Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Evangelical Christians as victims?

It’s difficult to decide what to write on these days. I would normally just pick a subject that sparked some outrage in me on that particular day. These days, the outrage is coming in as a constant, heavy barrage. I’m being worn down by constant outrage. Outrage has got its jump shot going, big time. Just pick a story off the web or some of the more progressive papers these days and you find yet another thing to be outraged about. I just saw where Bush plans to double his escalation in Iraq, euphemistically called a “surge”, and we may have close to 200,000 combat troops in Iraq by year’s end. Where all this manpower is going to come from is unknown, as we are barely able to keep up with Bush’s demand on the military even with all the extended tours and early recalls. There is the entire fiasco that is still unfolding about the politicization of the Dept. of Justice, which is well on its way to becoming a political arm of the Republican Party. I am looking forward to Monica Goodling, the 30-something graduate of Pat Robertson’s Regents University that was apparently in charge of a whole lot of everything at the Justice Dept., even with her extremely limited experience as a litigator. I just saw a story that pretty much confirms that she was using some form of loyalty oath to Bush, the Republican Party, and All Things Conservatives Care About before she would even consider them for a job, a promotion or decline to think about kicking them out of their current jobs.

There’s just so much that a person prone to outrage to choose from. I start suffering from outrage vaporlock. However, I’ll stick with this subject, as I had planned on writing something about it for the last few days. I’ll probably get to the DOJ thing in a day or two.

What got my goat was a story I saw in a couple of places, specifically DailyKos and Talking Points Memo. It seems like Newt Gingrich, well known right wing power hungry crybaby, gave a speech at Jerry Fawell’s Liberty University. One of his main points was that Christians are a severely put-upon group in America today and this anti-Christian discrimination MUST STOP! Of course, he got several long ovations from the unusually receptive audience when this point was made.

I cannot begin to imagine how Gingrich and everyone who thinks like him can possibly imagine that Christians are somehow discriminated against. However, this story plays big with the Fundamentalist Christians, usually of the Southern Baptist variety, who like to imagine themselves the ultimate victims. Maybe it has to do with Jesus suffering unjust torture and, ultimately, death at the hands of disbelievers. I don’t know. Victimhood is certainly a great way to whip up some passion in both yourself and your audience.

Here are a few little facts that I think such people would do well to ponder on before crying out, very publicly, about how unjust this society is toward Christians.

- Over 90% of Americans profess belief in the Christian version of God or some other sort of creative force that controls the universe.
- There are huge amounts of churches in every single town in America, none of them are subject to harassment or threats of violence, except for the very infrequent attacks by crazies or bored college students who are out for a prank.
- There are large number of television, radio, internet and print outlets for Christians, none of them subject to any sort of censorship or even required to pay taxes, even when they are obviously operating outside their status as a tax-exempt institution.
- Every single candidate running for President must profess his or her belief in the Supreme Being. To not do so will just about guarantee they will not win the election. Even an “outlayer” religion, like John Kennedy’s or John Kerry’s Catholicism or Mitt Romney’s Mormonism is subject to deep suspicion from the more “mainstream Christianity” of this country.
- Christians are free to organize and run their own schools, and not be required to get their curriculum approved by any government agency.
- Christmas and other Christian holidays are officially recognized by the government, and, although it certainly has been co-opted by merchandisers and very large and powerful economic interests, Christmas remains the only religious holiday during the year for which time off for all employees in the country can expect time off from work with pay.

I see absolutely zero evidence of any harassment by official government sources. I see no large demonstrations to protest any sort of Christian observances, traditions or actions. I have never heard about any Christian being denied a job or housing based solely on their chosen religion. And I am absolutely positive that Christians are not being rounded up by jackbooted storm troopers to be put on trains bound for concentration camps or slaughtered by the U.S. Army in the middle of a religious ceremony, such as happened with Native Americans at Wounded Knee. So, where, exactly, is this discrimination coming from?

The way I see it, the thing that has Fundamentalist Christians in such as snit is this. First off, the people currently in power in the government and media have been pushing the concept of Christianism (as opposed to Christians, who are just believe who believe in Jesus and the Christian version of God, and with whom I have no real bone to pick), whose central tenet is that one’s faith should absolutely be used to further one’s goals in government at all levels. It is much easier to achieve these goals when you getting everyone’s sympathy about how discriminated you are. The goals that everyone has dreamed about for years, ever since the “hippie free-love-fest” of the 60’s, now seem very much in reach. Christianists would very much like to see the public school system dismantled, government remade in order that it served the needs of their religion, and anyone opposed to their actions would be not only relegated to the sidelines, they would be actively demonized and harassed. Morality would be enforced by both religious and civil laws. And not just morality. It would be “their kind of morality.” No gays or lesbians need apply, and people of color might be tolerated so long as they know their place and keep in it.

What has these folks so up in arms nowadays is the fact that a lot of the people on the other side of the fence are now actively pushing back on their desires and pointing out the inconsistencies and in some cases, unconstitutionality of their actions. They don’t like that. Nothing should stand in their way of achieving the “perfect society”, even when they openly advocate dismantling of our current form of democratic government and repression of any sort of free speech that they consider to be abusive toward any of their beliefs, spiritual or otherwise.

I find it absolutely amazing that people like Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly and the rest are absolutely intent on pushing the victimhood of Christians in this country, and not give a second thought to how ludicrous their claim actually is.

Personally, I think the converse is true. It is actually those people like myself who profess either to heavy skepticism or outright disbelief in any deity, Christian or otherwise, who are the victims of discrimination. I was routinely harassed and ridiculed in high school (in rural Alabama, in the middle of Southern Baptist country) by my fellow students and was told I was going to Hell by a local preacher. My nickname was “Athein”. I was routinely whacked in the head during mandatory prayer our basketball team held before each and every game. You don’t have to look any further than the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs to see how influential Evangelical Christianists have become in the U.S. military. And, as I said before, unless things change significantly in this country, an atheist will never, ever become President.

So, who exactly is it again that is the subject of discrimination in this country, Newt?

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