Those Oppressed Christians

Trump used the National Day of Prayer yesterday to suck up to the Fundiegelicals, issuing a meaningless proclamation and saying,

“We will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied or silenced anymore,” Trump proclaimed, which were marking the National Day of Prayer. “And we will never, ever stand for religious discrimination. Never, ever.”

And by “people of fath” he of course means Christians. Certainly not the Muslims he’s trying to ban from entering the country, or the Jews he can’t remember to mention on Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The idea that Christians have been “targeted, bullied or silenced” is bullshit: have they been denied marriage licenses or the right to adopt? Have their spouses of 40+ years been refused funeral cremation services, as recently happened in Mississippi?

Of course not. But they have been witness to the secularization of American society, something they have been powerless to stop. This is the real “oppression” they decry, and yet there’s a very good reason they can’t stop it: they are part of it. They want the benefits of secularism but not the costs. They want to attend football games on Sunday but don’t want their influence on American society to wane. They want to participate in secular culture while holding themselves above it.

American Christians long ago adopted the secular value set of popular culture. As someone whose brief tenure in Christian music coincided with the genre’s 1990’s “crossover” era, I saw first-hand how the faithful coveted acceptance by mainstream culture. It was kind of gross, to be honest. Every artist’s position on the Billboard charts — not the Christian charts, mind you, but the real ones, the Billboard Top 200 and Hot 100 — was shouted from the rooftops as if it were all the proof one needed that God isn’t dead. Every one of them had to beat their chests over how Bono was a Christian, as if  U2’s success validated their faith. It was a weird time. Did listening to a Jars of Clay album make anyone a Christian? Doubtful. But plenty of people confused platinum album sales with successful evangelism.

This is part of a larger flaw in white Southern evangelical Christianity. There’s this belief that material success is the outward manifestation of spiritual worthiness. It’s proof that one has been “chosen” by God. It has to be that, right? To concede that it might more accurately be the result of privilege and decades of the cards being stacked in your favor at the expense of others would be to concede complicity in an unjust system. Few have the moral courage to admit that. Better to believe that the system is fair and success a sign of righteousness.

But consumerism and secularism go hand in hand. You can’t value material success and be part of consumer culture while professing to be apart from it. The Christian entertainment business is just the most obvious example of this; there are plenty of others.

Last week I talked to a refugee from Congo who’s working as a dishwasher at The Cheesecake Factory. He’s a Christian and he told me it upset him that he was forced to work on Sundays. “People should be at church on Sunday,” he said. That’s actually how it used to be in the U.S., back when we had Blue Laws and Sunday beer sales were banned and people were supposed to spend the Sabbath in Sunday school and Christianity really was the dominant force in American society.

Those days are long gone — good riddance, I certainly don’t miss them — but it shows how far we’ve come from the time when we really were a “Christian nation.” So enough with the hissy fits over a store clerk wishing you “Happy  Holidays.” You can go to a Walmart or Cracker Barrel on any Sunday morning and see the place packed with the faithful, who are worshipping at the altar of the cash register instead of sitting in a church pew where my Congolese friend wishes he could be.

Here’s another example, the latest entry in the Nashville retail market. Altar’d States sells stylish women’s fashions in one of Nashville’s hippest, most upscale neighborhoods. What makes it a Christian business? Well, there are Bible verses on the wall and the company donates money to charity. Weak tea, if you ask me, but I’m sure that will be good enough to bring the faithful through their doors to load up on the latest high-end fashions. Apparently that’s all it takes to be a “Christian” business these days, and nobody seems disturbed that a company is using faith as a branding mechanism.

People want to know how evangelicals could support a man like Donald Trump, who is the antithesis of all they claim to value. Easy. Consumerism and secularism go hand in hand, and once American Christianity embraced consumer culture, it devalued and cheapened its spiritual faith. American Christianity is by and large a secular religion today, in that it has embraced consumerism. This makes it easy to overlook Trump’s ickier aspects — the vulgarity, the allegations of sexual assault, the lack of humility– and lift Trump up as a member of the Christian club. As long as Trump hates all the right people — liberals, Obama, etc. — they are cool with whatever he does.

Christians aren’t oppressed, they’re corrupted. They forgot they’re supposed to be in the world, not of it. They want cultural influence but have only themselves to blame for their lack of it.


Filed under Christianity, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee

31 responses to “Those Oppressed Christians

  1. Very good column today.

  2. Thomas

    I agree with Jill. Makes one think of all kinds of things. But, mainly, that very few actually follow Jesus’s example or teachings. Definition of a Christian?

  3. Bob Fischer

    You hit this one out of the park. Great column.

