Why Christians’ Tiresome “Victim” Routine Just Won’t Die

Despite what some Christian critics recklessly allege, we’ve never made light of actual religious persecution here on Friendly Atheist.

On the contrary. Example one. Example two. Example three. Example four. Example five. Example six. Example seven. Example eight. Example nine. Example ten. But neither do we shy away from calling bullshit on the kind of claimed religious persecution that just isn’t. Usually, Christians in the West who claim they’re being oppressed just tickle my funny bone. Occasionally, they go so far over the line that their plaint about “angry” atheists becomes a self-fulfilling observation. This happened, for instance, when Francis George, the archbishop of Chicago, said,

“I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison, and his successor will die a martyr in the public square.”

Damn straight that kind of self-pitying, deluded, divorced-from-all-facts hyperbole pisses me off.

One reason it makes me mad is that the more attention goes to mendacious spinmeistering of the Todd Starnes or David Barton variety, the less consideration is given to religious minorities abroad, Christians included, who really are being persecuted. In the words of Candida Moss, an Oxford- and Yale-educated professor of New Testament and early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame,

It’s a “boy who cried wolf” situation. One of the reasons we are not hearing about them is because of all of the cries of persecution here — and local cries about persecution overshadow the global ones. We do need to hear those stories about Christians in other parts of the world, but we need to make sure that instead of talking about the global war on Christianity — which a lot of Christian and Catholic reporters have done — that we tell the story in a way that doesn’t do violence to other persecuted groups.

In that light, U.S. Christians who whine about being persecuted are thoughtlessly and unwittingly contributing to actual violence and oppression against their brethren in places like China and Syria. If they saved their breath for those outrages, imagine what could be accomplished to raise awareness and help the victims.

The Guardian just published a good piece by Patheos blogger Adam Lee that gets to the heart of matter:

These (U.S.) Christians equate not getting their own way in the political sphere — not being able to impose their idiosyncratic religious views on others with the force of law — with brutal and unjust persecution. As America becomes more diverse and less religious than ever, white conservative Christian men are losing their disproportionate influence on politics and, because they think of themselves as the natural and deserving custodians of that power, having to share it feels like a shocking injustice. But part of the justification for their victim routine is theological: the Bible predicts that Christians will be persecuted, so these conservatives believe that it must be true. Acknowledging the true extent of both their current and historical power and influence would generate an uncomfortable cognitive dissonance with a text that often takes the side of — and venerates leaders who serve — the low and the downtrodden. The only remedy is thus to declare, despite the evidence, that they are truly a persecuted minority in a country filled with other self-identified Christians, which makes a mockery of the true victims of religious oppression all around the world.

The only way to disrupt the steady chorus of domestic Christian-privileged gripers is to continue to call them on their self-serving prattle; and to keep pointing out that there’s enough real persecution around the world that no American Christian has to resort to making something up out of whole cloth.

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