(/sites/default/files/uploads/2012/05/heresy.jpg)Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Michael Coren, a television host, radio personality, syndicated columnist, author, and speaker. His TV show The Arena airs on Sun News Network in Canada. He is the author of Why Catholics Are Right, which was on the Canadian best-seller list for three months. His new book is Heresy: Ten Lies They Spread About Christianity.
FP: Michael Coren, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
Let’s begin with you telling us why you wrote this book.
Coren: The most direct and practical answer is that the publisher, Random House, asked me to do so. The last one, defending Catholicism, had sold more than 50,000 copies, and so a large, secular publishing house had realized what a hunger there was out there for books explaining the Christian position to a mass audience. I wanted to go beyond the Catholic Church, to the attacks on universal Christianity and Christians. There are lots of books about prayer for example – perhaps too many! – but very few that respond to all of the most common attacks on the Christianity. I always take an eclectic approach. So as well as history and theology, I cover science and abortion, the De Vinci Code and biographies of great Christian writers, and so on. It’s supposed to be a handbook of Christian self-defense if you like.
FP: Share with us why and how Christians and Christianity are under attack in our culture. What are some of the lies and myths about Christianity and Christians?
Coren: The book takes on the most common and toxic of the attacks on Christianity: Jesus didn’t exist, Christians oppose progress, are scared of science, they’re obsessed with abortion, they’re racist and supported slavery, Hitler was a Christian, and so on.
But the supportive premise is that Christians are not treated fairly. Take the example of the Norwegian murderer Anders Behring Breivik. After his arrest, it took only hours for the media to label him a Christian. He identified himself, they said, as a “cultural Christian”. Those of who understand religion, however, know that this is shorthand for “only a cultural Christian”. Then we had Breivik’s manifesto. “Regarding my personal relationship with God, I guess I’m not an excessively religious man. I am first and foremost a man of logic. If you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God then you are a religious Christian. Myself and many more like me do not necessarily have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God.”
But none of it mattered. Just as it doesn’t when we’re told that Timothy McVeigh was a Christian – he left the Church when he was a youth, and wrote that, “science is my religion.” The reason that so many in mainstream media are so hysterically eager to call Breivik and McVeigh Christians, or claim that abortionists are regular targets for armed pro-life fanatics is not only that they are opposed to Christianity, but that they are obsessed with relativism.
Commentators take every shape imaginable in their attempts to report Islamic terror as something other than Islamic. Because, they argue, all religions are the same, and all equally capable of producing violent fundamentalism. Yet Christian fundamentalism is extremely rare, and when it does occur leads to rejections of evolution rather than rejections of law and order, and snake rather than dynamite handling. For the media to admit that different religions lead to different assumptions about pluralism and different approaches to human dignity would lead to the invincible conclusion that there is a qualitative distinction and hierarchy. That, to the moral and intellectual relativist, is heresy itself.
The examples of anti-Christian behavior are legion. In the west it takes the form of ejection from the public square and the workplace, legal restrictions, mockery, and abuse. In the developing and Islamic world it is far more serious: persecution, arrest, torture, murder. Objective, secular sources agree that Christians are the most oppressed group in the world right now, and the number and intensity of attacks is staggering. A mere book cannot do very much for the millions of believers who risk life and limb, but it can empower and perhaps even embolden Christians in the west who feel weighed down every time a critical remark is made.
Being a book about Christianity, Heresy is in the forgiving business. But forgiveness does not mean forgetting the truth. We have to be resolute in what is and what isn’t, which is why I’ve taken on the most frequent arguments used against followers of Christ. Some of them are simply ludicrous, the stuff of internet wisdom and website philosophy. The notion that Hitler was a Christian is schoolboy stuff, and profoundly insulting to the Christians who opposed the man and who he in turn slaughtered. Of course there were people calling themselves Christian who were Nazis, but this says nothing at all about Christianity but a great deal about hypocrisy. Nazis were often street thugs, but National Socialism itself was an ideology, replacing Messiah with Fuehrer, Church with party, love with hate, soul with will, protection of the weakest with survival of the fittest. Even a cursory reading of Nazi theorists will reveal the sheer idiocy of the claim.
Similarly with the alleged Christian opposition to science and progress. The Christian Church has in many ways been the hand maiden of science, and the only reason opponents mention Galileo all the time is that he’s about the only scientist who Christianity didn’t always treat properly – mind you, his story is far from the caricature presented by Brecht and his comrades. The same applies to the claim that there is no evidence that Jesus existed, or that The De Vinci Code is credible, or that bad things happening to good people is somehow a difficulty for Christians. This one is especially annoying, because it’s so badly thought out. Not only do bad things happen to good people, but – just as annoying – good things happen to bad ones. But that’s a problem for the atheist, not the believer. We understand that God guaranteed not a good life, but a perfect eternity. The dying child, the cancer-stricken philanthropist is a dilemma for the materialist, not for someone who knows there is an immortal soul and that life does not end in the hospital sick bed.
