Do white evangelicals have a delusional persecution complex? Barna says yes, and provides quantifiable proof

After discussing the limits of the survey research and data supplied by the Barna Group, let’s turn to the merits of it, and what such research can tell us.

Barna surveys may not always help to tell us about how behavior actually corresponds to attitudes or perceptions, but they can be quite helpful in telling us how widespread particular attitudes or perceptions actually are.

For example, a friend of mine dislikes Brussels sprouts and says, “No one likes Brussels sprouts.” That’s quite a sweeping claim, but to what extent is it true? A survey is a useful way of finding out. We can measure what percentage of people share my friend’s dislike,* and thereby see whether her opinion is broadly representative or if she is an outlier — whether she is an exception to the norm or an accurate reflection of the majority view. It might be even better to find measurements of actual behavior — sales and consumption figures, for example, but a survey can still be a valuable tool for putting her comments in context.

Here’s a more concrete example relating to an actual bit of recent research reported by the Barna Group. Libby Anne recently highlighted a comment on her blog that seems to epitomize what many of us have observed as a widespread, delusional sense of persecution on the part of many members of America’s privileged religious majority. The comment provides a remarkable specimen of what I call the “persecuted hegemon” — a person enjoying the rewards of cultural dominance while simultaneously insisting that they are aggrieved and suffering an injustice at the hands of people who are, in fact, marginalized minorities.

Here’s that comment:

As a matter of fact, it is [Christians’] rights that are being limited and we are becoming the minority in this nation. In many countries to even hint at being a Christian is the same as signing a death warrant. In our country they have taken away our right to pray in school, in some states we cannot even have private Bible study groups in our homes because it constitutes an illegal gathering, our organizations are being required to make the “abortion pill” a covered product on our insurance or be fined an absurd amount of money, our Christian doctors are being forced to consider if they even want to be doctors anymore or not because of a mandate that they must perform abortions……..and gay people are saying they don’t have rights?

As Libby Anne correctly notes, none of this person’s complaints correspond with reality. The examples of her perceived persecution are all imaginary and false. All of them.

Most of these false examples are, in fact, perversions and inversions of the actual facts of the matter. The comment is contradicted by the daily lived experience of the commenter.

This is a picture of Anne Hutchinson being expelled by the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Or, for white evangelicals, this is a picture of the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony being cruelly persecuted by the wicked Anne Hutchinson.

This is delusional, and the delusion is doubly cruel. It is cruel, foremost, to the people who are actually marginalized and disenfranchised — who are being denied full and equal participation in society because they do not conform to the majority beliefs that this commenter insists must be mandatory for everyone else, and who are then, on top of that, being scapegoated and blamed as the supposed cause of the non-existent “persecution” being suffered by the privileged majority.

But it is also cruel to the commenter herself, fabricating a causeless source of misery and aggrievement, unnecessarily introducing stress where no such stress actually exists.

Now, both Libby Anne and I regard this comment as broadly representative of an attitude that we both see as widespread throughout the white evangelical subculture in America. But is that true? It’s possible, after all, that we’re simply cherry-picking data to support our thesis. Perhaps this one comment is not representative of anything other than the views of this lone commenter.

We can certainly demonstrate that this commenter is not unique. Scroll back through the archives of Libby Anne’s blog, or of this one, and you’ll see we both can provide dozens more examples of evangelical Christians exhibiting the same delusional persecution complex. But all of those examples put together still don’t prove that we’ve done anything more than identified what might still be only a small fringe sub-set of deluded white evangelicals. It may be that all of the anecdotes and examples we’ve collected and reported over the years are still just cherry-picked data selected only because they support our thesis of a broader evangelical persecution complex.

Another indicator of support for that thesis comes from the public statements of prominent white evangelical leaders. A single blog comment may reflect nothing more than the opinions of a lone commenter, but if the sentiments it expresses are repeated by a host of prominent white evangelicals in leadership positions, that would seem to indicate that such sentiments are more widely held.

That’s one thing that can be gleaned from a recent post at Homebrewed Christianity titled “On Religious Freedom in a Pluralistic Society,” which cites several such prominent evangelical luminaries echoing the persecution complex described by Libby Anne’s commenter.

