I’m amazed every time I hear a pastor talking about how rough it is for Christians in the U.S. As if Christians would ever trade power with any other religious or non-religious group in the country. But when you’ve been at the top of the food chain for so long, it’s natural to get scared when you look beneath you and see other people slowly climbing up. Make no mistake, though: The rest of us know who’s at the top.
That won’t stop Pastor Richie Clendenen of Christian Fellowship Church in Kentucky from selling fear, as reported by the AP’s Rachel Zoll:
… evangelicals see evidence of the threat in every new uproar over someone asserting a right to refuse recognition of same-sex marriages — whether it be a baker, a government clerk, or the leaders of religious charities and schools.
Clendenen, preaching on this recent Sunday, reflected on the chasm between his congregants and other Americans.
“There’s nobody hated more in this nation than Christians,” he said, amid nods and cries of encouragement. “Welcome to America’s most wanted: You.”
Nobody is hated more than Christians? Bullshit. Christians are in the majority and Christians have all the political power. If they’re feeling hated, it’s only because there are so damn many of them to criticize. They deserve to be challenged, if not openly mocked. And even then, they’re not the most hated group in America.
At least by one objective measure, evangelical Christians are less hated than atheists, Muslims, and socialists. So what Clendenen is saying isn’t even true.
More importantly, they’re not even being criticized for their belief in Jesus. They’re not being criticized for being Christian. They’re being criticized for the bigotry, misinformation, and nonsense they spread in church every week. They don’t have to act like that, but it’s second nature to many of them at this point. What’s Christianity for them, after all, if not a way to bring down LGBT people, prevent women from controlling their own bodies, spread misinformation through abstinence-only sex education, pretend like science is a conspiracy, and celebrate a mythology that would never make any sense if the story weren’t so damn familiar to us?
The fact is that Christians are still plenty powerful. The rest of us are just finally speaking out against their bigotry, and we make more sense than they do. We’re on the side of love, tolerance, and inclusivity. They’re on the side of bigotry, exclusion, and gullibility.
It’s telling that they act like this cultural change is a bad thing.
Check out what Rev. Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention said about the paradigm shift:
… When Moore was growing up in Mississippi, any parent whose children weren’t baptized by age 12 or 13 would face widespread disapproval, he said. Those times have passed.
“People don’t have to be culturally identified with evangelical Christianity in order to be seen as good people, good neighbors or good Americans,” Moore said.
And the problem with that is…?
It’s about time people recognize that we can be good without God — or, for other religious people, good without Moore’s God. Many Christians believe they have a monopoly on morality and the rest of us aren’t going to let them get away with that lie any more.
“When was the last time you saw an evangelical or conservative Christian character portrayed positively on TV?” [executive director of Lifeway Research Ed] Stetzer asked.
If they’re not portrayed positively, it’s because they’re portrayed accurately. On TV, they’re often preachy, judgmental, intolerant, and insufferable — in other words, exactly the way many of us experience them in real life.
I hope evangelicals lose power because they’ve shown repeatedly over the past several decades that they don’t deserve it. When they’re in charge, various minority groups suffer. I look forward to the day when their level of power matches the amount of love they show transgender people.
But we’re not there yet. We still live in a country where belief in the Christian God is almost a prerequisite to holding elected office, where accepting Jesus is a default setting, and where opposing faith is seen as heretical instead of common sense.
None of that is good enough for some pastors, though.