Saturday, April 19, 2014

Evangelical Christianity and the Problem of Crying Wolf

There is an epidemic occurring in the American Conservative Evangelical movement.

A perceived victimization and persecution that many Christians feel has strangled their ability to openly practice their faith. A hypochondria that has seeped into the minds of a faith group that has never once had a minority status since the founding of our nation.

A December 2012 Gallup poll revealed that 77% of our nation’s population considers itself to be Christian.

How is it, then, that Evangelical Christians…the group that called itself the “Moral Majority” in the 1980’s, now considers itself to be persecuted?

The truth is that Christians are outraged because they no longer enjoy the exclusive privilege of legislating a specific faith based agenda with the mores they've been taught. This crazy democratic experiment of our nation is actually working, allowing people of all faiths to take part in our existence, free from the theocratic imperialism our founders fought so bravely to escape. But instead of celebrating this freedom, Evangelicals have been throwing themselves on the floor like petulant children who are upset that they didn't get their way.

I was recently discussing a news item with one of my former college professors, where reportedly, a young girl in a suburb of Orlando was told by a school employee she could not quietly pray over her lunch. This anecdote, to the professor, was proof that Christians in America are being persecuted, despite the giant conflict of interest that he could have easily discovered himself had he not bought into the questionable reporting done by the pundit who broke the story on Fox News. I mean, why question the fact that the father of the little girl who made the claims just happens to be in an executive sales position at the publishing company who is releasing the book that the pundit recently authored? That’s fair and balanced, right? When I pointed this out, his response to me was “They have eyes, but do not see, ears but do not hear.”


This is what I see and hear:
- Christian bookstores
- Christian universities and colleges
- Christian symbols on numerous automobiles, billboards, and business signs
- Christian radio shows, television talk shows, movies, magazines, and internet sites
- A federally recognized Christian holiday…Christmas
- Politicians sworn into office on the Holy Bible
- The Holy Bible used in legal proceedings to swear in witnesses
- Megachurches that pay no taxes
- Pastors of said megachurches living in mansions (I'm pointing at you, Joel Osteen)
- Politicians like Mike Huckabee rallying Christians to eat at Chik-fil-A as a symbol of standing up for your faith (this is about as stereotypical as it gets in America…we show our strength by eating at a fast food restaurant)
- Events like the Value Voters Summit that draws in millions of dollars in donations so politicians can brag about how Christian they are

If you stop and pay attention long enough, you can see that Christianity is all around us, in symbols and even in the expressions we use.

What’s even worse, is that when American Christians cry out that they are being persecuted, it shifts the focus from places in the world where Christians, along with all kinds of other believers, are actually being persecuted.

How many of us saw our religious and some political leaders express outrage about the disciplinary action television network A&E handed down in the aftermath of the controversial remarks that Duck Dynasty’s patriarch, Phil Robertson, made in GQ, but said nothing about the heinous genocide that took place during the same week (and is still taking place) in Central African Republic?

How many pastors and Christian organizations told their followers to stop sponsoring children through World Vision, because the company decided it would no longer discriminate against employing married gay and lesbian workers? It is estimated that over 2,000 kids lost sponsorships due to the fact that Christians were livid that a gay or lesbian person might be helping children through being employed at World Vision. If American Evangelicals are so horribly persecuted, I wonder how they can possibly justify using starving children as a bargaining chip against an organization they have a disagreement with.

I couldn't help but wonder if my former professor was equally as outraged when a county in Tennessee ruled last year that a local Muslim community could not build a mosque?

What about Father Frans van der Lugt, who served the people in Homs, Syria since 1966? Amidst the violence and civil war currently happening in Syria, Father Frans was tragically assassinated this past week.

But American Christians cry “persecution!” when someone wishes them “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” They get riled up when someone calls them out on the idiocy of their colloquial “love the sinner, hate the sin” statements. They nearly have heart attacks when our President speaks in a manner that includes Americans of all belief systems.

I can't help but feel like this is a symptom of a bigger problem. Evangelical Americans have lost their focus and are desperately looking for someone or something to blame.

Though they have eyes, they fail to see that out of their lack of self-awareness, they can only blame this perceived persecution on the selfish, imperial nature in which they have been operating. The only thing that can help them now, is a return to the instructions of their Teacher, and a rejection of the voices and charismatic leaders who profit from their sheep-like followers.