Someone I know shared the following image on Facebook. (See the original posting of this image). It’s a commentary on the (not popular enough) “coexist” bumper sticker. The stupidity of this poster is baffling and barely worth commenting on. However, the general message of it got me thinking.
The poster alleges that the bumper sticker is directed at Christianity and that this is ironic because Christianity is the only group who poses no threat to the others. This assertion is contradicted three sentences earlier, where it states that gay rights has been suppressed by all religions, of which Christianity is a subset. Logically, Christianity suppressed gay rights. It also overlooks the myriad of ways in which Christians have and continue to perpetrate violence against other groups. It’s blatantly Islamophobic. It complete misunderstands pacifism. It’s dismissive towards Paganism and Taoism. But hey, Christianity isn’t the problem, all those other guys are!
All of this self-contradicting aside, the statement that fascinates me the most is the one that states that Christianity is who the sticker is directed against. This statement is a generalization, of course, as the author could not possibly know the motivation of every person who buys a “coexist” bumpersticker. Based on the small sample of individuals who own this sticker whom I personally know, none of them bought it to specifically accuse Christianity. From this small sample, I would hypothesize that only a small minority of people who buy this sticker do so to solely criticize Christianity. By “Christianity” I infer that the author (and certainly from the person I know who reposted it on Facebook) is referring specifically to conservative, evangelical Christianity.
It’s strange to me that on a bumper sticker that names seven demographic profiles, that the creator of this poster interprets it as being directed primarily against his demographic. Nothing about the bumper sticker (or the people that I know who own one) suggests that this is the case. The creator, it seems, felt singled out. Why? I call it a persecution complex.
Growing up as a conservative, evangelical Christian, I had a persecution complex. I was instilled with a sense that my faith was under attack. I was shown examples of such attacks (no prayer in schools, being taught evolution in biology class, stories about martyrs from around the world, etc.) and even received “training” on how to resist such attacks (called apologetics). Yes, my adolescent self was convinced that Christians were persecuted for our faith. Society was intolerant of my faith.
This perceived action by society–persecuting me–was not actually an action at, but rather a reaction. Christianity (or at least the flavor to which I belonged) acted with intolerance, demanding that society conform itself to the values or behaviors promoted by conservative, evangelical Christianity. Society reacted by refusing to conform, and Christianity cried, “foul!” The perceived persecution is actually the reaction to an intolerant demand.
A functioning society requires that that the groups and individuals within it adopt a basic level of tolerance and acceptance in their actions towards others. When a group or individual act outside of this basic level, a well functioning society reacts against it. Of course, society could always acquiesce to the group’s demand, but the word that we use to describe such a society is “tyranny.”
In the words of John Stewart, “You confused a war on your religion with not getting everything you want.”