Christian at Homebrewed Theology mentions the “Manhattan Declaration,” a 2009 manifesto embodying this same persecution complex which was endorsed by a who’s who of white evangelical leaders. And then he points to a recent column by three of those Manhattan declarers, Robert George, Timothy George and Eric “Call Me Dietrich” Metaxas, in which they lament the supposed persecution of the Christian majority:

They say there are numerous examples, and then pick three:

1. The brouhaha over Louie Giglio and the Inaguration.

2. The contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act.

3. The demise of the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA.

Of these three, exactly none are “religious freedom” issues.


They are, without exception, religious primacy issues.

None of these impact, in any measurable way, the ability of the Conservative Christian community to practice their faith openly and without fear of persecution in the United States.

In a pluralistic society, there’s a general rule. Your right to swing your fist ends at the other guy’s nose. That means, in a pluralistic society, for the health of the society, there’s a give and take. It’s the essence of the social contract that we live under when we decide to become a society.

When people like the authors above, or the creators of the Manhattan Declaration, complain that, not faith, but that their particular embodiment of faith isn’t given supremacy above all others and cries of “persecution” are heard, it is rightfully interpreted as an innate hatred of the rest of society and disdain for the social contract we all live under.

There’s a name for people who believe they, and their beliefs, should always be kowtowed to no matter what …

… they’re called sociopaths.

Well, yes. But it’s one thing to say that Metaxas and the Georges and the commenter at Libby Anne’s blog are delusional sociopaths who hate the rest of society — that much is obvious. It’s quite another thing to demonstrate that this hate-fueled delusion is more widely present within the broader white evangelical subculture.

And that’s where the latest survey from the Barna Group comes in. Because that survey provides what all those anecdotal examples cannot provide: Quantifiable proof that a majority of white evangelical Americans are hate-fueled sociopaths making themselves and others miserable with a perverse and delusional persecution complex.

Barna doesn’t quite put it as strongly as that, but the implication is identical. A majority of white evangelicals “want Judeo-Christians to dominate the culture,” said David Kinnamon, president of the Barna Group.

“Dominate.” Or, as Christian said, it’s not about religious liberty, it’s about religious primacy.

The findings of a poll published Wednesday (Jan. 23), reveal a “double standard” among a significant portion of evangelicals on the question of religious liberty, said David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group, a California think tank that studies American religion and culture.

While these Christians are particularly concerned that religious freedoms are being eroded in this country, “they also want Judeo-Christians to dominate the culture,” said Kinnamon.

“They cannot have it both ways,” he said. “This does not mean putting Judeo-Christian values aside, but it will require a renegotiation of those values in the public square as America increasingly becomes a multi-faith nation.”

Barna’s survey also found white evangelicals enthusiastically eager to lay blame to others for their perceived “persecution.” Nearly three-fourths of white evangelicals, “72 percent … agreed that gays and lesbians were the group ‘most active in trying to remove Christian values from the country.'”

Again, that’s a direct inversion and deliberate perversion of the daily, felt, known and experienced reality for those very same evangelicals. They cannot be unaware that evangelicals are the group most active in trying to remove LGBT people from the country. In a sense, I suppose, this survey response is an expression of that same desire to rid society of all such unwanted people — a way of restating the emphatic belief that their presence and very existence is a threat to the majority’s “values.”

That survey finding cannot be explained other than, in Christian’s words again, as evidence of “an innate hatred of the rest of society and disdain for the social contract we all live under.”

And it’s not just the attitude of a few outliers nut-picked from comment sections or of a few of the more outrageous pseudo-intellectual posers like Metaxas or the Georges. This delusional sociopathy is the majority view.

An old professor of mine used to say that social science sometimes amounted only to “the statistical approximation of the known,” and this survey may seem like that to many of us who have long observed what it quantifies. But that quantification also serves as evidence, as proof, of what we have been saying.

A great many white evangelicals have a delusional persecution complex. That delusion is an expression of a desire to dominate others and to scapegoat any others who refuse to be dominated.

Thanks to Barna’s survey, we know that’s not just a theory or just an argument, it’s a fact.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

* I suspect those who agree with her are thinking mainly of boiled Brussels sprouts, which is unfair. Nothing is very appealing if you insist on cooking all the flavor out of it.

Brussels sprouts should be broiled — cut in half, brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper or lemon, then cooked in an oven, not boiled on a stove. Just saying.

