Christian florist Barronelle Stutzman may lose her business. It won’t stop with her (ADF Legal screen grab)

Writing in the Washington Post, Bethany Allen-Ebrihimian takes me to task. Excerpts:

But when someone published a book claiming that American Christians face looming persecution and even extinction, as influential Christian columnist Rod Dreher did in his bestseller “The Benedict Option” this year, journalists did not ask, “What is your evidence?” It doesn’t seem that anyone has interviewed sociologists and political scientists, or even quoted basic statistics, to see whether this claim squared with reality.

The “extinction” I write about in the book is from Christians abandoning the faith, not from the state killing them. Just so you know.

She continues in this vein:

But evangelical Christians have long chafed at the strictures of that social contract. Now, with the election of Trump and the rise of Moore, they are in open rebellion against it. They want their beliefs to extend outside the walls of their churches and into bakeries, businesses, doctor’s offices, public bathrooms, Congress, the court system and the presidency — and they don’t want these actions to be subjected to legal and social scrutiny. They take such scrutiny, and any resulting opposition, as persecution. It’s a powerful rallying cry that has now swelled into a force capable of rewriting laws and oppressing the truly vulnerable.

Where to begin with this? I’ll start by saying that I don’t believe that Christians in this country face persecution now, but rather discrimination in particular instances (which I talk about in specifics in the book). I think persecution is probably coming one day, but it would be inappropriate to use that term now to describe the situation in the US.

BAE said on Twitter that she read “large parts” of  The Benedict Option .  Hmm. Well, she ignores the specifics of my claim in the discrimination-and-persecution chapter, and seems to believe that I’m an Evangelical when I make it clear in the book that I am an Orthodox Christian. But for the sake of argument, I’ll assume that she did. She must have forgotten, therefore, the chapter where I explained specifically what I meant by discrimination and persecution, and where it was likely to come from — and I quoted law professors and other professionals making this claim. Most of those professionals would only be quoted if I did not use their names, because they fear for their jobs.

It wouldn’t have made a difference anyway, because she has conveniently dismissed claims of discrimination that have to do with clash between religious conscience and the law. For her, it appears that religious freedom is the freedom to worship, and nothing else. It has never been seen so narrowly in US law and tradition, but this attempt to redefine religious liberty as only the right to worship is something relatively new among American liberals, including Hillary Clinton.  Therefore it is not a violation of religious liberty if, say, the University of Iowa kicks a Christian student group off campus because it won’t change its views on homosexuality, because hey, those Bible-beating bigots can still worship in their hate church on Sunday.

Don’t forget the Law of Merited Impossibility: It will never happen, and when it does, you bigots will deserve it.  BAE is defining religious discrimination out of existence.

And notice too her facile definition of who counts as a Christian for purposes of discrimination:

Are Christians a weak and marginalized group?

Here are the facts. Christians are vastly over-represented in national politics, not underrepresented. While roughly 70 percent of the U.S. population identifies as Christian, 91 percent of Congress identifies as such — a percentage that has remained roughly the same since the 1960s. The proportion of Christians in many state legislatures is even higher. Every member of the Supreme Court appears to be religiously affiliated (though not all of them are Christian), and no atheist has ever sat on that court. That over-representation means that either Christians have superior access to the mechanisms of electioneering or that being Christian is such a boon to candidacy that most people claim to be Christian regardless of their personal beliefs. Either of these possibilities fully precludes the possibility that Christians as a group experience formal marginalization or informal scorn that bars them from the halls of power. The opposite is true.

Meanwhile, atheists and the religiously unaffiliated — the supposed perpetrators of anti-Christian persecution — are vastly underrepresented in government.

This is silly, but a common claim among liberals who don’t really understand the issue, or religion. For example, Bruce Harreld, the president of the University of Iowa, is a Presbyterian. He leads an institution that has thrown a small Christian group off campus for believing in Christian orthodoxy. Christians, both nominal ones and liberal ones, are perfectly willing and capable of discriminating against other Christians for their orthodoxy. In fact, I expect that if real persecution comes, the worst persecutors will be assimilated Christians eager to prove their loyalty and worth to the post-Christian order.

BAE gives us a litmus test for determining when people like her have to bother themselves with noticing Christians’ problems:

How will we know when American Christians are genuinely under threat? When they start changing their names from the obviously biblical “Andrew” and “Mary” to the more secular “William” or “Jennifer” in order to avoid hiring discrimination. When Christians in Congress hide their faith and instead loudly claim to be atheists. When Christians are regularly blocked from buying homes or renting apartments in the good parts of town. When the president of the United States calls for Christians to be banned from the country. Then we can start taking claims of religious discrimination at face value.

How convenient. If a Baptist florist loses her livelihood and is driven into bankruptcy, but Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, a woman of Christian background who says she doesn’t go to church any longer, doesn’t register that as discrimination, should Christians like me worry?

I had a Twitter exchange tonight with BAE. Part of it below:

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This is embarrassingly wrong. BAE has reviewed the book she thinks I wrote, based on her own childhood in Abilene, Texas. She concedes that she didn’t read the whole thing. She must have missed the interview with the young woman who left the faith after having been raised in a fanatical separatist family, and who warns Christians not to do that. I defy anyone to read the book and come away thinking, for example, that the Tipi Loschi, or the St. Jerome Catholic community in Hyattsville, Md., are raising their children in “isolation,” painful or otherwise.

So when BAE writes in her op-ed

We must fight falsehoods with the full force of our professional training — logic, facts and research. This does not mean attacking Christian religious beliefs themselves, but rather, challenging inaccurate assertions about the state of the world we all share.

… I wonder what kind of logic, facts, and research she brought to her analysis of a book she didn’t totally read — missing, quite possibly, chapters that would have ameliorated or obviated her harsh and inaccurate worldview. That’s research? She makes inaccurate assertions about The Benedict Option and its arguments, even as she presents herself as someone who can be trusted by virtue of her superior professional training to bust the supposedly false claims Christians make.

Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian is an expert on her own unhappy childhood, but uninformed about the book I wrote. Moreover, she — the lucky recipient of a first-rate education (SAIS) and now a contributing reporter to an elite foreign policy journal — reserves to herself the right to tell people of a faith she no longer observes when they are being discriminated against because of their religion, and not.

It’s a bad look.

UPDATE: A French reader writes:

You may remember that email some time ago in which I told you that after centuries of a curious “exception culturelle“, anti-clericalism had finally arrived to America. Allen-Ebrahimian’s article and Twitter ranting both exemplify and demonstrate this.

To a French Catholic like me, her attitude and mindset are all too familiar. I regard any kind of anti-clericalism (as opposed to secularism, which I respect) as one of the lowest forms of irreligion but her brand (I hate religion because I had such a terrible religious upbringing) is the most puerile. Alas, it is also one of the most frequent, and certainly the most virulent. As American believers will all too soon find out the greatest threat comes not from those born secular – they are often indifferent and sometimes more tolerant than you’d expect – than from ex-believers with an axe to grind, and since Evangelicalism produces a lot of these there will many of them eager to cast religion and religious people into outer darkness.