The American evangelical persecution complex (continued — and continued and continued …)

The American evangelical persecution complex (continued — and continued and continued …) November 14, 2011

So the Liar Tony Perkins came out recently with the claim that President Barack Obama has “created an atmosphere that is hostile toward Christianity” and that Obama, personally, “has a disdain for Christianity.”

Then I saw this headline on Christianity Today’s blog: “Tony Perkins: Obama Is Hostile, Disdainful of Christianity” and thought, “wow, that was so over-the-top that even Christianity Today is calling him out on it.”

Except they’re not. CT seems to be citing Perkins as a credible and honest authority, repeating his lies as though they were true.

CT doesn’t add any supporting evidence (there is none) or talk to anyone who doesn’t share Perkins’ point of view. They just take it as a given that Obama “has a disdain for Christianity” because … um, because … because, apparently, they just assume that everyone knows that we American Christians are a beleaguered and persecuted minority facing relentless hostility from the powers that be.

The persistence and popularity of this American Christian persecution complex is one of the strangest and least attractive aspects of American Christianity. I can’t imagine it’s viewed favorably by those Christians from other times and places whose lives and faith weren’t as easy and so widely affirmed and celebrated by their cultures — which is to say by the vast majority of other Christians who have ever lived.*

I have previously discussed my own theory attempting to explain this weird persecution complex — the idea, generally, being that by pretending we’re a persecuted minority rather than the hegemonic majority we actually constitute, then we’re also able to pretend that we’re: 1) Noticeably different in our dreams, desires and daily lives from those otherwise indistinguishable-from-us neighbors who share our culture but not the particulars of our faith; and 2) Noticeably and intolerably more virtuous and righteous than those otherwise indistinguishable-from-us neighbors who share our culture but not the particulars of our faith.

My theory, in other words, is that we’ve chosen the illusion of self-righteousness over the actual hard work of becoming the kind of love-driven, love-shaped people Jesus called us to be.

Well, that and the fact that telling people they’re being persecuted, and that their only hope is to respond to this fundraising letter with a donation of ___$100, ___$50, ___$25 (check one) also proves to be a lucrative racket.

So whether it’s an imaginary anti-Christian “Christmas Tree Tax” or the religious right’s shrieking hissy-fit over the memorial to a man they despise or the delusional lie that Obama ended Bush’s policy of “Easter proclamations” the pattern continues and continues and continues unabated, with Christians in a constant state of offended indignation over nonexistent sleights they’re actively and knowingly making up as they go along.

Not honest. Not right. Not healthy. Not cool.

– – – – – – – – – – –

* Update: Clumsily worded there. My point is that, if one got to pick when and where one was going to be born as a Christian, has there ever been a cushier, more luxurious, less-calloused and less-persecuted time or place than right now, here in America? I know religious right types might long for the good old days of Puritan New England’s legally enforced hegemony, but today they get to enjoy both cultural hegemony and indoor plumbing and broadband. So it seems churlish for Christians here and now to be whining about persecution.

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  • Tonio

    Heh! My own title for Christmas is “I Can’t Believe They’re Already Playing ‘White Christmas’ In The Stores When It’s Two Days After Halloween and 65 Degrees.” (Or 18.333 degrees if you’re shopping at Eaton’s instead of Target.)

  • You are probably right as regards the United States. I am coming from a British perspective where all religion is becoming marginalised and some people especially on the more fundamentalist wings of Islam and Christianity don not like it one little bit.

  • I blame this on a combination of the oft-discussed epistemological closure and a severe misreading of the Christ story.  The former explains why socially conservative Christians are so sensitive to any affront on their worldview – when you’ve been on top for so long, even an inconvenience seems like a major threat.  
    The later explains, I think, why they are so particularly invested in feeling persecuted.  Christ was oppressed and eventually killed by the powers that be, and I think most Christians like to think that they could make same sort of radical stand.  Of course, instead of reevaluating their beliefs to align with the values Christ championed and risk actual persecution, they contort their perception world until they can contextualize their position of privilege as one of oppression and marginalization.  But that’s understandable, if not excusable – it’s really tough to rethink your core beliefs.  In these uncertain times, it’s not surprising that that more and more people are clinging to this increasingly radicalized (and sadly inaccurate) version of Christian theology.

  • BC

    Isn’t there somewhere in the Gospel where Jesus says you are more dear to God if you are persecuted for ‘my name’s sake” or something like that?  I always thought that the RTC has to find some way they are persecuted so they can claim to be more dear to God and Jesus than the other hoi polloi.  That their persecution is so mild that the saints of old – who clung to their faiths through lions in the Coliseum and to burning at the stake – will laugh at them when they all get to heaven and retell how they were able to come through with their faith intact.  “Well, I know those lions were pretty ferocious, but you’ve never had to experience the Obama Disdain!  I’d take 10 of those lions before I face the dreaded Obama Disdain!  As for the burning  at the stake – you have never felt such pain as when Obama turned his face on me and actually sneered.  Searing, I tell you!”

