Wednesday, July 15, 2015

"Hostile Culture": White Evangelicalism Shows It Has No Clue

Ah yes, so in the wake of the same-sex marriage court decision, there has been much pearl clutching in Evangelicalism.

Now, to be fair, I have been pleasantly surprised at the number and widespread nature of a number of reasonable voices. Many seem to have “gotten it” that we as Christians are not to give into fear and hate, but are to display love and a sound mind. So that part was encouraging.

And those, like the ever-loathsome Doug Wilson, and the ever-mockable Pat Robertson, who both said thoroughly stupid things, are more amusing than truly worrisome. (Wilson went on the record as saying that supporting Gay Marriage was far worse than supporting slavery Pat Robertson claimed that gays will now make you pretend to like anal and oral sex. Hey Pat, maybe you need to listen to “Walk This Way” sometime…)

What I find more troublesome is the way that even the reasonable voices have this great concern - and even fear - that they are now in a “hostile culture.” Yes, indeed, the “persecution” is coming, and we need to figure out what to do.

This is, quite simply, ludicrous.

As many, including Rachel Held Evans in this post,  have pointed out, the United States is more than 70% Christian by identification. The vast, vast majority of those in political power are Christian. Our land is filled with churches. Which are tax-exempt. So, the “culture” can hardly be hostile to Christians considering Christians ARE the culture.

Oh, I know the protest. “But they aren’t REAL Christians.” Which means, “they don’t agree with us about ________ issue.” And, as in the case of same-sex marriage, the issue is typically a political issue. (What unions will a secular government recognize.) 

But beyond the essential impossibility of a huge majority being the victim of persecution, there is another problem.

White Evangelicals have no freaking clue what it means to live in a hostile culture.

Hint: A culture isn’t hostile just because you sometimes get blowback for expressing ideas. It isn’t hostile because you experience disapproval for acting like an Asshole For Jesus

How do I know that they have no clue? Because a hostile culture exists right now, and has since the before inception of the United States, and white Evangelicals are mostly in deep denial about it as they continue to support its existence.

What a hostile culture looks like:

Imagine if Christians submitted resumes, but didn’t get callbacks because their names (say Joshua or Mary) identified them as believers.

No, this isn’t happening to Christians. But it sure is happening to African Americans. 

Imagine if Christians with no criminal record were less likely to be hired than non-Christians with criminal records.

No, this isn’t happening to Christians. But it sure is happening to African Americans. 

Imagine if those Christians that did get hired were assumed to have been, not for their merits, but because of quotas and “diversity.”

No, this isn’t happening to Christians. But it sure is happening to African Americans and other minorities.

Imagine if Christians were charged higher interest rates for loans, despite identical credit ratings.

No, this isn’t happening to Christians. But it sure is happening to African Americans and other minorities. And it has been happening for decades. 

Imagine if the term “good schools” was shorthand for “mostly non-Christian,” and most non-Christian parents who could afford to would seek out these “good” schools. Imagine if, in order to avoid their kids having to associate with Christians, they formed their own private schools to perpetuate the segregation.

Imagine if, when too many Christians moved into a neighborhood, the non-Christians moved out rather than live in proximity to Christians.

Imagine if Christians were being “stopped and frisked” at far higher rates than non-Christians, even though they were less likely to have contraband or weapons on them.

No, this isn’t happening to Christians. But it sure is happening to African Americans and other minorities. I blogged about Ferguson here. I urge you to read the entire DOJ report. 

Imagine if, even after proof of the above came out, a significant number of people - including major media figures, politicians, and a high percentage of the population claimed that Christians just had higher criminal propensities. (Yes, an acquaintance sent me such an article as “rebuttal” to the Ferguson report. The fact that he/she was able to assume that it would not be viewed as offensively racist shows just how deep the denial is.)

No, this isn’t happening to Christians. But it sure is happening to African Americans.

Now imagine that Christians were protesting the shooting of an unarmed Christian teenager, and the cops came out with military weaponry. Imagine that a few opportunistic thugs took advantage of the situation to loot. Now imagine that the entire group of protesters - and indeed all Christians - were labeled “thugs,” a thousand facebook meme spread the idea.

