Several weeks ago, the Los Angeles Times published an opinion piece entitled “The ferocious last gasps of the religion of Christian America”. It was widely printed in other newspapers, including the Press of Atlantic City. The piece is based on the false premise that America in the past embraced a “corrupted” version of Christianity that promoted intolerance, violence, and “white, male, heterosexual dominance.” It falsely claims that this corrupted “American Christianity” caused the violence at the Capitol and is an evil and dangerous force that is not dying fast enough.
There is nothing new about that ignorant and hateful description of American Christianity. Those lies have been embedded in Hollywood and TV entertainment, and the curriculum of most colleges and public schools (including Stockton University, and Mainland and Egg Harbor Township high schools) since the 1960s.
It is very similar to the ignorant and hateful descriptions of “International Jewry” that saturated the newspapers, movies, and schools of Nazi Germany in the 1930s. In fact, my local newspaper (The Press of Atlantic City) made that similarity even more striking. Along with a reprint of that “Christian America” piece, it ran a cartoon depicting a Christian preacher as a grotesque, less than human creature exactly as Jews were depicted in “Stürmer” cartoons. Der Stürmer (The Stormtrooper) was a popular Nazi newspaper in the 1930s.
Christian-Hating Cartoon Published in Press of Atlantic City. January, 2021
Jew-Hating Cartoon published in “Der Stuermer” (The Stormtrooper) Newspaper in Germany, March 1934.
Most older Americans like me know that these are lies. That is because we, and often our parents and grandparents, grew up and lived in that Christian America.
For roughly 350 years, that Christian America was by far the greatest country in the world. We knew it was never perfect. We are humans, not angels. All races, nations, and people have done evil in the past, when judged by today’s standards. However, America did far less evil and far more good than most. Christian America was much quicker to recognize and correct injustice.
One of the biggest problems of Christian America was too many people trying to get in. Not too many people trying to get out.
I am Jewish. However, I and most Americans until the 1960s were immersed in the culture of Christian America since childhood. I am very grateful that we were.
I recited the Lords’ Prayer and heard Bible readings every morning in the Atlantic City public schools. I sang “We Gather Together” in assemblies before Thanksgiving, and carols before Christmas.
Like most Americans, I was also taught Christian values in public school. I assumed “Love thy neighbor as thyself” and “Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you” were American values. And they were. These fundamental Christian beliefs guided America since our founding.
Slavery ended in most of Christian Europe a thousand years ago. However, it was widespread and normal in the rest of the world. It expanded with Islamic, not Christian, conquests in Africa and Asia. Slaves legally purchased there were tragically brought to parts of America in the 1600s.
However, most Christians found slavery in America offensive. They fought hard to end it long before the Civil War. The Bible commandment to free slaves after 50 years (a year described as the “Jubilee”) was on Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell in 1751. Our Declaration of Independence in 1776 recognized that we are all created equal and endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights. An honest reading of those rights would see them as a reverse re-statement of the Ten Commandments.
In his “Cooper Union” speech, Abraham Lincoln carefully documented how most of the founders of our nation supported, planned for, and expected the “ultimate extinction” of slavery when they adopted our Constitution in 1787.
Greed, the invention of the cotton gin, and mass production of fabric in England delayed freeing American slaves by “Four score and seven years.” After 1800, slave-based cotton growing in the South instantly “made a poor man rich, and a rich man a king.” By 1860, half the millionaires in America lived in a single county in Mississippi!
It is no coincidence that American Christians intensified their efforts to end slavery, as the Bible required, after America’s 50-year Jubilee in 1826. Preacher Henry Beecher smuggled “Beecher’s Bibles,” newly invented breech-loading rifles, into Kansas to stop slavery from spreading there. His daughter, Harriet Beecher Stowe, wrote popular anti-slavery novels and plays such as Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Christian minister Benjamin Hanby wrote popular anti-slavery songs like “Nelly Gray.”
White Christians created an “Underground Railroad” that helped thousands of black slaves, including Frederick Douglass, escape to the North. This wrecked the slave economy in Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri.
Millions of white Christian Americans formed the Republican Party to contain slavery and fought and died in the Union army for more than four years to end it.
American Protestant churches were equally active in movements that recognized the equal rights of women, and better pay, hours. and working conditions for factory workers. Christians who went to those churches were the majority of soldiers who fought and died to end the Nazi Holocaust of Jews in Europe and the Japanese Holocaust in China.
In 2002, economist Zhao Xiao caused an uproar in China when he wrote that Christianity caused economic and social success in America. He urged the Communist regime there to embrace, rather than suppress, Christianity.
It is ludicrous to claim that any group of mainstream American Christians wants a “counter-revolution” that would “suppress blacks” or set up a “theocracy” in America. The “woke” Democrats, journalists, and academics who say this are as evil and dishonest as Nazis who falsely claimed that “International Jewry” was trying to take over Germany in the 1930s. Today’s American Christians, and many non-Christians like myself, simply want themselves and their families to be free to live in the America that was so good to our families and the world.
Some American Christians may be angry these days. However, it is not because of hate or intolerance. It is simply frustration from being attacked, lied about, ridiculed, and falsely blamed for every problem in America for the past sixty years.
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Seth Grossman, Executive Director