With Republicans in charge of damn near everything in Washington, a right-wing Supreme Court nominee, policy that rolls back rights for transgender students, and a Cabinet that doubles as an evangelical wet dream, you’d think conservative Christians would be celebrating. Isn’t this everything they ever wanted?
Well, yes… but that doesn’t feed their constant Martyr Complex. If Conservative Christians aren’t being persecuted — or pretending to be — there’s a hole in their heart right next to that spot Jesus supposedly filled.
Emma Green of The Atlantic has a fascinating piece about conservative Rod Dreher‘s pessimistic new book. He doesn’t focus on the recent victories. Instead, he says Christians have just postponed the bad news.
“Don’t be fooled,” he tells fellow Christians in his new book, The Benedict Option. “The upset presidential victory of Donald Trump has at best given us a bit more time to prepare for the inevitable.”
What the hell is he so upset about? Part of it is that even people like Dreher know that Christians are no longer the standard bearers for morality. They may be numerous, but they’re no longer influential. They’re seen as the bad guys, the obstacles we must overcome to create a better, more just world.
In other words, he recognizes that Christians have been their own worst enemy for decades, and it’s finally coming back to bite them in the ass.
Conservative Christianity no longer sets the norms in American culture, and transitioning away from a position of dominance to a position of co-existence will require significant adjustment, especially for a people who believe so strongly in evangelism. Even if that happens, there are always challenges at the boundaries of sub-cultures. It’s not clear that Dreher has a clear vision of how Christians should engage with those they disagree with — especially the LGBT Americans they blame for pushing them out of mainstream culture.
At one point, Dreher suggests evangelicals should follow the lead of Orthodox Jews, who have basically created their own tiny bubbles in which to live… but Green correctly notes that it’s a strange, if not meaningless, comparison:
… Dreher is saying that Christians need to be ready to live as religious minorities. But he fails to acknowledge an important distinction between the two groups, beyond mere size. Jews act like a counter-cultural, marginalized group because they’ve been that way for two millennia — powerless, small in number, at odds with the broader cultures of the places where they’ve lived. The American conservatives Dreher is addressing, on the other hand, are coming from a place of power. For many years, they dictated the legal and cultural terms of non-Christians’ lives…
It’s hard to feel any sympathy for them because of that. They’ve spent so many years making life more difficult for people who aren’t like them. So what if they feel bad? They’re like millionaires who lost a lot of money in the stock market. When it comes down to it, they’re still richer than everyone else, no matter how much they lost.
There’s a way Christians could rebuild the cultural power they used to have. It’s simple, really. They just need to use their power for good. Help refugees. Support the poor. Fight for civil rights. Protect the environment. Defend public schools. Acknowledge that Christians are doing just fine, but other groups need help in obtaining equal rights.
You know: Do all the things that everyone knows Christianity no longer represents.
I won’t hold my breath. If the first month of this administration is any indication of what Christians do when given power, they’re living up to every stereotype their critics have of them. We were right all along.
And we’ll keep fighting until they lose whatever awful influence they have left.
(Image via Shutterstock)