Following my last post about tribalism, I’ve gotten into a nonversation with someone on this post by Neil Carter over at Godless in Dixie. He wrote a great article about when Christians object to his religious criticisms with the phrase #NotAllChristians. One of the people commenting on the post had a bone to pick with holding different Christians responsible for their different faith tenets.
This issue is a big one for secular people living in hyper-religious parts of the US.
It’s no secret I live in Alabama, a state which claims to be very god fearing and churchgoing. Although people from Mississippi will disagree, a lot of people in my state want to be known as being the most god fearing and churchgoing. But to be completely fair, I know some folks from other neighboring states who claim the same thing. My point, though, is that being an all caps CHRISTIAN is a very public thing where I live.
Case in point, my state’s in an election cycle. What’s one of the important campaign statements candidates (all Republican) put in their ads? That’s right, they’re a conservative Christian who gets their values from the Bible. They’re pretty careful not to say which part. I’m sure the Bama BBQ crowd would get angry at having to give up pork.
More generally, Christians in my state have a nasty tendency to marginalize people who don’t belong. I’ve seen and taken part of many discussions where different Christians will disagree over different points of faith, but when someone questions praying in school, every single one of them will get in front of a crowd and cameras to scream about persecution.
The individual differences are meaningless when this happens.
When individuals and subgroups are willing to band together even when they disagree on specifics, there has to be some sort of recognition of association. After all, this is happening to preserve rights and privileges – mostly the latter – of Christians in this country. It’s not like these groups are ignorant of each others’ existence. They shouldn’t be able to get away with turning a blind eye.
But I also understand that some criticisms are tenuous. Using gay rights as an example, there are many churches who still preach they shouldn’t exist. Some churches were silent in years past, but are now becoming vocal for gay rights since seeing how public opinion is going. And there were some churches who were vocal about supporting gay people without even resorting to the silly nonsense of hating sins but not sinners (which would be a different article in and of itself). Those latter groups and Christians are less deserving of guilt by association.
If you notice, there is a big difference which implicates accountability.
Churches that supported gay rights often got called out and ostracized by their more conservative cousins. This is true for all differences of faith where those differences are announced and maintained. Association might be incidental, but both sides have clearly maintained that it’s not welcomed. In short, these groups do not agree that they share enough common ground to be affiliated with each other.
Ultimately I think intent does matter. I have seen too many Christians be willing to give up their beliefs just for the sake of pushing non-Christians around. When they get called out for it, they pick their beliefs back up and pretend nothing untoward happened.
Why it needs to stop.
There are many cultural implications which are affected by this. Christians in my state have made it difficult for women to get medical care and contraception, education suffers because students don’t always get taught real biology, homeschooling indoctrinates children without giving them tools to survive on their own, and the list goes on. All of this happens because in order to be considered a Christian, you have to say or at least pretend you’re okay with it.
I can’t think of any public policy or social construct which is better served by fear and intimidation. This would be true of any tribal coercion. It just happens that right now Christians where I live are exercising their privileges. If people want to benefit from this, that’s their choice. They might not be physically holding a gun, but they’re close enough to get blood on their clothes.
Thus, they shouldn’t be surprised when someone looks at the stain and says, “Disgusting.”