  • That’s persecution of lions! Poor lions, being all hungry nowadays!

  • Rikalous

    Here is the cartoon mentioned above.

    For the first half of the linked site, I thought it was going to point out that there is no war on Christmas. Then it got to this paragraph:

    Here’s my question–how can you on the one hand honestly believe and
    argue that there is no such thing as a war on Christmas and then
    simultaneously post an advertisement from Freedom from Religion
    Foundation stating that there is no God, and not only that, but next to
    an iconic Christmas image like Santa?

    which I had to reread a couple times, because it felt like it was asking how I could believe that bears defecate in the woods.

    I just don’t understand the necessary connection between an Odin pastiche tripping on fly agaric* and the whole resurrection story.

    * Explanation here: , with a big thank you to TRiG for linking it on another site.

  • Matri

    Christ was oppressed and eventually killed by the powers that be, and I
    think most Christians like to think that they could make same sort of
    radical stand.

    I’m sorry, but I actually had to laugh at that. The right-wing has so fundamentally perverted words, meanings and the religion that they are “the powers that be” now, forcing everyone else to make the radical (but futile) stand.

    They will gladly play victim while stabbing everybody with the spears.

  • Matri

    iconic Christmas image like Santa

    Say who the what now? o.O

  • Tonio

    Would you explain what you mean by “marginalised/marginalized”? To me, that word implies not quite the persecution that the fundamentalists claim, but more of a general societal attitude that religion is an outsider subculture, like the status that Paganism has in the US.

  • Tonio

    next to an iconic Christmas image like Santa?

    Arguments like that are evidence that the “war” is really about a version of social privilege, with subtle forms of Jew-bashing and Muslim-bashing. Religions have changed, disappeared and evolved throughout human history, and they often influence each other, such as the African influence on Catholicism in Brazil. Eight hundred years from now, Christianity could be a minority religion in the US and some new religion could be the majority one. If that happens, that would be neither good nor bad, it would just be. Assuming that the First Amendment protections would still be in force, that scenario would be bad only if one believes that everyone should be a Christian.

    “In other words, it’s not a “tax,” and it didn’t original with the Obama Administration.  An industry trade group asked the USDA to approve a “check-off” (basically an assessment on the industry by the industry) to fund a private-public promotion and marketing campaign designed to encourage consumers to buy real Christmas trees (rather than the artificial trees they increasingly prefer).”
    Media Matters explained: 
    Examples of other agricultural commodity Checkoffs include the egg, beef, pork, mushroom, milk, and honey, etc. industries. We’re all familiar with the Dairy industry’s ad campaigns; “Milk Does a Body Good” and “Got Milk.” “Pork: the Other White Meat,” “Beef: It’s What’s for Dinner” and “The Incredible Edible Egg” are recognizable slogans developed and funded by Checkoff programs. These four ‘big guns’ collect between $45 and $91.2 million in assessments annually.”

    I find the pork council’s “Were the other white meat mutherfuckers!” (paraphrase) ads anti-Muslim, anti-halal, antisemitic, anti Arnold from Green Acres and more than a tad racist. Who’s with me on this?

  • P J Evans

     At least one shopping center (not a mall0 in my area had holiday decorations up by last Saturday. Which is way too early.

  • Tonio

    I remember those ads from years ago, but I don’t remember anything bigoted about them. Would you provide details?

  • Anonymous

    I note how you capitalize “Liar” when using it to describe Tony Perkins.

    Well, yes.It’s part of his official title, don’t you know, just like ‘Doctor’ or ‘Reverend’

    I find the pork council’s “Were the other white meat mutherfuckers!” (paraphrase) ads anti-Muslim, anti-halal, antisemitic, anti Arnold from Green Acres and more than a tad racist. Who’s with me on this?

    I honestly can’t tell if you’re being sarcastic or not.  If not, then no, I’m definently not with you on this.  If you are, then hilarious.

  • Anonymous

    Christianity IS the enemy. Har har har.

  • The Conservative Christians love being persecuted. Being persecuted is part of their religious heritage, it is part of who they are, how they relate to the world. That makes them ripe for being abused. All you have to do is point them in the direction you want and there they go – attacking whichever servant of Satan you choose.   

  • Brownj

    Some Evangelicals complain about being persecuted but then they turn right around and lie and persecute Mormons more viciously than any Evangelicals were ever persecuted.