The coronavirus crisis has proven eye-opening on many fronts. Democrats have stalled much-needed relief to push their pet projects. State and local politicians have reveled in their new crisis powers, issuing restrictive bans on stores selling garden supplies and on people wishing to socialize with friends or family. Some have even worked with Facebook to shut down some protests organizing on the social media platform. Yet the crisis has also revealed a particular fear of and animus against Christians.
Local politicians have singled out churches for extra coronavirus regulations. Many banned drive-in church services — where parishioners would remain isolated in their cars with their windows up, listening to a sermon over the radio — even though this practice would not spread the coronavirus. In fact, the same localities that banned drive-in church services allow drive-through fast-food restaurants as essential. Yet a mayor dispatched police to fine Christians $500 for attending a drive-in service, and Kentucky’s governor sent police to record the license plates of Christians at such a service.
At least one county even went so far as to ban singing during livestream events, a regulation that did not specifically single out churches but one that seems most likely to hit churches hardest.
As the coronavirus crisis reached its stride in late March, The New York Times published two op-eds condemning “anti-science” conservative Christians for making the crisis worse. (Never mind The New York Times‘s own articles in February insisting that it’s safe to travel to China, and warning that anti-Asian stigma may be more dangerous than the virus.)
When the Christian charity Samaritan’s Purse set up an emergency field hospital in New York City’s Central Park, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the move was “very troubling” because Samaritan’s Purse is an evangelical Christian charity. He sent staff over to “monitor” the field hospital, ostensibly to ensure it does not discriminate against LGBT people. Talk about mixed-up priorities!
Perhaps most egregiously, a Harvard Law professor called for a “presumptive ban” on homeschooling in an article that featured a picture of a child in a homeschool cage with books forming one wall. Among the books featured a tome of “arithmetic” misspelled and a large Bible. The article went on to condemn many parents who choose to homeschool their children as “extreme religious ideologues.” That’s not exactly subtle…
That homeschool ban article came at a time when parents are forced to homeschool their children, as schools across the country closed — and many provided no guidance on how to continue their students’ education during the crisis.
The anti-Christian Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) also did not take a break from fomenting fear by exaggerating “hate” for money during the coronavirus. The SPLC released its annual report about organizations it accuses of being “hate groups” like the Ku Klux Klan. This list includes a broad array of mainstream conservative and Christian organizations. In January, the SPLC asked Big Tech to blacklist these groups, and Vimeo just blacklisted the American Family Association last Friday.
Many of the suspicions of evangelical Christians and the attacks against them long predate the coronavirus, but the crisis has drawn these attacks on conservative Christians into stark relief.
Where does this animus come from? Sociology professors George Yancey and David Williamson document it in their book So Many Christians, So Few Lions: Is There Christianophobia in the United States. The sociology professors focus on bias against conservative Christians, arguing that this “Christianophobia” is as real as the animus against Muslims and Jews.
Much of this animus against conservative Christians traces back to the narrative that Christians are backward: they supposedly reject science because it conflicts with the Bible, they reject abortion because it enables women to have more freedom, they reject homosexual activity and transgender identity because they’re stone-age prudes, they use religion as a tool to acquire money and power.
This narrative is backward. Christianity enabled the rise of science. Since the days of ancient Rome when infanticide was common, disciples of Jesus Christ cared for the least fortunate, forbidding abortion and saving abandoned babies. Conservative Christians oppose LGBT activism because the Bible condemns homosexual activity and because biology confirms that males cannot become female and vice versa — but we still love those who disagree with us. While unscrupulous “Prosperity Gospel” huxters exist, they are twisting Christianity, not supporting it. In fact, Christianity first spread in the hostile Roman Empire through acts of selfless charity toward those dying in plagues — Christlike actions echoed by charities like Samaritan’s Purse.
Sadly, the Democratic Party has embraced and echoed this Christianophobia. The DNC adopted a resolution warning against supposed abuses of religious liberty. Presumptive nominee Joe Biden has pushed the Equality Act, which would enforce new non-discrimination rules that would criminalize dissent on same-sex marriage and transgender identity. He has also called for an SPLC-style terror watchlist in the name of preventing attacks against LGBT people.
Christianophobia is real, and the coronavirus has made that undeniable. Americans of every faith and none need to push back against it.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.
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