Oppressed Christians and Second-Class Citizenship

With all this talk of gay people marrying one another, some people on the right are starting to bleat about how they're being oppressed for their Christian beliefs—so oppressed, in fact, that they're starting to feel like "second-class citizens." Here's CBN's David Brody lamenting the sorrows of Kirk Cameron and Tim Tebow. Here's Red State's Erik Erikson predicting the coming pogrom ("Within a year or two we will see Christian schools attacked for refusing to admit students whose parents are gay. We will see churches suffer the loss of their tax exempt status for refusing to hold gay weddings. We will see private businesses shut down because they refuse to treat as legitimate that which perverts God’s own established plan."). Here's Fox News commentator Todd Starnes on the oppression that has already begun ("it’s as if we’re second-class citizens now because we support the traditional, Biblical definition of marriage"). And how is this second-class citizenship being thrust upon them back in the real world? Well, people are ... strongly disagreeing with their position on an issue of public concern! It's awful, I tell ya.

The impulse to jam that crown of thorns down on your head is a powerful one in politics. It means you've achieved the moral superiority of the victim, and the other side must be the victimizer. The problem is that these folks don't seem to have much of a grasp on what second-class citizenship actually looks like. Last time I checked, nobody was forbidden to vote because they're a Christian, or not allowed to eat in their choice of restaurants, or forced to use separate water fountains, or even be forbidden by the state to marry the person of their choice. That's what second-class citizenship is. Having somebody on television call your views retrograde may not be fun, but it doesn't make you a second-class citizen.

Of course, they say, "Just you wait." But these fantasies of oppression are just that, fantasies. One of their favorite scare stories is that before you know it, Christian ministers are going to be hauled off to jail or have their churches lose their tax-exempt status if they refuse to marry gay people. Right, just like at the moment a Jewish synagogue will lose its tax-exempt status if the rabbi won't preside over a Pentecostal wedding. And as for the florist who refuses to sell flowers to a gay couple, what he's asking for is not a right but a privilege, the privilege to discriminate based on sexual orientation. It's no different than if he refused to sell flowers to an interracial couple. But somehow, if he finds justification for that discriminatory practice in his faith, that's supposed to make it a fundamental right.

I'm more than happy to admit that in certain circles, it's more acceptable to be gay than to be an evangelical Christian. That's what Chief Justice Roberts was getting at when he noted during the oral arguments about DOMA that "political figures are falling all over themselves" to endorse gay marriage, and thus gay people don't qualify as a disfavored minority. But what we're talking about here isn't attendance at fashionable Upper West Side parties, it's discrimination under the law. That's what makes you a second-class citizen. It's what gay people live with now, and it's something that is never, ever going to happen to Christians, no matter how bad some of them may feel when people tell them they're wrong.


Hell, even the concept of the "oppressed Christian" in the Roman Empire is largely the stuff of legend and mythology. Although certain emperors opposed Christianity (Nero, Decius, Diocletian, and Marcus Aurelius, most notably) the pogroms of these emperors had more to do with politics (and the need for scapegoats) then actual religious beliefs.

Generally speaking the Roman Empire could care less about the religious beliefs of their citizens. However, early Christians were obsessed with martyrdom and went out of their way to secure the wrath of Roman magistrates. Basically, they sought out martyrdom and basically dared the Roman authorities to persecute them. It makes for great stories, but bad history.

We Christians are not oppressed but we are despised. As the author notes"in certain circles, it's more acceptable to be gay than to be an evangelical Christian." And those are the circles of privilege occupied by the educated, urban-coastal elite: the people who have money, social status and power, the people who are admired and influential.

The liberal media and liberal political establishment is contemptuous of us. And they don't make fine distinctions between Episcopalians and Holy Rollers. No indeed: if they're even heard of "mainline" denominations they assume that members are just Evangelical Lite, that we are simply "moderate."

I'm fed up with being patronized as one of those people who "cling to guns and religion." I'm sick of the assumptions people make about me when they discover that I'm a Christian. My ethical and political views are no different from those of anyone else on the left: pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, pro-legalizing recreational drugs, etc. I don't have a gun. I don't believe the world was created 6000 years ago.

So would you please recognize that even if "oppression" is seriously hyperbolic, we have a legitimate complaint: we are stereotyped, patronized and despised.

If you indeed have a legitimate complaint, it's clearly with those "Christians" who foster and perpetuate the stereotypes you are fed up with - not the "liberal" anything.
But in my opinion you don't have a legitimate complaint, because the mainline denominations you are speaking of have done nothing to counter the evangelicals, thereby giving them your tacit approval to drive the debate. Also, legislators like Michele Bachman do not enjoy their election victories due to an unusually large number of evangelical voters in their districts/states - your so-called "mainliners" are giving her their votes as well. If you choose to be a member of the Christian "Club". the onus is upon you to actively participate in preventing the fringe from defining your "brand".
And more to the point, if you find it necessary to disclose your religious affiliation while discussing political issues , then any contempt that you endure is justly deserved. The notion of freedom of religious expression is inherently dependent on the ABSENCE of religious considerations in the legislative process. Your freedom of religious expression only extends to protection from persecution BY the GOVERNMENT - it does not entitle you to any expectation of respect from your fellow citizens.

I have a great laugh when Christians cry they are despised and persecuted. Any nominee for president from either major party would not have a chance if he/she didn't step foot in a church during an campaign season. U.S. religious denominations hold hundreds of billions of dollars in assets thanks to favorable tax breaks and exclusions. In my state of Texas, religion plays a role in all laws signed by our buffoon governor. Even in the progressive island of Austin you would not be elected mayor if you state you are an atheist. In my podunk town you wouldn't even get elected dog catcher if you were an atheists o for that matter a Muslim. So I don't want to hear your bit@hing and moaning that you have it so bad.

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