The question still remains as to the incidence of bigotry among Christians. Even if we allow for the presence of natural bias, some segments of the Christian population have had a dismal record on bigotry. Probably the most repugnant is the coincidence of the slave belt and the Bible belt. Conservative Protestants have also exhibited bigotry against women's equality, against other religious groups, such as Jews, or even other branches of Christianity, such as Catholics. And let's not even mention their attitude towards gays. Conservative Protestants have also been on the receiving end of bigotry from countless academic, media and entertainment figures.
We must distinguish between two cases. The first is when Christians are guilty of bigotry, the second is when they are accused of bigotry. These are by no means the same thing. In the first case, Christians allow their cultural values to overpower their faith. Or, another way to put it, they allow other loyalties to take the place of their identification with Christ -- such as their skin color, language or sex. Again, we must reiterate that preferences along these and similar lines are evidence of ordinary bias, and as such are unavoidable. But when such qualities become the lens through which God, the world, and outsiders are viewed, when there is an expression of "ontological superiority" -- then we have crossed a line. Ultimately, bigotry is not primarily a violation of civil rights as much as a spiritual error -- it is a mistaking of the relative for the absolute, which is to say idolatry. Christian bigotry does not express Biblical faith, but corrupts it -- Bible history is subsumed into the manifest destiny of the white race, for example. Or -- the doctrine that the curse of Ham dooms Africans to a role of perpetual servitude. A key ingredient of bigotry is the assumption that "we" are the fulfillment of history. All bright spots of the past were precursors and forerunners of our group, our party, our cause. All those outside of our group are inferior, contrary to historical destiny, and morally evil.
Christian bigotry needs to be called out -- by other Christians. Christianity's message is about the supremacy of the grace of God and not about the supremacy of Christians. Unfortunately, not all who claim the doctrine of Christ are representatives of the Biblical faith. It is a perennial temptation to elevate some aspect of our brokenness into a sign of election. Though the Holy Spirit exerts a "check" on all expressions of human pride, it is not hard to ignore or suppress "the still small voice." A bigoted gospel is a toxic gospel that misrepresents Christ in the world, as in the example of classic Southern white racism. The judgment of Scripture falls on such expressions of religious bigotry:
“God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you” Ro 2:24.
The second case has to do with the accusation of bigotry, and is often made by political activists or academics against Christian opponents. The subject of controversy may be one of any number of hot-button social issues where political and religious values clash -- women's rights/fetus rights, gay marriage, government-run healthcare, even minimum-wage and climate change. In fact, the scope of political intrusion in personal life is so extensive today that almost every political decision has religious/moral implications -- tax policy, gun laws, immigration, even zoning rules. It is not uncommon for the focus of the dispute to shift from policy details to the alleged motivation of those who disagree with them. The Christian who speaks up is accused of being a homophobe, misogynist or racist. As we saw in the previous bias blog post, the use of ad hominem arguments is a convenient way to avoid defending the policies themselves. It is also an indicator of possible bigotry on the part of the one who uses these labels.
To judge by the frequency of the accusations of bigotry, America must be seething with unwashed hordes of racists, rightwingers, Klansmen and of course woman-haters (many of the latter being female). There must be something vitally wrong with American society to produce all these malcontents... and indeed there is. As a disease may manifest itself in a body in multiple symptoms, so there is a common ideological basis for many of these alleged extremisms. If we were to name that ideology, it might be the "Judeo-Christian heritage" in American history. This is the idea, expressed in the roughest terms, that America has a divine destiny, a transcendent purpose, a responsibility and accountability to God (variously defined) -- and is not just an experiment in human engineering for the good of the greatest number or for the party in power. This core idea, which can be traced to the very founding of this nation, has been treated by our media, educators, entertainers, and many political authorities as a pestilence to be eradicated. This is done by legal means (eg pro-abortion laws, gay marriage, prohibition of teacher-led prayers), but more pervasively by public ridicule, propaganda, values conditioning (i.e. "diversity training"), and disenfranchisement (when judges overturn state-wide propositions that were passed by the voters -- such as Prop 8 in California).
In these cases, the accusation of bigotry against Christians is a cover for the real objective, which is the eradication of Christian influence in the public arena. The real issue isn't really a manger scene at the town hall, or a cross erected on public property decades ago, or an innocuous prayer at a civic gathering. It's about depicting Christianity as a negative legacy of history, and suppressing any expression of it. It's also about re-imagining the future America as a religionless state -- at least insofar as public influence is concerned. One might justly characterize the secularist agenda as a campaign against transcendent values of any kind. Humanism is the trump card of the hour. Secularism's goal is more than just the dethronement of Christianity in the public sphere, it intends to eliminate all value systems that claim divine origin. This means that most accusations of bigotry against people of faith by political, media or academic leaders are actually projections of their own bigotry against religion itself.