Friday, January 09, 2009

Help! Help! I'm Being Oppressed!

I don't know why this list of Top Ten Instances of Christian-Bashing amuses me so much. Maybe it's because, while the ADL (the main anti-Semitism watchdog) deals with synagogues desecrated with swastikas and war protesters telling Jews to get back in the oven, the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission has... drunk ESPN anchors.

Seriously, Christian missionaries are getting murdered in India and you're whining about a Sarah Palin political cartoon? Cry me a river.


Matthew B. Novak said...

I'm reminded of a Simpsons episode (go figure) where The Simpsons are arrested for their anti-American sentiments. They're held with a wide variety of people, including some who obviously don't hate America and so who obviously do. Marge says something to the effect of, "I don't know why they put the real ones in with the joke ones."

Desecrating a Eucharist - offensive to Christians (and meant to be).

Drunk sports anchor - not offensive.

Obama "defames" Christianity by claiming to be a Christian - Simply crazy.

Ben said...

Wow. Talk about giving Christianity a bad name. I especially love their Op Ed about the Evangelical Manifesto that makes not one mention of anything the Manifesto actually says.

Christians murdered by mobs in India = persecution

Desecrating a Eucharist = offensive, but not what I'd call persecution

Political cartoons and Obama saying he's a Christian = um.....why are we even talking about these things in the context of persecution or "anti-Christianity"

That group's top 10 list = offensive to Christians and non-Christians everywhere.

-Dave said...

For what it's worth, I think the ADL's had its share of head-shakers (this is, however, a vague impression, without any citations to back it up, because it's Friday and I'm lazy). People who seek to get offended by things will get offended by things. It's one of those immutable laws of public life.

The Obama thing, however, was most impressive. "Obama claims to be a Christian, and research has proven this to be impossible." Research. As though there were scholarly attempts to analyze and assess this. Research, they say!

Is there an ACADC I can join?

In other news, my word verification is ditemung. I therefore offer this haikuized opinion of it:

Deem I "Tedious"
Each Mentioned Unpleasantry
Noted Groundlessly

Matthew B. Novak said...

Ben - I'd say desecrating a Eucharist is persecution, at least in so far as it is an attempt to cause distress by offending. I actually followed that story as it was going on, and the professor's stated goal was to do the most dispicable thing he could to the Eucharist because he wanted to offend Christians (and Catholics specifically). I'd say that's almost on par (though perhaps not quite as bad as) with swastikas on synagogues.

Ben said...

A swastika in a synagogue is, to my mind, an implicit death threat.

Intentionally causing offense is not persecution. It's rude, stupid, offensive, and worthy of condemnation (in some cases, certainly here). But to call it persecution? No, to call it persecution - in my mind - there has to be some fear of harm....or maybe loss or rights or livelihood or something simply because one is, say, a Jew or a Christian or a liberal or Black or what have you. An intentional attempt to cause distress in such a manner as that professor is worthy of condemnation.....but it ain't persecution.

Ben said...

Dave - That's impressive.

Jacob Grier said...

Yeah Ben, with you all around. And P. Z. Meyers' desecration was just about the stupidest thing I've ever seen an atheist do. Smart guy, but I lost all respect for him after that incident.

Matthew B. Novak said...

Ben -

By "fear of harm" do you mean "fear of physical harm"? What's the reason you draw the distinction between physical and other harm?

I also disagree that a swastika is an implicit death threat. Stupid punks paint/draw/etch swastikas all the time. They're rarely followed up with any type of attack. This isn't to say they aren't seriously offensive (I'd agree that targeted use of swastikas (like on synagogues) is more offensive than the desecrated host thing), I just don't think a swastika is an implicit death threat.

A swastika is more commonly meant to upset people, to serve as an emotional attack. Whether the harm is physical or pecuniary or emotional, in my mind it can still be persecution.

Jacob -

My brother actually had Professor Meyers for a course or two. His commentary led me to believe that Meyers has been pulling this kind of stuff for a long time, he just hadn't ever gotten the same level of press.

Ben said...

Matt - I draw the line at calling offense "persecution." It's exactly that kind of mindset that leads to groups like this CADC to cry "persecution" whenever a doofus like this Prof. Meyers figures out how to push their buttons...and leaves the rest of the world scratching their heads.

There CAN be psychological persecution, but I'd say it's more along the lines of campaigns of fear meant to keep a certain people down. "I was afraid for my life" or even "I was afraid that the means by which I feed my children would be taken away from me" is on a completely different level from "I was afraid that someone might offend me again."

