Several years ago, the Christian evangelical Larry Taunton wrote a book, The Faith of Christopher Hitchens, that stirred up a minor firestorm among a group of true believers.
It was not the evangelical right, so long-defamed as intolerant by its liberal/left critics, that exploded in disgust because one of their own had supped with and befriended Hitchens, a notorious and profane atheist (however brilliant and provocative).
No, it was Hitchens’ fellow non-believers who were deeply offended that Taunton had dared to suggest that Hitchens might have actually taken seriously, albeit privately, the faith that Taunton and millions of Christians embrace.
Larry Krauss, David Frum and many others felt the need to attack Taunton for allegedly making false claims about Hitchens rethinking his atheistic assumptions or for daring to criticize him, as if Hitchens, who relished crossing polemical swords, would have wanted their defense. In fact, Taunton mainly reported that he found Hitchens surprisingly open minded and curious (and, yes, wounded in some deep ways) as they spent time together before and after debates on faith. Hitchens had been pleasantly surprised to find that the so-called “intolerant” religious right communities were engaged and truly hospitable.
This episode, which David Horowitz briefly mentions in his recent book, Dark Agenda: The War to Destroy Christian America, underscores a larger thematic point. Those who have made traditional religious culture a hated enemy are doing so not because they hope to advance tolerance and understanding in a pluralistic society, as they so often publicly claim.
On the contrary, Horowitz suggests, they are determined to advance a Utopian vision (scientifically founded, in their minds) that Horowitz traces back to 4th century Pelagianism but that found its fuel in the modern era first as part of the Marxist movement and then in this nation most disruptively during the 1960s. The Marxist agenda, in a post-Soviet world, now parades behind the banner of social justice, Horowitz argues. Christianity, founded on a polar opposite belief system (endorsed by St. Augustine) that human beings are born fallen and imperfect, has thus become a primary target as its critics seek to unmake traditional America.
That this radical agenda has found supporters among mainstream media, intellectuals and public officials, including on the Supreme Court, only speaks to the power of the utopian temptation that human beings can create heaven on earth by remaking the world in their own ideological image. Inevitably this has become a war against Christianity as a foundational, shaping force in America.
As Horowitz writes:
“In America, the war against Christians is not merely a war against an embattled religion. It is a war against an imperiled nation – a war against this nation and its founding principles: the equality of individuals and individual freedom. For these principles are indisputably Christian in origin. They are under siege because they are insurmountable obstacles to radicals’ totalitarian ambition to create a new world in their image.”
Horowitz is hardly alone in reaching such conclusions, though today he is arguably the most vigilant intellectual engaged in sustained opposition against this assault. A young William F. Buckley Jr., in his book God and Man at Yale, declared in the early 1950s: “…the duel between Christianity and atheism is the most important in the world. I further believe that the struggle between individualism and collectivism is the same struggle reproduced on another level.”
Perhaps even more to the point, the crusade against Christianity has been part of an ongoing political effort aimed at disempowering and discrediting a significant part of our population, many of whom are now routinely charged with racism, elitism, bigotry, and intolerance simply for embracing ideas that have shaped this nation throughout its history. Yet those very ideas – rule of law, balance of power, constitutional frameworks, meritocracy, non-race based or religious-based privileges – are what has enabled America over the past 75 years to make great progress precisely in those areas that once mobilized progressives, including the desire for working class prosperity, civil rights for minorities and women, equal justice, voting rights, etc.
Yet, the wreckage and disaster caused by the left and those who have advanced their causes is virtually ignored as the assault on America continues. The failures of socialism, including mass genocides and finally the collapse of the Soviet bloc, has apparently not led many on the American left to abandon their ideas; it only forced them to camouflage their agenda in the forests of social justice and post-modern jargon (see, for example, The Killing of History by Keith Windschuttle).
Socialism is now proudly touted by the mainstream Democratic Party, and the goal remains the same – to overturn the existing order, including rule of law, and to renegotiate the civil contract at the expense of those long-cherished values, however imperfectly exercised, that have advanced human freedom.