Persecution Complex

There are places in the world in which Christians are indeed persecuted. But the United States is not one of them. And so the results of a recent poll which asked which religious group faces the worst persecution is potentially very telling indeed. If you ask people which religious group faces the most discrimination, you get very different answers depending on their political alignment.

Hemant Mehta kindly turned the results of the poll (which correlates the answer to the question about religious persecution with political party affiliation and the candidate voted for in the last election) into two charts:

TrumpBaseJesusFreaks GOPJesusFreaksPPP

I think the other alignments are also fascinating. It looks as though Jill Stein supporters correlate closely with those most concerned about the rise in antisemitism.

I think it is entirely possible that at least some of the Republicans may have answered as they did because they are better informed than others. They might be aware of and thinking of the fact that Christians are the largest religious body globally, and thus statistically will be the most discriminated against if discrimination is spread evenly across the board. But that doesn’t mean that they are singled out for persecution disproportionately – not that the question made clear whether thay was what it was asking about.

Be that as it may, while always wanting to give people the benefit of the doubt when I can, the xenophobia of Trump supporters makes it extremely unlikely, in my opinion, that they were thinking globally when answering the question.

If there is something that I have learned in recent weeks, it is, on the one hand, the need for data to help us see beyond our own narrow horizon of experience; and on the other hand, the need to listen to the stories that people tell in articulating their perception of the world, even if we then need to challenge that perception with data, statistics, numbers, and help them hopefully to see beyond their narrow horizon.

We really do need to both empathize with and challenge those who have this kind of persecution complex. There is a sense in which the topic I am presenting here is similar to the views I face when parents worry about their children going on study abroad to someplace like Israel. Our perception of danger – whether the risk of being killed in a terrorist attack overseas or of dying in a plane crash – is often misaligned in relation to the most risky situations we actually face, often in our hometown or even our own house.

But I would not help parents with those concerns if I simply dismissed them. I need to listen, understand, and empathize – while also seeking to offer information that might help to change their perspective.

And so how do you think we can better get those who perceive themselves to be persecuted, when in fact others face greater opposition than they ever have, to view things differently? Data alone is unlikely to do it. What else should we be offering?

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  • http://sciencestandards.blogspot.com/ Ted Herrlich

    I think all to many Repuplicans/Christians need to be reminded of this: https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/3a734fad5efcab5f53f21cd32e1b8388fa3ea89474768fdf8cdfb7ab738328a5.jpg
    If I recall, I got this from one of your old posts, Prof McGrath (Are Your Religious Liberties Being Violated?)

  • Gary

    I would change the quote in the post to:

    “There are places in the world in which Christians and Muslims are indeed persecuted. But the United States is not one of them.”

    The issue of persecution of either religion in the U.S. is only a political red herring, used by both side to demonize the other.

    The REAL persecution “globally”, is not against Christians, but against Muslims, by Muslims.

    In and around predominately Muslim countries. Sunni against Shiite. No women’s rights. No children’s rights. Segregation of women and men. Anti-Gay. Pretty much a culture based upon 200 or more years ago.

    People can verbal attack Christians all they want here in the U.S.. That’s their right. Especially attacking them for their political views.

    However, the liberal side seems to view verbal attacks at Christians as a normal state of affairs. Something to actually celebrate as “Christians – dumb, with a persecution complex; liberals smart, liberals on the high road”. But any mention of Muslims in a negative light brings up automatic statements of Islamic-phobia. Perhaps the liberal left has a problem with “Christian-phobia”, or liberals have a paranoid schizophrenic attitude toward Christians. The Christians are “out to get” liberals. After all – all liberals know that these crazy Christians are responsible for electing Trump! The Christians are aligned both with white supremacists and the Russians, in a giant, right wing conspiracy, to take over the government, and world, led by Trump and Pence.

    Talk about persecution complex. The liberal left “think” they are being taken over, oppressed, and dominated. Poor Pelosi. She is just as crazy as Trump. But that’s the way our system works.

    As far as students going to Israel, I think they will have a safe, and good time. But, like most guests in another country, be respectful. Don’t express liberal or conservative political views. If you actually live on the boundary between Palestinians and Israeli’s, you have a right to get involved. But if you are from the U.S., mind your own business, and keep your comments to yourself. And just enjoy the sights.

    • Phil Ledgerwood

      I think negative comments about Islam bring up concerns in America about Islamaphobia because Muslims are actually discriminated against. The worst things that happen to Christians in America is that people sometimes make fun of them.

      • Gary

        I think I have never heard a better summation of our ridiculous situation. Especially the cartoon. Failure of American Leadership! Of course, it is a joke. Muslims better get their shit together, and stop blaming the U.S., whether they be in the U.S., or their own country. Persecution is nothing here, compared to where they came from. I would say, quit complaining, and be glad you are here. Same goes for the liberal side of Congress.

        https://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2017/03/20/commentary/world-commentary/choose-side-trump-sunni-shiite-war/

        • Gary

          Of course, the solution is to disengage, where you can’t tell the “Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”.

      • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

        Muslims are not discriminated against in the US except by the national security state and voters.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    “They might be aware of and thinking of the fact that Christians are the largest religious body globally, and thus statistically will be the most discriminated against if discrimination is spread evenly across the board.”
    According to the article linked the question asked specifically about persecution in America.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Christians are by far the most persecuted religious group in America since most attempts at subverting religious freedom are by progressive liberals, whose main target is people who don’t vote for them. And over 80% of evangelical Christians voted for the incumbent President. Muslims are persecuted somewhat, since they are often victims of the national security state. Jews are the least persecuted religion.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      By “persecuted” in this context what do you mean? Liable to be sued if they discriminate against others in the name of religion? Unable to get as many likes on their memes on Facebook as they had hoped? I am a Christian and I had a persecution complex when I was younger and more conservative, but what I considered persecution back then was nothing more than vigorous disagreement, or not always being allowed to do absolutely whatever I wanted in the context of school or employment.

      • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

        “Not being allowed to do absolutely whatever you want in the context of school and employment” definitely counts as persecution in my book.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          Wow! May you never experience the real thing! And may you one day understand that if one individual or group can do absolutely whatever they want, it means that someone else’s freedoms are being severely restricted…

  • Johann Hollar

    If these bums are what Christianity represents, then they deserve to be persecuted.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      And then someone can come along and say that, if people like you who think that it is a good idea to persecute people are what the face of anti-religion is like, then you deserve to be persecuted. This comment is more appalling in many ways than the statistics you are commenting on. :-(

  • Cindy Bird

    You ask how to change people’s minds? I am Buddhist. Get them to listen to OUR stories of persecution, all non- Christian religious groups. You hear enough stories, maybe you get the point.