Neither this nor any of the other atheist talking points that I dismantle in the book are terrors to anybody who know their faith. The problem is that too few Christians do fully understand it, and many of those who do have been cowered into silence if not submission by a culture that imposes uniformity in its purported lust for diversity. There’s irony for you.
FP: A big double standard with how Muslims and the Islamic faith are treated right? How come?
Coren: As I mentioned above, the hypocrisy is overwhelming. A lot of this is the racism of lowered expectations – the liberal elite assume such behavior is typical of black and brown people, and also that it would be ban manners and politically incorrect to judge them. Sickening!
White guilt is a terrible thing to waste. Something that became profoundly clear during the trial of Mohammad Shafia, his wife Tooba Yahya and their son Hamed. Although the case was shocking, it was in fact only the most recent of a dozen murders in the last twelve years, most involving Muslim patriarchs killing young girls who wanted to be horribly western by wearing nice clothes, doing nice things. Which brings us to the greater point here, with more long-term consequences than this single repugnant case. The authorities – be they police, politicians, social workers, media – are obsessed with appearing to be non-judgmental when Islam is concerned; partly out of a fear of being accused of Islamaphobia, but also because they genuinely believe that the white, Christian west has more to learn from Islam than the contrary. The Shafia girls had pleaded with their teachers for help, and while front line social workers acknowledged that the situation was potentially disastrous, the concerns evaporated as soon as they reached middle management. So Mohammad Shafia, who had written of his daughters that he hoped “the devil shits on their graves” was, effectively, permitted to commit mass murder.
Yet even months after the Shafia case, commentators are embarrassingly, cringingly, reluctant to link the crime in any way with Islam, and it is described as domestic violence. No! This was not domestic violence but yet another example of an Islamic psychosis that has its epicenter in Pakistan, but extends to most parts of the Islamic heartland, and many in the Muslim diaspora. It’s a self-evident truth that not all Muslims behave so brutally, but it’s also undeniable that Islam teaches that a woman is the property of a father, then a husband. Most fathers and husbands are kind, but if they are not they are empowered by Koranic teaching and the prism of Sharia law to behave pretty much as they like.
While it’s true that honor killings are not exclusively Muslim, Islam is the only faith that boasts textual defense and sacred justification for such grotesque acts. When 16-year-old Aqsa Parvez was murdered in 2007 honor killing by her Pakistani father and brother, CAIR Canada told the gullible that, “It’s important not to generalize. There are cases of violence across all faiths and all cultures.” That was rubbish, but worse than Muslim extremists hiding the truth, are non-Muslims embracing lies without question. We saw this during the Parisian riots, when mobs of overwhelmingly Muslim youths beat and torched their way through the city, often screaming “Allahu Akbar.” Yet they were almost never described as being Muslim by the media. So different from when the Norwegian killer Anders Behring Breivik, a freemason who wrote that he had no relationship with God and had not attended a church in fifteen years, was repeatedly defined as a “Christian fundamentalist” on international television.
In the United States, President Obama played this game of obscene hide-and-seek when he dealt with Major Nidal Malik Hasan, the US Army psychiatrist who killed 13 colleagues and wounded dozens more. Even though Hasan identified himself as a Muslim radical and told friends that it was the duty of a Muslim to wage war against the US Army, Obama refused to refer to the man’s religion.
He has gone further. Under the current administration, and to a degree even under his predecessor, moderate Muslims have been marginalized and almost excluded from the political establishment and halls of power. It’s the racism of lowered expectations. Fundamentalist organizations have convinced white liberals that only activists with beards or burkas are genuine Muslims, and to think otherwise is colonial and patronizing.
Then we have the sugar-coating approach. In Canada The CBC produces Little Mosque on the Prairie. The imam is a handsome, progressive young man with a liberated, pretty wife. His fellow Muslims are fun-loving, tolerant, unlike the local Christian preacher, who is a bigoted ignoramus, or the conservative radio talk-show host, who screams all the time. The achingly bland show has been sold across the world, but oddly enough no episode about honour killings or female genital mutilation has so far been made. Can you imagine a CBC programme showing the nice, gentle side of pro-lifers or evangelicals or serious Catholics? And the same applies to the US, Britain, and everywhere there is an Islamic community.
FP: Tell us some of the truths about Christians and their authentic beliefs.
