When I thought about covering this topic a couple of days ago, I figured it would be rather tongue-in-cheek. My bias, of course, is that the evangelical Christians claiming persecution are just upset over losing their upper hand. The ways in which they have persecuted minority people since time immemorial are no longer acceptable, and this makes them altogether angry, panicked, and fearful. It would have been very easy to write an off-the-cuff piece that mocked this attitude of denied entitlement, but alas, that would be contrary to the values of civility that Outspoken Ally tries to hold to. No, I have decided to take this issue seriously. As more and more Christians feel persecuted in North America, their desperation manifests as anti-gay rhetoric becomes more harsh and outrageous. While many of us sit back and laugh at the absurdity of this, it does have influence and it’s doing untold damage. Christian claims of persecution deserve to be taken seriously, and they also deserve to be criticized … heavily.
(1) Fundamentalist hate-monger Tony Perkins claimed, this past week, that Christians are persecuted every time a picture of a gay couple appears on their Facebook newsfeed. (2) Countless times, I have been told that Christians in North America are being persecuted because they can no longer run their businesses according to their faith. (3) Perhaps the most common persecution claim I come across is that the removal of God from schools, and the increasing hostility toward Christian doctrine in the public square, denies them the freedom to practice their faith. (4) Less frequently, I am told that “removing Christ from Christmas” is also part of the persecution against Christians.
(1) Posting pictures of loving couples on Facebook is something we all do. Your religious objection to love is your problem. (2) If a business offers a service to the public-at-large, you cannot decide who you give service to and who you do not. You may market your product or service to whomever you like, but if you are open to the public, you must be open to the public. (3) God wasn’t removed from schools, mandatory prayer was. We have people of many faiths, and some with non-faith, in North American schools. Standing to say the Lord’s Prayer at the beginning of the school day is unethical, divisive, and by its very nature marginalizes those of non-Christian belief systems. People are hostile to Christian doctrine because of the harm Christian doctrine has caused over time. At some point, people react when they are oppressed long enough – this is now happening toward Christian doctrine, which has been the most powerful driver of oppression North America has ever experienced. (4) The holiday now known as ‘Christmas’ is what we now call the season of celebration previously known as the Winter Solstice. American Atheist David Silverman likes to say that “Christianity is not the first, third, or even the tenth religion to place their holiday at this time of the year.” The holiday season belongs to all of us, and celebrating without Christ does not constitute persecution. The point here is that none of these things constitute persecution. What these things do is remove privilege, and removing privilege opens the door for equality.
In Iran and Saudi Arabia, Christians are being killed for their faith. In China, Christians are often driven underground for fear of government reprisal. This is persecution. In North America, Russia, Uganda, Zimbabwe, etc, LGBTQ+ people are targeted, hunted, tortured, raped, and killed for who they are. This is persecution. Losing your position of privilege and being forced to follow the same rules as everybody else is NOT persecution. If you are a North American Christian who feels oppressed or persecuted, brace yourself. You’re about to lose even more. You see, you still have the upper hand, and that has to stop. As long as religious beliefs are considered inherently deserving of respect, as long as evangelicals like Rush Limbaugh are afforded tremendous influence by way of popular media platforms, as long as minority persons are forced to fear for their lives due to religious bigotry, the upper hand remains. As this power and influence diminishes, equality edges ever closer.
To my evangelical friends, I understand that this is difficult. Nobody likes to be called on their privilege, so much so that many people refuse to even acknowledge it. The problem is that as you fight this and argue that you’re being persecuted, you’re effectively fighting against a value that you otherwise claim to support – equality. Christians are not being persecuted in North America, and as hard as it may be for you to cope with, please understand that we are moving toward a time when people will be treated as human beings with equal social worth.