Christian America on the Ropes

You’ve heard about Project Blitz, the MAGA scheme to impose Christianity back on America. More polling evidence from the Harris folks this week shows how desperate such efforts are.

Harris bible classes

…people don’t really care about Christian America.

Here’s what we know: In a survey of just over 1,000 adults, Harris pollsters found that a mere 12% thought public schools should have kids read the Bible and not other religious books. By way of comparison, far more respondents (17%) didn’t have an opinion.

Historically speaking, those numbers are pretty astounding. It wasn’t that long ago that large numbers of public schools included devotional Bible reading as part of every school day. In 1960, just before SCOTUS ruled against devotional Bible-reading in public schools, 42% of public-school districts nationwide reported incorporating Bible-reading. The highest proportion was in the South (77%) and East (68%). In the Midwest (18%) and West (11%) the numbers were far lower.

So what? People like me might get anxious when we read the theocratic ambitions of regional politicians such as Indiana’s Dennis Kruse. We get nervous for our public institutions when we hear Kruse say things like,

I’m a Christian person and a religious person. . . . I think we need more Christianity and more religion in our society, in our state.

Trump bible tweetWe get even more skeeved when Trump tweets his support for school-Bible laws, as he did a few months back:

Numerous states introducing Bible Literacy classes, giving students the option of studying the Bible. Starting to make a turn back? Great!

In fact, though, the Blitzers, MAGists, and Trumpies who endorse such notions are not the vanguard of a vast right-wing army. Rather, they are the last snarls of a disappearing vision of the proper role of religion in America’s public square.

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8 Comments

  1. Agellius

     /  May 26, 2019

    It makes you nervous that Christians want more Christianity in our society? Why? Does it also make you nervous that Muslims want more Islam?

    Reply
    • In Turkey, yes. In America, not really, but I would if there were a Muslim Dennis Kruse type who wanted to legally impose devotional Islamic prayers on all kids in public schools. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-13746679

      Reply
      • Agellius

         /  May 27, 2019

        I’m lost. Does Kruse want to impose Christian prayers on all kids in public schools? Because I don’t see that intention stated in your post or any of the linked articles.

      • No, I’M lost–I can’t tell if you’re being serious or just snarky. How is there any way not to see that intention in his current actions? Senator Kruse has a long history of pushing for more prayer–more Christian prayer–in public schools. In the post above, he said,

        I think we need more Christianity and more religion in our society, in our state.

        Now, if one were being strategically blockheaded, one might say that nothing in that sentence specifically mentions imposing Christian prayers in public schools. But we really couldn’t say that with a straight face if we looked at Senator Kruse’s public record, including from the ILYBYGTH archives here or here.
        When Senator Kruse calls for “more Christianity . . . in our society,” there’s no need to doubt what he would like to see.

  2. Agellius

     /  May 27, 2019

    This is the first time I’ve heard of Kruse, and I figure you’re making your best case against him, yet still I don’t see any evidence that he wants to impose Christian prayer on all public school students, which I’m sure most Christians agree would be an outrageous thing to do. To believe such an outrageous charge I require clear statements, not just innuendo. The statement “I would like to see more Christianity in our society” I agree with entirely, yet I don’t see any reason to believe that must entail legally imposing Christian worship on unwilling students. As far as I can tell from the limited reading I’ve done in relation to this post, the main goal is to *allow* Christian students to live and express their faith in the public school context, not to impose it on anyone else; in other words, to stop the effort to banish it and hopefully reverse some past losses in that regard.

    We live in a democracy, and everyone has the right to try to legally “impose” his preferences on everyone else through the political process. Non-Christians (and anti-Christians) do so as much as anyone, as I fully expect them to, and don’t resent them for doing. They’re playing the game as its meant to be played. Why we should be particularly alarmed when Christians do it, I don’t understand at all.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the explanation. Now I understand why we were not understanding one another. It looks like we are working with different definitions of religious imposition. You’re right when you say that no one is trying to force ALL children in public schools–even “unwilling” students–to engage in Christian prayer. But I think that’s a red herring. Even before Engel and Schempp students were generally allowed to skip school prayers if they had a religious objection. The essence of the Schempp ruling was that even those exceptions were not enough. Madalyn Murray O’Hair’s complaint was that her atheist son was still pressured to comply. SCOTUS agreed.
      IMHO, the goal of public schools should be to form inclusive public institutions. That means that no one religion can be imposed as part of the school day. Teachers can’t lead children in prayers, although children are free to pray all they want. (So are teachers, for that matter, but not as part of their job.) When I say Kruse and other Blitzers want to impose Christianity on public institutions, I don’t mean that they will force dissenters to kneel and pray. Rather, they will impose prayers as part of the functioning of the school.
      And though I think I take your point about healthy competition in an open society, I disagree about the ultimate goal. Neither side should be fighting to force public institutions to represent only their specific theology. All sides should be fighting to keep public institutions theology-free (and anti-theology free). In this case, the historical dominance of Christianity over America’s public institutions makes things particularly sensitive.

      Reply
      • Agellius

         /  May 29, 2019

        I’m honestly not sure what people mean by “inclusive”. I think they intend it to mean something like,”friendly to everyone regardless of origin, physical traits or point of view.” But it’s impossible to be simultaneously friendly to the point of view that homosexual sex is immoral and disordered, and also to the view that it’s moral and natural. So we have to choose which point of view to be friendly towards, and most of the time it’s the latter. Perhaps we could be neutral on the issue by simply not talking about it in school, but instead (at least in California) we get propaganda in school that actively promotes the pro-homosexual view.

        So I have a hard time buying the line that it’s all or mainly about being inclusive. It’s not. It’s about being secular. It may be easy for a secular person to equate “secular” with “neutral”, but to a Christian secularism is anything but neutral, and making public schools into purely secular spaces is not an inclusive act, any more than making them officially Christian would be. It only means that the secularists have won. They played the game, built up a following, issued propaganda and managed to influence a majority to their side.

        It’s patently unfair to imply that Christians trying to do the same thing is somehow sinister. It’s sinister to you because you don’t agree with them, and no one likes opinions they disagree with being foisted on them. But someone’s opinion will be foisted, and we have as much right as anyone to try to make it ours.

  3. Agellius

     /  May 27, 2019

    In the interest of accuracy, I said this was the first time I’d heard of Kruse, but given that you’ve posted about him multiple times, it’s possible I have heard of him but just forgot.

    Reply

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