Monday, November 24, 2008

Entitlement, Privilege, and the United States Christian...

I do believe this needs to be revisited, in light of all the fundies trying to impose the bible on the rest of the American citizens--hence, here it is again. Read, enjoy, and share a thought or two!

So I've been writing this post for quite some time... Months, actually... Constantly writing and rewriting trying to get my point across just right, and I think I've pretty much refined it as much as I can... It meanders a bit, but I think the overall cohesiveness is about as good as I'm going to get it in this lifetime, and we all know we'll end up revisiting this topic at some point in the future, so without further ado... here it goes...
Tolerance is over-rated. I've been mulling this for quite some time, ever since Ergo, a truly wise man, once told me that I should forget about the concept entirely. And even though I have great respect for Ergo, I never take anything anyone tells me and run with it--you'd be liable to poke an eye out! I mull, I consider, I ruminate and decide how it would, could, or should fit into my world view if at all...

I've decided tolerance is ultimately self-defeating. It's primary purpose is a weapon by which someone says that they can't be criticized for their position, and ultimately it squashes any dissent at all...

We've seen this type of behavior even here. I'll be criticizing the beliefs of practices of a certain religious group which holds great sway over the daily life of many Americans. And inevitably, somewhere in the comments of any given post I'll be accused of anger, and ultimately, intolerance, and then they will go on to state just as strong a position in stark contrast from my own, and told in no uncertain terms that that is "the way it is," or "the truth," (as if somehow this is a "tolerant" position to take), and sky god forbid if I try to refute it, as I'll once again be labeled "intolerant."

And, despite the fact that 90% of the people in this country (scary, scary) hold the same beliefs the commenter holds, somehow my voice, comments, and opinions are the ones that cause an issue of intolerance...

But what is the sum of my "intolerance"? The meaning, the whole, the reason why I try to be "tolerant"? I do believe that a plethora of ideas, thoughts, and statements of belief to society as a whole are wonderful, ultimately productive, and beneficial. Though this should in no way construe to be meant that every idea, belief, or statement is valid, but every idea must be at least put on the table, so to speak, for society to continue to move in a productive direction, for the group, as well as for the individual...
"Tolerance" is now a weapon, of sorts. It takes a pretty benign idea, that of having patience to hear someone out, or "put up" with something. But it no longer is used within this context, is it? When most people cry "intolerance" (especially when in relation to some supposed attack on Christianity), it has come to mean "They won't agree with us and let us say whatever the hell we want."

But tolerance is only ever meant to be the smallest part of patience. And when the patience has been tried, tolerance goes out the window. Tolerate is what you do when your two-year-old tried again to drink from a cup instead of his sippy-cup, or you tolerate the sales person who called during dinner only as long as it takes to get them off the phone. You tolerate a visit from some member of the family you dislike for the sake of a holiday, or some-such other type scenario.

But dogma isn't something to be tolerated...
Christianity enjoys great privilege in our country. They have the freedom to spout whatever nonsense comes to mind, to do all sorts of ceremonies, worship practices, pass judgment on huge swaths of humanity all under the guise of "religious freedom." Whether it be blessing a bottle of water to call it "holy," or eating crackers and saying it's the body of their dead god, to declare such-and-such "good" or such-and-such "bad" based on a book that should have been retired to the moths ages ago is pretty much standard. One can't be too shocked when they think this is their country when they are so populous as to bring to mind the cockroach and the ant.

And one would be remiss if one didn't acknowledge the impact Christianity has had on this country!

Back in colonial times, Puritan preachers referred to Native Americans as "Amelkites and Canaanites"--and in case you are unaware who they are, in the old testament, they are "bad people" who are living in the so-called "promised land" who must be smote (smited?)--and as such, Christians in the early days of our country decided that, if they wouldn't convert to Christianity, they had to be killed...

Then there was the state of Maryland's famous 1649 law called "Act Concerning Religion," which supposedly instituted "freedom of religion" for the first time in an American colony. What was your freedom of religion? Christianity, basically. You were free to be a Christian, otherwise you'd be put to death, as stated in the law:

That whatsoever pson or psons within this Province and the Islands thereunto belonging shall from henceforth blaspheme God, that is Curse him, or deny our Saviour Jesus Christ to bee the sonne of God, or shall deny the holy Trinity the ffather sonne and holy Ghost, or the Godhead of any of the said Three psons of the Trinity or the Vnity of the Godhead, or shall use or utter any reproachfull Speeches, words or language concerning the said Holy Trinity, or any of the said three psons thereof, shalbe punished with death and confiscaton or forfeiture of all his or her lands and goods to the Lord Proprietary and his heires,
The same went for the Virgin Mary, of course...

