I grew up Christian (I’m now an atheist, or more specifically, an anti-theist). This didn’t mean back then what it has come to mean today. I wasn’t taught we were being persecuted because public schools didn’t include a Christian prayer, and fuck the non-Christian kids who had to sit through it politely. I wasn’t taught I had a right to judge people who lived differently from me – in fact, I was taught the opposite. I wasn’t taught that Jesus wanted Christians to change US law to fit (their particular interpretation of) Christian rules for living – in fact, I was taught “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and unto God what is God’s.” I was taught theocracy was a very bad thing; the law should only contain practical rules, and we should be grateful it grants us the right to live as we see fit and serve as an example of good Christian living. I wasn’t taught to proseletyze my religion. We kind of assumed people had heard about Christianity, and if they were interested, they’d show their interest and we’d try to be helpful.
I was raised to be pro-choice; just because we believed life began at conception didn’t mean it did, anymore than the majority of the world’s population believing in reincarnation makes it true. When it comes down to belief rather than practical issues, the law must wash its hands and let people work it out themselves. I.E., when Hindi culture dictated that widows be tossed onto the funeral pyre along with Hubby, the British interferred with that custom, and I believe they did right, even though I doubt I’d agree with their motives: those were living women being burned to death. But no matter how strongly you believe a fetus is a living person, you must admit it’s far more clear-cut that the potential mother is a living person.
The version of Christianity I grew up with is no longer the public face of the religion. The last few friends I have who practice a similarly loving version of the religion, concerned more with improving their own behavior than that of others, assure me such reasonable Christians are still the majority. I hope they’re right, but I don’t know. The public face is Jerry Falwell. Pat Robertson. Fred Phelps.
And Christians who can’t see their own privilege tell me the press has an agenda to make Christians look like ignorant bigots. Did Rupert Murdoch force Jerry Falwell to blame our tolerance for feminists (I didn’t know we had any!) and gays (seriously?) for 9/11, or did Jerry come up with that all on his own? And did the press risk losing their FCC broadcasting licenses by refusing air time for Christians who wanted to present an equal but alternate view to Jerry’s, or is it that no Christians came forward to set the record straight? Why is it feminists bothered to show so much dissent when Amanda Marcotte behaved in a privileged fashion that two such incidents made it into her Wikipedia entry? Why is it Falwell’s wikipedia entry shows no Christian dissent – only agreement from Pat Robertson for his superstitious bullshit about 9/11?
Because feminists really know what it’s like to be persecuted, and we know if our movement is to maintain any validity against continuous assaults by conservative assholes on our public image, we must police ourselves for hypocrisy and demand that feminist hypocrites acknowledge their mistakes and grow from them, or erode their support accordingly. Christians, in their privilege, assume it’s the responsibility of outsiders to research and figure out how unlike Falwell most of them are.
It’s not. It’s really not. Credibility is something you have to earn now, Christians. It’s no longer a privilege you’re granted just for belonging to the “right” religion. But nor does it mean anyone’s hostile to your beliefs. We’re just hostile to having them imposed on us. And if you think we’re exaggerating when we say that goes on…
…some of your more aggressive Christian brethren don’t tell you the stuff they tell us – they assume you already believe what they do. But those of us who aren’t Christian frequently get to hear the specifics. Over the years, more than a few Christians have informed me that God didn’t mean for black and white people to mingle, and really American blacks were happier during segregation (yep, some people are still not over that). They told me back in the early 90s the hole in the ozone was for Jesus to come through, so we should all be hairspraying for Jesus. Over the years, I’ve watched a staggering number of Christians ignore, or even in a roundabout way support, the actions of domestic abusers of both genders. They’ve blamed women for causing their own rapes by dressing sexy or just failing to be a virgin (once she’s open for business, the bitch has no right picking and choosing who gets a poke). Various of them have assured me Jews are going to hell, and black skin is the mark of Cain, and the end days are here (they’re always here; they’re the longest-running bit of cabaret in human history).
Does my bad impression of modern Christians come from Jerry Falwell sounding like a parody when he gives his interpretation of the Teletubbies? No, it comes from those Christians I’ve encountered who seriously, despite the lack of Biblical, let alone logical, support, believe these irrational things. They are numerous. They always were – they just used to keep it to themselves because neither more progressive Christians nor the public at large agreed with them.
Now they feel secure in speaking up. They feel there are more of them than there are of the rest of us heathens. Educated, intelligent, well-employed Christians believe – and tell you this flat out – God wants them to take over the US and make our laws Christian. They can’t even see why anyone would object to that, unless they are Evil. Surely there can’t be other equally valid ethical systems out there for people to choose. And if there are, it doesn’t matter because this country was built by Christians (oh, I’ve been battling this one since the 80s, and let me tell you, I am tired).
Did Christians build the entertainment industry that saw us through the Great Depression? The finance industry? Department store chains and a massive retail market? No, wait – it was Jews and assorted others who contributed those massive pieces of our world dominance. Did Christians build the cotton industry? No, they just happily owned those who did. Did Christians author the Declaration or Constitution? Actually, most of our “founding fathers” were deists – non-specific believers in God.
What exactly did Christians do? Well, they contributed a little bit to everything, which is just fine. But they wanted more credit than that, so they moaned the loudest and measured their contribution in sweat rather than by actual, tangible achievements (see Protestant Work Ethic). But really, their biggest contribution to the founding of the US was genocide against the people who were already occupying what became the United States – carried out, of course, in the name of “God” and “manifest destiny” against “heathens.” Nice legacy there, guys. Are you still confused about why we don’t trust you to be good neighbors?
If there are any decent Christians out there, you have a serious PR problem. Stop whining that we have a duty to assume Christians would never shoot abortion doctors or commit genocide or condone the rape of women even though they already have. Get involved in the secular community. Start a blog. Let people know you’re out there, and you’re opposed to some of the things that have been done in the name of your religion. Let us know you support our right to live by our own ethics while you live by yours and we all try to get along.