I know more than a few good, intelligent people who are Christians. Some of them have let their own emotions get the better of them. I have friends who cannot bring themselves to talk to me because I write about losing faith. I read posts by Christian bloggers who seem to have lost focus on worshiping god, and who have instead become completely distracted by tearing down their enemies.
And somehow, their enemy is me. I didn’t do anything to them. I am not even asking them to question their faith. But my inability to believe what they believe makes them angry with me by default.
There are some who claim that faith transforms us into something new; something better than what humanity is capable of. But no matter how hard they wish for it, Christians prove again and again that they are as human as the rest of us. There is just as much evil among them. I guess if the only difference between us comes down to what we are able to believe about god, it makes sense to demonize each other over why we believe what we do.
But it is only theology which makes me the enemy. Christians may go beyond the Bible and say I am crazy to not realize we were created by something bigger; but I have no problem with deists. And they have no problem with me. Let’s not pretend as if I am the enemy because I don’t believe in god. I am the enemy because of what the Bible says about those who do not believe.
One of the things that really shook my faith as a believer was discovering how often Christians lie to promote spiritual warfare. It’s a common practice in politics, but it seemed to me that god should not require the help of misinformation to preserve his message of truth. At the time I blamed misguided people for hurting the body of Christ in this way, but it soon became impossible to ignore why they do it.
This week I have felt overwhelmed by the Christian response to the movie God’s Not Dead 2. If you read my blog you are aware of my thoughts about separation of church and state. The misinformation that is spread about god in the classroom, specifically, is something of great interest to me. And this movie is not telling the truth.
There are better posts commenting on the details of the movie itself, but I am more concerned with how dishonest Christians are willing to be in defense of it as reality. Read any article from a Christian point of view and it will quickly become clear that this movie is not a work of fiction to them. While reading reviews of the movie, I lost count of the declarations of war being made against the secular agenda.
Jim Daly, President of Focus on the Family recently posted his support for God’s Not Dead 2, explaining how the movie is not far-fetched at all. He says it is inspired by true events:
As just one example, a few years ago Colorado Springs high school student Chase Windebank was singled out because he led a student Bible study during free time. A vice principal talked to Chase, telling him he couldn’t pray during that time “because of separation of Church and State.”
That vice principal may not have been aware that the First Amendment recognizes a student’s right to pray during the school day’s free times, so the Christian legal group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) sent the school a letter detailing the rights Chase and his friends had.
Chase’s group was allowed to meet during the school day at lunchtime – and his story is only one of about a dozen that are mentioned in the “God’s Not Dead 2” closing credits. As an aside, Chase’s father, Ken, is a colleague of mine here at Focus, so I’m very familiar with this case.
If I had only read Jim Daly’s version of events, I would still be wondering how this is anything like the story in God’s Not Dead 2. But let’s talk about Chase Windebank.
Students are allowed to form Christian groups and pray at school. Teachers and other adults with authority, however, are not allowed to have that kind of influence on students. So why would a student not be allowed to form a prayer group during free time? Surely the vice principal just misunderstood the law. Or maybe there is more to the story.
This article sheds a little more light on what happened to Chase Windebank. I needed some clarification because Mr. Daly refers to Chase’s group being able to meet at lunchtime as a successful result—when we all know perfectly well that students have always been allowed to pray together at lunch. And school districts, especially ones located in Colorado Springs, are not ignorant of this. Robert J. Zavaglia Jr., an attorney representing the school district had this to say:
“Pine Creek High School has never had, and does not have, a policy in place which restricts students’ rights to associate at lunch, and by extension to meet with others and discuss faith, pray, or talk about the news of the day from a Christian perspective,” he wrote. “As such, no nonexistent policy was revised to achieve the suit’s abandonment.”
He added: “The real dispute of this case was an ill-advised argument to lump a credited, student/teacher contact hour into ‘open time’ like lunch as the basis for seeking special treatment of an informal student group.”
Did you catch the bias in Mr. Daly’s post? Notice how he emphasized that students were not allowed to pray during free time, while completely omitting the fact that whether or not the activities were happening during “free time” was the whole dispute. He made it seem as though Christian underdogs had overthrown a secular school district. The truth is that nothing interesting happened at all. The suit was abandoned. The students were told they could pray during lunch, as they always could.