Coren: Let’s take just one chapter of the book, the Da Vinci Code. Dan Brown claims claims that Jesus was regarded even by His followers as merely a great moral teacher or at best a prophet. They never thought of Him as a Messianic figure, he continues, and the earliest written documents substantiate this. It was only at the Council of Nicaea in 325AD that Jesus was said to be divine.
Not quite. Jesus is called “God” seven times in the New Testament and is referred to as divine on dozens of occasions. He was crucified not for being a prophet or an ethicist, or for that matter a champion of social justice, but for claiming to be the Son of God. The early martyrs died because of this belief alone.
There are numerous letters from pagan and thus objective writers from the first and second century, long before Nicaea, describing how Christians believe Jesus to be divine; including one written to the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, who died in AD180. All the Council of Nicaea did was to affirm that Jesus was the Son of God as a self-evident truth.
Brown then says that The Dead Sea Scrolls are the earliest Christian writings in existence and that The Gnostic Gospels frequently mention Mary Magdalene and her marriage to Jesus.
This really is a howler. The Dead Sea Scrolls are Jewish writings and have no direct connection with Christianity at all. As for those much-discussed Gnostic Gospels, they at no time mention Jesus being married to Mary. But then Dan Brown probably doesn’t expect his readers to actually read the Gnostic Gospels.
If they did they would be extremely disappointed. They are often misogynistic, frequently contradictory and tend to be self-serving and achingly dull. They were rejected by the Church because they were written relatively late and are wholly unreliable. It was not a case of Christianity trying to hide some greater truth but of Christianity only adopting books that were, well, Christian.
If Brown doesn’t think much of the Church, he doesn’t like Constantine very much at all. Except when he thinks him a virtual god. “The Bible, as we know it today, was collated by the pagan Roman Emperor Constantine.” Who knew? Certainly not Constantine. Because the Old Testament existed even before the birth of Jesus, and the New Testament began to take shape at the end of the first century. The compilation was not finalized until the end of the fourth century.
Constantine, however, died in 337AD. In other words, there is no way that he could have compiled The Bible. What he certainly did do was to commission Eusebius, the genius Bishop of Carthage, to make fifty copies of the Bible that already existed so that more people could read it. No serious historian has ever claimed otherwise or written anything to support Brown’s thesis. Proving that Dan Brown is no historian.
Fine, argue his advocates, he doesn’t claim to be. True, but he does claim that distinction for others. “The royal bloodline of Jesus Christ has been chronicled in exhaustive detail by scores of historians”. The historians he lists are Margaret Starbird, Richard Leigh, Henry Lincoln, Clive Prince, Lynn Picknett and Michael Baigent. Problem. Just like Dan Brown these aren’t historians either. Baigent has a basic degree in psychology and is working on an MA in mysticism and Picknett and Prince are best known for their work on the occult and UFOs. Phone home ET, and tell us about Jesus and his family who all live in France.
Brown is often at his most fatuous when he tries to be at his most clever. He writes that YHWH, the Jewish sacred name for God, is based on the word Jehovah. And Jehovah, he says, is a combination of the masculine Jah and the feminine Havah, signifying Eve. Thus God gave us feminism, Jesus was a pioneer of progressive gender politics and the Church has hidden all of this to preserve male power and exclude women, particularly Mary Magdalene, from their rightful place in society and culture.
Dan, you’ve got your politics and your semantics rather confused. YHWH doesn’t come from Jehovah but Jehovah from YHWH. The word was used thousands of years before Jehovah came into existence, as late as the sixteenth-century.
He goes on to say that The Priory of Sion was founded in early medieval Europe. Untrue. It was registered with the French government in a dusty office in 1956. His central bad guy is an Opus Dei monk. Hardly. Opus Dei is an overwhelmingly lay organization and they have no monks. He states that five million women were killed by the Church as witches. Actually between 30,000 and 100,000 people, men and women, were executed for various crimes, including witchcraft. He refers to the Pope in the Vatican long before the Pope lived in the Vatican. And so on and so on and so on.
FP: How should Christians respond to these attacks on them?
Coren: No compromise on love but no compromise on truth. Christians have to be informed, which is why I wrote this book. It’s too late to merely walk away, because we are giving more and more ground to those who do want compromise, but total victory over all that the faith stands for. We see this with radicals within the gay community. They were not always well treated, but won all of their battles some years ago. It’s no longer about tolerance but affirmation; unless we support and encourage, we are to be condemned. Radical gays and atheists will not stop until Christians are considered unacceptable. Please do not simply discount what I am saying as rhetoric. The next 20 years will see a radical reshaping of the lines of civilized behavior in North American and western Europe.
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