New on the Guardian: Real Religious Persecution

New on the Guardian: Real Religious Persecution August 18, 2014

Big news today! I’m very pleased to announce that I’ve published my first original column for the Guardian, the venerable progressive newspaper, in their Comment is Free opinion section.

The column is titled “‘Help, help, I’m being repressed!’: How conservatives make a mockery of the oppression of religious minorities. It concerns those American Christian conservatives who shriek that their religious liberty is being cruelly denied, while steadfastly ignoring those who experience genuine persecution around the world. Here’s an excerpt:

The Yazidi, who practice an ancient syncretistic faith derived from Zoroastrianism, are just one example of how various religious minorities are under threat. In Myanmar, despite the country’s transition to democracy, a Muslim community called the Rohingya has been herded into squalid camps and deprived of medicine and other necessities, even facing mob violence. Meanwhile, the Middle East’s Christian population has been virtually wiped out in the chaos unleashed by the American invasion of Iraq and the convulsions of the Arab Spring.

Contrast that with the exaggerated sense of victimhood on full display recently in Washington DC when former presidential candidate Rick Santorum debuted the “documentary” One Generation Away. This film uses interviews with dozens of prominent Christian conservatives – from staunch Catholics to evangelical Protestant – to make the case that religious freedom in America is on the brink of complete destruction.

Continue reading on the Guardian.

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  • Congrats, Adam.

  • It is clear that to those folks their own freedom to curtail their neighbours’ freedom is more precious than the survival and basic rights of their fellow human beings in Iraq and Myanmar.

  • Nate

    I don’t really disagree with your position in this. I do think that American christians are ridiculous in the way they cry religious persecution. However, I couldn’t help but see parallels between your argument and Dawkins’ infamous Dear Muslima comments. Absolutely things are worse in other places in the world but if there are problems here, the presence of greater problems elsewhere shouldn’t be used to silence complaints of lesser degree. The one thing that might be different to justify the argument in this case is that christians like Santorum are actually claiming that they are under, or rather about to be under, persecution of that extreme degree but I still came away with the impression that the paragraphs about foreign persecution were largely irrelevant to american christians.

  • Errant Endeavour

    I can understand the parallels, but I feel this article and Dear Muslima are different. The whole problem with Dear Muslima is that Dawkins was dismissing real concerns and problems, stating they were unimportant. However, as this article shows, the persecutions – at least for the majority of the time – that American Christians supposedly face are very much non-issues. They’re jumping at shadows under the bed, and nothing more.

  • J-D

    To describe Rick Santorum’s sense of victimhood as ‘exaggerated’ suggests that it has _some_ real basis, that he is being victimised and is only exaggerating how much he is being victimised. Since this is not the case, his sense of victimhood would be better described as ‘baseless’, ‘bogus’, ‘confected’, ‘deluded’, ‘false’, ‘illusory’, ‘imaginary’, ‘spurious’, or ‘unwarranted’.

  • GCT

    …but if there are problems here…

    There aren’t. And, that right there is why it’s nothing like the Dear Muslima argument, which you seem to agree with when you claim that American Xians are ridiculous to cry religious persecution. It’s simply not happening here.

  • Korou


  • Black Leaf

    Persecution [noun]: being forced to follow the same rules as everyone else.

  • Terry Firma
  • B-Lar

    I agree. When we responded to Richard Dawkin’s “Dear Muslima” letter, the reply was “So what? Can we not work on both things at once? why do we only have to focus on the worst thing?”. Its not very good rhetoric.
    I think a stronger stance to take is to point out exactly what is happening rather than look elsewhere:
    -No longer automatically getting your own way certainly feels like you are being persecuted.
    -Facing criticism from many sides certainly feels like you are being ganged up on.
    -You get to choose whether or not to listen to that criticism or to honestly asses whether you should have been getting your own way all that time.
    -If you choose wisely, those persecuted feelings will go away. If you choose foolishly, then they will increase exponentially and CONSUME YOUR SOUL.
    Seriously, Satan loves it when you cry persecution against legitimate criticism. It weakens your cause and makes you look even more divorced from reality than you are.

  • GCT

    When we responded to Richard Dawkin’s “Dear Muslima” letter, the reply was “So what? Can we not work on both things at once? why do we only have to focus on the worst thing?”.

    2 things here…
    1) What do you propose we claim we can work on in terms of Xians in America crying persecution when none is taking place?
    2) We also pointed out that Dear Muslima was downplaying the real instances of harassment and sexism that western women were facing. Where are the real instances of persecution being faced by American Xians? If anyone is downplaying real persecution, it’s the American Xians.

    So, once again, I don’t see how this is at all comparable to Dear Muslima.

  • Nate

    I don’t disagree with his position but it does seem like a bad argument.

    Maybe Dear Muslima has too much baggage to use as an example. My larger point is that if someone says they are persecuted and your response is that other people are persecuted more, your response is irrelevant and really just an appeal to emotion. Talking about someone else’s persecution can contextualize the situation but I don’t see how else it would be relevant.

  • Thanks!

  • Azkyroth

    “The word ‘persecuted’ has a meaning. It’s not something you can just grab off the shelf and prance around in when it’s convenient.”

  • GCT

    My larger point is that if someone says they are persecuted and your response is that other people are persecuted more, your response is irrelevant and really just an appeal to emotion.

    That’s not the response. The response is that American Xians are not being persecuted at all and then to give an example of what actual persecution is and point out that they are downplaying actual persecution that is actually happening by whining about fake persecution. What makes you think that American Xians are even slightly persecuted?