Continuing the trend of “fighting back against characterizations they’re actually proud of,” the National Review explains why modern, politicized Christian fundamentalism is not an exclusionary worldview to be feared, but a simple attempt to prevent mean-spirited liberals from ejecting Christianity from the marketplace of ideas.”It’s easy to forget,” moans David French,
…that just a generation or two ago, there was a real question about whether Christian student groups even had a right to meet in public schools or on public university campuses. It’s also easy to forget that America was and is a beacon of religious liberty in the world, and we should never allow the ignorance and prejudices of, among others, the secular Left (especially when manifested through government action) drive religion from the public square.
Well, yes but no. Christians have always had the right to meet but not necessarily the right to claim public funding for their meetings at public schools. It took a series of poorly–reasoned Supreme Court decisions to give them that.
What’s missing here is an understanding that Christianity wasn’t “drive[n] from the public sphere” by obnoxious, hateful liberals bent on suppressing private Christian expression. It was “driven” from the government’s rostra, and denied the government’s imprimatur of approval out of a decent respect for the First Amendment, as any religion would be.
That’s as it should be. The First Amendment doesn’t somehow exempt popular religions, nor does it make exceptions based on America’s long history with Christianity. “Liberals” have never singled Christianity out: they’ve merely asked it to follow the same rules that apply to ever other religion.
But that’s where mainstream Americans and Christian fundamentalists part company, and what makes politicians like Bachmann, Perry, and their modern fundamentalist peers stand out in a crowd. We all grant — and right-wing bogeymen like the ACLU even regularly fight to defend — the right to private worship. But for fundamentalists, that’s not enough. They don’t want private prayer at public schools (which remains legal — how could it be otherwise?). They want school-led prayer at public schools. The “return to the public square” that fundamentalists so modestly seek is nothing so much as a return to state-financed religious dominance of the culture.
Ah. I’m more concerned with acknowledging this threat than with naming it. “Dominionism,” a term popularized by a spate powerful articles detailing the philosophical excesses of one Michele Bachmann, is helpful. So is Andrew Sullivan’s term, “Christianism” — though unfortunate for its introduction of another fabricated -ism to a world already crowded with them. I’d prefer to stick with fundamentalism.