Pursuant to last week’s post on the far right and American history, Sarah Posner posted recently at Religion Dispatches Magazine about the post-Prop-8, post-DADT positioning of the Christian right which believes itself to be not only a persecuted minority but (through the looking glass material here) a minority that is being persecuted by the act of securing equal rights for others. Namely, the civil and human rights of non-straight citizens. Learning from its opponents on the political left, the politicized Christian right — specifically those Christians who seek to transform the United States into a Christian nation — has decided to spin the cultural divide into a fight played out in the courts.
This necessitates translating their fundamentally theological arguments into legal philosophy — and then spinning that legal philosophy into something that will fly in U.S. federal courts. Since, as the Proposition 8 failure proved, religious disagreement with a person’s actions (i.e. same-sex sexual activity) does not stand up to Constitutional scrutiny. So those intent on taking the Christian fundamentalist battle into the courtroom have chosen to play the minority card — they argue that their rights as citizens — their right to disapprove of queer folks’ access to equality — is being unconstitutionally limited by the legal recognition of those rights.
You following me?
So, to crib Sarah Posner’s example, it’s not the non-straight soldiers in the U.S. military whose rights as citizens have been curtailed all these years because of cultural homophobia … but rather the rights of Christians in the U. S. military whose rights are now under threat because they’ll be forced to recognize the rights of others. When in fact the opposite is true. As Posner observes,
At its core, the war against the “homosexual agenda” pits the rights of LGBT people against the “Christian nation” mythology. Since we are a Christian nation, the argument goes, our laws must reflect that Christian theology condemns homosexuality. Despite being on shaky ground both theologically and historically, religious right legal organizations — claiming the need to counter the ACLU and its advocacy for both LGBT rights and the separation of church and state — have attempted to transform this culture war argument into a legal one.
The most recent effort was in the Supreme Court case of Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, in which the CLS argued that Hastings Law School should grant it official recognition as a club, even though it required “members and those wishing to hold leadership positions in the club to be professing Christians and to disavow ‘unrepentant participation in or advocacy of a sexually immoral lifestyle,'” in violation of the school’s non-discrimination policy.
… [Such arguments are] is only a few steps away from specious arguments that LGBT equality “criminalizes” Christianity. The reality in the military is that nontheists, Jews, Muslims, and even Christians who aren’t evangelical are subject to the imposition of evangelical religious belief, all funded by the US government.
Read Posner’s entire post over at RDmagazine.
My inner skeptic finds it very difficult to believe that evangelical Christians, who enjoy the passive cultural privilege of living in a majority Christian nation, actually experience the life of a persecuted minority. Rather, I suspect that shrewd tacticians have calculated that playing the “minority” card will get them what they want (a nation of Christian evangelical privilege) whereas arguing for straightforward supremacy will not. However, I also believe that many evangelical Christians do feel under siege, feel as if they are an embattled minority within a hostile secular culture.
Pushing back against the minority-card tactics is one thing, since claims of persecution fail to stand up in court where actual evidence is needed to support truth claims. Helping those who feel threatened by diversity (of belief, of life-choices, of actions and ethics) is a much more complicated proposition … and one which I sometimes despair of making much headway on.