And again, something tells me that the school district in Colorado Springs probably isn’t overrun with atheists driven by a need to expel god from the classroom. The fact that Jim Daly knows the family involved personally is evidence that this misrepresentation of events was intentional. But why?
In a post from the FFRF camp, Chris Line writes this in response to those who believe God’s Not Dead 2 is anything but a fantasy:
FFRF frequently deals with teachers who are proselytizing in schools. A group like FFRF or the ACLU likely wouldn’t even lodge a complaint with a school over this sort of trivial mention of Jesus, let alone file a lawsuit. There are plenty of cases of actual school proselytization to keep them busy. Also, school boards and superintendents are more likely to side with proselytizing teachers than against them. This isn’t that surprising given that many superintendents and school board members are themselves Christian and if a teacher were to be sued for violating the Establishment Clause, the school district would be sued right along with her. FFRF or the ACLU would not even be able to make a deal with the school board to sue only the teacher since the teacher has violated the Establishment Clause on behalf of the school district. What often happens in real life, (when the superintendent realizes that the Constitution has actually been violated) is the teacher is told to stop proselytizing, and if she refuses to do so the school is well within its rights to terminate her employment.
What happened in the movie God’s Not Dead 2 has never happened and will never happen. It is incredibly far-fetched. People believe it could happen because they want to believe it. That doesn’t mean people aren’t being wronged over religion. But in a country made up of so many Christians, isn’t it hard to imagine that Christians are being persecuted more in the classroom than atheists?
If you live in the Bible Belt and attend one of the sold out viewings of this movie, you might hear the crowd yelling their “amens” and singing along with the soundtrack. Some people reported standing ovations every time an “evil atheist” was “outsmarted” by a Christian. These people have never known what it feels like to be persecuted for their faith. Why are they so excited?
I’d love to see a movie based on Neil Carter’s experience of being a history teacher in Mississippi. His story about students discovering his atheism is a little more in line with reality.
See, just like with almost any other public school in the Bible Belt, at this school Christian teachers are free to be quite open about their religious beliefs. In fact, when my eldest was taking the same history class just the year before, her teacher livened up the story of Israel by marching around the room, blowing an imaginary trumpet to make the walls of Jericho come a-tumblin’ down. In case you wondered, no, that isn’t in the curriculum. But this is the Bible Belt. You can get away with stuff like that here and most people just eat it up. The parents in my county love that their children’s teachers are so demonstrative about their faith.
Why Do You Insist on Denying God’s Existence?
When Christians take time to make me their enemy, and to call me out for nothing more than my lack of belief– I seldom agree with their evaluation of how I came to my conclusion about god. But I have found that any attempt to correct them on that evaluation is seen as an attack on their faith. If my personal experience conflicts with what the Bible says about me, that must mean I am a liar who wants to take away their religious liberties.
I am left with no choice but to assume that painting me as an enemy must feel good to them. All sides may be found guilty of this at times, but Christians have it built into their faith. While getting along with others may be a priority for humanist groups, it is not part of the Christian agenda.
Christians are at war. And unity with a secular world is considered defeat; a surrender to the enemies of god. That is one of the dangers of religious dogma. Christians are always fighting the enemy, and someone has to represent that enemy. The Bible tells them all they need to know about nonbelievers: we are angry heathens who know the truth, but who do not want to be held accountable to god.
Christians have a book which they believe is inspired by god, and that book offers multiple reasons why others choose to not believe the book is true. But do Christians really need the book to tell them why someone might not think it’s true? People believe in the Quran and the Book of Mormon, don’t they? Connect the dots, you guys.
The idea that someone doesn’t believe a book is the inspired word of god isn’t hard to imagine. It can’t possibly make someone a bad person, or even a stupid person. And yet, every “inspired” book seems to say: “Nope. You are both bad and stupid if you question this book.”
Perhaps the fool says in his heart: “Everything in this book must be true because the book says I would be a fool to doubt it.”
When Christians place more importance on discrediting their enemies than building their faith, they risk becoming distracted by anger. They might find themselves filled with more hate than love. And whether god is dead, alive, or never was– eventually these Christians will be responsible for creating more enemies than allies.