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  • mud man

    …btw, the “On Religious Freedom” link is from Homebrewed Theology, not Tripp and Bo’s Homebrewed Christianity.

  • ~3.25-4% milk fat. Contrast with 2%, 1% etc. Skim is basically 0% milk fat.

  • AnonymousSam

    Are you writing off “lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another” as having nothing to do with empathy and compassion? They would seem to be strongly related to me.

    Most textbooks I have read on the matter (not an insubstantial number) have also conflated sociopathy and antisocial personality disorder, even going so far as to give alternative names such as “sociopathic personality disorder” in reference to older diagnoses criteria. I’ve seen a few people (especially those who prefer Millon’s classification) separate them, usually when differentiating between violent and nonviolent patients, but never anyone who refused to admit a link between them.

    Forgive me if I neglect to respond further, depending on how it goes. I don’t believe I have the authority to speak well on this subject.

  • Dogfacedboy

    I had to take my mother to the ER a few months ago, before the election.  While there, the doctor saw that her blood pressure was through the roof, and asked why she hadn’t been taking her BP meds.  Among her reasons, Mom said that if Obama got reelected, it would just be a matter of time before he started chopping all of our heads off, anyway.  Needless to say, the doctor was rather surprised and confused by that answer.

    She’s read all of the Left Behind books (and made me read them, too, which is why I’ve been coming to this blog–it’s my support group) and is terrified that our president could be the antichrist, even though he’s not from Romania (or the UN).  Long story short, she sees persecution everywhere she looks.  And I’m trying very hard to show her that it’s not really there, and she’s only making herself miserable with all the fear she’s inflicting on herself.  She should be enjoying her golden years, not peeking out from behind a curtain, wondering when they’re going to come for her.

  • AnonymousSam

    I don’t know how, when I’ve put my foot in it plenty of times on this very blog, but I’ll tentatively accept your charitable words and raise you one blushyface.

    Also, brussel sprouts are quite good with a bit of ketchup.

  • Horrible works. So does ‘selfish’. I’m sure a lot of other words could work without medicalizing a significant portion of the American people. I’m pretty sure a country with ~25% sociopaths would quickly become a failed state. 

  • AnonymousSam

    Most of them do have empathy and compassion. You can see it if you belong to their particular tribe, familial or social circle. If you’re an outsider, witnessing it just tends to become a bit more rare.

  • Jessica_R

    And as always I’m back to my “sometimes an asshole is just an asshole” hobby horse. I do not care about that commentator’s feelings, or if she’s making herself unhappy, just that she be prevented from doing harm to someone else. Seriously, she can go fuck herself. 

    Oh and mashed brussel sprouts are quite nice, steam them soft then mash with with olive oil, chopped garlic, and grated Parmesan. 

  • Freak

    Interesting.  I get that way with green peppers.  (It’s extremely annoying, considering how many companies use it in their foods.)

  • people who like brussell sprouts are wrong, they’re terrible.  


  • Try simmering the Brussels sprouts in chicken broth–which cuts the bitterness considerably–just until you can poke them with a fork.  Then drain off all but about a tablespoon of the broth, whisk in a teaspoon or so of Dijon mustard, and toss that with the sprouts.

  • Yes they are.  They are also delicious fried in a little butter and wrapped in bacon- they don’t have to be broiled to be good.

  • Joshua

    Interesting post. I’m torn on this. On the one hand, I agree that many Evangelical Christians (not just white Evangelicals – I don’t know why he felt the need to add that) have a delusional persecution complex. Yes, it’s annoying. Yes, the examples that they usually provide demonstrating persecution of Christianity are usually laughable and further the annoyance.  On the other hand, what can be said about Evangelicals can be said about pretty much all of Americans, including minorities. I’m not denying real persecution of minorities for various things (illegal immigrants and GLBTQ come to mind); but it is as fallacious as it is widespread to assume that minorities are being persecuted on the basis that they are minorities. It feels like everyone in this country plays the persecuted minority card whenever they don’t get their way, in the hopes that they will get their way. It hasn’t skipped my notice that there is one noticeable difference: white Evangelicals are, in fact, a majority; but the underlying attitude is as American as apple pie, and it doesn’t matter which group we’re talking about. It seems like every time I read the news there’s some group crying havoc, claiming racism or discrimination when they don’t get. . . something. . . anything. . . the way they want it. Evangelicals need to calm the freak down. White people need to calm the freak down. White Evangelicals need to calm the freak down. But at the same time, EVERYONE needs to just calm the freak down. I think a lot of people are filled with fear and mis-information, and I don’t think ignorance discriminates on the basis of race, gender, or sexual orientation. In this country, it would appear that stupidity is the great equalizer. On another note, of the Evangelicals who even know who Anne Hutchinson was (of the Evangelicals who even consider the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay “Evangelicals”), I’ve never met a single one who believes it was SHE who was doing the persecuting, and not John Winthrop. 

