Overestimating Hostility to Religion, and Misunderstanding Evangelical Christians

Feb. 14 2022

Responding to two essays on the state of evangelical Christianity in the U.S., John Wilson—an evangelical himself—describes how detached both are from his own experiences. One of the essays asserts that until about 1994, American society was, in general, favorably disposed to Christianity, and only since about 2014 has it become hostile:

Recently I wrote about how when I started college (in the fall of 1966), God used my professors’ utter contempt for “organized religion,” their certainty that no educated person could continue to hold such primitive convictions, to help draw me back to the faith in which I had been raised. In the 1980s, I worked for a reference publisher. One day over lunch, one of my fellow editors asked me (making clear he intended no offense) how someone like me (he meant, in part, someone who read a lot) could be very much a small-o orthodox Christian of the evangelical variety. His question was genuine. We had a good conversation.

As for the suggestion in the other essay, by David Brooks, that “modernity” has “left us with bitterness and division,” Wilson writes:

I have read the equivalent of those sentences (with their invocation of “modernity”) thousands of times, and yet I can’t understand how people (let alone people I myself have learned so much from) find them persuasive. This claim always seems to me to be radically ahistorical, for there has been bitterness and division among humans since the fall—it is hardly an invention of modernity.

And what of the coming post-religious future?

[W]e continue to worship each Sunday at Faith Covenant Church in Wheaton, Illinois. We share the astonishing convictions and hopes that have sustained the faithful for 2,000 years, extravagant as they sometimes seem, all too often distorted by misguided believers . . .

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Read more at First Things

More about: American Religion, Evangelical Christianity

How European Fecklessness Encourages the Islamic Republic’s Assassination Campaign

In September, Cypriot police narrowly foiled a plot by an Iranian agent to murder five Jewish businessman. This was but one of roughly a dozen similar operations that Tehran has conducted in Europe since 2015—on both Israeli or Jewish and American targets—which have left three dead. Matthew Karnitschnig traces the use of assassination as a strategic tool to the very beginning of the Islamic Republic, and explains its appeal:

In the West, assassination remains a last resort (think Osama bin Laden); in authoritarian states, it’s the first (who can forget the 2017 assassination by nerve agent of Kim Jong-nam, the playboy half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, upon his arrival in Kuala Lumpur?). For rogue states, even if the murder plots are thwarted, the regimes still win by instilling fear in their enemies’ hearts and minds. That helps explain the recent frequency. Over the course of a few months last year, Iran undertook a flurry of attacks from Latin America to Africa.

Whether such operations succeed or not, the countries behind them can be sure of one thing: they won’t be made to pay for trying. Over the years, the Russian and Iranian regimes have eliminated countless dissidents, traitors, and assorted other enemies (real and perceived) on the streets of Paris, Berlin, and even Washington, often in broad daylight. Others have been quietly abducted and sent home, where they faced sham trials and were then hanged for treason.

While there’s no shortage of criticism in the West in the wake of these crimes, there are rarely real consequences. That’s especially true in Europe, where leaders have looked the other way in the face of a variety of abuses in the hopes of reviving a deal to rein in Tehran’s nuclear-weapons program and renewing business ties.

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Read more at Politico

More about: Europe, Iran, Israeli Security, Terrorism