Wednesday, February 20, 2013

This Week's "Anxious Bench" Post at Patheos: "The United States: Christian or 'Secular?'"

Those who of you who thought I had gone off the deep end with last week's critique of Dr. Ben Carson's National Prayer Breakfast speech will probably be even more disturbed by the fact that today I will be speaking at an international conference on secularism.  (I explain my decision to accept the invitation to do a plenary session at this conference in a post that appeared yesterday at The Washington Post).

In light of the "Secularism on the Edge" conference at Georgetown University in Washington D.C.  this week, a reporter asked me to answer a few questions about secularism.  I thought if I posted the questions and my answers here at The Anxious Bench it might trigger some good discussion.

Q: Why is the question of whether America is a Christian nation or a secular nation important? (WHY SHOULD MY READERS CARE?) 

Fea: First a little history.  This was not a question that many people were asking until the 1970s when the emerging Christian Right, led by Jerry Falwell and others, began to convince their followers that "secular humanism" was creeping into schools and other parts of public life and in the process eroding the Christian character of the nation.  The question of whether or not America is a Christian nation thus became a major battleground in the culture wars.  So why does this matter?  It matters because the idea that we are a Christian nation or were founded as a Christian nation informs the way Christian conservative politicians justify policy--from abortion, to stem-cell research, to gay rights, and to what our kids should be learning in school.  The defense of America as a "secular" nation has been a response to this view.

Read the rest here.