I am not a Christian. I did grow up as one in what would probably qualify as a conservative and strongly religious household, but I quit the religion in my teens. If I were less intelligent or more bitter, I’d probably be resentful of Christianity – like a lot of former Christians. But I’m not. I don’t believe in it but I recognize that, like most other religions, there are good and bad things about it.
There are lots of liberals who seem to not really understand Christianity. Some of these are ex-Christians. Some never were Christians. And a lot of them are even Christians themselves, in that sense of having been raised in a nominally Christian background and never officially quitting the religion – even if they never actually practice or study it.
Whatever the case, most of my mostly-non-religious, mostly-liberal friends seem totally confused by what makes Christian Conservatives tick. Especially what makes them seem so pissed off.
It’s not totally the liberals’ fault, I must say. They see what is said by conservative Christian lobbyists and some right-wing media and it sounds like conspiracy-theory stuff. It sounds like they’re claiming that Christianity is on the verge of extinction in America. Meanwhile the liberals look around and they see that America is the most Christian country in the developed world. More Americans go to church than in any other country in the first world. Christian conservatism has had enormous political influence in the U.S. for the last forty years. During this time it has defined the Republican party, even if that influence is now waning a little. Even so, every candidate on the right, and most on the left, have to make a big show of how Christian they are, even if some of them really aren’t very religious at all.
So liberals see all this, and they see the Christian Right still trying to do things like block the teaching of evolution, opposing gay rights, or trying to ban abortion, and feel like if anything it’s the Christians who have too much power and influence. They dismiss Christians’ complaints as ‘privilege’ and sour grapes over not getting to tell all the rest of us what to do.
Now I’m not going to tell you that all of this is just totally wrong. There’s a lot of collectivism in conservative Christianity. There have also been some bad behaviors on the part of leaders in the Christian right. And a lot of conservative Christians have been really bad at expressing the message of love that is supposed to be at the core of their religion. I think most sincere Christians would admit that too.
But where liberals get it all wrong is if they dismiss conservative Christians as either stupid or evil. Or if they think that complaints about Christianity being ‘under attack’ are just made up or ignorant.
The other day I saw a left-wing social media poster mocking something that Donald Trump said:
This is the kind of thing the left loves to mock – and it probably helped that it was Trump who said it. Of course, churches in America aren’t disappearing. But that’s not what Trump meant, and by not trying to figure out the real reason why so many Christians feel marginalized in the most Christian country in the developed world, leftists are just ignoring the real issue. It comes down to something they have trouble understanding, a key difference between left-wing values and right-wing values.
Leftists have talked a lot of nonsense about the differences between left-wing and right-wing people and how they think. Most of the claims about the differences between the two groups’ way of thinking were written by incredibly biased leftist sociologists or psychologists, who of course portray conservatives as stupid and evil while liberals are smart and wonderful. But there is one difference that I think stands up to scrutiny. Having been, as a ‘cultural libertarian,’ on both sides at some point in my life, I’ve seen a lot from both groups up close. And the main difference is in their approach to equality. People on the LEFT really worry about EQUITY. They want everyone to get the same amount of stuff. They often frame this in the language of justice.
People on the RIGHT really worry about FAIRNESS. They want everyone to be treated with the same rules. They often frame this in the language of liberty.
So to a liberal, what Trump said above sounds really dumb. Christians have way more stuff than any other religion in America! They have more churches. They have more followers. They have a lot of political influence. How can they complain?! That’s how liberals think about this.
But what Trump is really talking about is that people on the Christian right feel outrage at unfairness. They might have more stuff, but the way Christians are treated by the mainstream and by the establishment elites is different than how any other religion is treated.
The only religion you’re allowed to make fun of in the media without risking your job is Christianity. The only religious group you’re allowed to blame collectively for individual bad behavior is Christianity. The only faith that the government, the education system and the media (from mainstream news to Hollywood) seems to be fine with discriminating against, insulting or mocking is Christianity.
The reason Christians feel attacked by unfair treatment is because there are real ways in which they are treated unfairly. The ‘elites’ at every area of society treat Christianity differently from every other religion.
Fundamentally, that’s their real issue. Of course there are some Christians who really don’t like atheists, or Muslims, or other religions. And there are Christians who want to see more Christian values in government. But if government and the left-wing elites treated every other religion just like they treat Christianity, that would bother them less than what is happening now.
Right now, the left-wing elites treat Christianity much, much worse than any other religion. They excuse things in religions like Islam that they would never ever excuse in Christianity. They judge Christianity for things it did hundreds of years ago, but praise Islam and make it a social crime to criticize Islam (and some want to make it a real crime), even as Islamist extremists commit horrible atrocities right now.
Governments at all levels seem to have no problem recognizing and honoring Muslim holidays, Jewish holidays or even made-up holidays like Kwanzaa that no one celebrates, but will go out of their way to avoid even mentioning Christian holidays.
They take away kids’ crosses, bibles or Christian t-shirts in schools, but they they let Muslim girls come in with veils and praise them for their faith – even if some of those girls were forced to wear them by their parents. Sometimes they even make all female students wear a hijab! They teach kids the five pillars of Islam in the school curriculum in the name of tolerance and diversity. But they don’t teach anything about Christianity, except maybe the ‘evil’ crusades, because it would be intolerant to be promoting Christianity.
Leftists never seem to have a problem with promoting all kinds of other weird but fashionable religious ideas, though. In schools and workplaces and government offices, they embrace things like mindfulness and yoga and the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s dubious transcendental meditation. I’ve explored a lot of these myself, but that doesn’t mean these practices, which are fundamentally based on religious ideas, should be taught in schools.
On the other hand, they routinely cause trouble even for constitutionally protected religious expression, if it’s Christian. They condemn and try to ban anyone making a cartoon of Mohammed, but “Piss Christ” and “the Virgin Mary Covered in Feces” are given pride of place in the best New York museums as masterpieces.
It’s the unfairness of it all that bugs them.
As a free-speech Libertarian, I would be the first to oppose forcing any kid to pray in school. Whether it’s a Christian prayer, a Muslim prayer or a new-age prayer to Mother Earth. And I’ve had some big arguments with some conservative Christians about that. But for the exact same reason, I would oppose government or schools forbidding anyone from non-disruptive prayer. And especially from making special allowances for some religions but not others.
As an Individualist, I will oppose any attempt to stop or censor anyone who wants to mock or insult religious beliefs. You have a right to be an asshole (a right I use pretty often). But when Big Government or Big Media start to sanction the insulting of some religions while forbidding the insulting of others, that’s a huge problem. It’s not a problem for Christians, it’s a problem for EVERYONE, because it’s a freedom of speech problem.
Defending these kinds of liberties used to be a liberal belief. These days that seems to be less and less true. And the more that liberals move away from those values, the more they feel that it’s acceptable or even virtuous to treat one religious belief differently from any other, then the more justified Christians’ sense of persecution becomes.
Top photo by aaron007/Getty Images
Kasimir Urbanski doesn’t write on a specific subject; he’s EveryJoe’s resident maniac-at-large. A recovering Humanities academic and world-traveler, he now lives in South America and is a researcher of fringe religion, eastern philosophy, and esoteric consciousness-expansion. In his spare time he writes tabletop RPGs, and blogs about them at therpgpundit.blogspot.com. Follow Kasimir on Twitter @KasimirUrbanski.
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