In my last entry, I discussed my spiritual and/or political journey. I avoid discussion of religion a lot on this blog, mostly because I want to focus more on my writing, art, and science.
However, I wanted to offer this clarification as a way to frame the context of the Entangled Truths post. After this, I will return to my normal schedule of writing, art, science, and reviews.
I have spent a lot of my life studying the theology of Christianity and the various translations of the Bible. What has become apparent to me is that Jesus Christ was a social justice activist of his time. He transcended the prejudices of his peers; he pushed hard to break down those prejudices, to holistically heal all who reached out to him in faith. He challenged the social norms of his time, and for this, he was put to death.
His ultimate message drives home the point that we are all equal in the eyes of God, and that we all share in God’s love — this essential point of equality and equity for ALL people is also in the roots for many social justice movements. This does not mean oppression doesn’t exist, or that we should turn a blind eye to oppression. No, this means we must seek to end the oppression within our lives, as Christ’s words are a call for action not complacency.
Some may say that I cannot use today’s terms and imprint them on history, but that is ignoring the fact that social justice movements have occurred regularly throughout history. Whenever the rights of a human being was at risk or corruption of some sort oppressed groups of people, folks have risen up against that — that is a social justice movement. Yes, the terms we used today may not have been used back then, but strikes, protests, rebellions, rising up against oppression — those are the historical underpinnings of many of the social justice movements today.
Thus, the current agenda of what I termed the “False Christians,” many of whom are in the Republican party or within the “conservative” political identity, have pushed for policies that are against the motivations and actions and words of Jesus Christ as the social justice activist.
This dominant group of American Christianity has pushed for polices that maintained a harmful status quo, where groups of people are oppressed with harmful punishments if they go outside the bounds of what culture deems is acceptable for them, where they have less rights, face violent persecution, and have less access to services than many of these “False Christians.”
Many of these oppressed groups within society are LGBTQIA folks of any race, specific religious groups, people society codes as female, and people of color – black people, indigenous people, latinx people, Asian people — anyone that society has not accepted as “white.” Some of these oppressed groups are Christians and some are not, as there is an intersection of identities for each person.
However, due to the nature of our society and how our government and policies exist currently, white cisgender straight Christians do not face the level of persecution or oppression that these other groups I’ve mentioned faced. This is a hard truth that some people will balk at, but I ask that these people, please stay with me.
Put aside any defensive thoughts, and listen to the rest of this piece. Allow yourself to be uncomfortable and sit with that with me, it is part of growth to let that emotion exist, to not rise up in defensiveness, but to sit with the emotion and examine why it exists. Part of why it exists is rooted in a core belief that may need examining. Let us do that together.
What I find most upsetting and insidious is how this conversation is often framed. Many of what I’ve termed “False” Christians see any push for social justice as a threat to their power, and thus, they try to paint it as them facing prejudice. This is doublespeak used by people in power to keep their power solidified. It is also a lashing out due to being uncomfortable with a truth that may be at odds with a core belief they have.
A lot of Christians fall into this trap of thinking they are always being “besieged.” My goal here is to show a way to examine that core belief in the light of our current shared reality.
For a simple example, let’s examine the yearly “happy holidays” as a threat to Christianity and “prejudice” against Christianity. This baffled me even before I realized the truth about the full extent of the power of Christians in American society. If I questioned this “war on Christmas” and pointed out that “Happy Holidays” is just recognizing not everyone is Christian and one should not assume, I was ostracized by my Christian friends, yelled at, and accused of being part of the “War.”
Perhaps the reason for this requires a core belief to be examined: “Christianity is under siege at all times.” For many, they may not be conscious of this core belief, but it is exists and upon it they have built their faith and identity. Thus any challenge to the core belief threatens the edifice upon which they have built themselves, so they react defensively. This also increases the difficulty in having these conversations.
However, if that core belief is not examined and placed within the context of our shared reality, then it makes it nearly impossible to have inclusive and equitable discussions on the intersections of Christian dominance with religion, race, ethnicity, gender identity, and sexual orientation — and the structures in society that oppresses certain groups based on these identities.
