In January, Alaska State Representative Bob Lynn (R-Anchorage) will enter his 12th year as a legislator. He is the current chair of the House State Affairs Committee, vice-chair of the House Judiciary Committee, and sits on numerous other committees. He’s been afforded the legislator-for-life moniker we seem to enjoy awarding people who have been in office longer than most of the voting public has been instate.
He’s also a blogger.
Amidst the backdrop of the annual “War on Christmas” cable news fundraiser, and fueled by the “Duck Dynasty” fiasco that erupted throughout social media this week, Lynn decided to dust off a 2011 blogpost and reinsert it into the public sphere, posting it on facebook late Thursday night.
The piece is titled “ATHEISTIC ZEALOTRY,” and it offers readers a concerning glimpse at religion according to Bob Lynn.
You’re already familiar with the premise; you might believe in it yourself, or, more likely, you have that relative, coworker, friend who subscribes to the theory that atheism is the biggest threat to Christianity – and, by extension, America. And, damn it, we need to do something about it. And, damn it, that something means war against atheism to save Christianity.
It’s kind of like raising an army to fight off a couple bullies, but, no matter. THIS IS WAR.
But, like, a peaceful, tolerant war.
Enter, introductory paragraph from Bob Lynn:
In days of yore (like when I was a young man) we often engaged in friendly debates about religion in general, and Christianity in particular. There was the Catholic versus Protestant debate, debates about one Protestant denomination versus another, and yes, debates about atheism versus Christianity in general. In those ethnocentric American days, I don’t remember anyone at all discussing Islam, Buddhism, or other “exotic” religion. Yes, we talked about Jews – not so much about Judaism as a faith, but Judaism as it related to Christianity.
So, let’s establish benchmark number one: to Bob Lynn, religion is confined to western conceptualizations of sects of Christianity, and acceptable debate is restricted to those terms. The world’s second largest religion, Islam (with roughly 3.5 million adherents in the U.S.), and Buddhism (1.2 million in U.S.), are “exotic” religions only worthy of discussion as a non-ethnocentric nature, meaning distinctly not-American, despite their being prevalent in America.
Judaism, according to Lynn, is only a relevant topic when entertained tangentially in discussions about Christianity.
This is a weird exercise in asking for religious tolerance.
The main argument raised in the post is that atheists are poisoning American society in a way that threatens our democratic experiment.
It appears as if many atheists have entered a jihad against Christianity – similar in words at least – to radical Islamists against Jews. Extremism isn’t limited to religious zealots of whatever faith. There’s a new atheistic zealotry which itself is a “faith.”
Benchmark number two: Atheists aren’t taking over a damned thing. As major religious trends go in the United States, according to Pew Research, Christians occupy 78.4 percent of the conversation. Atheists have demanded a whopping 1.6 of the nation’s shares of religiosity. What threat is this supposedly (read: ridiculously politicized) jihadist insurgency, really?
“Jihad” is a tricky word, which Lynn didn’t bother to think much about when he used it. It can be translated to mean “struggle.” It can also be understood to mean “a holy war waged on behalf of Islam as a religious duty.”
Kind of silly to splice that with atheism. And by silly, I mean grossly irresponsible.
But the most egregious part of Lynn’s tirade in support of first amendment rights (so long as they are solely used to support Christianity in all cases) while attacking first amendment rights (if they deviate at all from said Christianity) is his false claim for the article in the first place:
In the words of the infamous Rodney King (religion unknown), “Can’t we all just get along?”
Lynn uses the bizarre call-back to Rodney King, who was severely beaten by Los Angeles police in 1991, to call for religious tolerance.
Lynn might pause to question calling for religious tolerance at the end of an article which prefaces zealotry as a universal quality inseparable from atheism and calls all religions outside of Christianity “exotic” and vaguely un-American. Then, he ratchets the diatribe up to eleven.
Branding all atheists as “Anti-Christian zealot atheists” who “spew their venom at Christians,” he offers the unsolicited advice: “If you don’t like Christianity, think it’s goofy, or the ‘opium of the masses’ – whatever – why not just plain shut up?”
If the true goal is to call for peace among diverse faith (and non-faith) communities, the tactic of starting off by calling one group “zealots” who are waging a holy war against Lynn’s religion of choice (which he has decided is the only valid choice in line with Americanism) isn’t actually a call for tolerance.
Atheists aren’t at war with America. At very best, they’re at war with their own public image. Evangelism, whether it’s couched in belief or non-belief, bares the same result. The “jihadist” atheists that infuriate Bob Lynn are just one wing of non-belief, in the same way that Phil Roberts is an embarrassing wing of evangelical belief sects. There’s also the Pope, who seems to have been edited out of the headlines this week.
Bob Lynn is free to gin up xenophobic rhetoric all he wants, in the lead up to another automatic reelection. But he shouldn’t do so under the laughable auspices of a call for tolerance. Tolerance begs for understanding and some modicum of an equitable relationship. Lynn has not entertained this idea. He seems stuck in a nineteen-fifty-never idealistic abuse of a utopia that never existed, and that shouldn’t exist under our actual First Amendment, which guarantees that those “exotic” religions are no less equal than the majority which Christiandom currently enjoys; no less able to take part in the American dream and express their spiritual and religious beliefs – or non-beliefs – as they see fit.
Politics will remain politics. We need to learn how to distinguish campaign rhetoric and political posturing from actual First Amendment issues. The latter is super important. The former is just a bunch of lazy crap thrown online, without much care for the harm it could do.