I’m an American, if anybody hadn’t caught that yet. Today is very special to me because I love my country very much. I don’t want to distract y’all too much from your celebrations, but I do want to say a few things that won’t take too long.
Despite America’s great idealism about freedom, not everybody in my country has that luxury. Many of us live in fear because of our sexuality or our non-belief in the Christian religion. We cannot express ourselves fully because we’re afraid of the repercussions we would experience if we did from the self-proclaimed ambassadors of the Prince of Peace and Lord of Love. People who do not adhere to the Christian concept about sexuality–be it about gender identity or the purity culture–get thrown out of their houses or driven to hate themselves (warning: you will cry if you read these) by their well-meaning religious parents, dumped by their Christian partners and spouses (I know, I know–divorce was totally condemned by Jesus, but let’s face it–divorce is painfully common in the Christian world, to the extent that ex-Christians know they’re taking a huge risk in being honest about their disbelief), are shamed in public by zealots who call them “sluts” for the sin of encouraging easy access to contraception and who threaten them with rape for making the shocking suggestion that maybe what would lower rates of rape the most is, not arming women or forcing them to dress more “modestly” but, well, telling men not to rape women. Gay people can legally be discriminated against to the extent that they could lose their jobs and be evicted by their landlords. Non-believers even face jail time in Kentucky, which passed a law that requires all residents to thank the Christian god for giving them security (yes yes, I know, every one of the people responsible for this idiocy also carries health, home, and car insurance–and also that the Biblical character Job knows plenty about security as a result of relying upon this same god). In North Dakota, one sheriff actually wanted to legislate the sex lives of his officers by making adultery grounds for discipline, while in Georgia, a woman’s sex life was deemed grounds for refusing to make her a sheriff–but really, plenty of states have laws criminalizing non-marital sex, such as Idaho, which actually convicted a teen mommy, Amanda Smisek, not long ago for having out-of-wedlock sex.
This dominance is why, when I see an atheist monument go up or a school or government’s advocacy of religion get challenged, I fear for the safety of those outspoken non-Christians once the Christians get there to protest. Violence–the threat of it, the reality of it–is always implicitly burning away in the background as a potential outcome of such confrontations. Violence is always at the fingertips of those who follow the Prince of Peace as a solution. They’ll vandalize our monuments and billboards and threaten us; they’ll shame us and try to cow us, not because they are right, but because they are wrong and like all abusers and terrorists, exercising power and trying to seize control are all they know how to do with dissent. If they were right, they would not need to do things like this to get their way.
The clear conclusion I draw from all of these observations is that to way too many Christians, freedom means oppressing others. Their freedom requires me to put up with their constant encroachment on my rights. Rick Perry showed a stunning amount of ignorance when he said that “freedom of religion doesn’t mean freedom from religion.” No, I felt like shouting at my monitor, that’s exactly what it means, you colossal twit. It means that Rick Perry’s religiosity and Christianist leanings are and should be completely irrelevant to my life. It means I don’t have to worry about what religious zealots think one way or the other when deciding what I’m going to do with my body. It means not fearing for my safety when I speak out against Christian overreach. It means that the government refuses to put any kind of weight on religion one way or the other. It means that Christians can’t force me to listen to their wild-eyed and error-filled evangelism, that Christian school boards won’t be allowed to sneak their creation myths into our nation’s schools or otherwise religiously indoctrinate anybody’s kids, that Christian employers can’t decide what kind of healthcare I will get, that Christian cities and states can’t use people’s tax dollars to advance their religious agenda, and oh most especially that Christian lawmakers can’t decide what medical risks I will or won’t be forced to undertake or what consenting adult(s) I will bonk, love, or marry, all to satisfy their bizarre form of “morality.” (Scare quotes because obviously I do not think such control and domination of others is moral.)
When people rightfully object to these overreaches, these selfsame Christians shriek about persecution–not realizing that the clear implication of their cries is this: that unless they are allowed to do these things to others, they cannot freely practice their religion. Their religion requires them to force others to dance to their tune. Their religion requires that they remove others’ religious freedom. Their religion cannot operate freely unless it is indoctrinating others even against their wills. They don’t care if we’re happy about it or not. They just want to trample down any bit of dissent and force us to convert–by the sword if necessary. And if we refuse to convert, why then, at least one Christian minister regarded by some as a great preacher and theologian is certain that the solution to nonbelievers’ wayward rebellion is just to enslave us all to them–for our own good, of course, “to make him [the unbeliever] do right even though he doesn’t want to do it.” Of course. We’re not capable of living “right,” according to him and those who admire him; we’re not even capable of living independently. We’re not quite human.
That’s not a religion. That’s a travesty of justice. That’s pissing on the best and highest ideals of my country from a great height. That’s an abomination. That’s a crime against humanity. I’d go so far as to say that if someone’s religion relies upon him or her treating others as less than human, that that person’s religion is rotten to the core, and I’d go even further by saying that any god who would advocate force like this is the enemy of humankind and not its friend.
Any time you hear a Christian say in his or her out-loud voice that Christianity is “persecuted” in America, you can safely assume that such a person has bought into not only that lie but that host of other even worse lies which are required to prop up that overarching lie. American Christians have more freedom and dominance than any other group in this country–and a lot of it is not only undeserved and illegal, but also totally immoral.
The worst part about all this clutching of unwarranted cultural dominance and this unprecedented overreach into others’ lives and freedom is that these tactics are all but guaranteed to backfire by making not only Christians themselves but the increasing numbers of non-Christians in America recoil from Christianity itself. Nobody sees someone bullying someone smaller than him- or herself and goes “Wow, that person’s religion must be really compelling and valid. I should totally check it out!”
To the contrary, Christian young people are abandoning the church in droves, many specifically because of their religion’s over-politicization as well as its condemnation and marginalization of others. And unlike in previous generations, these kids aren’t returning later in life.
Our freedom in great part relies upon our freedom from religion. Today of all days, let us not forget that we must be ever-vigilant. Those who would trample our freedom and silence us are all around us, and we must not let that happen.
We’ll get back to the post I’d planned next time, but I had to get this off my chest. Thank you, and have a happy Independence Day (or whatever you’re doing today).