Citizenship rights were denied to American colonists who were not Christian church members. Dancing was rated by several Protestant denominations as an unforgivable sin (despite the fact that King David in the bible danced naked around a fire before his god...). Any one who spoke ill of sky god, Jesus, the holy spirit, or of the Bible could be jailed for blasphemy. Baptist evangelists were persecuted by order of civil laws in the colony of Virginia, a state that only recognized the Anglican church as the one true church (irony, irony). In Salem, Massachusetts they hung people who were accused of being "witches." And four Quakers were hung in Massachusetts merely for being Quakers!

Truly a religion pock-marked by tolerance...

"But!" today's followers of sky god will say, "they weren't really Christians!" Or, "But you cannot judge us by their actions!"

Fair enough--I'll judge you by today's actions, words, and deeds. This may seem intolerant of me, though, I warn you...
Today's Christians in America enjoy a grand sense of ... well, entitlement is the only word that comes to mind. They have strong feelings about how their particular brand of religion should be expressed in this country, whether at the expense of other religions or the non-religious is of no consideration.

Take, for example, prayer in schools. Many Christians feel that non-teacher-led prayer in schools is a strike, an attack, on Christianity in America today. As if having a teacher lead a Christian prayer in school would have prevented Columbine or some other type of disaster! They assume it is an unconstitutional hostility against their religion. This assumes a justification of privileges for Christianity, despite the fact that there are no other religious prayers led by teachers in learning institutions, such as a Jewish prayer, or a Buddhist prayer, and we certainly don't hear Jews and Buddhists claiming that teachers should be leading their prayers before every class in a public school, and they certainly aren't claiming a hostility toward their brand of religion.

This sense of entitlement also comes up when Christians insist that their religious holidays deserve some type of special recognition, deference, or respect. At times, some Christians act as though other belief systems are inferior, unequal to their own, and don’t merit equal consideration in any form. A perfect example of this would be the holiday known as Christmas. The fact that they consider "Happy Holidays" a slap in the face of their particular brand of religion, and that being considerate of other celebrations of other groups, whether religious or non, shouldn't even be recognized by retailers, let alone a school or government body of any type, is a common "call to arms" in many fundamentalist Christian circles. Yet Muslims, Jews, Hindus don't take it as an affront when someone doesn't say "Happy Hanukkah" or "Merry Eid al-Fitr" around their time of celebration. But an American Christians' sense of entitlement, of privilege, doesn't even recognize their claim of religious belief as valid. Indeed, many Christians will openly admit that differing beliefs aren't valid, even bad for American culture.

In fact, in what I assume to be the type of thinking engaged by these "entitled" Christians, is the sense of the idea that Christians are a majority, and in a democracy, the majority rules. That if they want to shape, mold, and influence the political and cultural landscape of the country, it is not only their right as citizens, but their right as the majority! They not only get this from the Constitution, but I suppose they also feel it (indeed, I guarantee it) to be their religious duty, as if legislating morality is the moral thing to do! It's what being a Christian Nation is all about. What fails to be noted, though, is that in a democracy, while there is a majority rule, there is still the protection of minority rights, something of little, if any value, in what is perceived to a Christian nation. Christians should note that they can no more vote to privilege Christianity in America than a white male like myself could vote to privilege my race. It goes against the very principles at the core of the Constitution itself.

But what does this have to do with "tolerance" and "violence" you ask? Indeed, there does seem to be a separation, a disconnect, of thought when it comes to Christian values and violence as opposed to Muslim values and violence. Why was not Clayton Waagner, or Eric Robert Rudolph, and others like them called Christian terrorists when its quite obvious their acts of violence are directly related to their Christian beliefs, much like when suicide bombers are called "Muslim terrorists" as their acts of destruction and devastation are directly related to their beliefs? Why is there this disconnect between American Christians, who feel they have nothing to do with the acts of those who believe as they do when they do something this destructive, yet they feel they can blame Imams and other Muslim teachers for not speaking out enough against Muslim terrorists?

