Apr 102006

The latest attempt to distract Americans from important issues has been a declaration by the wingnuts on the religious right that there is a “war on Christians.” Just two weeks ago, a conference titled, “War on Christians” was held in Washington, D.C., of course only 300 participants showed up. (Just like Washington…to hold a war without enough troops.)

Obviously, there’s a possible difference of opinion on whether or not such a war really exists. But a little focus is never a bad thing when it comes to understanding.

On April 4, the Los Angeles Times published an article about Wal-Mart selling the video for “Brokeback Mountain.” The subtitle was “Christian group accuses the retailer of ‘pushing an agenda’ by featuring the gay-themed film.”

“It wasn’t even a blockbuster movie,” insisted Randy Sharp, director of special projects for the 3-million member American Family Association, “so if Wal-Mart isn’t trying to push an agenda, why would they put it at the front door?” Sharp noted that the national retailer was “trying to help normalize homosexuality in society.”

This is just one minor skirmish, but indicative of much more. We can only pray that at a certain point in life, people of good will have to say enough already.  

If someone doesn’t like “Brokeback Mountain” because it was poorly produced, so be it. If you hated its suggestion that there might be two gay cowboys in the world, fair enough. If you believe that your religion considers something, anything, everything a sin, you are entitled to live in whatever vision of Hell you want.

(Of course, if one is going to believe it’s against their religion for a store to sell a movie, you’d think they’d at least make it “Deuce Bigelow, European Gigolo.”)

And the thing is, if you want to tell a store what not to sell, you can do that, too. It’s your right as a consumer. Just don’t buy it. If enough people don’t purchase a product, it will no longer be offered. It is absurd to think that Wal-mart has any agenda other than making money. Wal-mart is probably the least socially aware company in the world.

But just know that telling a store what to sell isn’t about religion.

Religion is held in the heart, practiced in a place of worship, acted upon between individuals and their God, and lived by how we treat others.

That’s religion. Buying a product at the store, well that’s what we call shopping.

If you feel it’s the right of Religion (and that means all religion) to determine what is sold, then accept right now that beer and wine is off the shelves. Bacon, too. Also, hamburgers. Apparently the drug Ritalin might have to be removed these days. Stop selling condoms. (Boy, will that eventually open up the abortion debate…) For that matter, shut down all businesses on the Sabbath.

And somewhere, you have to believe there’s a religion that believes wood products are bad. Or that chewing gum is the devil incarnate.

The list is literally endless. And – obviously – ridiculous. No one with a modicum of sense believes that Religions should determine what should be sold in stores.

To the actual masses of true faith, religion is sacred, enriching and deeply personal. Religion is far too uplifting to the noble soul of Mankind for anyone to drag its name through the mud for their own self-serving temporal campaigns.

Just look at their very own quote: “It wasn’t even a blockbuster movie.” So, does this mean if it was a blockbuster, selling it would be okay. Then Wal-Mart wouldn’t be “pushing an agenda” in the War on Christianity? One doesn’t normally think of a religion as relying on box-office numbers for its holy tenets. Then again, Variety is known as the bible of Hollywood.

(Of course, the truth is, “Brokeback Mountain” was a blockbuster. At this writing, it’s made $166 million worldwide and cost only $14 million. It won over 15 Best Picture honors around the world.)

Keep in mind that the AFA’s outrage was oddly limited only to the movie being sold at Wal-Mart. Evidently, the War on Christianity does not extend as far as Netflix.

If you are going to get into a contest over your religion being attacked, you should tread carefully when there is very real, very deadly religious war occurring, as between Shiite Muslims, Sunnis and Kurds in Iraq. Or when ethnic cleansing of Hindus in Bangladesh is ongoing for 50 years. Or within the past decade, when Serbian Orthodox and Muslims battled in Kosovo, and an ethnic-religious bloodbath devastated Bosnia. Or within the lifetime of many still alive today, there was the Holocaust. Those are Wars on Religion.

Wars on religion are profoundly serious. That’s why it’s not a good idea to use up your chips over selling a movie video. That’s why none of this is a War on Religion. Why none is a War on Christianity. It’s just a small group of people whose larger table has most of the pie, but they want it all.

Enough is enough. Here are the facts for the War on Christianity. (Facts, what a concept.) From Adherents.com, in 1990 there were 151 million Christians in the United States. In 2004, there were…224 million.

Yes, that’s right. In the last 14 years, Christianity has increased in the United States by 43%. And that’s 76% of the entire country.

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