To state again, I AM offended by what this Prof. Meyers did. Since you are Catholic and attach even more sacred meaning to the Eucharistic elements, I imagine you are far MORE offended than I. But I still don't think Meyers persecuted either of us.

Jacob - Dear God! Can it be that you and I actually agreed on something? This hasn't happened since we called ourselves the Don Juans of Vanderbilt. (Hanging Chads! Laffer Curve! That's still funny.)

Matthew B. Novak said...

Ben -

I don't think offense = persecution in any necessary way. Sorry if it seemed like that's what I was saying. I'm saying that the intentional causing of offense can (but does not necessarily) rise to the level of being persecution. It's not really about whether there's a future threat of more offense or anything along those lines.

Meyers was doing his absolute best to cause emotional harm to people. Was it as serious as a threat on someone's life or livelihood? No. But I think it's certainly more serious than your run of the mill offensiveness.

Also, while I've got your ear on the Eucharist thing... I'm gonna urge you to check out the bread of life discourse in John 6... ;-)

Jeff said...

For what it's worth, I guess I set the bar for persecution fairly high. My feeling is that there has to be some sort of attempt to intimidate a person or group of people into submission. To some extent there has to be a power differential - the powerful picking on the weak, so that the intimidation has real-world consequences.

So I don't think insults like desecrating the Eucharist can really be considered persecution because it's not intimidating, it's just dumb. I doubt anyone was intimidated into forsaking their religious rites because of that incident. Now if Meyers did his Eucharist-torturing in front of a class and made it rather clear that objections from Christians would not be tolerated, that could make the grade, so to speak, because Christians in his class would be intimidated into not sharing their religious beliefs... but it's still marginal, and on a small scale. (They wouldn't be intimidated once they left the classroom, after all.)

In fact, the entire idea of Christians being persecuted on a regular basis in America is preposterous to me because of the power differential I attach to the word "persecution." Christians almost always come out on top, power-wise, in this country. In fact, the way atheists are frequently treated in this country is more in the neighborhood of persecution by this definition...

(A further note - I'm not sure I even consider swastikas on a synagogue "persecution" because, while they are certainly intimidating, they're usually done by a powerless group. It's on the fringe of persecution, and really depends on who's doing the swastika-painting.)

Matthew B. Novak said...

Alright, I'm willing to conceed that the Eucharist desecration thing doesn't meet the idea of persecution as y'all are using it. I was (obviously) going a little more broad with the idea.

So here's the question: what Meyers did was certainly worse than your run-of-the-mill offensiveness, right? Is there some third category (more than simple offense, less than persecution) that we can call such an act? Or is it just towards the greater end of the offensive scale?

Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

Sorry for being a very late-comer commentator on this post, not to mention a total stranger to at least some of you, but I find the very existence of a group that is an anti-defamation league for Christians preposterous.

The league that watchdogs threats against the Jewish community to my mind has a legitimate raison d'être, given that this people and faith seems to have the most consistent record of being the target and often victim of genocidal zealots throughout recorded history. But that Christians should set up a group with similar aims seems, as I said, preposterous. Anti-Christian genocide there has been, sporadic but sometimes violent, but for reasons very different. Christians are a religious group, after all, and every religious group has been persecuted by someone sometime and somewhere. Big deal. If your God is the true God, then you'd better get used to it.

I am a Greek Orthodox Christian with strong Judaic roots and connexions, but personally I also think that most of the alleged "persecution" cited in the article under consideration is ludicrous. I don't care what you do to the Eucharist, to ikons and statues, to the book of the Bible, and all the rest of Christian paraphernalia. Yes, "things" can be "holy," and yes, to those who think that Christ in the Eucharist can be harmed or offended in some way, granted, these incidents can be very unsettling. But honestly, persecution is something quite different.

Persecution is taking away one's rights to live and believe as one has chosen to live and believe. Persecution is making it impossible to live somewhere, taking away one's possibility to work to support oneself.
Persecution is even, in my opinion, taking away your right to pass on to your children the faith you adhere to (and I know some will disagree with me, but so what).
Persecution is confiscating your property, unjustly imprisoning you, beating you up, raping you, humiliating you in a hundred different ways, and finally, killing you.
But persecution cannot be inflicted on "things".
So what if they haul off the Ten Commandments carved on a rock in front of a public building, or remove a Nativity scene from public land. That's not persecution. That's just bigotry.

Anyway, perhaps what I'm trying to say is that though you can persecute people and individuals, you can't persecute God and "holy things." He holds the trump card, existentially, and if He is really there, those that offend Him will probably get what they deserve, with no help from us.

Anyway, bottom line for me is, the only true Church is the persecuted Church; all others are just another business concern.

Go with God, my brothers.