It is the current sense of entitlement and privilege that many American Christians feel--their own innate individualism guaranteed by the Constitution--that I feel they think allows them to separate themselves from the group-think they engage in. They are an individual. They claim their common beliefs, their group of thinking, their way of thinking as the majority has the right to rule, yet they wipe their hands clean when individuals in their group do something so horrific, they are not to blame. American Christians--even when they hold the very beliefs and thoughts that created the situation they are hypocritically condemning--never have to worry about being called one of the group. Instead, they get to call their violent coreligionists "crazy," "insane," "deluded," or even "deranged," and it is assumed that the beliefs that lie at the heart of the violence are not connected to the religion that teaches them.

Take for example abortion. Many many sites that claim to be loyal to the Christian god have stories, essays, and grand sermons on what their holy book says about abortion, why it is wrong, why it is "murder." Here is one site that pulls verses from Luke, Jeremiah, and Psalm that the Bible teaches abortion is wrong--nay, even murder--as if stringing together a bunch of random verses from things written two thousand years ago is an argument in any way--but if one were to use this very book as a basis for moral law, guess what the punishment for murder is in the Bible? You guessed it--murder. Kill them. Stones were the preferred method of the day, of course, but one certainly can't blame them for not having discovered gun powder yet, right? All part of God's plan, or somesuch other reasoning...

But this person--and many others throughout the country--are thoroughly convinced there is no connection between anti-abortion violence and Christianity. Why is this?

It boils down to privilege and entitlement--something American Christians are quite used to here in the United States. And as previously stated, individual rights are one of those privileges. I'll say it again, American Christians--even when they hold the very beliefs and thoughts that created the situation they are hypocritically condemning--never have to worry about being called one of the group. Instead, they get to call their violent coreligionists "crazy," "insane," "deluded," or even "deranged," and it is assumed that the beliefs that lie at the heart of the violence are not connected to the religion that teaches them.

American Christians of course have the inalienable right of "individual," but only seem to claim it when a "group" or "individual" commits a violence in the name of the same god they subscribe to. These individuals are claimed to be missing the "point," perhaps, or certainly "not one of them." In fact, the only time our American Christians seem to think as a group, or claim group status as a majority, is when they sense some type of empirical threat against their supremacy, their privileges, their entitlement, such as school prayer, "Merry Christmas," or ten commandments displays on a government wall.

But they refuse to see themselves as a group when it comes to those who are persecuting others, much preferring to be the "victims" in a country where their status of entitlement and privilege marks them as no more a victim than a billiard table holding all the balls. Even when those same Christians-in-denial hold the same beliefs that lead to the situation of violence and destruction...

But this self-assigned "privilege" (denying group-membership when it comes to violent members) is something we hear Christians denying every other group in the country, whether again of religious or nonreligious persuasion. For example, all Muslims must account for Islam/Quran-supported (direct or indirect) violence of any Muslim. Yet to call on Christian leaders the next time an abortion clinic is attacked, or a gay bar is blown up, or a prostitute is murdered isn't seen as something the Christians need to speak out about--it is secular society that has caused the ills, secular society that has the issues--even though most of the reasoning behind these types of crimes comes from a Judeo/Christian thought process!

They claim "we bring it on ourselves," or that "This is what happens when a country turns on God," or somesuch other nonsense, which, in effect, claims to rid them of any responsibility for their group members despite the fact that the act was committed holding thoughts very much in agreement with the conservative Christian mindset!

Back to abortion: Most Christians would claim that abortion is wrong. Murder is a word most of them would use to describe what happens in an abortion procedure. They claim it from pulpits, plaster it on billboards, run around wearing T-shirts that claim abortion is murder and it must be stopped! So then someone in their group tries to stop it. And then suddenly, when that person is charged with a crime, they are now "nuts" or "dangerous" and "missing the point...," and even though they claim God hates abortion, and God set forth rules to take care of murderers, when one of them does murder the murderer, they "have it wrong" and "aren't one of us (i.e., Christian)."

Because they as a group only think and act as a group when their empire can be expanded, or is under some perceived attack. But if one member goes rogue, or acts in such a way to cast a bad light on the Christian sects, they are not part of the group any longer... Close ranks, ship 'em out, spin the PR, and hope for the best. Oh, and throw in there that he obviously wasn't a Christian, or they wouldn't have committed such an act...
Is this a grand generalization? Yes, in many ways, it is. It speaks to the "Christian nation" as a whole, which, even though they have the United States, they aren't only content not to share, they aren't willing to take responsibility either. Muslims and Christians continue to war in Africa today over land, "souls," and lives. Where are the voices calling for an end to this type of violence? Why are today's American Christians so concerned with who's having/not having a baby, who wants to get married to whom, can my kid's teacher say "Bless this food, amen," but there seems to be no concerted...

