By Andrew Seidel
WorldNetDaily, a right-wing religious ânewsâ outfit, recently interviewed U.S. Representative Steve King, R-Iowa. King attempts to prove that American is a Christian nation, but succeeds only in showing his stunning arrogance.
King begins by claiming, âyou could not build America without Christianity,â citing specifically the Ten Commandments. I have thoroughly debunked this claim (see a video of the debunking here and here) and am working on a book on the topic. Iâm going to focus on the supercilious âproofâ King once addressed to Alan Colmes:
âThis is a Christian nation and I will prove it to you. If you drive home tonight and you drive in your driveway and your neighborâs dog has gotten loose and runs in front of your car and you run over your neighborâs dog and kill the neighborâs dog, if youâre any kind of a man youâll go over to the neighbor and knock on the door and say, âI killed your dog.â Alan, thatâs called confession.
And the next thing that you will say is, âIâm sorry, I didnât mean to.â âŠ And thatâs confession and then repentance. And then once you repent, youâll say, âplease forgive me, I didnât mean to kill your dog.â And if your neighbor is any kind of a man your neighbor will say, âAlan, you didnât mean to kill the dog, it really wasnât your fault, youâve confessed, youâve repented, and you are forgiven.â Thatâs called redemption.â
A common perception of Christianity, or perhaps a common Christian self-perception, is that Christianity or Christians are humble and that atheists, humanists, and scientists are arrogant. Dwell briefly on this notion and it is quickly and correctly reversed. Christianity claims to know ultimate truth with absolute certainty on the basis of no evidence. Atheists, humanists, and scientists claim to have answers supported by evidence, not faith, and are willing to alter their views should new evidence arise. The conceit falls on the side of unshakable faith.
Kingâs claim is the latest of many arrogant claims Christian nationalists make while attempting to prove our nation is really their nation. For instance, youâve probably heard the claim that we are a Christian nation because we were founded on the Golden Rule. What arrogance! The Golden Rule is not originally or even uniquely Christian. Ancient Egyptians wrote down formulations more than 2,000 years before Christ was supposedly born. The Greeks documented it some 600 years before. This is a universal, human principle that any child can intuit â and it is arrogance to claim it for a particular faith. The same can be said of the claim that the Ten Commandments are responsible for Americaâs prohibitions on killing, stealing and lying. Addressing this argument in a debate with Al Sharpton, Christopher Hitchens rhetorically asked, âIs it really to be believed that until they got to the foot of Mt. Sinai, the followers of Moses believed that, up till then, adultery, murder, theft and perjury were OK?â Of course not. The assertion that Judeo-Christianity has bestowed these prohibitions on the human race is as incorrect as it is arrogant.
Kingâs argument is simply the latest instance of such arrogance. Claiming that accepting responsibility for errors, apologies, and forgiveness are uniquely and originally Christian takes Christian presumption and hubris to a whole new level. Feeling pain and regret for hurting another living being is called compassion or empathy and it is a universal human emotion (and not solely human, see here.) Apologizing for oneâs errors or wrongs and accepting responsibility for the harm they cause are elements of our shared humanity. They are not inventions of the Christian religion.
King also gets Christianity wrong. Christianity does not require or even advocate that its adherents accept responsibility or apologize for wrongs. The central tenet of Christianity â that Jesus died for your sins and, by accepting him as your savior those sins are forgiven â is a complete abrogation of personal responsibility. In Kingâs run-on, run-over example, the truly Christian response to the horrific accident is not to ask the neighbor for forgiveness, it is to ask forgiveness from an imaginary friend who died for all your sins. Through Jesus the scapegoat, Christianity removes all responsibility for mistakes and wrongdoing from oneâs shoulders. It also takes the responsibility of forgiving from the neighbor and gives it to that self-same imaginary friend.
This is the perfect refutation of compassion and empathy. Instead of centering the incident on the victim (the neighbor), Christianity centers it on the Christian. The victim is superfluous. Apology and redemption are obtained without the pesky need to accept responsibility for oneâs actions.
Empathy, compassion, guilt, forgiveness, morality and responsibility cannot be claimed as the monopoly of one religion. They are, to borrow from Hitchens again, part of our âelementary human solidarity.â Unfortunately, so is presumption. Kingâs argument does nothing to prove that we are a Christian nation, but it does go a long way toward proving how arrogant the Christian nationalist can be.