Jac Wilder VerSteeg: Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio don't know what's good for Christianity

Two items in Wednesday morning’s Sunburn really frosted me. Both Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush are trolling for evangelical Christian votes by peddling the line that Christians in America are being persecuted.

This appeals to the evangelicals’ penchant for seeing themselves as victims – a stance that bolsters their willingness to make victims of others, such as gay people.

Of course the idea that American Christians are being persecuted is bunk. Nothing stops Christians in America from being Christians. They are prevented, in many cases, from hijacking the legal system to force their views of Christianity on everybody else. But that’s not persecution of them, it is the prevention of persecution by them.

Rubio and Bush want to be president. To do so, they need evangelical support in GOP primaries. So, according to Sunburn (which you can receive every morning by signing up here), Rubio asserted in an interview that “today we’ve reached the point in our society where if you do not support same-sex marriage you are labeled a homophobe and a hater.”

Rubio continued: “After they are done going after individuals, the next step is to argue that the teachings of mainstream Christianity, the catechism of the Catholic Church is hate speech and there’s a real and present danger.”

The same edition of Sunburn dealt with Jeb’s attempts to appeal to the Christian right. In his commencement speech at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, Bush said:

“There are consequences when you don’t genuflect to the latest secular dogmas. And those dogmas can be hard to keep up with.

“So we find officials in a major city demanding that pastors turn over copies of their sermons. Or federal judges mistaking themselves for elected legislators, and imposing restrictions and rights that do not exist in the Constitution. Or an agency dictating to a Catholic charity, the Little Sisters of the Poor, what has to go in their health plan – and never mind objections of conscience… .

“Somebody here is being small-minded and intolerant, and it sure isn’t the nuns, ministers, and laymen and women who ask only to live and practice their faith. Federal authorities are demanding obedience, in complete disregard of religious conscience – and in a free society, the answer is no.”

The reason businesses and organizations have to deal with health insurance – and the few matters of conscience that arrangement raises – is that conservative Republicans have refused to adopt a national system of health insurance. Taking that step would untangle the religious and secular problems Bush, Rubio and others cite with Obamacare.

As long as we have this hybrid system, however, organizations and businesses cannot be allowed to discriminate against their employees.

As far as “hate speech,” goes, that will not be an issue. Nobody ever is going to be prosecuted for saying they think gay people should not be allowed to wed.

But nothing stops a growing number of Americans from recognizing that such speech is “hateful” speech. And they are rejecting in droves such speech and the attitudes that engender it.

Bush and Rubio are pandering to a dwindling group. In doing so, they are contributing to the decline of Christianity in America – a sharp decline noted in a recent Pew study.

For real persecution of Christians, see their brutal treatment in regions of the Middle East.

French painter Francois Dubois' depiction of the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre.
French painter Francois Dubois’ depiction of the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre.

Or, take a look at history. Here is a fascinating excerpt on this issue from Yuval Noah Harari’s wonderful and fascinating book, “Sapiens.”

“In the 300 years from the crucifixion of Christ to the conversion of Emperor Constantine, polytheistic Roman emperors initiated no more than four general persecutions of Christians. … If we combine all the victims of all these persecutions, it turns out that in these three centuries, the polytheistic Romans killed no more than a few thousand Christians.

“In contrast, over the course of the next 1,500 years, Christians slaughtered Christians by the millions to defend slightly different interpretations of the religion of love and compassion.”

Harari zeroes in on one dispute: The Catholic contention that Christians needed good works to get into heaven vs. the Protestant contention that faith in God’s love was enough. “On 23 August 1572,” Harari writes, “French Catholics who stressed the importance of good deeds attacked communities of French Protestants who highlighted God’s love for humankind. In this attack – the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre – between 5,000 and 10,000 Protestants were slaughtered in less than 24 hours.

“When the Pope in Rome heard the news from France, he was so overcome by joy, that he organized festive prayers to celebrate the occasion.”

That is an extreme example of my point that Christians do not always know what is good for Christianity. Bush and Rubio won’t look quite as foolish as that pope when judged by history. But they sure won’t look good.

Jac Wilder VerSteeg is editor of Context Florida. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

Jac VerSteeg


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