Persecution anxiety

Bruce Chapman reports at AmSpec that Christians are widely persecuted around the world, and one of the prominent examples is the treatment of Coptic Christians in Egypt. Chapman says someone should do something about it.  That’s right.  Ah, but then he hypothesizes why people haven’t already done something about it:

One reason for neglect in Washington is probably the continuing secularization of the West. Political forces that demand that domestic religious organizations provide employees insurance for contraception, that Christmas manger scenes be banned from the town park and that graduating high school seniors not be allowed to invoke God in their valedictory addresses are not the kind of people who care much about Christian prisoners in the North Korean gulag or burning churches in Egypt.

Here’s the analogy behind Chapman’s explanation.  Those who oppose mangers in town squares and compulsory prayer are like those who put Christians in gulags and burn churches — they sympathize with the oppressors.  In Chapman’s eyes, secularism is religious oppression lite.

Chapman’s error is that those who oppose state-sanctioned religious displays do so precisely in the spirit of opposing oppression.  Sure, it may feel like being oppressed when the state capitol doesn’t have a manger scene – you’re not getting complete control over the state.  But that’s not oppression, that’s a reduction in your undeserved and disproportionate power.

And so the analogy isn’t just false, it’s entirely backwards — you get the kind of oppression of gulags and church burnings when you have a state that endorses only one kind of religious view.  You see, the secularization of the West isn’t motivated by the desire to oppress the religious, but by the desire to reduce religious oppression.

5 thoughts on “Persecution anxiety”

  1. Scott,
    Is it possible that the author doesn’t go as far as to state that the secular West is not analogous to the people that persecute Christians? But rather, state that the secular West just doesn’t care about the persecuted Christians?
    As for the “war on Christmas” , I find it very revealing that it was never my Jewish or Muslim friends that complain about the Christmas symbols, but always my atheists/agnostic ones.

  2. Sure it’s possible. But unlikely, given the purpose to which the statement is made. Why else would their prohibitions on religious displays be a relevant? The default is to interpret people as though the things they say are relevant to the other things they say, not that they don’t say stupid things. In this case, you can’t have both. Good luck ever detecting arguments if you give up on the first objective.
    As for your claim about the “War on Christmas,” it’s anecdotal for one, and irrelevant to the juridical matter, anyhow.

  3. Scott,
    I think it’s still relevant, but in a somewhat different way. Maybe I’m just iron-manning here, but I think the author is simply stating that as opposed to past pro-Christian Washington, the new more secular Washington is less likely to emphasize and fight against persecution of Christians. If this is right or wrong it’s a different matter. It is, however, a new reality that people need to adjust to.
    My personal point of view is that US government should show no favorites, but that doesn’t mean ignore them all, but rather pay attention and include all.

  4. Hey BN, We’re in agreement about what the policy should be, I think. And iron-manning might be what’s happening when you say that the view is that the secularists are less sympathetic with suffering Christians, instead of desire it. But it’s the evidence offered for that claim that directs how strongly we should interpret it, and the evidence is the “War on Christmas,” which takes the form of arguments from religious oppression, not lack of sympathy.

  5. I think the difference might be that the religious care about the persecution of Christians because they are Christians, while the non-religious care about the persecution of Christians because it is persecution.

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