Ousted Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore and his acolytes are, fittingly enough, suffering from a martyr complex.
The neurosis gets its name from the term oft applied to early Christians, and the side effect of that bloody history seems to have lingered in the religion in the form of a desire to punish oneself. At the very least, in Moore's case, it manifests in a desire to be punished by society because of his beliefs rather than a more rational willingness to endure such persecution.
That medieval trend toward self-flagellation (mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa) may be why so many Christians are falling for the panic mongering Moore's group is using.
Contrary to what they say, Christianity in America is not under attack. The hand on the whip that is striping your back is your own.
Most Christian people who read this need not be offended. I have the highest respect for a person's choice in spirituality, and most Christian people of all denominations are not out of their heads. Far from it, they're good people who generally do good things.
But Roy Moore and his extremist followers are taking advantage of the mumbling discontent in which many Christians have said that they are being "marginalized." That started when the Supreme Court took the prayer out of school in 1962 with the Engel v. Vitale decision.
And yet, is that what really happened? After all, how can you take prayer out of any situation in which a person who wants to pray has control over his or her own mind?
Unless you think that prayer is just saying some words, which is the most juvenile perception of prayer, then you know that prayer can never be taken away. But as it stands now, nobody is telling students they can't speak a word of prayer to themselves so long as they don't disturb the classroom.
That's what I mean when I say you are not being oppressed.
There are cases where the concept of separation of church and state has been misused. The issue of prayer in school is not one of them, since what came before was really forced or coerced prayer, and that is wrong by any standard.
What's happening today, with the exception of a few cases, is a gradual correction of a wrong that has permeated this country for much of its history. Too often we have moved down the slippery slope of allowing our government to make decisions based on religious principles.
The protest of the decision that ruled the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance to be unconstitutional highlights how far this problem has gone. Most people seem to think the pledge is something that Ben Franklin or Thomas Jefferson wrote and has always been in existence.
In fact, a Baptist minister named Francis Bellamy wrote the pledge in 1892, but even he left "under God" out of it. Congress added that phrase in 1954 in a deliberate attempt to distinguish our nation as Christian as opposed to the godless Communist heathens.
With that decision religion became law, and reversing that is fully in keeping with the intent of the founding fathers when they wrote "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion."
If Christians are being marginalized, why are there still laws in Georgia prohibiting the sale of alcohol on Sunday? Only to satisfy the religious beliefs not only of one faith but of a particular denomination of that faith.
Why do so many local governments begin their meetings with a prayer? And it's not just a neutral, "O Unnamed Spiritual Source of All Good" kind of prayer, but one that very specifically invokes Jesus Christ and other exclusively Christian terms.
The problem is not that Roy Moore and his groupies want to put a copy of the specifically Judeo-Christian Ten Commandments in a few public buildings. The problem is they want to continue to insert their particular beliefs in the laws of the land that are supposed to be for all of us, Christian and non-Christian alike.
Christian people are generally good, and they do remarkably good things, but in a way that's part of the problem, too. That's the grease on the aforementioned slippery slope, the fact that it's hard to say "This religion is good, but it doesn't make for good government."
When the federal government starts tearing down churches and arresting Christians, then things would have gone too far. For now, righteousness, if not God, is on the side directly opposite from Moore and Co.
By the way, Franklin did write this on religion.
"When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it sot that its professors are obliged to call for help of the civil power, 'tis a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one."
Ed Brock covers public safety and municipalities for the News Daily. He may be reached at (770) 478-5753 ext. 254 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.