Dear Pence: Christians Are Not the Most Persecuted

I am very cranky about VP Pence’s mis-characterization of religious persecution. I want to say Citation Needed in a huge way.

Photo by Krystle Fleming. Creative Commons.

Photo by Krystle Fleming. Creative Commons.

Last week, Vice President Pence spoke at a summit in defense of persecuted Christians, saying:

Throughout the world, no people of faith today face greater hostility or hatred than the followers of Christ.

My response? Sorry, you do not get to redefine words. Christians are facing the most hostility and hatred? Maybe in some parts of the world, but certainly not everywhere.

I don’t think it takes a lot of subtlety to see that Pence is echoing the same conservative Christian tropes about how persecuted Christians are in the U.S. And, sorry, but you do not get to say that being told to peacefully coexist with people you don’t like, people who are doing you no harm, is persecution. That, friend, is called the social contract. Revisit Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau if you need a refresher (I rather like this peer-reviewed academic source on social contract theory).

This reminds me of how not giving fascists speaking outlets is being framed as oppression (hint: it’s not). I hope that more folks in the media will call out this bullshit and not let people redefine words or get away with baseless (or citation-less) assertions.

Later in the transcript, Pence speaks out disapprovingly about the horrible things Christians suffer around the world: “intimidation, imprisonment, forced conversion, abuse, assault, or worse.” I find it sickeningly ironic that Pence has been involved with promoting gay conversion therapy for teens and says stuff like this.

Anyway. Strive for precision with language. Hold journalists, writers, and politicians accountable for their language use. Never forget that language can be weaponized, and that one of the ways that happens is by letting people render specific words meaningless.

About Jeana Jorgensen

Jeana Jorgensen studied folklore at Berkeley under Alan Dundes, going on to complete her MA and PhD in folklore at Indiana University. She specializes in narrative folklore (particularly fairy tales), dance, body art, feminism and queer theory, and folklore in literature. She splits her time between teaching college courses in anthropology, folklore, and gender studies, and working in the field of adult sex education as a scholar, teacher, and writer.