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The Christian Right's Bizarre Delusions of Persecution

Being a Christian is a privileged position in American society; that makes it really hard to claim you’re being oppressed. But they keep trying.

Christian conservatives feel aggrieved and they want to be heard. The problem is that their specific grievance---that everyone else hurts their feelings by not admitting we’re inferior---kind of sounds, well, hard to sympathize with. They need something snappier, a reason to claim that they are being oppressed by “anti-Christian bigotry”. The only problem with that is that in a majority Christian nation, most people are actually pretty accepting and even admiring of Christianity. Even if they disagree with right wing Christianity, they don’t do so because it’s Christian but because it’s conservative. Being a Christian is a privileged position in American society; that makes it really hard to claim you’re being oppressed.

Inevitably, then, the temptation to fudge starts to seep in, to exaggerate slights or invent paranoid conspiracy theories about how not getting enough praise and accolades for being Christian is an attempt to shove them out. But when that doesn’t work, well, sometimes it helps to deliberately provoke a situation where someone pretty much has to confront you, so that you can lie and say it’s because you’re a Christian. Indeed, it’s starting to become a pattern that goes something like this:

1) Enter into a community that is, by its nature, inclusive of people of various faiths and beliefs.

2) Break some common rule everyone is expected to follow.

3) Get corrected or punished for breaking the rule.

4) Squeal about how it’s because you’re a Christian and they’re bigots and oppressors.

5) By the time the truth gets out, your story will be an urban legend spread far and wide, and your fellow conservative Christians will never really know the facts.

The recent uproar over the best song Oscar nominee that was shortly dropped from the nominee list after it was released is a classic of the form. The Christian right press is up in arms, claiming that the Oscars are exhibiting an “ anti-Christian bias” by yanking the nomination for the title song for the movie Alone Yet Not Alone. The movie, besides being one of those D-list evangelical films made for very little money that barely touches the theaters before making most of its money on the church screening circuit, appears also be a stomach-turning apologia for the racism Europeans exhibited towards Native Americans during the 18th century. Regardless of the content, however, the song was booted because the composer, Bruce Broughton, broke the Academy rules by exploiting his knowledge of who was voting in the category and using that knowledge to alert over 70 of them that he was the composer.  He denies it was campaigning, but it’s hard to imagine that there’s any other way to interpret an email that says it is a “request for your consideration”.  

Even though Broughton broke a rule that applies to everyone, the whinefest began immediately. Broughton himself complained to the Christian Post that his reputation was “besmirched and sullied”. He declined to go on the record saying that he believes it was because of anti-Christian bigotry, but in his campaign email, it’s clear he was already championing the idea that the movie would be overlooked because it’s Christian: “I'm sending this note only because it is extremely unlikely that this small, independent, faith-based film will be seen by any music branch member; it's the only way I can think of to have anyone be aware of the song.” Obviously, the notion that the song was being ignored because of “faith” was in circulation long before the nomination was revoked. That it got revoked only escalated the nascent sense of victimization that was growing around the song.

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