Amanda Marcotte wrote an excellent article over at AlterNet last week, The Christian Right’s Bizarre Delusions of Persecution. She points out the way that Christians create scandals by breaking social norms and then, when they are corrected, claiming that they are being persecuted. The focus of the story is the retracted Oscar nomination for Bruce Broughton. He broke Academy rules by sending an email out to 70 members asking for their vote. In the conservative Christian press, this turned into, “Broughton was taken out of Oscar contention because he is a Christian!” It is all very sad.
I’ve thought about this a lot. And although I’ve come to a number of conclusions, on a gut level, it is still hard to understand how a religion that 80% of the country follows—that is followed by the richest and more powerful people as well—can be persecuted. Of course, it isn’t any different than the conservative claim that the only prejudice that remains in America is that against straight white males. But that isn’t reasonable either. The problem is one of definitions. When I use the word “persecution,” I mean something very different than they do.
As I’ve argued before, conservative Christians do not want equal rights. They most certainly already have that. They want special rights. To me, Christian belief is no more true than Norse mythology. I don’t especially care about either. But if anyone finds either religion helpful to them, that’s great! I’m not on a mission to convert anyone. The problem with Christians is that they are on a mission to convert everyone by any means necessary.
The fact that 80% of Americas do self-identify as Christian makes the more fervent individuals mistake their beliefs for facts. If less than half of the country claimed to be Christian—as it is in France—it would be harder for them to just assume that Christianity is fact. Of course, every religious believer thinks that his religion is true. But relatively few think it literally true. Unfortunately, in this country, almost half the people are fundamentalists who think that the Bible is the literal word of God.
It is understandable then, that these people think that it is an affront to God when others don’t believe. This gets to the whole Christian Right outrage machine about saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” The issue there is that “Happy Holidays” is inclusive: Christmas is part of it. But that relegates Christianity to just another religion, not the One True Religion.
Thus, we are left with a religious group that thinks it is persecuted when others don’t accept it. Buddhists, for example, don’t have that luxury. They can’t look across America and conclude that they are being abused because the president didn’t mention the Dalai Lama in a speech. But Christians can, because they are an overwhelming majority in this country. They’ve been so pandered to over the years that they think they are persecuted when they aren’t pandered to.