10 Things Traditional Christians Got Terribly Wrong
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5) Catholics. Modern American conservative Protestants embrace Catholics and have even started to borrow some Catholic arguments against things like abortion and contraception. But in the early 19th and 20th centuries, there was widespread anti-Catholic sentiment, much of it tied up in hostility to Catholic immigrants. There was even an anti-Catholic political party in the early 19th century. Catholics were viewed as idolaters and drunkards by many Protestants, but by far the most bizarre relic of anti-Catholic paranoia is the fear that evil shenanigans were going on in nunneries. A woman writing under the pseudonym “Maria Monk” penned a best-selling book where she claimed to have escaped a convent where she was forced to be a sex slave and pressed into the act of killing babies and hiding their corpses. Needless to say, none of her accusations should be taken as anything approaching true. Anti-Catholic paranoia also led to another Christian-led folly…
6) Prohibition. Hostility to Catholic immigrants was a large part of the reason temperance mania took over many Protestant communities in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Despite the fact that Jesus was a wine drinker, abstinence from alcohol—and forcing abstinence on others by force of law—became a major Christian cause during this period, leading up to Prohibition. This was true, even though many in the temperance movement were also aligned with the suffragist cause, making Prohibition one of the few Christian follies that weighs as heavily on the progressive Christian tradition as it does the conservative one. Luckily, it took little more than a decade for the bigtime error that was banning alcohol to be fixed.
7) Segregation. Religious leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. led the desegregation movement, but it’s also important to note that the pro-segregation movement was also conceived as a Christian one. Arguments against “race mixing” were largely framed in religious terms. The judge who initially ruled against the interracial couple in Loving v. Virginia argued that the “Almighty God” put people on separate continents and “did not intend for the races to mix.” Christian right leader Jerry Falwell got his start fighting to uphold segregation, giving sermons about how integration was offensive to God. As Max Blumenthal noted in the Nation, the modern religious right as we know it started off as a movement to defend segregation.
8) Contraception. From the beginning of the “birth control movement,” Christian conservatives fought to keep women from being able to have sex without getting pregnant. Devout Christian Anthony Comstock successfully convinced Congress in 1872 that contraception was ungodly, leading to a federal ban on sharing birth control information across state lines. This was finally repealed in 1936. In 1963, the Supreme Court ended anti-contraception laws for married women. Finally, in 1971, the Supreme Court also eliminated the last of the god-bothering anti-contraception laws banning birth control for single people. Nowadays, 99 percent of sexually active women have used contraception at some point in their lives.
9) School prayer. Along with supporting segregation and opposing feminism, the third issue that created the modern religious right is the issue of prayer in public schools. In 1961 , the Supreme Court ruled against school-led prayers, even if they were supposedly voluntary. Instead of giving up a chance to use schools as a way to foist their beliefs on the unwilling, the religious right spent and continues to spend the next 50-plus years trying to find some way to sneak religious indoctrination/bullying of non-believers into public schools. They’ve attempted to sneak it in by having students lead it, as if that makes it less coercive. Recently, in Rhode Island , they tried to sneak it in by having it written on a wall instead of recited. Most attempts fail in court. Even though there’s no evidence that these bullying tactics have ever converted anyone to their faith, they keep trying.