The Thankless Task of Defending Christianity
If you're considering reading Heresy: Ten Lies They Spread About Christianity by Michael Coren, you'll be well-suited to consider your personal biases. If you're a conservative and a Christian (and particularly if you're a Catholic), this book will go down like sweet, delicious candy. If you're a liberal and/or an atheist, on the other hand...well, it might feel rather like something else.
The point of Heresy is as bitingly straightforward as Coren's writing style: the West is replete with innuendos, fabrications, and outright malicious lies about Christianity and Christians, and it's time to set the record straight.
It's pretty clear that Coren, the author of Why Catholics Are Right and a Catholic himself (could you guess?), favors papists in particular, but mainstream Christians of every stripe get their day in the sun in this one. And it is definitely a sun worth basking in.
Throughout Heresy's 230 pages, Coren takes out the long knives (or perhaps a sword and shield) against all the classic liberal anti-Christian shibboleths, from "Christians are stupid" to "Christians hate science" to "Hitler was a Christian." He even entertains the notion that Jesus didn't exist...just long enough to bash it to smithereens. "In fact," Coren clarifies on this last point, "we know more about Him than we do about most other people who lived two thousand years ago" (23).
Despisers of lengthy quotations will have a hard time with Heresy, but as Coren himself says, properly debunking the voluminous bunk on Christianity requires that we "listen to the early witnesses," "at length and in their own words" (23). After all, as everyone knows (except perhaps Christians, who, after all, so loathe the sciences), primary sources are the best antidote for even anti-Christian ignorance. And Heresy abounds with the testimonies of some of the greatest minds to ever live -- not only in Christendom, but in general human history. Coren bolsters his every argument with an all-star lineup of apologists, showcasing the breathtakingly simple logical constructs of C.S. Lewis and the unconquerable abolitionist zeal of William Wilberforce with equal dexterity. We hear from J.R.R. Tolkien (Chapter IV, "All the Clever People Are Atheists. Or, Christian People Are Stupid"), the great Jewish theologian Pinchas Lapide (in defense of the Catholic Church in Chapter V, "Hitler Was a Christian"), and William Thomson Kelvin of "degrees Kelvin" fame (in Chapter VII, "Christians Are Opposed to Science").
Of course, every Christian is flawed, and so it makes sense that Heresy should have its warts. Some will find Coren's sardonic and often acerbic writing style off-putting -- perhaps not emblematic of kind and loving evangelization. (He devotes an entire chapter to a diatribe against Dan Brown and The Da Vinci Code, blasting the book as "fatuous and risible"  and plainly contrasting the author against "good, original, intelligent"  ones.) The last two chapters -- IX, "Christians Are Obsessed with Abortion," and X, "What Else Can We Throw at Christians?" -- are significantly less tightly written than their predecessors, coming off more as the author's unprompted ruminations than as structured counterpoints to any specific anti-Christian calumnies. Of course, that's not to say that there's nothing of use in these chapters -- on the contrary, they contain some of the most emotionally powerful material in the book. And after doing the dirty work of meticulously dissecting and exploding a great many Christianity-hating charges, Coren can perhaps be allowed some wandering as his work comes to a close.
For defenders of Christianity, Heresy can serve as a balm against the torrent of cuts and bruises endured by the one religion left that can be hated without running afoul of political correctness. Even better, of course, Heresy will make for a treasure trove of rebuttals and corrections for any among the faithful who themselves wish to take up rhetorical arms against the assertions listed in its pages. Need an answer to whether God can create a stone so big not even He could lift it? You'll find it in Chapter II. Tired of hearing about how the Bible adores and glorifies slavery? Get your refutation in Chapter VI (plus, for good measure, a perfectly laid out summary of Saint Paul's brilliant groundwork for abolishing slavery altogether). Want a repertory of great conversion stories, like that of Anthony Flew (49), the British philosopher and atheist who finally couldn't help but accept God as the universe's creator? Heresy is replete with them.
Of course, it's not uncommon to hear that Christians, as members of a mainstream religion (if not the mainstream religion), are just whining about the alleged injustices against them. But Coren takes aim at this attack, too: from the very first, Heresy slams down instance after instance of shocking anti-Christian bias, e.g. the evangelical Ontario owner of a printing firm who has spent $100,000 in legal fees for the privilege of not having to print homosexual political propaganda, or the Christian nurse in Britain who was suspended for offering to pray for her patients -- to say nothing of the sadistic, bloody persecution of Christians throughout Africa and the Middle East. In short, Coren forcefully makes his case from Page 1, and he keeps making his case over and over again, with more than enough power, wit, and humor to keep the pages turning.
Again, though, Heresy will serve different purposes for different kinds of people. Christians will find a kindred spirit here, a defender of the faith who may even inspire them to become defenders themselves. Adherents to other religions, for their part, may well find reason to respect and even support the one that brought Isaac Newton, G.K. Chesterton, and Florence Nightingale to their respective apotheoses. And as for the atheists and the die-hard liberals -- well, it's unlikely that they'll find any use for Heresy besides as kindling. But there's a twofold silver lining even in this: book sales go up, and the rabid Christian-haters wind up proving Coren's point about how closed-minded and intolerant they are.
And that's the sort of Christian optimism we can all appreciate.
Drew Belsky is American Thinker's associate editor. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org, and you can purchase Heresy here.