I am seeing a trend which appears to be a new McCarthyism, which is not just taking hold in American but is also spreading across Europe. The New McCarthyism is not the fear of Communism or of any political system. Rather, it is the largely irrational, but intense, fear of religion. We’ve seen it take root in public schools, with it’s fear of Creationism and school prayer. We’ve seen it in the court system with the fear of the Ten Commandments (what’s that called, decaphobia?). It’s prompted responses like The [ridiculous] Blasphemy Challenge. Lately, we’ve seen it’s popularity in people like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens and the success of their books. The belief is that religion in some or all of it’s forms is dangerous, and should be marginalized if not totally eradicated.
In the past couple of days I’ve run into a few articles on the web (some new, some not) that I’ve found particularly interesting. Take the two brave librarians who refused to put two donated ID books on the school shelves, though they denied it was censorship. However, this is how the ACLU defines censorship:
Censorship is the suppression of ideas and information that certain persons—individuals, groups or government officials—find objectionable or dangerous. It is no more complicated than someone saying, “Don’t let anyone read this book, or buy that magazine, or view that film, because I object to it! ” Censors try to use the power of the state to impose their view of what is truthful and appropriate, or offensive and objectionable, on everyone else. Censors pressure public institutions, like libraries, to suppress and remove from public access information they judge inappropriate or dangerous, so that no one else has the chance to read or view the material and make up their own minds about it. The censor wants to prejudge materials for everyone.
The American Library Association says “Some examples of censorship may include … not purchasing conservative religious materials.” Apparently this is not a philosophy shared by all librarians.
According to what’s been happening lately, I’m thinking that the definition of censorship should be amended so that the term only applies when it doesn’t refer to religion or ID (which is not necessarily religious). This sounds awfully Orwellian to me, but such is the nature of any fear-based control methodology.
Now, if you want a look at what the New McCarthyism really looks like, take a look at the recent report by the incredibly paranoid Council of Europe titled The dangers of creationism in education:
The Parliamentary Assembly is worried about the possible ill-effects of the spread of creationist theories within our education systems and about the consequences for our democracies. If we are not careful, creationism could become a threat to human rights, which are a key concern of the Council of Europe.
The report goes on to state that “the advent of an ‘all things are equal’ attitude, which may seem appealing and tolerant but is actually disastrous. So, in Europe, apparently tolerance is out the window. They are, after all, a few years ahead of us in Orwellian terms. You’d think they’d learn.
As is evidenced in the recent wave of New Atheist publications, the issue is moving past a simple fear of religion’s influence on science and education to the fear of any religious influence. And, perhaps they have a point. We know of the obvious political dangers of radical Islam. However, we must recognize that true Christianity is also a terribly dangerous religion. True Christianity, after all, turns all human systems topsy-turvy. This is made most clear, in my opinion, in Jesus’ discourse with Pilate:
Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
“You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
“What is truth?” Pilate asked. With this he went out again to the Jews and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him.” John 18:36-38
Jesus made it clear, and Pilate understood, that Jesus was not challenging any Earthly kingdom on Earthly terms. The Jewish leaders of his day, on the other hand, knew that the teachings of Jesus were more dangerous than some Earthly revolutionary. True Christianity should challenge systems of thought, systems of belief and systems of action. True Christianity may be more dangerous than even Christopher Hitchens thinks.
To some extent, possibly more than I think, Joe McCarthy was correct. Likewise, the New McCarthyism may not be irrational after all; perhaps it is recognizing something that even most Christians have forgotten.