One of Irish television leading public square venues, The Frontline, recently took up the question of whether or not Irish faith communities were under attack from an aggressive secularism. It was, to say the least, a somewhat inconclusive debate. It might have been much better had it been asked to confront Michael Coren, whose latest book, Heresy: Ten Lies They Spread About Christianity has just been published.
Coren, English born Canadian journalist and broadcaster, of Jewish antecedents, convert to Catholicism (twice), has just been interviewed by Charles Lewis in the National Post and spells out his view very clearly. In the West generally, he believes, Christians are now
“marginalized, they’re mocked, they’re told their views don’t belong, they’re told to keep their views out of the public square and keep their religion at home. And where it can be quite sinister is at universities where Christian students are told that their ideas are stupid. I’ve even seen it with my children who are in university. Somehow Christianity is not a valid area of thought any longer. You can bring your socialism, your feminism, your homosexuality, your anti-Zionism into the class but if you bring your Christianity that’s not to be taken seriously.”
No Christian carrying a banner for their Faith in the cultural mainstream of the West today would have any difficulty producing evidence to uphold every one of these assertions. Any Catholic in Ireland today, seriously faithful to the teaching authority of that Church knows full well that they are on the frontline of a battle with a very militant force opposing them on all and more of the issues listed by Coren.
Coren calls Christianity the most abused faith on Earth. “I believe the evidence is overwhelming,” he writes.
“I believe… that Christianity is the main, central, most common, and most thoroughly and purposefully marginalized, obscured, and publicly and privately mis-represented belief system in the final decades of the twentieth century and the opening years of the twenty-first century.” He rails that the same intellectual class that so quickly condemns anything Christian will do cartwheels to explain away Islamic terrorism.
Lewis put it to Coren in his interview that there is a lot about Christianity that can seem unreal: the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection of Jesus. Is it any surprise that people sometimes have trouble taking it seriously? To this Coren replies that these are really side-shows in the mocking game and that what they are really mocked for are the moral consequences of their beliefs: that life begins at conception and ends at natural death, that abortion is wrong, that promiscuity is wrong. “We live in a culture where no one wants to hear the word ‘no’” he says.
He lays bare the culture of intolerance facing orthodox Christianity:
“Intelligent people will give other ideologies and other religions a great deal of room to try to understand. When it comes to Christianity they seem to assume that any sense of fairness or sympathy should be thrown out the window. They will say things that are blatantly stupid.
“The idea that because a tiny number of Catholic priests acted in an appalling manner should jaundice everything said by the Roman Catholic Church is also so illogical. You might as well say that no comment by a Canadian should ever be taken seriously because there are some serial killers in Canada.”
On the issue of orthodox Christians’ position on homosexual acts he says they are being told our view on homosexuality is somehow wrong and called homophobic. “They’re going to be called homophobic whatever they do. I think the Catholic Church has spent too much time worrying about the reaction it might get rather than reacting itself.
“If someone calls me a homophobe because I believe marriage is between one man and one woman, then I would rejoice in that. But frankly, with gay friends, I try to avoid the subject. They know I am opposed to gay marriage and they also know I’m fond of them as people and would defend them against personal attack. But let me be clear, anyone who hates gay people is a moral criminal.”
In the book Coren defends, but also contextualizes, the fact that the abortion question has such a high profile for Christians in the culture wars. In the first place it is because they feel intensely that they’re part of an institution given by God. This institution upholds the sacredness of all human life. Because of that “they feel it more when the most vulnerable are destroyed. And they feel it more intensely than other people. I guess we are obsessed because it is such a tragedy. And if we dare to mention it, the world tells us to be quiet.”
In his book Coren takes on Dan Brown’s ludicrous but astonishingly popular The Da Vinci Code. Why, his interviewer asks, given that by now Brown’s pot-boiler has become somewhat passé?
“Well,” he says, “it has influenced millions of people. They’ve been led by the book to read other books that oppose Christianity. Brown quotes real people and he makes a lot of it seem like non-fiction. I thought it was worth taking on again.” Above all he wanted to make sure that what is in The Da Vinci Code is shown again to be false.
So, the next time Radio Telefis Eireann, the BBC or any other broadcaster, takes up the issue of whether or not militant secularism is a reality, perhaps they should get an airline ticket for Michael Coren and bring him on to give us his formidable point of view.