  4. democommie

    I think I was about 25 when I realized that Sunday Christians were, all too often, 7 day KKKristians.

    If someone starts a conversation proclaiming their love of GOD, you know that there’s a boatload of bullshit coming.

    I’m an atheist and I honestly don’t care what you believe as long as you don’t want to make me or anyone else believe it. Do that “praying in your innermost room” thing and we’ll get along just fine.

    • Katydid

      Great point, Democommie! Bill Maher had a bit where he talked about people who started every sentence with, “Well, I’m a CHRISTIAN…” I tend to avoid businesses that advertise themselves as Christians because invariably they’re out to scam their customers.

      In my area, children can go to “Christian daycare”, then go on to attend “Christian schools”, play on “Christian football leagues”, go to “Christian summer camps” and graduate from “Christian college”. They can freely attend any Christian church they choose (there are so many of them of all types, all being supported by We the Taxpayers), listen to “Christian” radio stations, watch “Christian” channels on the basic cable tv packages available in this area, and shop in “Christian” stores (particularly bookstores and Hobby Lobby). They can subscribe to any Christian magazines or newspapers they want and visit any Christian websites that catch their interest. They can eat at places like Chik-Fil-A that flout their “Christian” values. Yet they’re perpetually wailing about how very *persecuted* they are for their faith.

      While I do feel sorry for the Congolese dishwasher, maybe he can get a job at Chik-Fil-A that’s closed on Sunday? Or is he the “wrong” kind of Christian? Obviously, since 70-some-percent of the USA self-identifies as Christian, if they weren’t going to that man’s restaurant, it wouldn’t be open on Sundays.

    • “those people who lead good lives, they’re healthy, they’ve done the things to keep their bodies healthy. And right now, those are the people—who’ve done things the right way—that are seeing their costs skyrocketing.” –Rep. Mo Brooks of AL. I’m sure he’s a Good Christian who wants “churches and charity” to take care of those people who don’t live good lives, you know, babies in the neonatal icu and stuff.

      • themadkansan

        Mo Brooks needs an accidental HIV-laced blood transfusion, and mix in a bit of BSE for good measure. Asshole.

      • Katydid

        Even worse, with the restrictions on abortions for severely-deformed fetuses, they’re creating a permanent underclass that they then refuse to insure because of their preexisting conditions. So for the short, tortured lives, those severely-deformed infants will suffer because they obviously weren’t living good lives in the womb

    • themadkansan

      The ‘Prosperity Gospel’ horseshit, probably more than anything else, is what finally convinced me there is no G-d.

  5. democommie

    Actually, I’m pretty sure that he wants all of those NICU babeez to be borned and THEN die due to lack of resources/access.

    Is he Mel Brooks evil twin. What an asshole.

    And, going by his wikipage list of bills he sponsored or co-sponsored, he’s not just a heartless p.o.s., he’s batshit.

  6. Jennifer

    I am a Christian, and I also despise Donald Trump and his cronies, and what they are doing to this country. Point being, not all Christians support Donald Trump, so let’s please not lump us all together in one big generalization. Also don’t say I am in the minority because most of my friends who are Christians feel the same way I do about trump. Just have to stand up for ‘my kind.’

    • Democommie

      Actually, your kind have to stand up for the rest of the nation. Road to hell, good intentions, etc.,.

      • As the former member of a liberal church, I noticed that the white Christian Left seldom operates that way. There are some exceptions such as Jim Wallis, but in my experience the Christian Left prefers to be non-combative and non-confrontational. The black churches know how to be activists but white churches tend to be insular and localized. Plenty will serve their communities–ours did a lot of work with the homeless–but large-scale social change died out with the Vietnam War.

      • democommie

        I’m not deriding the work of people of conscience but at this point we’re not talking about one bad apple spoiling the whole bushel. There are plenty of people who go to church every Sunday and tithe to churches that have hateful policies and Reichwing politics. The way to make those people pay attention is to stop going and stop tithing.

  7. Since there will henceforth be no separation of church and start in this benighted land of moral and intellectual ignorance, can we please just cut to the chase and start taxing the bejayzus out of the churches which pander to these feckers?

    • The Christian Left has been instrumental in such things as the Moral Mondays movement. Unfortunately they are no longer the face of American evangelical Christianity. It’s a shame.

  8. Trump is all about churches being able to campaign for Trump and his causes, catapult the pro-Trump propaganda right from the pulpit, political rallies organized at mega-churches and maybe a little bit of good old-fashioned voter intimidation at churches who allow their facilities to be used for polls. The freedom to go off on right-wing rants during prayer services and at church picnics and potlucks. And all of it tax-free like God intended.

