The following is an op-ed I wrote and the Baltimore Sun published on December 3, 1986. I was in my late twenties at that time and leading the main pro-life, pro-family organization in Maryland, which I started six years earlier and had over 15,000 active members with offices next to the General Assembly in Annapolis. I like to say I’m now a refugee from Maryland living the good life in Virginia. I no longer describe myself as “fundamentalist”, at least regarding my attitudes, even though I strongly adhere to the essentials of the faith.
I’m re-publishing the op-ed because it’s interesting to see how much has changed, yet how much remains the same!
Each generation has someone it loves to hate. Blacks, Jews, Catholics, Eastern Europeans and any number of other minorities: Toward each, bigotry was at one time in vogue.
Whether standing up for blacks seeking admission to college or defenseless babies seeking life, I always fought for the rights of others. As a student at a lily-white college, I played a key role in forcing the campus to open its doors to blacks. For the last six years I’ve worked full time in the pro-life movement.
But I never personally suffered the brunt of society’s bigotry – until now. You see, I’m a fundamentalist Christian, and that makes me America’s newest object of fashionable scorn.
I guess it was inevitable. As long as fundamentalists stayed nice Christians who knew their place, everything was fine. But once we started leaving the pews and walking the precincts, all hell broke loose (if you’ll pardon the expression). It is now fashionable to ridicule our beliefs. If we run for office or speak out on the issues of the day, our religion becomes the issue.
Why? We advocate certain basic (dare I say fundamental?) principles which we believe are essential to the health of the nation. We do not advocate state-imposed piety. Rather we talk of the sanctity of life, limited government, the worth of all men and the importance of family. Is this so radical?
Separation of church and state has become the cry of our opponents, as though fundamentalists want the church to run the state. Yet no one on this side of Iran advocates church-run government. If the truth be known, fundamentalists aren’t too good running their own churches, let alone the government. We only insist on our right as individuals to participate in democracy.
Those who claim we seek to impose our morality on society forget that all law is rooted in a sense of right and wrong. Yet we, too, recognize limits. We believe in democracy, not moral tyranny, and draw the line where the state seeks to dictate personal belief. We believe in the right of society to determine, for good or for bad, the principles that guide our nation. Democracy, at its best, considers all views. In this spirit we seek to stand as equals in the arena of pubic debate. We want to be judged for our ideas, not our faith.
This new bigotry hit home last year. Bob, a member of my church, was the front-runner for a position on the county school board. The local press went bananas. One editorial flatly stated that Bob had no right to serve on the school board because he was a fundamentalist. No other charge was laid against him. He was a Christian, and that settled it.
In another area of the state, several fundamentalists happened to run for office. The issue, in the local paper, was the religious affiliation of the candidates. How they stood on the economy, the environment, schools, taxes or any other current issue never came up. No one even questioned them about the issues. They were Bible-believing Christians, and this was reason enough to oppose their candidacies.
In the pages of Baltimore’s two remaining dailies, I’ve been branded an extremist at least twice in the last month. Yet neither writer bothered to talk to me. Bigotry avoids the burden of the truth by dealing in stereotypes and prejudices. It sees what it believes, and believes what is false.
Those who believe fundamentalists are hypersensitive to criticism, or carry a persecution complex, need only conduct a simple test. Next time a column or article attacks fundamentalist political activity, substitute the word “black” for “Christian.” Then imagine the justifiable outrage within the black community at the blatant stereotypes and appeals to latent bigotry contained in such an article.
I’m not saying fundamentalists are perfect or beyond reproach. We sometimes say dumb things and do dumb things. I’ve been publicly attacked for things I’ve done, sometimes justifiably so. But the public furor over Christians in politics has gotten out of hand. It’s time to address the issues. If the public rejects what we have to say, so be it. But as Americans, we have the right to speak. To seek to drown out our ideas by trying to make our religion the issue is bigotry.
(c) Copyright 2009, Fulcrum Ministries. All Rights Reserved.