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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Michael Coren's Heresy is a crusade against Christianophobia

In The Road to Wigan Pier, George Orwell wrote "as with the Christian religion, the worst advertisement for Socialism is its adherents."

Christianity is the most gentle of religions, based on the love of God and one`s fellow human beings. Unlike so many other religions, its founder was renowned not for putting people in their graves, but for raising a man out of one. Despite its message of universal love and the message of its founder who said "Judge not, lest ye be judged" Christianity, once established as the dominant religion in Europe, fell into the exiting paradigm for religions within the framework of governments in the Middle Ages and Renaissance.  There was little and frequently no distinction between church and state. So for most of its history, Christianity was as much a tool of subjugation as it was a religion. Though not entirely historically accurate, the Canadian TV shows The Tudors and The Borgias convey the spirit of monarchs' and popes' use of their religious authority for temporal rule rather than spiritual enlightenment of their subjects.

Terrible things have been done by Christians in the name of Christianity through the ages; the Inquisition, the suppression of intellectual freedom, and countless untold deaths in more wars than most historians can recall. When measured against other religions, including Islam, Christendom fared poorly compared to most nations dominated by other religions.

Then something very important happened to change all that. The Enlightenment was the culmination of centuries of philosophical and political advances, based on Greek and Roman concepts of citizenship, individual rights established from the Magna Carta through the increased authority of the English Parliament and the establishment of the rights of common men. The culmination of these advances attained their pinnacle  in a document that was as divinely inspired as any sacred text: The American Constitution.

That document inspired revolutions and change in the western, Christian-dominated world that set the world on a course for the next two hundred years and continues now. The Constitution guaranteed two changes that formed core concepts of western freedoms: that of the right of free religious practice without the domination of a state religion, and the prohibition of government censorship of free citizens.

These ideas liberated Christianity to be exclusively a religion, allowing it to be a moral and spiritual system rather than an adjunct to state control.

Since that historical watershed, Western Christian countries, more than others, have advanced furthest in  technological innovations, social and political freedoms and cultural experimentation and developments. It is extremely unlikely that these advances are coincidental. There are components about Judeo-Christian traditions, history, and western values that has given it its advantages.

Yet in the last few decades a strange, poisonous, self-flagellating phenomenon has emerged in the west. It's manifested everywhere from devotees of Marxist-influenced philosophers like Noam Chomsky, to an education system dominated by the class-struggle ideology of Paulo Friere, to shallow-minded media executives and socialist political figures and even within soft, leftist branches of Christianity itself, such as the United Church. This rot can be summed up in a single term - cultural relativism.

In his new book Heresy, Canadian author Michael Coren tackles the lies and myths that try to tear down Christianity to put it on par with Islam, a religion which proscribes death for heretics and apostates, Indeed Christian leaders did the same centuries ago, but that was then and this is now. But that doesn't stop western cultural relativists from equating contemporary Christianity, which is at its core a pacifist ideology, with Islam, which emerged as an Arab nationalist movement designed to absorb or kill all its opponents and continues to reflect that approach in contemporary Islamic republics such as Iran and Pakistan.

Coren further explained the phenomenon and what led him to write Heresy now in a column he wrote for The Catholic Herald:

"For the media and the establishment to admit that different religions lead to different assumptions about pluralism and different approaches to human dignity would lead to the invincible conclusion that there is a qualitative distinction if not hierarchy involved. That, to the moral and intellectual relativist, is heresy itself.  That they contradict themselves in their very belief system and that equivalency is an imploding theory because to embrace it proves one believes in exclusive truth and thus is an opponent of equivalency is hardly even the point here. When we combine this with the racism of lowered expectation – the grotesquely patronizing phenomenon of white atheists forgiving bad behaviour on the part of brown and black Muslims simply because of their race and religion – we make anti-Christianity almost inevitable."

Among the myths Coren debunks are that Christians are opposed to science, that Jesus didn't exist, that they are stupid, and one of the most important lies he refutes is that Hitler was a Christian. That latter idea has very current applications. As Coren explains in the book's forward section, cultural relativists who were so anxious to defend Islam have repeatedly tried to identify the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik as a Christian extremist. But Breivik himself has professed no particular Christian belief and, unlike Muslim terrorists who shout "Allahu Akhbar" as a prelude to committing atrocities in the name of Islam, it was liberal values, such as free speech, abortion rights and Gay rights rather than a devotion to Christianity that motivated him.

Coren acknowledges that the likely readership for Heresy is for the most part people who already have Christian beliefs and who do not believe the lies he challenges. The value for them in the book is that while they intuitively knowing that the Christianophobia pervading the media and other institutions in society is unfounded and based on ignorance and bigotry, the book can serve as a tool to let its readers better articulate their defense of their beliefs.

But better still would be if those who believe the lies that Heresy takes on were to read Coren's book. Those of them with an open mind would find it a revelation.

HERESY by Michael Coren is available at major bookstores and online at Amazon.


Anonymous said...

at least the book isn't titled "heresy: ten lies they spread about catholics". LOL. i've got to hand it to mr. coren, he sure knows how to title a book. i've not read the book, but if you have to prove hitler and anders breivik are not christians then we've lost already. look to what Jesus Christ did and said (see your bible) not what a religion or so called christian did in his name.

eastyorker said...

While reading the book one is struck by the rarity of the so called lies about Christianity. I just don't recall hearing much about Jesus never existing. Considering that Coren initially blogged that the Norwegian massacre was committed by Islamists, its a bit rich to complain about how others erroneously referred to him as a Christian. The book essentially sets up the flimsiest of "straw man" arguments and then proceeds to shoot fish in a barrel.
As a Catholic I find it embarrassing that he self-identifies as such and I think the bigger question here is why someone of faith is so worried about transient media attention. If our church had to worry so much about what self-appointed polemicists spout it wouldn't be much of a church.

Richard K said...

You raise some interesting points, eastyorker, and a lot of the perception of whether Christianity is under attack depends on the perspective you approach the matter.

In a society where official bodies and media are increasingly concerned about inclusiveness and ostensibly fairness, Christianity seems to be considered a valid target for attack where it would be considered 'hateful' if similar criticisms were made of members of other religions.

To that point, I would come back to the reception Marci McDonald's nonsensical book about the so-called rise of Christian nationalism in Canadian politics got a couple of years ago. Its core theme seemed to be that we should be alarmed that conservative Christians are playing a role in public affairs and government. If that was said about any other religion it might be considered a hate crime. But McDonald's book, while ignored by the public, was lovingly embraced by the media, particularly the CBC.

Your point that the church should not concern itself about the media is arguable. Yes, religious principles that have merit should be upheld as such and not as fads subject to the opinion of the day. But on the other hand public opinion can affect everything, including religion and religious policies, so being aware of that, people like Michael have not only the right, but the responsibility to present their side of the argument.