Someone’s Got a Persecution Complex

I was most directly inspired to write this by a letter in my local newspaper, but it easily applies to countless claims from politicians, talk show hosts, journalists, and next-door neighbors across the United States. It’s been submitted to the Dahlonega Nugget for print July 22, 2015. Please share freely:

Someone in this country has a persecution complex and, despite the tired rhetoric from those stuck in the 1950s, it’s not the Americans who still suffer from the real effects of persecution.

I’m a Christian. I have plenty of atheist and Muslim friends. They’ve never criticized me for my religious beliefs or tried to push their values on me. They accept me as I am. In fact, I’ve only ever been attacked for what I believe by other Christians (apparently I’m a Catholic Mary-worshipper).

Relax. No one’s feeding us to the lions. There’s no shortage of churches in our country, and certainly not in Dahlonega. Churches are being burned and vandalized, but those are more a result of terror attacks against black churches or, as we saw during the recent attack on our Unitarian church in Dahlonega, those that support LGBT rights. Christianity is at no risk of losing its hegemonic grip over American culture.

Just because gay can now get married doesn’t mean our LGBT neighbors are free from danger. It’s still legal to fire someone for being gay in most states. Many of our local LGBT neighbors can’t even live their lives openly for fear of retaliation.

Trans people in the US are TEN TIMES more likely to attempt suicide. Gay and lesbian people are four times more likely. By no measure are US Christians taking their lives because of a perceived persecution.

Trans people in the US are brutally beaten and sexually assaulted at tremendously higher rates. There’s an unbroken history of persecution of the LGBT community, which continues to this day. Their rights only started being recognized when they fought back.

Despite Jesus directing his followers to

Despite Jesus directing his followers to “Love your neighbor as yourself” and his radical acceptance of the most marginalized people of his time, some Christians in the US exclude and discriminate against LGBT people and other minorities. At the same time they claim persecution when their right to impose their values on everyone else is challenged.

It’s telling that while minority groups in this country continue to face discrimination and social marginalization, the Christian majority pushes a false narrative that claims they’re under attack because someone wished them “Happy Holidays.” The only thing under attack is the right of those people to dictate how the rest of us should conduct our lives. No churches have been forced by the state to close their doors. No one’s going to lock you up for discussing your faith. No one in our country is forcing Christians to renounce their faith. No one is stopping heterosexual Christians from getting married to the person they love — or getting a divorce, which they do with great frequency.

Claiming persecution because your right to exert control over others distracts from our collective complicity in the emotional trauma, physical abuse, and denial of rights against LGBT people. All Americans have a right to decide for themselves how to conduct our lives.

Lest we forget, Jesus himself challenged the Pharisees, who also sought to impose their arbitrary values on everyone but themselves. He also surrounded himself with the most marginalized people of his time. Anyone who claims to be Christian would do well to follow his example and, as he made abundantly clear: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Related: Bullying of LGBT Community Continues