Thursday, August 05, 2010

Prop 8 and Christian Persecution

It has been interesting to listen to Christians over the past 24 hours. Many (not all) are feeling persecuted, picked-on, and pushed aside. It seems rather funny to me that there is all of this drama over the loss of the ability to use majority rule to discriminate at will.

But I think I understand where it is coming from.

As I read over various blogs and Facebook pages, and I watch the more "fundamental" Christians make their case, it is easy to see where the source of frustration lies.


They are confused about how they got to this place.

The arguments they have developed against homosexuality make perfect and absolute sense in the boxes of their churches and sub-culture. As they sit listening to themselves in their echo chambers, their positions clearly ring true.

But then they take their arguments outside of the box.... and the public at large is not as easily convinced. The public wants justification. The public wants reason.

There was a time in American history, when Christianity clearly held the trump cards over society. The only reason it needed was "the bible says so" and the conversation ended.

Now society talks back. It wants a well-rounded, articulated position.

Christianity now needs to justify itself. It has to give cause. Christian voices must engage the public. The ability to coerce has given way to the need to convince.

This is such a downgrade of public authority that it is being misinterpreted by many as persecution.

It's not.... it's leveling the playing field.

A substantial portion of the Christian community is having to learn new speech patterns. The booming voice of authority doesn't work anymore; it has become hollow.

President Obama explained well how religious dialog needs to occur in the public square:

"Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God's will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all."

Christians are not being persecuted, many are simply having to learn to play with others in a game in which they no longer get to set the rules.

Here is Pat Robertson's take on yesterday's events. He thinks life is pretty unfair at the moment.


atimetorend said...

Good thoughts on the echo chamber effect. I feel especially for those who are more moderate but who are bullied by the louder voices to the right of them.

It seems some of the confusion comes also from a perception that the force of popular opinion should rule the day. But of course that is not always the case, nor should it be. Thankfully the government was set up with certain protections for individuals.

Obama understands and explains the issue so clearly, that's a great quote, such a contrast with Robertson's approach and understanding.

LittleBird said...

This is great insight.
I do, however, have a point of dissent on your use of the word "Christians".

Despite saying "some (not all)", there's then 2 or 3 uses of "Christians" here where you are meaning a subset and not all Christians and where "some Christians" would be more accurate.

i tend to find the blanket term "Christians" unhelpful in many cases but in the case of civil equality for the LGBTQI community, it has a particular impact on our collective thinking, discourse and, in turn, the reality of some people's lives:

i know what you meant and can make the mental distinction between your implied uses of Christians as a term, but i think it's of particular concern here, because using a blanket term "Christians" when what we mean "some Christians" in this case all too often implies division of Christian identity from LGBTQI identity - that is unhelpful.

Not only does using a catch all term in this instance all too easily infer a false dichotomy of these identities but more seriously then alienates LGBTQI Christians, leaving them isolated in our cultural discourse.
it also serves to overlook straight ally Christians and suggests the LGBTQI community neither includes Christians nor has any allies in Christianity.

That matters because LGBTQI Christians risk isolation from not only their church communities (should that church hold homophobic beliefs) but _as Christians_ they risk exclusion from secular queer spaces and community if the people they encounter there have themselves only ever felt persecuted by Christians and thus believe that to be Christian is de facto to be homophobic or at best suspicious by association. That double exclusion from both religious and queer communities is a painful reality for many people everyday, as they chart their way in a society in which far too many on all sides think being LGBTQI Christian is an oxymoron.

The use of "some Christians" guards against any rhetorical isolation, alienation and making-invisible in conversations.

Those Christians - whether conservative or liberal, evangelical, Catholic or mainline Protestant, and irrespective of their gender identity or orientation, who *aren't* confused and who furthermore actively seek full equality and justice for all gender expressions or orientations -- but particularly those Christians who identify as LGBTQI -- are part of a broader group that extends beyond religious or orientation groupings.

The way we use a label like "Christians" shapes that picture of 'the public' - and here, the blanket term risks perpetuating a false picture of the diversity of Christians, many of whom are not in an echo-chamber and who live in society as 'the public' with little experience, ideology, theology or values in common with someone like Pat Robertson or those you have been encountering online.

i think we need to be vigilant to that and always specify when we mean "some" or "many" rather than inferring all.

i know what you meant. i'm sure most people who come here do, but crucially for those who are in socially vulnerable situations and have faced or are facing actual persecution from other Christians because of their gender/sexual identity or values, the blanket term here in several places disavows their experience by placing them in the same box as the bullies that are bullying them.

i know that was not your intention but beyond semantics, our language would, i hope, be attentive and seek to recognise, acknowledge and thus honor those who suffer rejection from churches, communities, families and homes at the hands of "some confused and prejudiced Christians".

sorry, i could have probably made that briefer.

regardless, the point you're making is a useful one and this comment is certainly not a disavowal of it.

that cbn segment was nothing short of brain-melting in its degree of ignorance of the political and judicial system.


Anonymous said...

I'm straight, and Christian, and thought this post was spot on. Great job! Couldn't have put it better; will be forwarding the url to friends and family.

Andrew said...

"It seems some of the confusion comes also from a perception that the force of popular opinion should rule the day."

Listening to the interview, it is amazing how people switch arguments based on the need of the moment. I laughed when the female newscaster bemoaned the loss of "checks and balances" when this was a perfect example of that in action.

LB - A fair critique. I agree with your thought on word selection (and its implications here) and have gone back and cleaned it up a bit. I am not always the best self-editor, so hopefully the changes are more clear.

LittleBird said...

nice edits.


it's a great post.

well said,


NW Ohio Skeptic said...

It's tough when you learn you are not the only game in town.

Evangelical and Fundamentalist Christians are going to have to learn that their monopoly of the political and social process is over. I don't expect them to give up or give in but they shouldn't expect some of us to roll over when they invoke the name of God or quote the Bible. So what! Prop 8 is about civil rights and equal protection under the law. Religion and the Bible simply have no part to play in this debate.

Us against them and persecution is increasing is great for fund raising. It is about as real as a Jack Van Impe prediction.


Andrew said...

You hit on another point, there must be numerous "ministries" out there already counting the increased revenue they will be able to bring in due to this ruling. I can already predict what my next Focus on the Family mailing will look like....

WES ELLIS said...

Really great post man. It's so naive for American Christians to think they're persecuted. It's arrogant too, especially when they're the real persecutors.

And I also appreciate the quote. Obama hit the nail on the head.

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