Christianity is the most recognized religion in America currently. To continue with the example, government holidays are based on Christian holidays. Any adoption of “Happy Holidays” is then seen by many of these “false” Christians as a “War on Christmas.” They phrase it as a moral falling of society, or as persecution of Christianity.
Yet, we live in a diverse society, where there is a diverse set of religions. We also have freedom of religion, thus providing services for all people requires not assuming that everyone is one religion. It is healthier to not assume in order to try one’s best at providing the same level of service to each individual. By phrasing this “don’t assume” as “war on Christmas,” we lose the ability to have a holistic conversation about avoiding stereotypes, not making assumptions, and recognizing the pluralistic society in which we live.
Thus, there has never been a “War on Christmas,” but instead, people became more inclusive of the fact we live in a pluralistic society, where not everyone is the same religion. Thus, businesses and other services have tried to be more inclusive, to not assume, and to try to provide the same level of care to each individual regardless of religion. When examined in this light, we see how “Happy Holidays” is actually a recognition of our freedom of religion and a way to engage in a healthier interaction with one another.
How a discussion is framed can influence people’s emotions and how the topic is engaged. By trying to lay out the facts of our shared reality, and to find a way for us to agree on these facts, we can have more holistic discussions, but to do this, many Christians will need to face the big piece of wood in their own eyes and heart:
The core belief that Christianity is being “besieged” in America.
In today’s time, Christianity in America is not under siege — it is in Power. American Christianity dominates Congress, dominates the executive branch, dominates the news, dominates government holidays, dominates social norms. This framing of Christianity as “besieged” is a sham meant to trigger an emotional response to keep us fighting one another, while powerful “False” Christian groups continue to hold onto their current power structures. Social justice movements threaten that power, and thus the narrative of “besieged” is pushed even harder, especially as white Christians are no longer the majority within the population.
In a diverse multi-religious (pluralistic) society, it is unsustainable to have one religion dominating the discourse, policies, government, social norms, and culture. This means that American Christianity will need to share these resources and power with other religious groups, and this sharing of power is where many of these particular Christians cry foul. That sharing is the threat, that is why they claim there is a war on them.
I think the reason they claim it is a “war on Christianity” is because they fear that they will become oppressed in the same way they have oppressed others. It is also possible they may not be fully aware that is the root of their fear. But that is not the end goal of the social justice movements in America today, as the end goal is ending oppression.
Those in power keep their power through oppressing others, whether those in power are conscious of this truth or not. Thus, many cannot imagine or envision a world where oppression doesn’t exist, and thus that unconscious or conscious fear of becoming oppressed puts them on the defensive. The act of sharing is the antithesis of their current power structure and thus those in power fail at envisioning the benefits.
Remember, the goal of the current social justice movements is to dismantle oppressive policies and create a more equitable, loving, just, free, and equal society for ALL people. To do this, diverse people of many races, religions, gender identities, sexual orientation, and ethnicity will need to share power. This is possible to do, but we must critically examine our core beliefs, our socialized biases or assumptions, the structural hierarchy within our society, and the structural oppression inherent within policies and government and social norms.
This is a complex topic, so I wanted to provide this clarification as a starting point. Social justice is the root of Jesus Christ’s teachings. American Christianity is not under siege but is the dominant power within our current culture, government, and society.
Until we understand these points, it will be difficult to discuss the nuances of these topics. I’ll repost the resources I listed at the end of my Entangled Truths post here as these resources do an excellent job of unpacking all of this.
Please read them.
- Rescuing Jesus: How People of Color, Women, and Queer Christians are Reclaiming Evangelicalism by Deborah Jian Lee
- Samantha Field’s Blog
- Jesus for the Non-Religious by John Shelby Spong
- Working Through White Fragility and Spiritual Bypass
- So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
- Anything by bell hooks
- Anything by Angela Davis
- Anything by Te-Nehisi Coates
- …But I’m not Racist! Tools for Well-meaning Whites by Kathy Obear
- White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson
- The Lies My Teacher Told Me: What History Textbooks Got Wrong by James Loewen
- The Transgender Language Primer
- The Whipping Girl: A Transexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Feminism by Julia Serano
- Evolution’s Rainbow: Diversity, Gender, and Sexuality in Nature and People by Joan Roughgarden
- Let’s Queer Things Up by Sam Dylan Finch