Often when I talk about Christianophobia, I receive indignant attitudes from those who do not believe that it is a problem. I know they have not read my work documenting that the level of animosity towards conservative Christians matches the level of animosity towards Muslims and that those with this animosity are more culturally powerful than those who hate Muslims. Nor do I think they have read my work illustrating that academics openly state that they are willing to engage in religious discrimination against conservative Protestants. No, I assume that rather than investigate this issue, such individuals have merely accepted the latest meme they heard on the subject and are regurgitating it.
So let us try to take a more measured examination at the claim that all Christians are doing is losing privilege. A good illustration of the argument is to conceptualize what happened when southern whites were no longer able to have black slaves. Not having slaves cut into their profit margin and impacted them financially. They were merely losing their “privilege” of having slaves. But no one feels sorry for those who no longer enslave others based on skin color. If, however, these white slaveowners were made slaves themselves, then that is a different matter. No matter how one may feel about poetic justices, trading one set of slaves for another does not morally move our society forward. Their complaints about the changing nature of society would carry a great deal more legitimacy.
So are Christians merely those who have lost their ability to abuse others or have they themselves been placed in situations of unfairness? Well both are true. Many individuals are uncomfortable with nuanced answers, but this is a situation that calls for nuance. Clearly there were historical advantages to being a Christian that have been lost. The loss of such advantages is not an unfair burden on Christians and indeed is necessary if we want a society where we treat people of all faiths, and nonfaiths, equally. But it is also true that Christianophobia exists and there is unfair treatment of Christians that has to be taken into account.
Before I make my case, I have a couple of caveats. First, you get no argument from me that some Christians exaggerate the problem of Christianophobia. Some talk of persecution, and I have addressed the problems with doing so in a past blog. But the fact that some talk about discrimination in ways that are unhealthy does not mean that this discrimination does not exist. If it does, then we have to jettison talk of racism and homophobia due to the actions of Jussie Smollett.
Second, I have blogged about the concept of privilege in the past, acknowledging its reality but asking for a more deliberate approach to this topic. To this end, one of my arguments is some of what we often contend is privilege are really rights. They are rights we should want for everyone rather than privileges to be taken away from some. For example, in this list of Christian privileges, one of them is “You can worship freely, without fear of violence or threats.” I would hope that we all can agree that we want those of all faiths to worship without fear of violence or threats. That would be preferable to making everything “fair” by having Christians worship with fear of violence and threats. Often what people call privilege are really rights that we all should have.
When I look at the serious complaints of Christians in society, there is a certain theme that comes up, which I will identify after looking at some examples of Christianophobia. I have already pointed out that my research shows that conservative Protestants are likely to be mistreated if they attempt to land an academic job. If academics find out that they are conservative Protestants, then they are less likely to be hired simply for their religious beliefs. This level of rejection is not expressed towards non-Christian or secular individuals.
We recently observed the final dropping of the case against Masterpiece Cakeshop by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The Supreme Court found that statements made by the commissioners indicated anti-Christian animosity. They also found that the commission did not treat the Christian owner in a fair manner as they allowed other cake businesses to turn down work that they found objectionable. Given that other commissioners, even after the Supreme Court decision, have doubled down on the Christianophobic statements, why would a conservative Christian ever feel that he or she would get a fair hearing from the Colorado Civil Rights Commission?
We also see religious tests being used by our government officials. Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders, and Kamala Harris have all engaged in a dangerous game of trying to use the theological beliefs of Christians to disqualify them from governmental positions. Perhaps there are recent cases of such tests being applied to Jews, atheists, or Muslims and if there are, then please link me to them in the comments. I want to be as fair as possible. But until I see those cases, then how can I not believe that Christians are being subjected to a religious requirement that escapes others.
Finally, I come to the case of Eric Walsh, the lay pastor who was fired from his position with Georgia due to his sermon in his church. When I surveyed cultural progressive activists, I was often told that Christians can have their beliefs as long as they kept their beliefs in their churches and in their homes. I guess that was not true after all. We now see that Christians can be fired for what they say in their churches. Are there cases of non-Christian individuals losing government positions due to their statements inside their places of worship? I have not heard of any recent cases, and I suspect that if a Muslim lost a government position due to Islamophobia directed at actions inside his or her mosque that it would make the news.
Do you see what all of this has in common? First it is clear that Christians are being punished for their beliefs in ways that is not happening with non-Christians. But moreover, with the possible exception of the Masterpiece Cakeshop, the punishment is not based on any actions Christians have taken except the expression of their beliefs in their own churches and organizations. This is not a situation where we are asking Christians to stop taking rights away from others. Instead we are asking Christians to give up their own rights of religious freedom and consciences. And we are reserving those rights for non-Christians.
I suspect that many find the losing privilege argument comfortable because it allows them to put Christians in a stereotypical box. Christians are a bunch of whiners, and we can ignore their concerns. Such cognitive tricks are often used when we want to dehumanize those in our outgroups. And, as a friend recently reminded me, dehumanization is generally the first step towards treating our fellow human beings in a truly horrific manner. It is true that Christians are not being persecuted today. But we cannot allow that fact to fool us into thinking that persecution cannot happen in the future. Overconfidence in the ability of modern progressives to avoid mistreatment of others has not been inspired in me when I consider the events I outlined earlier in this blog.
This is not about losing privilege. This is about losing the rights that we want for others. Christians should speak out for the rights of the marginalized. I have called my Christian brothers and sisters to fight for the religious freedom of all, including non-Christians. But we also have every right to fight for our own rights as well. That is not a reaction to losing privilege. That is an acknowledgment of human nature and the reality that Christianophobia is real. It is a sickness that should be addressed. I fear if it is not, then we will look back at this period of time and wonder why we did not stop this type of anti-religious bigotry when we still had the chance to do so.
Update: I am deleting comments that are unnecessarily rude and add nothing to the discussion. I would not tolerate Islamophobic comments so why should I tolerate Christianophobic ones? I will also delete comments that are just about insulting me. Sorry but you would not tolerate that so why should I. I am not deleting comments that are arguments against my position even if they are silly arguments. But if you do not know how to make an argument without being unnecessarily rude then there are other places where your comments will be welcomed. But not here.