Effort to take responsibility. That pretty much sums up most of the premises held in religious circles. I've read where some Christians decided that global warming is either a tool of the devil or some type of lie made up by man (and I'm thinking, shouldn't we just pollute less anyway? Doesn't that make sense?).

Much like the nature of their worship--their so-called "sin nature" isn't their fault. It's God's plan, Eve's or the devil's fault, and Jesus took care of the fine print--they're responsibility free! All they have to do is believe! (How much easier could it be? No responsibility and eternal life in heaven...) Other people's issues? Their fault, or the devils, or their sin nature, or "turning away from god..." The whole ideology behind Christianity is a lack of taking responsibility! So therefore, why should they feel a responsibility to treat others equally? Or to treat the Earth with respect? Salvation was handed to them (so they think) with no strings attached... (This paragraph needs fleshed out a bit more, but I think you guys get the drift...)

Claims about discrimination and persecution would be justified by the Christian right if we were dealing strictly with Constitutional rights (such as the right to free speech, or the right to bear arms), but we're not talking about these things are we? As much as the Christian right would like to make this about a "violation of rights," it's really just a leveling of the playing field, and a loss of their "specialness." The truth is that Christians are losing privileges, actions and entitlements they feel strongly about--not rights. They are losing the power to get treated better than everyone else. They are not actually being discriminated against--its just that they can no longer discriminate in their traditional ways and means, and are starting to be treated the same as everyone else. It’s certainly not unlike how the end of “white privilege” was perceived by whites during the Civil Rights era of the fifties and sixties (you know, the good old days when all these right-wingers claimed that "life" was somehow better?)

Christian privilege is one of the few traditional privileges that continues to be openly defended in today's United States. Other forms of privilege (like "white male privilege") may continue to exist, but it’s wrong actually argue in defense of them anymore (to many a discriminatory person's chagrin). Perhaps one day religious privilege will go the way that white male privilege are going, but conservative Christians are already bemoaning their loss and fighting tooth and nail (in the humility and love of Christ, of course).

One wonders what they'll resort to when all privilege is gone?

4 comments:

mom said...

hello jason! i think you have a very good blog here. yes, we christians do have privileges here in the usa that so many of the christians don't have in other countries. and i feel we will see things disappear but not because God is letting it happen it is our own foolish and selfish hearts that are letting it happen and it will get worse since we are more worried about changing the country when the country should take care of the country and the church should take care of the souls of people. we as christians yell about our freedoms being taking away when they are not being taken away just because it is not advertised in the schools or courthouses etc. look at other countries where they don't have our freedoms and the gospel of Christ is going on stronger than ever. (china for example.) the gospel of Christ is to change peoples hearts and take responsibility for our actions and turning them over to a Christ that died for my sin so we can enter heaven to live with God and always be near God. God doesn't need us as much as we need God. we as christians in this country are to comfortable i feel and we should step back and see what we can do for others instead of expecting all to bow down to us. we live in a land that should be able to live in peace with other people who are just trying to live and enjoy freedoms we have and are taking for granted. i really think that most people in this country (not just christians) are not counting there blessings and being thankful for what they do have and always thinking we have to have more. there are so many other issues i like to touch on that you brought up in your blog but i just don't have the time right now. i have been reading some of the blogs on the non-believers roll (and always think of the song "When the Roll is Called Up Yoder"). :) well, anyway, no wonder some people don't want anything to do with God since we as believers we set forth a bad example i feel of what God is about. maybe i might comment more but i do hope more will comment since you have some interesting people that comment. its ashame we can't have a in person talk with all. some of the people seem to have such a way with words and i know myself i don't and do so much better in the talking department. :) love and prayers

Ergo said...

You know Jason, talking about tolerance and all, among the most intolerant and dogmatic people I have known are skeptics. People who insist that they know nothing in certainty--and are proud of this fact--and what is more, they also DEMAND that you know nothing for certain either! They dogmatically hold the belief that neither they nor I can truly know anything.

Now, THAT is intolerant dogmaticism.

Jason Hughes said...

How certain are you of that, Ergo?

LOL! :D j/k

Kel said...

I agree with Ergo in a way. It's probably not a good idea to be a 100% certain either way. But you're not--you're about 99.2% atheist, aren't you? ;)

Very long post, by the way. All out of Netflix or something?