Gay Marriage ≠ Christian Persecution

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crown of thorns

It's always entertaining to watch the right, particularly the Christian right, whine about victimization. As Steve Benen over at the Maddowblog says today, no one's raised melodramatic self-pity to an art form the way America's conservative Christians have, regardless of their particular political or denominational bent. To hear Pat Robertson, or William Donohue of the Catholic League, or Bill O'Reilly, or many, many others tell it, you'd think Christians were still being thrown to lions, maybe along the Capitol Mall, and a date with the cross awaited anybody who dared to slap a Jesus fish on the back of his car. If the Sodom-and-Gomorrah-esque anti-God dystopia Christians complain exists in American society really did exist, Tim Tebow would've been burned alive years ago rather than be allowed to become a guy who gets paid an obscene amount of money for being a shitty quarterback.

With the battle for equal marriage rights coming to a head in this country -- what any sane person understands is the inevitability of nationwide gay marriage -- the usual suspects on the Christian right now, more than any time in recent memory, seem to be engaging in the kind of self-flagellating that's been a hallmark of their movement. Almost any push-back against same-sex marriage that you hear from conservatives at the moment prominently features paranoid delusions of an America in which those who worship the most socially accepted god on the planet Earth are suddenly pariahs, the real "second-class citizens" and the true casualties in our current culture war. It's the same kind of horseshit you get whenever white people bitch about "reverse racism."

The truth, of course, is that Christians aren't the least bit concerned about becoming outcasts, doomed to have to meet in secret while homosexuals and secular humanists throw wild victory parties in the streets. They don't fear losing their rights -- they fear losing their hegemony, their privilege. A country that embraces progressive social principles is one that naturally no longer feels constrained and oppressed by fundamentalist religious dogma or terrorized by those who espouse it in the name of keeping control. The Christian right -- a largely white, patriarchal entity -- represents more than simply a tradition in religion but one in American society in general, a time when straight white men roamed the landscape like dinosaurs, kings of all they surveyed. That time is now slowly but surely ending. It doesn't mean that straight white men and the god they insist we all bow down to won't have a say in politics or culture; it simply means that their say won't be the only one, and it won't necessarily be the dominant one. That's what scares the hell out of the Christian right -- that kind of change.

Considering the uphill battle for basic human rights that gay Americans have faced for decades and the ongoing daily trauma gay kids often have to live with in our culture, hearing members of what's still the most powerful demographic in the country grouse about how they're occasionally accused of being intolerant is pathetically laughable. Believe it or not, I can sympathize with, say, David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network when he says that it's unfair that some people dub anyone who opposes gay marriage "hateful." I don't think standing firmly against the idea of same-sex marriage automatically makes someone hateful of gays. Ignorant, yes. Unfairly prejudiced, certainly. But "hate" is a strong word and I don't think it applies across the board. Still, when you place the flak conservative Christians occasionally take in our culture -- often while seeing their beliefs and demands continue to be catered to by those in power -- against the steady stream of physical, mental and emotional abuse gay Americans have endured and continue to endure, it's just no comparison. To hear Christians cry in their holy water about how not everyone defers to their 2,000-year-old book of magical stories about talking snakes and rising dead people is offensive when you consider the fact that nobody's tying them to fence posts in Wyoming.

If Christianity, certainly as practiced by fundamentalists and evangelicals, were really disappearing from our culture and its discourse, believe me, I'd be the first one turning cartwheels in the streets. That's not the case, though. It's not going anywhere, unfortunately, and Christians whining otherwise and claiming damaging persecution at the hands of the rest of us need to sit down and shut up. The stranglehold of its strict, biblical belief system is finally relenting in the name of social progress. That, like gay marriage, was always inevitable. And like gay marriage, it's long overdue.