    When you agreed with Christian, saying, “That survey finding cannot be explained other than, in Christian’s words again, as evidence of ‘an innate hatred of the rest of society and disdain for the social contract we all live under,” I think the word “fear,” aided by misinformation and a twisted perception of reality, which inevitably leads to hatred, is a better description. 

    Your comment about Eric Metaxas being a pseudo-intellectual poser is inflammatory and completely unnecessary. Ridiculing someone you don’t like or disagree with is more than un-civil: it’s un-Christlike.  

  • Joshua

    Even “See You At The Pole” perpetuates the ignorance among many that you can’t pray in school – that’s why they have a day set aside to stick it to the man. It’s not illegal to pray, or even pray in groups – the only thing that is illegal is mandatory, teacher-led, corporate prayer in class. Students can even pray with teachers, as long as the students initiate.  

  • Turcano

    After Googling the phrase and turning up exactly one relevant result, it appears to mean a “cultural” Christian, analogous to “cultural Judaism.”

  • stardreamer42

     That’s a good question. My first guess was that it referred to what I call “nominal Christians” — people who self-identify as Christian, but are not observant; they may go to church on Christmas and Easter Sunday, but not otherwise, and religion is not a major factor in their lives.

    However, taking a second look at the category titles, there’s a significant chance that what they mean by it is traditional Christians — those who are neither evangelical nor born-again. Possibly including Catholics, possibly not.

  • SisterCoyote


    Ketchup? Ye gods and little fishies, that is just horrific. Blasphemy. Heresy! Utter and complete madness!

    (But then, I can’t stand ketchup on anything but burgers, and since becoming a vegetarian I’ve had it maybe twice. So I’m hardly unbiased.)

  • AnonymousSam

    Sweetness and acid to balance the bitterness. I tried it once and it made Brussels sprouts edible for me. Before that, I couldn’t stand the flat bitter flavor, with or without butter.

    (I now have a similar problem with scrambled eggs and shredded potato hash…)

  • SisterCoyote

    It’s an interesting thing, the conflation of various terms with “People We Dislike.” Right now, it seems to be sociopath. I’ve also seen psychopath used, and the generic ‘lunatic,’ and I’m sure I’ve done it on multiple occasions before. It’s kinda strange, because this is, I think, why people were asked to stop calling jackasses like Glenn Beck ‘crazy.’ But I know crazy people who are pretty nice. I know people with no mental illness, disorder, or non-neurotypical label whatsoever who were utter monsters to everyone they had power over, even the slightest bit, and people with catatonic schizophrenia who were amazing, and at least one sociopath who was, for a long time, one of my best friends.

    Maybe we could just in general stop conflating any such wide labels with ‘people we don’t like’ in the future? ‘Cos it seems like some people are saying ‘sociopath’ and meaning ‘Evangelical who doesn’t care about the rest of the country/world,’ and some people are saying ‘sociopath’ and meaning people with antisocial personality disorder, or something similar. And, well, they’re really not the same thing.

  • SisterCoyote

    Ah, that’d be it then. I don’t really taste much bitterness with them; I’m probably just missing that gene.

  • Edo

    Just saw the results of that poll. Am I the only one who was struck by the 27% of “notional Christians” being threatened by the QUILTBAG community?

  • Loki100

    My parents insist on boiling all their vegetables  And then they never understood why my brother and I wouldn’t eat them. It was something of a revelation to me when I first tried raw or well cooked vegetables and found out how delicious they can be.

    My parents also don’t seem to believe in sauces or seasonings. It wasn’t until I was in college that I discovered chicken could actually be tasty. It was always bland, dull food, like everything they served. It’s almost a perfect metaphor.

