In a truly shocking turn of events, John Hagee, pastor of one of America's megachurches, took the holiday season as an opportunity to offer some goodwill toward nonbelievers.
Just kidding. He told them to get the hell out of the country.
In a televised sermon, Hagee rued that supposed demise of "Merry Christmas" as a holiday greeting, and suggested that atheists "take your Walkman and stuff it into your ears."
(Sadly, statements like that will do very little to combat the idea that Christians are a bunch of old, fearful, out-of-touch white guys.)
If you follow the friction between belief and reason in this country, you're probably unsurprised by Hagee's remarks. After all, this is coming from a man who believes Hitler was sent by god and Hurricane Katrina was punishment for homosexuality.
But Hagee's sermon is interesting because it reveals a troubling sentiment among U.S. Christians: For some reason, the very existence of nonbelievers is a threat. Hagee feels so threatened that he wants nonbelievers to leave his "Christian nation," reasoning that the founding fathers were all Christians and thus atheists are not welcome.
Obviously, the Founders' religion is totally irrelevant; nonbelievers have just as much right to be here as anyone else. But Hagee's comments raise questions about Christianity today. Is their faith truly so weak that having nonbelieving neighbors is dangerous? Is religious faith doomed by the very presence of alternate opinions? Can dogmatic views survive only in a vacuum free of alternatives?
Moreover, what's the point in being an American Christian if only Christians are allowed to be Americans? Doesn't group membership become meaningless if it's a requirement? I see religious diversity opposite from the way Hagee does: the presence of other philosophies provides Christians with an opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to their faith without being coerced into doing so, or doing it "just because everyone else is." Faith within a diverse society looks much different from faith in a theocracy; the former requires a personal devotion and is much stronger for it.
As Christians become a minority in this country, Hagee and other religious leaders will have to decide how they handle the transition. While the pastor likely thinks he's acting to protect his followers, Hagee's vitriol only harms himself and his flock. All he's done is remind us that Christians are still by and large extremely hostile to those they fear, be they homosexuals, atheists, or anyone else.