Sunday, December 11, 2005

The 85%: Are You a Christian?

I remember the conversation this way:

Me: Well, if this is a Christian country, I’d like to see some Christian beliefs put into law, like abolishing the death penalty, giving women the right to choose, gay rights, and especially, that Mormon belief in polygamy.

Bob: Whoa, wait, Mormons aren’t Christians.

Me: Bob, It’s the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Bob: Well, they’re not really Christians.

In The War on Christmas John Gibson declares that 84% of Americans surveyed say they are Christians. Bill O’Reilly’s December 1 syndicated column cited 85%. It is not surprising that when Americans are asked on a survey “Are you a Christian?” 84-85% say yes. It is also not surprising when that result is used by conservative talking heads to argue that Christian “leaders” should be running this country.

But they are not so ecumenical when it comes to hearing the opinions of all Christians in social and political debate. Gibson, O’Reilly, et al would have you believe that all Christians support the same laws and social policies. When advocating for the Death Penalty they don’t mention that the Catholic Church and many other Christians oppose it.

Do Gibson and O’Reilly subtract Christians who oppose the death penalty from their 84-85%? They do not. They don’t subtract Christians who believe women should have the right to decide to have an abortion. They don’t subtract Christians who oppose putting religious displays on government property using government money. They don’t subtract Christians who say we were wrong to invade Iraq. They don’t subtract Christians who advocate for gay and lesbian rights, including marriage. They don’t subtract Christians who believe in a person’s right to choose to die with dignity. They don’t subtract liberal Christians who oppose pop culture social conservatives. And they don’t subtract the polygamous Mormons.

These self-appointed “leaders” want Christians to answer the opinion polls and then shut up. Leave the thinking to self-declared geniuses like Gibson, O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Tucker Carlson and Michael Savage. They know when you subtract the Christians who differ in social and political beliefs from the above-named conservative wonks, there isn’t an 84 to 85 percent majority of Christians. There isn’t any majority. There isn’t even a sizeable minority.

Most pathetic of all, they don’t subtract the two men who beat Theology Professor Paul Mirecki this week. Mirecki proposed to teach a college course treating Intelligent Design as the myth that it is. He also made disparaging comments about Fundamentalists in several emails. Mirecki had the bad judgment to do all of this in Kansas. He withdrew the course amid furor over the course itself and also because of his comments. Unsatisfied, on Monday, December 5 two men in a pickup pulled him over and attacked him.

Most certainly, if those men were called by a pollster and asked, Are you a Christian? each would answer “yes.” The Faux News Channel darlings don’t subtract out the “Christians” who did this or even those who are cheering it on. What Would Jesus Do? Right. The O'Reilly-types like the kind of Christians who don't actually let Jesus' teachings get in their way.

Whether 84, 85 or 100 percent of Americans tell pollsters they are Christians is moot. When poll results are used by wankers like Gibson, O’Reilly, et al to argue that some people’s opinions do not count in the public debate, they seek to cut off the exchange of ideas essential to the democratic process.

I believe the American Democracy Project is intended to bring the tools of modern communication, including the Internet, to open discussion. And so, I call on you to participate in a poll. By clicking on the link below, you will be redirected to an on-line survey. I encourage you to complete the survey yourself, but also to send the link to others: Christians, non-Christians, liberals, conservatives, and others. I will keep the survey open for one month, until January 11, 2006. At that time I will summarize the results and report them in a blog on this site.

The survey takes about five minutes. Thank you in advance for your participation.


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