Should atheists, agnostics, and other secularists fear the Christian Liberal?
Not at all. Liberal Christians are some of the nicest, kindest, most inclusive, most non-discriminatory people you would ever meet. Yes, they still have a few superstitions (gods and spirits) but their gods and spirits are loving and benevolent…just like Santa. The belief system of liberal Christians is harmless.
What about the Christian Fundamentalist?
At one time, the Christian Fundamentalist was to be greatly feared. This type of Christian was responsible for the crusades, the pogroms, the inquisitions, the witch burnings, the genocides of native peoples, and other acts of mass brutality. This type of Christian was also historically responsible for the intrusion of religion into secular policy and law, causing suffering and discrimination on a massive scale.
But the influence of Christian Fundamentalists in society has dramatically declined. The recent Supreme Court decision to legalize gay marriage nationwide was the death blow to the power and influence of this branch of Christianity. Science has proven their simplistic, literal interpretation of their ancient holy book, the Bible, as silly and ridiculous in the eyes of the overwhelming majority of educated people.
Fundamentalist Christians are no longer taken seriously. They are considered the fringe of society.
So what about Christian Moderates?
It is my opinion that secularists have the most to fear from this type of Christian.
Moderate Christians maintain the belief in some form of eternal punishment for all of us who reject that their two-thousand-year-dead leader is the Lord and Master of the Universe. However, unlike the fundamentalists, they have abandoned the literal interpretation of their Bronze Age holy book, for a more nuanced interpretation; an interpretation based on “scholarship”. Therefore, unlike the Fundamentalist Christian who believes that any layman can sit down with his Bible and understand what the Christian God said to mankind, the Moderate Christian believes that the layman is incapable of understanding all the nuances in the original Hebrew and Greek texts. Therefore according to the Moderate Christian, the man in the pew is entirely dependent upon scholars and clergy, all with very advanced training and study, culminating in lofty divinity degrees, to know what God really meant to say in the Bible.
So when the Secularist confronts the Moderate Christian in debate regarding his supernatural-based belief system, simply knowing the Bible is not enough. Knowing science is not enough. One must have a very detailed knowledge of Biblical scholarship…or one is viewed by the Moderate Christian as an ignoramus; someone who has no business challenging the belief system of such well studied “scholars”.
This was the problem with my former LCMS pastor. He was very emphatically not a fundamentalist/literalist/Biblicist—Christians whom he condescendingly referred to as “hicks”. According to my former pastor, it is impossible for the layperson to understand what his Bible is saying without the assistance of a very knowledgeable scholar…like himself. Only the very theologically educated can understand the Bible. The rest of Christianity might as well toss their Bibles into the trash and sit at their/his feet and be spoon-fed the “truth”.
Challenge one of these moderate Christian scholars and expect to be eaten alive. They will show no mercy. One student from my former pastor’s theology classes at a local university said this about him in an online review: “Challenge Rev. B.’s authority on the Bible and he will destroy you.” This seems to be a common pattern of behavior among Moderate Christian “scholars”. Examples of this type of behavior can be seen on Christian forums such as Theology Web.
Yes, the Moderate Christian is the most dangerous type of Christian. He retains the Fundamentalist’s Hell and Damnation, but cleverly camouflages his Bronze Age superstitions with nuanced, non-literal interpretations of his ancient holy book, making it impossible to pin him down on any discrepancy or error. The Moderate Christian always has a clever harmonization for why the plain, simple reading of the text is not plain and simple at all. Think you have him caught in a corner? Think again. He will always wiggle free with a new, philosophically complicated but “justifiable” reinterpretation of the text in question.
Give me the Liberal. I’ll even take the Fundamentalist. But please don’t torture me with the Moderate Christian!