Almost daily I encounter messages saying that conservative Christians should stop "pretending" to be victims of discrimination. I encounter these messages about as often as messages arguing in favor of discriminating against Christians. Why the cognitive dissonance?
"Christians haven't been discriminated against like blacks, gays and Muslims, and they aren't being persecuted like Christians in China or the Middle East," I often hear in response, which is both true and beside the point. Discrimination doesn't have to be the worst ever for it to still be a cause of concern.
Here are a few examples of Christian discrimination.
Christians who post biblical yet unpopular views on social media can be subject to business losses or unemployment. Steve Tennes posted a message consistent with his Christian views to his Facebook page and because of that his business was excluded from the East Lansing farmer's market.
It's acceptable to exclude Christians from governmental positions. Sens. Bernie Sanders and Chris Van Hollen voted against a Trump appointee due to his orthodox Christian beliefs. When the Department of Education recently hosted a panel discussion on fatherhood, LGBT groups protested its inclusion of conservative viewpoints.
Christian adoption agencies have been forced out of Massachusetts and Washington, D.C. An attempt to do this in Texas failed.
Christian wedding vendors have been forced to choose between their conscience and keeping their business. Many Americans don't support religious freedom for Christians in these circumstances.
Big government is only part of the problem. Big business also frequently discriminates against Christians. Many Christians have experienced censorship on prominent social media and video sharing websites. One site allows porn but won't allow ex-gay Christians. LGBT advocacy groups are also pressuring businesses to stop placing ads on websites offering viewpoints they dislike.
Given these incidents and many others like them, conservative Christians figured that when Hillary Clinton said half of Donald Trump's supporters were a "basket of deplorables," she was talking about them. While I argued against supporting Trump, it's understandable why many white evangelicals did after he promised to protect them from religious discrimination. If leftists hadn't been so active in trying to exclude Christians from public life or at using government power to punish them for their views, we wouldn't have Trump as president.
Many cases of Christian discrimination get resolved in favor of the Christian, thanks in large part to James Madison and the first Congress, who gave us the First Amendment.
As the politics and opinion editor for The Christian Post, I see press releases almost weekly of Christian or pro-life groups getting discriminated against on public high school or college campuses. There are too many of these incidents for us to cover them all. Many of these are resolved quickly after one of the legal groups that specializes in defending Christians, such as Alliance Defending Freedom or Liberty Counsel, point out the illegality of the discrimination.
Other times, however, it may take many years and much hassel before the issue is resolved. Andrew Snelling, a geologist, was denied the opportunity to study the Grand Canyon due to his Christian beliefs for three years before the National Park Service finally recognized that their discrimination was wrong and approved his application.
There are plenty more examples but too many to mention here. Family Research Council recently published a report documenting many (but not all) of them.
The people who think Christians should be discriminated against are also well funded. Rolling Stone recently profiled Tim Gill, who has donated over $422 million to a network of LGBT advocacy groups and has been active in getting other rich people to donate to his causes. While liberals often complain about the influence of "big money" in politics, those concerns weren't raised in this article.
Gill said his goal is to "punish the wicked," with the "wicked" being those opposed to gay marriage. Which, of course, is exactly what has been happening. But when conservative Christians complain about that punishment, we're accused "playing the victim card," having a "persecution complex," or being "alarmists."
How is it, then, that liberals can both discriminate against Christians and be oblivious to the fact that Christians are being discriminated against? This question has boggled my mind for years, but I may be close to an answer.
It could have something to do with the so-called "liberal bubble."
In centers of cultural power liberals only know people like themselves and thus assume that's the norm. Of course, Christians themselves deserve much blame for this condition, given that reaching out to non-Christians is a core function of the Church.
I've been heartened to find some liberals discovering their bubble and recognizing it as a serious issue (got #woke, they might say). Last November, Saturday Night Live had a skit, "The Bubble," satirizing the phenomenon.
One of the first serious and widely read attempts, by a liberal, to bring attention to the liberal bubble was Emmett Rensin's "The smug style in American liberalism," published by Vox in April 2016. The best recent example of the liberal smug style, Rensin wrote at the time, was the treatment of Kim Davis, the evangelical Christian county clerk who was jailed for refusing to affix her name to a same-sex marriage license.
To the smug liberal, Rensin explained, the problem wasn't that Davis had the wrong faith, it was that she misunderstood her faith, so once she, and people like her, understood that, the debate would be over. There would be no need to manage our differences, as our political institutions are designed to do, because there would be no differences.
"This, more than anything I can recall in recent American life, is an example of the smug style. Many liberals do not believe that evangelical Christianity ought to guide public life; many believe, moreover, that the moral conceits of that Christianity are wrong, even harmful to society. But to the smug liberal, it isn't that Kim Davis is wrong. How can she be? She's only mistaken. She just doesn't know the Good Facts, even about her own religion. She's angry and confused, another hick who's not with it," Rensin wrote.
For a more recent work on the liberal bubble, see Emmet Penney's "Lectureporn: The Vulgar Art of Liberal Narcissism," published June 26 by Paste.
Penney writes that liberals are not only smug but narcissists, with a psychological need to ridicule those unlike themselves. Fulfilling this need has made the careers of people like Jon Stewart, Trevor Noah, Samantha Bee, Bill Nye, Keith Olberman, Rachel Maddow, and Aaron Sorkin. This ridicule, what Penney calls "lectureporn," is dangerous because it "breeds confirmation bias and a lack of empathy."
"Thus," Penney wrote, liberals "have no purchase on someone else's perspective because [they're] narcissistically invested in [their] own view — the 'correct' and only perspective. Dissenters are just the unworthy."
To the smug liberal, discrimination against Christians is seen as doing them a favor, if the Rensin and Penney analyses are correct.
In many cases of Christian discrimination, the Christians are ordered by courts to undergo "sensitivity training," which places us squarely into the dystopian fictional worlds of George Orwell's 1984 and Aldous Huxley's Brave New World.
Even the supposedly Christian-friendly Trump administration is now into government mandated speech (pronoun use for teachers).
In 2015, a government meat inspector was inspecting Don Vander Boon's meatpacking plant. The inspector found a stack of brochures advocating conjugal marriage sitting in the breakroom. The inspector ordered him to remove the material and threatened to close his plant if he refused.
At first glance, it's difficult to understand why a liberal wouldn't be outraged at the prospect of a government in which every government official is empowered to enforce a dogmatic viewpoint, but when you understand liberal as "smug liberal," it makes more sense.
What could be more smug than to believe a Christian's deeply held beliefs can be changed through government mandated classes or the threat of government punishment if they don't get with the program?
To the smug liberal, the debate is over (they actually say that), the war is won, all that is left is the occupation ("occupy" is one of their favorite words). A little nudging (using the power of media and government) and everyone will believe what they believe.