If you spend much time at all listening to conservative evangelical pastors, Christian radio, or Republican politicians, you know that these groups promote a persecution narrative in which they position themselves as the victims of religious persecution. (And then accuse the Left of promoting a culture of victimization.) Given that we live in a country that is a majority Christian and invokes the Christian God on its currency and in its national pledge, among other things, this claim is laughably absurd.
Yesterday RightWingWatch posted some excerpts from conservative evangelical pastor and Christian leader Kevin Swanson’s radio show. Swanson has a history of saying outrageous things about the Girl Scouts, LGBT people, and birth control, among other things. You can read a description of his latest remarks as follows:
Kevin Swanson, the pastor courted by Ted Cruz who has repeatedly called for the execution of gay people, including just minutes before speaking with Cruz at an event last November in Iowa, dedicated a radio program last week to attacking the Girl Scouts for supporting women’s and LGBT rights, saying that the group’s leaders are worthy of death.
Swanson, who has spent years calling for a boycott of Girl Scouts cookies and accusing the organization of promoting communism and turning girls into lesbians, said that Girl Scouts leaders have violated Jesus’ teaching that it would be better for someone to have a millstone hung around their neck and thrown into the sea rather than cause a child to sin.
This instruction, Swanson said, should be applied literally. After criticizing the Girl Scouts because it “promotes lesbianism” and movies like “Harry Potter” and “How To Train Your Dragon” for featuring “homosexual mentors provided to little boys” — a criticism he detailed at the rally with Cruz — Swanson said that people must put into effect Jesus’ teaching against debasing children with such “movies that promote homosexuality or organizations that promote homosexuality.”
“You’ve got to take what He says and you have to apply it,” Swanson said.
My first grade daughter is a Daisy Scout. They do crafts and eat snacks and talk about being kind. They go see plays together and participate in service projects together and sell cookies. But then, I suppose this is how they get the girls, right? They hook them on cookies and then switch them to birth control pills when they turn 14. Just kidding. Swanson is actually objecting to their inclusion of comprehensive sex education, and their acceptance of varying sexual orientations. The horror!
But when I clicked to listen to the included clips myself, this, and not all of the above, was the bit stuck out at me:
Two and a half years ago we took a stand against the girl scouts, against all of the political pushback, and of course the media pushback, that’s the primary form of persecution you get these days.
It appears that Kevin Swanson views media criticism of his attacks on the Girl Scouts (and others) as a form of persecution for his beliefs—and that this is in fact the primary form of persecution he (and others) face.
What’s baffling is that Swanson can engage in outrageous attacks on the Girl Scouts, and on LGBT individuals, and yet, when the media publicizes his comments in all of their outrageous details they’re the ones persecuting him. Kevin Swanson has literally called for the death penalty for homosexuality, and yet when the media rightly calls this out as bigotry, he is the one being persecuted.
Don’t get me wrong, Swanson has the right to say the things he says (although I should note that if someone listens to his radio show and then goes out and shoots a Girl Scout leader, or kills an LGBT person, I’m holding Swanson partially responsible). But just as Swanson has freedom of speech, so too do others. And then, of course, there’s also the freedom of the press. Look, being criticized is not persecution. Swanson seems to thing he has the right to express his abhorrent and hateful views free from criticism, and that is a right you will not find in the Constitution.
By the way, it would be easy to dismiss Swanson as marginal or a crank, but it should be remembered Ted Cruz and two other Republican presidential primary contenders (who have since dropped out) attended Swanson’s National Religious Liberties Conference last fall. Swanson does have influence.
Check out this from the conference page:
Persecution against Christians is on the rise in Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Sudan, China, Oregon, and Kentucky.
Yes, really. The text is presumedly referring to the Oregon bakers who were fined for refusing to serve a lesbian couple and Kim Davis, the Kentucky official who refused to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples after last summer’s marriage equality ruling. Neither of these cases involved religious persecution—instead, both involved blatant discrimination against gay and lesbian couples. You can believe gay marriage is immoral and preach it from the rooftops, but you cannot discriminate against gay and lesbian couples in business or in government.
In Kevin Swanson’s book, being told you can’t discriminate against gay and lesbian couples is Christian persecution on the same level as that in countries like Iran, Pakistan, or China. Of course, in Kevin Swanson’s book media criticism is Christian persecution. Not only that, but it seems Swanson views criticism of their beliefs as the primary form of persecution he and other Christians receive today. This lays bare the bankruptcy of Swanson’s claims of Christian persecution, doesn’t it?