As I ride down the street listening to the complaints on the radio about attacks on Christianity, I pass church after church; in some neighborhoods, intersections boast a church on each corner. Silly, right? But it got me to thinking some time ago (this “Christendom under attack” goes back a ways) about what is behind this unseemly paranoia. The key word is dominance. It’s not like the prelates of the church can’t take satisfaction that Muslims and Jews worship on Friday evenings and Christians on Sunday mornings, and when is alcohol distribution curtailed? Sunday mornings. The tax exempt status is secure………. but wait, maybe there is a sign there.
In 1978, the LDS church changed a major feature of its dogma: the role or position of Blacks in the church. They did so under threat of losing that tax exempt status. Few will defend the true basis for the dogma, the on-going need for Whites to dominate Blacks, but instead they speak of freedom of religion, freedom of choice, states’ rights, etc. So suddenly we are confronted again with this idea of dominance.
A general overlooking his positions vis-Ã -vis the enemy may feel pretty secure if he has dominance of position, of numbers, of logistics, and yet feel uneasy because he sees a lack of total dominance, some crevice or niche or cranny where the enemy might take advantage of a weakness in the order of battle, perhaps a green unit or a careless commander who posts too few pickets. He rides up and down his lines or views them via a monitor onto which pictures are beamed from a drone’s camera. He probes as the enemy would.
What do the church leaders do? The same thing. They see the popularity of a Bill Maher who mocks religion, albeit in a sophomoric manner; they see sexuality flaunted everywhere; they see schools teaching topics, books, and points of view formerly taboo sex, socialism, foreign cultures, and, worst of all, alien religions. At any of these points, particularly where young people gather, an opening may occur through which the idea that maybe religion should not dominate the public sphere could take hold. A politician dares show indifference to church attendance; a coaching staff dispenses with pre-game prayers; a school district allows gay kids to walk hand-in-hand; dance halls permit interracial dancing……… oh, you say, that’s riDICKulous! Christians do not oppose interracial dating.
But you miss the point, my dear; Seventy years ago, WASPs found Jews in their cherished universities, clubs, firms, and halls of justice. Now anti-Semitism is seen as a relic of aging White men like Uncle Joe at the family Thanksgiving gathering. Younger family members roll their eyes at his complaints about “that tribe” they at first don’t even know what he means by “that tribe”. Yet the more perceptive might see that the way they feel about Blacks is not that much different about the way Uncle Joe feels about Jews: it’s not that he dislikes any particular Jew anymore than his young nieces and nephews dislike a particular Black, he just remembers a time when he didn’t have to concern himself with their presence, with competing with them. Is it possible that White dominance may go the way of Christian dominance?
The fault in discussing these issues of prejudice that I see is that few seem to realize that it is about power, i.e. domination domination of the market place and of the instituions: schools, courts, political offices, that support the market place. A certain amount of coopting can help, even stubborn resistance may work a while, but HBO, the Internet and Google, integrated schools, massive numbers of non-Christians pouring into the country…. all work to undermine the dominance of the group known as WASPs (which has been broadened to include Catholics, Italians, even a few Hispanics). If any non-WASP ethnic group should be amenable to cooptation, to absorption due to similar values, it’s the Asians. Yet more Asians voted for Obama than did Hispanics, 78% to 74%!
Indeed, the country is changing and indeed, the Christian churches no longer dominate as once they did, but they still dominate. The Christian church is an integral part of American culture; it’s up to the Christians to hold on to that part in the face of a changing world.