressive Alliance

HANK HANEGRAAFF: Cardinal Francis George of Chicago ominously predicted that he would die in bed, his successor in prison, and his successor’s successor a martyr in the public square. What Cardinal George predicted is already happening, and I would say with alarming frequency in the cradle of Christianity. The genocide of Christians in Syria and Iraq is simply breath taking. Although all too often it falls squarely in the blind spot of most Western Christians. Even that, however, is rapidly changing. Father Jacques Hamel was murdered by the Islamic State at the Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, France, while he was conducting morning Mass. His throat slit by Jihadists who forced him to his knees. One of the terrorists was on the French government’s terror watch list and yet at large with a knife. France, of course, is still reeling from the Bastille Day attack in Nice after the killing of more than 80 people. What has happened in France is now becoming a regular occurrence all over the West. As we face a clash of civilizations, which can hardly be plastered over with politically correct rhetoric, Mary Eberstadt has appropriately written a book titled It’s Dangerous to Believe and she joins me now from the south of France. Hi Mary!

MARY EBERSTADT: Hello Hank. Thank you for having me.

HANK: Well, I really appreciate your book and I suppose you are right in the epicenter of what I was just talking about?

MARY: I am, and of course, when we talk about what’s happening to Western religious believers, believers in the United States and elsewhere in the advanced world, we are not making any comparison to persecution of brothers and sisters in the Middle East and elsewhere. But you see a priest in France martyred for the faith is to be reminded that Christianity has enemies in this world, and it has all kinds of enemies in unexpected places. Without making any moral equivalence between the genocide in the Middle East and the soft persecution, what Pope Francis has called the polite persecution of Western Christians, we can still see that we are at a pivotal moment as a civilization and we have to decide whether we will defend religious liberties or not, and it is under threat in the advanced countries as never before, particularly in the United States, a government founded on religious freedom itself.

HANK: Is there any cohesion between militant secularism in the West and militant Islamic Jihadism?

MARY: No, I don’t think we can make that kind of moral equivalence, but we can ask: Why is today’s secularism so belligerently opposed to Christianity? After all, Hank, you know, and I know and your listener’s know that traditional believers in the Western world have been on the receiving end of one loss after another in the culture wars or what are called the culture wars. To say this is not to say that their positions have been wrong, it’s just to observe a fact. My point is that given that they have lost on issues like school prayer, obscenity, abortion, same-sex marriage, etc., why is it that the secularism that targets them is still as aggressive as it is? This is something that I try to get at in the book. You can’t rationally explain the animus against Christianity that’s held today by secularist progressive alliance. The only way to make sense of it is to understand that this alliance has a rival faith of its own, a secularist faith.

HANK: You talk about two cracks in the landscape of religious freedom, elaborate on that.

MARY: Yes, of course. The threats to religious liberty in the United States alone are manifold. On one level there are the kinds of stories that we’ve become used to hearing, stories where human faith is put on these kinds of religious liberty struggles; for example, the fire chief in Atlanta who lost his job because he published book professing his Christian faith (Kevin Cochran). This is something that would have seemed impressive even ten years ago, but now we see more and more of these cases where people are penalized in the workplace or otherwise ostracized for the faith. There was an example of a football coach in Washington (Joe Kennedy), who was suspended for saying a prayer on the field after a football game. This again is the kind of thing we’ve never expected to see in the U.S. until recently, but there is a pylon of these kinds of anecdotes, and I enumerate lots of them in the book.

They’re also, Hank, attacks of a more institutional nature. On religious education, for example, there are attacks by secularists on homeschooling. Homeschooling is thought to be something that parents ought not be free do, especially Christian parents. Some secularists have been very overt writing about their desire to abolish homeschooling. For example, the leading atheist, Richard Dawkins, has actually called homeschooling the equivalent of child abuse. So that’s one kind of institutional attack. We’ve also see attacks on flagship institutions like Gordon College in Massachusetts, and the King’s College in New York. Both of these Protestant evangelical schools have had to defend themselves against attacks on their accreditation in the past ten years and I’m sure, Hank, that this is only the beginning of institutional questioning of religious schools. In these various dimensions we’ve see various kinds of attacks on the transmission of Christian belief, particularly Christian traditional belief

For further information, we recommend adding It’s Dangerous to Believe to your apologetics arsenal. To get this resource, click here.

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.

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