    We should have nipped this in the bud with the Christian Voting Guides from the 1980s.

  9. Jim in Memphis

    Hey SB – this is way off topic but I was interested in your take on Nashville’s mayor proposing to install mass transit on Gallatin Pike as a start to a light rail system for Nashville.

  10. democommie

    Mass transit that runs on a shitty schedule will not be mass transit. I took the commuter rail from the North Shore of MA into Boston for 5-1/2 years. It cost about $250-350 (2000-2006 period) with a parking fee of $10/week on top of that–in the MBTA’s own lots–which the lege made them turn over to private contractors, ‘cuz someobody’s buddy needed the income. The schedule was pretty crappy, the ride was long, the cars were relatively clean and the trains only broke down a few times a month–usually.

    No mass transit system that doesn’t serve its customers’ needs will do well.

    • Jim in Memphis

      I agree that the system has to serve the customer’s needs to be successful. I feel Nashville has gotten to the point that it needs a mass transit system upgrade if it wants to continue to grow. The interstates leading into downtown are maxed out. There is no physical room to add more lanes and the traffic into and around downtown is just horrible now.

      • Who is the customer in this plan? People already using our admittedly shitty bus mass transit? Tourists? People in wealthy neighborhoods who can no longer get around their own neighborhoods? As I said, I don’t know much about the plan but a Gallatin pike route indicates customer #1.

      • democommie

        Then you’d better hope that they offer people something realistic in the way of scheduling. I used to leave my house at 6AM or earlier, drive 10-15 minutes to get to a Commuter Rail station and then ride the train for at least an hour and get off a mile from my office (a brisk 12 minute walk) for an 8:30 start. I left work @ 5PM got on the 6:10 Train and got back to the house around 7:15 to 7:30–a not atypical commute. If the trains traveled on better schedules I could have shaved at least an hour to an hour and a half off, every day.

      • Jim in Memphis

        I would expect the primary customer is someone who works downtown but lives out in one of the suburbs. Madison, Inglewood, Hendersonville, Goodletsville, for the line in question here, but I think they need to expand in all directions to get to Franklin, Murfreesboro, Dickson(maybe not that far but out to the western edge.) and Lebanon already has a train service coming into town. The secondary customer is someone that is coming into town for a night of entertainment. Going to a Predators game, Sounds game, Titans game, seeing a play, heading to Broadway and 2nd Avenue, etc.

  11. democommie

    That commuter rail pass, btw, is currently either $336 or $363/month depending on whether I’d be in zone 7 or 8 (I lived in both, at various times).

  12. Kosh III

    Gallatin Pike is the busiest route in the system. The BRT Lite stop at the Madison library is the busiest spot in the whole system aside from the downtown terminal. We needed a mass transit upgrade years ago. btw I do ride the bus to work and it’s great but I live near a main route.

    • democommie

      I live two blocks from a bus stop that’s got 7 buses going by in one direction, eight the other way between 5:30 AM and 10:30 PM. When I go shopping I take my bike and throw it on the bike rack (room for 2–so not always) and combine errands that include 4 or 5 different strip malls and big boxes along a 1/2 mile corridor. It’s a 3 hour trip.

      It sucks, but much less than walking or riding the bike with a load of stuff–escpecially in shitty weather which we have a lot of, here.

  13. democommie

    I just did a quick google of the Nashville RTS announcement for the expansion project. $6B is the number I saw. That is, I’m positive, a best guesstimate. Building rail, especially new rail, is horrendously complicated. Land takings, impact studies, removal of threatened species and protections of habitats. Almost nothing that gets built doesn’t suffer the complications of modern U.S. politics.

    I used to live 50 feet from a single track that was used for Portland, ME to Boston commuter trains every workday, some number (not many) on weekends; Amtrak and heavy freight runs. The heavy freight runs were always done in the dead of night. There was a grade crossing about 200′ from the house and because of that, the conditions of the track and bed and curves, the train would throttle back to about 10 miles an hour for that stretch. It was like the scene from Cousin Vinny or The Blues Brothers where the trains are just in your face.

    So, complicated and necessary.

  14. democommie

    Hey, here’s an idea.

    Your last post about the coal jobs and the comments on this one about the Light Rail project make me think…

    You could build your ligjht rail and do the very christian thing by bringing allathem outtwork folks down here. I mean, they’s all pick’n’shovel types so it won’t be like it’s “meanialer” than they jobs they don’t some of. AND, they won’t be havin’ to worry ’bout no caveins and such. Win-WIN for JEEZUZ!