  • Sara

    I thought I hated brussell sprouts until I tried them sauteed in butter with garlic and lemon juice.  Put enough butter in just about anything and it’ll be delicious.

    It makes me so sad that so many of the Christians polled believed that LGBT people are working to take away their religious freedom.

    I am a lesbian and a Christian.  I love Jesus and I love the church.

    Some days, though, I feel like it becomes harder and harder to hold on to my faith.  I’m not depressed.  In fact, I’m often quite happy.  But so much of what used to be my religion is slipping away.  My certainty about so many things, like hell, sex outside heterosexual marriage as sin, whether some passages in the Bible should be read as factual or as fables…like sand slipping through my fingers, it’s gone.

    Instead, I believe that a good, loving God would not make people just to condemn them to eternal torment, that someday I’ll find a woman to share my life with and God will bless that union, and that God did not order his chosen people to commit genocide, no matter what it says in Joshua.

    This is more honest.  I had a hard time believing these things before anyway.  But there was something comforting in looking around at other people who also believe that and saying, “Yes, I’m doing it right.”  I miss that certainty, that sense of belonging.

    Every now and then moments of panic set in, and I find myself praying desperate prayers: “God, please, come back to me.  I miss what we once had.  I’ll change.  I’ll be celibate, or even try and be straight.  I’ll fall in line with the dogma.  Just please come back to me.”

    I found myself praying those words this morning.  Then I stopped myself, because they were an insult to the God I love.  God is not a monster and he is not abusive.  He is so very good.  He has already assured me that he loves me as I am.

    And he has never left me, not once.  Sometimes he doesn’t feel as close as he once did.  I think that part of that is that as I started coming to terms with my orientation I was so hurt and angry that I couldn’t make myself read the Bible and prayer was difficult.

    But he didn’t leave me then.  And I’ve been building that relationship back and going to an affirming church.  And this blog does my soul good.

    And being on the outside is a gift.  I get to see Jesus with new eyes.  

    I think that part of what I miss isn’t a feeling of God’s presence; it’s a feeling of safety and belonging.  I used to lead Bible studies.  Now most of the people who knew me then would say that I’ve turned my back on God, become an apostate, or was never saved to begin with.  I sometimes worry that they’re right.

    But I haven’t turned my back on God.  I’m fighting hard for my faith.

    Sorry for the long confessional.  This isn’t really what the blog was about.  I’ve been finding myself writing these long, personal posts to people I don’t know.  Maybe it’s practice for speaking with people I do know.  The people I’ve told have been wonderful about it.  But it breaks my heart to think about the friendships that I might lose.

    Thank you so much for writing this blog.  Your words mean a lot to me.

  • P J Evans

     Yes, I do know about that!

  • AnonymousSam

    This isn’t really what the blog was about.

    If you don’t tell anyone, I think I can conveniently forget to mention it too.

    So far as I’m concerned, as there’s no place for a confession except in your heart… that means here is as good a place as any, good sister.

  • Sara

    Thanks, Sam.  :)

  • Jenny Islander

    Brussels sprouts are best, IMO, if bought fresh, halved lengthwise to let heat penetrate all of the layers of tiny leaves, and cooked just until crisp-tender by whatever method you choose.  I like to save two or three halves and put them into my morning cup of miso soup.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I think I’ma get me some Brussels sprouts and cook ’em up, entirely on the strength of most Slacktivites say they’re good and Chris Hadrick says they’re bad.

  • MaryKaye

    Sara, I hope you can find supportive, loving co-religionists to help rebuild your sense of belonging.  They are out there.  If you didn’t mind saying where you were, people geographically close to you might even have some suggestions where to look.

    When I had my crisis of faith in ’91 one of the things that prompted my realization I was doing my spirituality wrong was the realization that I was isolated–I didn’t feel fellowship with the people I was worshiping with, couldn’t talk to them about my hopes or fears.  The precipitating event was attending one Christian service that actually did resonate with me, and having it criticized heavily by the community for being “too Pagan”.


