Klavan On The Culture

Tis the Season of Christ-o-phobia

[I will continue to blog regularly through the holidays, but it’ll be mostly cultural commentary and reviews.  This will be my last full-blown column until next year.]

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ..."

About this time last year, Sports Illustrated — one of any number of magazines to alienate readers like myself by inserting ill-informed left-wing political attitudes where they don’t belong — named Drew Brees its Sportsman of the Year. The New Orleans Saints quarterback had certainly earned the prestigious designation, leading his team and his city to an inspiring Super Bowl victory that seemed to hurl defiance at the devastation left by Hurricane Katrina a few years earlier.

The SI article by senior writer Tim Layden that accompanied the award opened with Brees addressing 400 adoring elementary school students.

“What is your empowering word?” asks one little girl.

And Brees responds:  “Faith.”

What follows in the article is a journalistic embarrassment. Layden proceeds to beclown himself by spending the next three long paragraphs attempting to obscure, rather than elucidate, what Brees is talking about. “[Faith] is a word that… can polarize — or politicize — an audience,” Layden informs us — though he’s honest enough to note that no one in this particular audience was polarized or politicized so we may assume he’s only reporting on his own imagination. Faith, he drones on, is the essence of sport:  “A player’s faith in the workaday value of practice….  A Team’s faith that its members can do more together…”  And, unbelievably, on and on.

But let’s, as it were, go to the video tape. What does Brees himself — the presumptive subject of the article — mean by faith?

That’s right. When Brees talks about faith, he is talking about faith in Jesus Christ. J for J, esus for esus, Jesus. Was that so hard for Layden to say out loud? The answer, apparently, is yes. He reminds me of no one so much as the reporter anti-hero of my novel True Crime, who says, “Whenever someone…  says Jesus as if they really mean it… it makes my skin crawl, as if they’d said squid or intestine…”

This year, as we know, it’s the Denver Broncos’ unconventional quarterback Tim Tebow whose faith in Christ is making our conformist left-wing press corp writhe and snarl like the damned in a Renaissance painting of Judgement Day. Between taking a knee in prayer mid-game and his former practice of inscribing his eye-black with Bible verses, Tebow’s commitment to Christ is so overt that even his equally inspiring fellow Christian Kurt Warner has publicly told him to tone it down a little.

In my own life, I have to admit, I fully understand Warner’s reticence. I find it very uncomfortable to follow the risen Christ’s injunction to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation,” (Mark 16:15) and am far more at home with his instruction to pray in secret (Matt 6:6). I hate pompous piety and intrusive evangelizing and I certainly never want anyone to think I claim any special relationship with God. After all, if they found out about that, they might start asking for stock tips!

But it seems to me the time for Christian reticence may be past. Just as Islamo-fascists and their left-wing facilitators have abused western tolerance to clear a space for their vicious intolerance, so belligerent atheists and their left-wing facilitators are abusing Christian humility to try to shove Christianity out of the public square and seize that square for themselves. This year, left-wing Governor of Rhode Island Lincoln Chafee christened, if that’s the word I want, the state’s Christmas tree a “holiday tree” for fear of giving offense — though when questioned about the decision, he ran like a dog. The City of Santa Monica has allowed irritable atheists to take up space usually given to nativity displays. And the anti-American ACLU only takes enough time off from its war against Christmas to produce articles claiming its war against Christmas doesn’t exist.

We know these assaults are not really protests against “religion,” or attempts to insure the government maintains a proper role in regards to religion. We know that because, so often, the moment the religion in question is Islam, so many of the anti-Christian players seem to switch sides and begin to sentimentalize Islamic practices which, if sponsored by Christians, would appall them. Indeed, Christians can be forgiven if they look to a teetering Europe — where Christianity is often persecuted while the most despicable forms of Islamism are protected — and see the specter of our own future.

In these unpleasant controversies, the average citizen can be relied on to unknowingly play into the atheists’ hands by saying, “What’s all the fuss about? Call the tree whatever you want,” or “I hate these loud-mouthed evangelists anyway.” And, truly, I understand that attitude.  I don’t want to spend Christmas arguing about Christmas either.

But the fact is, under all the rationalizing and smooth-talking denials, attacks on Christmas are an assault on a load-bearing wall of both freedom and tolerance. No states but those that evolved from Judaism and Christianity have ever been truly free or truly inclusive in any modern sense of the terms. Remove the specifically Judeo-Christian foundation, and the tower of liberty falls, as we’re seeing in Europe now. (See also secular Italian intellectual Marcello Pera’s fine essay, “Why We Should Call Ourselves Christians.”)

The outspoken faith of the Drew Breeses and Tim Tebows of the world may make even some Christians uncomfortable, but they are living examples of the fact that Christ came not to bring peace, but a sword — a sword that sometimes has to be brandished in defense of the only faith on earth that has ever made men free.