Christian Bash-a-thon 2008

by Matt Sutton

As a graduate student I read R. Laurence Moore’s brilliant Religious Outsiders and the Making of Americans. Moore argues that religious groups have historically gained cultural power by positioning themselves as outsiders, even when they were/are not. Apparently the tradition of playing oppressed minority despite all evidence to the contrary is still going strong. The Christian Anti-Defamation Commission (I didn’t realize that such a group existed) has compiled a list of “top ten Christian-bashing incidents” of 2008. Coming in at #10 was the Jack Black video that I blogged about here. In the top three spots are:

#3: Barack Obama Defames Christianity

According to research into President Elect Obama's own statements about faith, and an examination of Obama's position on moral issues, CADC has determined that by any biblical and historic Christian standard, Barack Obama is not a Christian, although he claims he is a "devout Christian."

[You can also see their list of seven reasons why Obama is not a Christian here]

#2: Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin Is Attacked

Alaska Governor, Sarah Palin, came under sharp attack by some in the mainstream media because she self-identifies as a Christian. The Washington Post published a cartoon by Pat Oliphant mocking Palin because she has a background as a Pentecostal/Charistmatic Christian. A suspicious arson fire at Sarah Palin's home church recently caused over $1,000,000 in damage.

#1: Radical Homosexuals Assault Prop 8 Marriage Supporters in California
During and after the November campaign stories flooded in of pro-Prop 8 signs being taken, people verbally and physically assaulted, church property and private automobiles vandalized, and person's jobs and pastor's lives threatened simply for exercising their right to campaign and vote in support of traditional marriage.
Apparently we should quit picking on Sarah Palin, pick on Barack Obama a whole lot more, and work to protect our most vulnerable and oppressed members of society, our pastors, from hate crimes. Hmmm…..


deg at: January 12, 2009 at 11:18 AM said...

I thought about writing about this NYT link in a stand-alone post, but it fits pretty nicely into this post (and it's from up near your neck of the woods, Matt).

The article certainly hits on this insider/outsider dynamic. This time around, though, neo-Calvinists are presenting themselves as the outsiders in the evangelical fold and in contemporary America, fueled by a strong sense of resurrecting "manly Christianity" (again). It's missing a lot of nuance, to be sure, but it's applicable nonetheless.

Anonymous at: January 12, 2009 at 11:51 AM said...

Hmmm....apparently everyone else is allowed to protest "oppression" except conservative Christians...hmmmmm

Edward J Blum at: January 12, 2009 at 3:21 PM said...

Can Matt Sutton make a post where the omnipresent "anonymous" respondents do not subtly attack him? I guess it has the same likelihood as the Broncos winning a super bowl!

Randall at: January 12, 2009 at 4:25 PM said...

Great post, Matt!

Get ready for more and more of this in the future as evangelicals in some quarters feel like the embattled minority...

The beleaguered, oppressed mentality is such a basic part of the conservative Christian playbook.

Some of the research I've been doing for this current book project focuses on this. My favorite example of it is Congressman J. Randy Forbes' Congressional Prayer Caucus and some of the rhetoric swirling around it. One would get the impression that liberals wanted to stop all Christians from praying. There's a WAR on Christianity!! Hmmmm... Is there? Really??!

I think it's more likely that there is a war on Hinduism:

Jason Bivins at: January 12, 2009 at 5:52 PM said...

Good post Sutton. I gave a talk about the rhetorics of embattlement at Duke in October and I too find the subject fascinating. Would be happy to pass it along if anyone's interested, and would also definitely recommend the conclusion of Balmer's Thy Kingdom Come, which surveys some of these groups.

Manlius at: January 12, 2009 at 7:16 PM said...

Good post, Matt. I'd say this is another sad example of our society's polarization.

A couple of years ago I attended a conference in Manchester, NH that was aimed at promoting dialogue among religious conservatives, religious liberals, and non-religious folks. What was interesting was how at the same time religious conservatives are convinced that they are oppressed by an increasing secularism, the other side is convinced they're under the threat of an impending theocracy. This demonstrates, I think, how polarization leads to fear and paranoia on both sides. The scary part, though, is that this fear turns into real self-fulfilling prophecies and intractable conflict.

Tracy at: January 13, 2009 at 11:04 AM said...

Jason, I'd love to read the talk you gave at Duke. Maybe you could post it here?

Paul Harvey at: January 13, 2009 at 11:07 AM said...

Jason: I'll be happy to post any or all of your talk as a guest post, should you have any interest, or some briefer post based on your talk. Feel free to send anything to me you want to post -- Paul

Anonymous at: January 14, 2009 at 3:25 PM said...

Thanks for the interest, Tracy and Paul. I'd prefer not to post it to the site right now, for a couple of reasons, but I might rethink that over the next few weeks. I'll happily send you both a copy via email if you'd like.

Jason Bivins at: January 14, 2009 at 3:26 PM said...

Thanks for the interest, Tracy and Paul. I'd prefer not to post it to the site right now, for a couple of reasons, but I might rethink that over the next few weeks. I'll happily send you both a copy via email if you'd like.

Matt Sutton at: January 15, 2009 at 10:10 AM said...

I always thought "Anonymous" was really Jason Bivins!

Jason Bivins at: January 15, 2009 at 11:05 AM said...

It's true, Matt. I've been outed, at least as someone who clicks post before entering his name.

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