American politicians from both the right and left often talk about the “War on Christianity” as justification for their social policies. Those who complain about their rights being infringed cite the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution which states, among other things, that Americans have the right to freedom of religion. They also cite that America was founded as a Protestant Christian nation and therefore should remain as such.
Before going deeper into this topic, let’s look at some quantitative facts. It is true that Christianity has decreased in popularity in recent years, having gone from 78.4% to 70.6% of the American population from 2007 to 2014 according to the Pew Research Center poll on America’s Changing Religious Landscape. Rather than a War on Christianity, this decrease is more likely due to the growing numbers of religiously unaffiliated Americans, with those identifying as “unaffiliated” growing from 16.1% in 2007 to 22.8% according to the same Pew poll. Most significantly to the discussion of this article, the number of American Muslims has also grown, increasing from 0.4% of the population to 0.9%.
The events of the past few weeks (as well as a more extensive pattern since the wake of 9/11) has resulted in anti-Arab and anti-Muslim attitudes all across the United States. The country has been plagued by mosque burnings, hate-crime murders of Muslims, and widespread discrimination among individuals.
In my experience, many of the people discriminating against Muslims are the very Protestant Christians who feel that their rights are being infringed upon. The current GOP candidates are among those waging, to adopt their phrase, a War on Islam. Ben Carson has stated that in order to become President of the United States, a Muslim would have to “reject the tenets of Islam”. Former candidate in the 2012 election Newt Gingrich claimed in 2011 that “Sharia is a mortal threat to the survival of freedom in the United States”. These politicians, including countless others such as Mike Huckabee, Donald Trump, and Ted Cruz, are inciting this War on Islam to the detriment of both American Muslims and Muslims all around the world. Do we see these things happening to American Christians solely because of their religious beliefs? A 2011 study from the FBI found that hate crimes against Christians in America are fairly rare, with only 35 incidents against Protestant Christians compared to the 135 against Muslims and a shocking 625 against Jews. Solely based on these numbers, it is hard to defend the existence of the War on Christianity. So how does this influence the 2016 Presidential campaign?
Candidates (yeah I’m looking at you, GOP) need to cut the hate-crime inducing language that spurs radical Christians to act against Muslims. If they fail to do so, I fear that my country will see attacks by terrorist groups as a response, which is by no means a proper or justified response either. It will be interesting to see how the rest of the campaign progresses on this issue as candidates like Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio have come out against Donald Trump’s recent comments (see my last article for a whole can of worms on that subject). I hope for the best but fear the worst.
With 332 days until the election,