NEW YORK (Christian Examiner) – An "insidious intolerance" for religion in general and Christianity in particular has worked its way into American life, author Mary Eberstadt argues in an opinion editorial in TIME magazine.
The July 4 editorial, based on the new book, It's Dangerous to Believe: Religious Freedom and Its Enemies, calls out Leftists ("militant secularists," the book says) for the appalling level of demagoguery directed against religion. But it also encourages Christians to avoid drawing parallels between the soft persecution directed at them and the type of violence perpetrated by the Islamic State against its foes.
In the editorial, Eberstadt describes the anxious minds and afflicted consciences of American Christians "who lean in toward traditionalism."
"Traditional American Christians have long been on the losing end of culture-war contests—on school prayer, same-sex marriage and other issues. But recent events, including the Supreme Court decision overruling Texas' restrictions on abortion clinics and the mandate that employers provide access to contraception, have added to the sense that religious expression is under attack," Eberstadt writes.
She pointed to a recent survey from Pew Research which shows that American's certainty of belief in God declined by seven percentage points from 2007-2014.
"This new vigorous secularism has catapulted mockery of Christianity and other forms of religious traditionalism into the mainstream and set a new low for what counts as civil criticism of people's most-cherished beliefs. In some precincts, the 'faith of our fathers' is controversial as never before," she writes.
That now entrenched secularism has led many to target Christians who are expressing their faith much in the same way their parents and grandparents did – at a time when those actions were considered perfectly constitutional. Now, however, a spate of court cases seems to be trimming the size of the public square for Christians.
Eberstadt cites the cases of people like Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran, fired for publishing a book about traditional Christian morality, and football coach Joe Kennedy at Bremerton High School in Washington, placed on leave for saying a prayer on the field after each game, as evidence of the heightened sensitivity of secularists to religion.
"Anti-Christian activists hurl smears like 'bigot and 'hater' at Americans who hold traditional beliefs about marriage and accuse anti-abortion Christians of waging a supposed 'war on women,'" Eberstadt writes.
Eberstadt argues that all sides in American life need to understand that some Americans are now fearful of expressing their religious views, and that is a scenario those who planned for Americans religious freedom could not have envisioned.
Harper-Collins, the publisher of Eberstadt's book, said secularists have attacked the conservatively religious for "holding 'wrong' opinions on flashpoint issues like birth control, abortion, and same-sex marriage." For holding those opinions, "people of faith are being publicly attacked and demonized by aggressive anti-religious activists in an effort to drive them out of public life and cripple their institutions."
"Eberstadt writes to call attention to this underreported campaign and argues that is a classic moral panic reminiscent of the Salem witch trials and the McCarthyism Red Scare of the 1950s," the publisher said.
To read more about the book, click here.