  • Münchner Kindl

    In many countries to even hint at being a Christian is the same as
    signing a death warrant. In our country they have taken away our right
    to pray in school, in some states we cannot even have private Bible
    study groups in our homes because it constitutes an illegal gathering,
    our organizations are being required to make the “abortion pill” a
    covered product on our insurance or be fined an absurd amount of money,
    our Christian doctors are being forced to consider if they even want to
    be doctors anymore or not because of a mandate that they must perform

    There is another huge problem with that argument. It does a real disservice to those Christians in foreign countries where the law actually forbids gatherings at home, where calling yourself Christian does put yourself in real danger during those times when the mob is raised into a frenzy by populists (Egypt, India, Sudan, ….) – but because the first-world non-persecuted myoptic “Christians” have misused the term “persecution” so thoroughly, the instinctive reaction is the backlash of  “ah, it really isn’t that bad, just overblown hysteria” and it takes a second step to remind oneself that if a neutral agency does say that in country X Christians are persecuted, that it is true and not exaggerated or lies.

    So by falsly crying wolf, they are making it difficult for people crying wolf for real to get help.

  • MikeJ

    not just white Evangelicals – I don’t know why he felt the need to add that

    Probably because very, very, very few people have ever met a black evangelical who thinks Obama is a Kenyan socialist atheist muslim nazi, but it’s pretty common to hear it from white folks.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    What’s the deal with the “faith segment” breakdown?

    Evangelicals; Non-evangelical born again Christians; Notional Christians; Other faiths; Skeptics.

  • arcseconds

     AnonymousSam, I’m going to let you in on a little secret.

    Most of the people who venture an opinion on in the internet are doing well if they’ve read more than two webpages on what they’re talking about.

    Anyone who’s read two or more textbooks on a subject is massively well-qualified by comparison.

    I’d certainly be interested in whatever you have to say on the matter.  I’m going to encourage you by backing you up on the following points:

    *) DSM-IV isn’t the alpha and omega of all diagnosis. 
    *) ICD-10 lists ‘sociopathic’ under Dissocial Personality Disorder
    *) the Oxford Dictionary of Psychology gives sociopathy as a synonym for antisocial personality disorder (and the entry for APD contains similar language to that you just quoted.

    *) evangelicals aren’t sociopaths.  The diagnostic focus does seem to be on the common pattern of violating social norms, rather than lack of empathy per se.

    And Evangelicals don’t have any problems following their own social norms.  And so long as you don’t challenge those norms, they’re often really nice people.  Same as everyone else, really. Also, it happens often enough that if you change the social environment of evangelicals, their attitudes to wider society changes (sometimes quite dramatically — I’ve known more than one whom this has happened to).  Again, this isn’t special to evangelicals, but rather typical human behaviour.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Same. Heaps of people I know write down some denomination of Christian because…well, they were baptised/christened into that faith and they’ve never formally renounced it, it just has nothing to do with their lives any more but I guess technically…

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    It’s perversely amusing to me that we are now debating whether it is ethically proper to refer to a group of people obviously lacking in empathy or compassion as “sociopaths” or not when they, if shown our discussions and asked for an opinion, would probably not hesitate to shriek “EVVILLLL! PURE SATAN-WORSHIPING EVILLLL!”

    Perhaps this is because we don’t wish to emulate said people?

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    On the food debate, as a supertaster I shall just note the following:

    * brussels sprouts are vile and celery ruins the taste of everything

    * suggestions to make something taste good by including bacon could be restated as “eat bacon instead”.

  • Damanoid

    So what I’m taking away from this poll is that America’s religious freedoms are being eroded by people who improperly cook Brussels sprouts.  Who are sociopaths.

  • Baby_Raptor

    The Brussels sprouts have mind control powers. That’s the obvious answer. 

  • Slow Learner

    Viz Barry the Time Sprout, from Armageddon: The Musical (a brilliantly insane book by Robert Rankin).

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Answering my own query, I looked at some Barna stuff to find out what the hell they mean by “Notional Christian”.

    In a separate bit of research from 2012 they note that NCs comprise 43% of the electorate. Barna also uses the phrase “consider themselves to be Christian” in describing “Notional Christians”, which isn’t used for born agains. It’s pretty clearly a negative label–yeah, in name you’re a Christian but you’re not really.

    Anyway, you’re a Notional Christian if you say you’re a Christian but don’t say
    (a) you’ve made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is important in your life today, and
    (b) you believe that you will go to Heaven when you die because you had confessed your sins and accepted Jesus as your saviour. Faith not works!

