Robert George is a Princeton professor with a law degree from Harvard and a Ph.D. from Oxford. He recently warned that it is “Good Friday in America for Christians,” declaring that Christians “are no longer tolerable by the intellectual and cultural elite.” Why would he make such a claim?
On Wednesday, a headline in The Week caught my eye: “Why do so many liberals despise Christianity?” Damon Linker’s article notes an essay in Slate by atheist Brian Palmer, complaining about missionary doctors who are risking their lives in West Africa and around the world. Palmer: “It’s great that these people are doing God’s work, but do they have to talk about Him so much?” He claims to speak for many others when he describes his “visceral discomfort with the mingling of religion and health care.”
Linker also cites the controversy over Gordon College, an issue I addressed in a recent Cultural Commentary. President Michael Lindsay is facing criticism and accreditation concerns because Gordon’s historic code of conduct bans sexual relationships outside of marriage, whether gay or straight.
Remember Brendan Eich, the Mozilla CEO who was forced to resign because he donated $1,000 five years earlier to a campaign seeking to ban same-sex marriage in California. Consider the English professor at the University of Pennsylvania who claimed that religious colleges should be denied accreditation because they maintain “religious ideology” and therefore (in his mind) contradict “the primacy of reason.”
Administrators at a high school in the Long Island area refused to allow a Christian student group to start a local chapter. They changed their position only when forced to do so by the Liberty Institute. Now they are refusing to renew the club for this year. A street preacher in the United Kingdom is facing three charges of “causing offense” because he stated that Muhammad married a nine-year-old girl (a fact according to numerous Muslim sources). Other street preachers in England have been arrested for stating that homosexuality is a sin.
Consider two responses. First, believers should counter liberals who censure Christianity by calling them to their own principles of tolerance and pluralism. As Linker makes clear, liberals contradict themselves when they are intolerant of our supposed intolerance. Secular dogmatism is as dogmatic as the religious claims it rejects. There are many liberal Christians; I hope they will help other liberals understand they need not choose between free inquiry and faith.
Second, we should refuse to be intimidated by secular attacks on our freedom of speech and religion. British evangelist George Whitefield (1714-1770) was one of the preachers most used by God in starting the First Great Awakening. He warned fellow believers: “If you are going to walk with Christ, you are going to be opposed” and added, “In our day, to be a true Christian is really to become a scandal.” Rather than retreating, he continued to stand for Jesus until a moral and spiritual awakening transformed the Colonies.