A recent Pew study found that white American Evangelical Christians think they experience more discrimination than Blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, Atheists or Jews.
By Valerie Tarico | Alternet/RawStory
Christianity is the majority religion in the U.S. and many kinds of legally ensconced religious privilege are on the rise including the right to woo converts in public grade schools, speculate in real estate tax-free, repair religious facilities with public dollars, or opt out of civil rights laws and civic responsibilities that otherwise apply to all. By contrast atheists are less electable than even philanderers, weed smokers or gays; Hispanics and Muslims are being told to leave; Jews get accused of everything from secret economic cabals to destroying America’s military; and unarmed Black youth continue to die at the hands of vigilantes.
Given the reality of other people’s lives, a widespread Evangelical perception of their group as mass victims reveals a lack of empathy that should make thoughtful believers cringe. And indeed, Alan Nobel, managing editor of Christ and Pop Culture, and a professor at Oklahoma Baptist University, wrote a pained analysis this summer of what he called Evangelical persecution complex. Nobel contrasted the privileged position of American Christians with the real and serious persecution Christian minorities experience under ISIS, for example, and he examined the ways in which victimization can become a part of Christian identity to the detriment of Christians and outsiders alike. What he neglected to spell out clearly was the extent to which the Bible itself sets up this problem.
Christianity, born in the harsh desert cultures of the Middle East, got its start by defining itself in opposition to both Judaism and the surrounding pagan religions of the Roman empire. Consequently, from the get-go teachings emerged that helped believers deal with the inevitable conflict, by both predicting and glorifying suffering at the hands of outsiders. Indeed, persecution was framed as making believers more righteous, more like their suffering savior. Long before the Catholic Church made saints out of martyrs, a myriad of texts encouraged believers to embrace suffering or persecution, or even to bring it on.
This sample from a much longer list of New Testament verses about persecution (over 100), gives a sense of how endemic persecution is to the biblical world view.