The Right’s Fake Persecution Complex

I have long written about the Christian right’s obsessive desire to cast themselves as the victims of terrible persecution and their willingness to invent instances of it when there aren’t any real ones. People for the American Way has now issued a comprehensive report on that tendency.

The tales of horror keep pouring in: Two middle school girls are forced into a lesbian kiss as part of an anti-bullying program; an Air Force sergeant is fired because he opposes same-sex marriage; a high school track team is disqualified from a meet after an athlete thanks God for the team’s victory; a Veterans Affairs hospital bans Christmas cards with religious messages; a man fixing the lights in a Christmas tree falls victim to a wave of War-on-Christmas violence; an elementary school student is punished for praying over his school lunch; a little boy is forced to take a psychological evaluation after drawing a picture of Jesus.

None of these stories is true. But each has become a stock tale for Religious Right broadcasters, activists, and in some cases elected officials. These myths – which are becoming ever more pervasive in the right-wing media – serve to bolster a larger story, that of a majority religious group in American society becoming a persecuted minority, driven underground in its own country.

This narrative has become an important rallying cry for a movement that has found itself on the losing side of many of the so-called “culture wars.” By reframing political losses as religious oppression, the Right has attempted to build a justification for turning back advances in gay rights, reproductive rights and religious liberty for minority faiths.

The religious persecution narrative is nothing new – it has long been at the core of the Right’s reaction to secular government and religious pluralism – but it has taken off in recent years in reaction to advances in gay rights and reproductive freedom, and to an increasingly secular and pluralistic society.

The frantic warnings, fueled by individual persecution myths, range from the insistence that conservative Christians are losing their right to free speech to the claim that the U.S. is on the verge of instituting unconstitutional hate speech laws to dire predictions that religious faith itself might soon be criminalized.

It shouldn’t surprise us that the adherents of a religion that is based upon an act of martyrdom feels the need to pose as martyrs themselves. But let’s also recognize that most of these claims continue to be circulated even when shown to be false because they are effective for fundraising purposes. Fear is the primary reason people support the organizations that push these false claims.

"“I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this, I ..."

Trump Publicly Fellates Putin. Film at ..."
"Just before he puts a cap in someone's ass, you mean?"

Fox News Tries to Explain Away ..."
"It’s time for the real patriots to put the interests of the country over their ..."

Time for a Mass Exodus from ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Mr Ed

    How do you unite disparate Christian sects which historically didn’t get along, create a common enemy.

  • Larry

    create a common enemy

    You know who else created a common enemy in order to unite his people?

  • D. C. Sessions

    ^^^^ This

    But of course it’s also the Rovian preemptive projection.

  • alanb

    But let’s also recognize that most of these claims continue to be circulated even when shown to be false because they are effective for fundraising purposes.

    It’s also true that some people truly believe some of these claims because they were initially reported as true and the disclaimers are only published in the MSM, which they don’t read/watch. For instance the story of the disqualified track team here.

  • D. C. Sessions

    I’m not sure how much of the “feed” for these tales is due to push (for fundraising, recruitment, GOTV, etc.) and how much is demand pull because of the validation they provide.

  • dugglebogey

    It’s not like bearing false witness breaks one of their top ten important rules or anything.

  • D. C. Sessions

    dugglebogey, you have to remember that these stories, like parables, may not be true in any sort of live-video-feed sense but are True in the Higher Sense.

  • read this elsewhere

    What I like to call “armchair” persecution.

    I theorise that since the Bible speaks about how the true believers will find themselves being persecuted, and that such persecution is a sign you’re on the right path, it pulls at the conscience of many overweight, under exercised middle class westerners that their lives are somewhat lacking in persecution, and so to cover this seeming gap in their spiritual lives, they’ll desperately take anything remotely misconstruable as persecution and wrap it around themselves like a big reasuring blanket.

    …”unfounded internet rumour that one of the Columbine murderers asked someone if they were a Christian before he killed her? HE WAS PERSECUTING CHRISTIANS! Thank goodness, Christians are being persecuted, I am a Christian, therefore I am being persecuted, QED. I’m so glad I can sleep soundly in my warm queen size bed after eating twice my daily recomended caloric requirement and not feel guilty about the world’s poor or starving. What with me being PERSECUTED and all, I must be on the right track. I can’t wait for the “war on Christmas” to start up to make me feel even more persecuted and thereby justify my blatant crass consumerism!”

  • To be fair, Christian persecution is pretty bad in this country. Why, just the other day, I saw a bunch of them lined up against the wall. Sure, they were mixed in with other people, and they were in line for iPhones, but they weren’t automatically at the front of the line. If that isn’t persecution, I don’t know what is.

  • Mobius

    “We are persecuted…because you won’t let us persecute others.”

  • Steve Morrison

    You know who else created a common enemy in order to unite his people?

    @#2: I know who you’re talking about, but somehow, I can’t remember his real name! (Years of reading FTB does that to you.)

  • busterggi

    With over 40,000 variaties of Christianity due to infighting over the details of what magic to be in you’d think they’d keep busy just persecuting one another and leaving the rest of us out of it.

  • colnago80

    Re Larry @ #2


  • JustaTech

    Hey podkayne @8: Is the fat-shaming really necessary? There are better ways to say that the people who want to imagine that they are persecuted live comfortable lives. Weight and food have nothing to do with it.

  • sugarfrosted

    @13 oh god damn it.

    Also I thought it was Joseph McCarthy.

  • Steve Morrison

    There! You see? colnago80 can’t remember the right name either!