No, this isn’t happening to Christians. But it sure is happening to African Americans.

Imagine that there was a call for a ban on protest - that is, a denial of First Amendment speech and assembly rights - because Christians “just couldn’t behave themselves.”

No, this isn’t happening to Christians. But it sure is happening to African Americans.

Imagine that a cop screamed at that group of Christians, “Bring it, you fucking animals!” And that many would defend the cop and deny that this showed a culture of prejudice.

No, this isn’t happening to Christians. But it sure is happening to African Americans.

Imagine if a symbol of the kidnapping, sale, murder, beating and rape of Christians flew from government buildings. Imagine if the symbol was conceived with the idea that “As a people we are fighting to maintain the Heaven-ordained supremacy of the Atheist man over the inferior or Christian race; a _____ flag would thus be emblematical of our cause.” Now imagine if the removal of that symbol from places of government power was met by fierce resistance.

No, this isn’t happening to Christians. But the designer of a certain flag did indeed say, “As a people we are fighting to maintain the Heaven-ordained supremacy of the white man over the inferior or colored race; a white flag would thus be emblematical of our cause.” And that flag was placed on the capitol as a protest against civil rights laws that would end segregation and Jim Crow.

Imagine if Christians used drugs at a lower rate than non-Christians, but were imprisoned far more often for doing so.

No, this isn’t happening to Christians. But it sure is happening to African Americans. 

Imagine if possession of a substance that had a mental association with Christians was punished dozens of times more harshly than a very similar substance associated with non-Christians.

No, this isn’t happening to Christians. But it sure is happening to African Americans. 

Imagine if a leading candidate for one of the two major political parties publicly stated that Christians were rapists and drug dealers, and were “destroying our country.” And that we needed to “take our nation back.”

Imagine if this was greeted with cheers, and a thousand Facebook posts saying “Trump is right, and is saying what we are all thinking.” Yes, this was my Facebook feed last week.

No, this isn’t happening to Christians. But it sure is happening to brown skinned people. 

Imagine if a murder by a guy with a criminal record led to calls for immediate deportation of all Christians to Mexico.

No, this isn't happening to Christians. It's happening to Mexicans.  

Imagine if, instead of every president in our history was non-Christian, rather than Christian; and that a Christian had finally been elected to office. Imagine if, despite solid evidence to the contrary, a significant percentage of the population refused to believe that that president was legally elected.

No, this didn’t happen to Christians, but it did happen to our African American president, didn’t it?

Imagine that a Christian was going to be cast in a movie about a fictitious superhero, and there was a general freakout about how it was “historically inaccurate.” That's right, a "historically inaccurate" completely made up character.

Yes, this actually happened. But not over Christianity, but race. 

Imagine if you threw a pool party at a public pool in your neighborhood, but when other Christians showed up, and you played your Chris Tomlin records a bit too loud, the cops were called, and told that you were from outside of the area. And one of the neighbors told the Christian teens to go back to their Section 8 housing where they belonged. And then a cop pulled a gun on the Christians and slammed a 14-year-old girl’s head to the ground. Imagine that this was merely the latest in a long history of incidents where Christians were kept out of public pools.

No, this isn’t happening to Christians. But it sure is happening to African Americans.

I could go on and on. These are just the things that I could recall while blogging over lunch hour on a weekday.

In the wake of a year of racial unrest - and let’s be honest - a year in which atrocious behavior by many in authority came to light - I have found myself repeatedly appalled by the racism and nastiness on display by friends and family. And yes, this includes many, many Christians. They generally don’t even realize the meaning and prejudice of what they say and post. 

And, given that white Christians are the single largest demographic group in this nation, they really don't have anyone else to blame for the culture.

So, when white Evangelicals worry about “living in a hostile culture,” I have to bite my tongue to keep from laughing.

Because they have NO FREAKING CLUE what a hostile culture is. Or that they have been complicit in maintaining one their entire lives.

