We recently looked at quantifiable evidence showing that white evangelicals have a delusional persecution complex.
The tide of public opinion condemning white evangelicals’ defense of legal discrimination against LGBT people has only intensified that sense of imagined grievance and martyrdom.
“It’s as if we’re second-class citizens now because we support the traditional, biblical definition of marriage,” Fox News commentator Todd Starnes whined. And CBN’s David Brody argued that white evangelicals are now “more scorned than homosexuals.”
This is nonsense. Paul Waldman and Steve Benen both offer good summaries of why such claims from people like Starnes and Brody are wildly inaccurate. Losing an argument is not the same thing as legal persecution.
Here’s Waldman on “Oppressed Christians and Second-Class Citizenship“:
The impulse to jam that crown of thorns down on your head is a powerful one in politics. It means you’ve achieved the moral superiority of the victim, and the other side must be the victimizer. The problem is that these folks don’t seem to have much of a grasp on what second-class citizenship actually looks like. Last time I checked, nobody was forbidden to vote because they’re a Christian, or not allowed to eat in their choice of restaurants, or forced to use separate water fountains, or even be forbidden by the state to marry the person of their choice. That’s what second-class citizenship is. Having somebody on television call your views retrograde may not be fun, but it doesn’t make you a second-class citizen.
Of course, they say, “Just you wait.” But these fantasies of oppression are just that, fantasies. One of their favorite scare stories is that before you know it, Christian ministers are going to be hauled off to jail or have their churches lose their tax-exempt status if they refuse to marry gay people. Right, just like at the moment a Jewish synagogue will lose its tax-exempt status if the rabbi won’t preside over a Pentecostal wedding.
And here’s Benen on “When a persecution complex goes awry“:
As much as I hate to break up a good pity party, it’s worth noting that conservative evangelicals are not actually oppressed, at least not in this country. They’re losing public debates — failing to persuade the American mainstream is not the same thing as persecution — but no one has proposed stopping social conservatives from getting married, or adopting, or serving in the military. When conservative evangelicals get elected to Congress, it’s not a historic breakthrough. When social conservatives look for equality, they don’t wait patiently for a Supreme Court ruling to decide whether they’ll get it.
They’re eager to make others second-class citizens, but as these efforts stumble, conservative evangelicals have convinced themselves that they’re the real second-class citizens.
I think the panic we’re seeing from folks like Brody and Starnes reflects their growing realization not just that the tide has turned against them in their culture war, but that their own side is not regarded as the moral one.
The one thing they had been sure of was that they were morally superior. Losing any given battle in the culture war was tolerable because they could, at least, reassure themselves that they had been fighting for goodness and truth and righteousness. But when it comes to discrimination against LGBT people, not only are they losing, but their defeat is celebrated as a triumph for goodness and truth and righteousness. They’re slowly beginning to realize that they are not the Good Guys in this story.
I wrote about this just after the election in November, so allow me to repeat a bit of that here:
For decades, the religious right has been pre-occupied with two issues above all else: abortion and homosexuality. And on both of those issues, they have wielded power and influence by claiming the moral high ground — claiming to represent the godly, “biblical” truth of right and wrong. Anyone who disagreed with them on these issues was portrayed as less moral, less godly, less good.
That claim — that framing of these issues as right vs. wrong, good vs. evil, biblical vs. unbiblical, moral vs. immoral — was asserted and accepted for most of the religious right’s 30-year run.
But not any more. That claim is still being asserted, but it is no longer being accepted.
Part of what happened on Tuesday was that millions of people rejected that claim on moral grounds. This was not just a political or pragmatic disagreement that preserved their essential claim of godly morality. It was a powerful counter-claim — the claim that the religious right is advocating immoral, unjust and cruelly unfair policies on both of its hallmark issues. Knee-jerk opposition to legal abortion and to gay rights weren’t just rejected as bad policy, but as bad morals — as being on the wrong side of right vs. wrong, good vs. evil, biblical vs. unbiblical, moral vs. immoral.