    Apparently evangelicals have to believe Satan exists but the rest of us don’t. More interestingly, only evangelicals have to believe that God is “the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect deity who created the universe and still rules it today”. Huh.

    In some surveys where they also ask denominational affiliation, Notional Christian tracks reasonably closely to Catholic.

    Screw you, Barna Group. That’s some dodgy research you’re shilling for.

    (Also, they call Gen X “Mosaics”. ???)

  • AnonaMiss

    As soon as I read Fred going on about sociopaths I got angry.

    Using the word “autistic” to describe people with some traits that are (rightly or wrongly) associated with autism would be absolutely recognized as offensive. I know the colloquial use of “sociopath” is significantly looser but I would have thought that here of all places…

    And not because of the progressivism.

    Serious dick move Fred.

  • AnonaMiss

    Also fresh brussels sprouts are nasty because of the produce market display case tendency to try to show Great Big Produce, which means that the fresh ones are picked well after they should be. Get the frozen baby brussels sprouts, they’ve only a hint of bitterness. In college I used to microwave up a big bowl of them and have them for dinner. Just brussels sprouts.

  • csalafia

    First, I want to thank you for the link love.

    This is something I’ve been talking about for a while, the sociopathic nature of the white, evangelical mindset.  In Karen Armstrong’s book “Battle for God”, she makes the point that as the world changes, the more those who feel threatened and that they lack control in their lives, the more they swing towards fundamentalism.  This allows those who can’t deal with a world changing that conflicts with their worldview to feel more in control over their life and their surroundings.

    It’s a dangerous path to take, as it leads to fear, hate, suspicion, and in some cases, even violence.

    This recent mix of evangelical fundamentalism with this selfish strain of libertarianism will inevitably lead to one of two ends…. anarchy or fascism.

  • I would add that this same delusional mindset and paranoia of persecution carries over to the gun control debate. It is, after all, the reason why the 2nd Amendment even exists. There is a perpetual state of fear against a non-existent tyranny that exists among gun owners, many of which are Christian. Many believe the government are out to get their guns. And, those liberals who are pushing for stricter gun control laws are stinkin’ socialists and trying to turn our country into a Fascist state. Inevitably, the name of Hitler is invoked to provide an illustration of their delusional fears. Tyranny, persecution, socialism, readiness, guns, are all keywords of those who live in fear and cry foul every time something doesn’t jive with their perceived Christian theocratic utopia.

  • Tapetum

     Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman described this phenomenon well in Good Omens. There’s a character described as an Anglican because while he never went to church, the church he didn’t go to was the local Anglican church. He would never have considered not going to the local Catholic church.

  • Joshua

    Really. That’s the reason? And statistically, exactly how many white Evangelicals, without relying on anecdotal evidence, believe President Obama is a Kenyan socialist atheist muslim nazi? Very, very, very many? If you’re going to say that very, very, very few people believe X, then you’re implying that very, very, very many white people believe X, no?

  • I am an omni-arian, but I hear you on where ketchup should be put. :)

  • Every now and then moments of panic set in, and I find myself praying
    desperate prayers: “God, please, come back to me.  I miss what we once
    had.  I’ll change.  I’ll be celibate, or even try and be straight.  I’ll
    fall in line with the dogma.  Just please come back to me.”

    Good lord, I used to do that when I was younger. :O

    My atheism, in part, results from the utter and complete lack of a final word on the subject in return. Kind of funny how QUILTBAG people get told to just pray the alternativeness away.

    Never works.

  • Wednesday

      (not just white Evangelicals – I don’t know why he felt the need to add that)

    ….Black Evangelicals actually do face a certain amount of actual oppression in the US (albeit due to their skin color, not their religion).
    ….White Evangelicals are considered a key part of the political base of many Republican politicians who have been making dogwhistle (and sometimes air horn) racist statements about Obama.
    …. it’s a way to quietly challenge the “white is default” problem that we have in the US.
    …. Fred has been making the case over several posts that the history of the Religious Right in the US is bound up in issues of race (abortion as a sort-of replacement for desegregation, eg).

    Take your pick?

  • Joshua

    I think it would be best if re-read my whole post, understand it, and then decided whether or not you want to respond to an aside placed in parentheticals.