What it really comes down to isn’t that Evangelicals will be living in a hostile culture. THEY WON’T. At least anytime soon. Not a real “hostile culture.”

Instead, what has happened is that a teeny, tiny part of their privilege has been lost. They can’t walk into a room and assume that everyone will agree with them. They can’t act like assholes and know that nobody will challenge them. Horrors, they might have to actually do business with people they don’t like.

White Evangelicals have had a swimming pool-sized supply of privilege for a couple of centuries. And now, somebody just removed a spoonful of it, and they are freaking out.

If white Evangelicals had to put up with the hostility that African Americans and other minorities do - even for one day - I think they would completely lose their minds.

So, maybe these books and posts and articles on “living in a hostile culture” will be helpful. Maybe they will be How To Not Be A Jerk 101 by a less threatening name. That would come in handy. Perhaps we can have one on “how not to imagine persecution” to go with it.

But perhaps we don’t really need all that. We have a source handy for tips on how to survive in a hostile culture. Maybe we can sit down with our African American brothers and sisters.

And just listen. 

Further reading: My thoughts on Fred Phelps and why the erroneous belief that the United States is the new Israel is at the root of the panic.


Any additional examples to contribute?

Read my Comment Policy before you comment, but note that I will accept links in this case. However, I will fact check, so be careful of your sources.


  1. First Peoples, commonly and inaccurately known as Native Americans or Indians. I shouldn't need to say any more, but our culture, including much of "Christian culture," is in deep, deep denial over what has been done and continues to be done to the original inhabitants of Turtle Island. (Readers, look up that name if you're not familiar, and learn a few things about the First Peoples that you might not know. And remember: They were here first.)

  2. As usual the point is nailed. Well done!

  3. Great points!

    Some people here are watching the events in the US with great interest and worry. It is just a matter of time when same-sex marriages will be legalised here in Australia, too. And then there goes our religious freedom.

  4. Thank you for writing this. So eye opening. And really what we need most...some compassion. Imagining what's it's like to live in someone else's place.

  5. It makes me sick to think about it. I don't claim not to have been affected by the racism in this culture. It's hard not to unless you go into it with your eyes already open.

    I am glad that at this point we are able to be part of a multi-cultural church fellowship. In certain situations I think the "minorities" even outnumber us "whites" sometimes. :-)

    I wonder if some of the problem comes from the "cops and robbers" and "cowboys and Indians" mentality that has been an ingrained part of America culture for so long. There always has to be "good guys vs. bad guys," and the "goods" are always good no matter what they do and the "bads" are always bad no matter what they do. It's always "them vs. us", if you know what I mean. Sadly, this plays out badly for various minorities. Yet, some of the worst crimes against humanity have been perpetrated by white people who were initially (at least) presented as "good." Witness Adolf Hitler.

    As to hostile environments, I wonder how many Evangelicals and Fundamentalists stop and think about how their rhetoric actually sounds to people who are NOT "of like faith." How does it help them see Jesus Christ as worth knowing when His professed followers are whining and shrieking about "unfair play" and "persecution" when people disagree with them? And the Lord they claim as their leader was crucified _unjustly_ without complaint? Hello?

    I've thought fairly often in recent times about Acts 5:41 - "And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name." Seriously, when was the last time you heard an American Christian do that? Especially a prominent one. I can't think of any off hand.

    I know you aren't much on the "death of America" stuff, but my perspective is that American Christendom is having as much or more impact on the "decline of culture" than any of those they are accusing - not because they need to force their "convictions" more vigorously on culture, but because they are not living out the mind of Christ in their day-to-day life like they should. For me, that comes down to "Where can I do better myself?"

  6. Here's something worth reading. I just found it today. It is a letter from a former slave to his former master after said master wrote and asked the slave to return to his service after the Emancipation. I love how he appears to mix tongue-in-cheek humor with the very sobering and sickening things of their mutual past. Lest we forget...

    1. That's outstanding!

      "Mandy says she would be afraid to go back without some proof that you were disposed to treat us justly and kindly; and we have concluded to test your sincerity by asking you to send us our wages for the time we served you."