Retired barber Joe Godlewski says that when television chefs recommended kosher salt in recipes, he wondered, “What the heck’s the matter with Christian salt?”
By next week, his trademarked Blessed Christians Salt will be available from seasonings manufacturer Ingredients Corporation of America. It’s sea salt that’s been blessed by an Episcopal priest.
May I suggest that perhaps this is a prime example of a (North American) Christian tendency to mimic the role of “oppressed minority” when Christianity is actually the largest religion in the world?
I am just going to say it. Christians are not oppressed for being Christian in the Western world. Nor are they a minority in such countries as the US. Someone once told me that their conservative friends were worried that oppression against Christians was going to increase with Obama as president. I wondered: How, exactly? OBAMA IS A CHRISTIAN! 76-84% of America’s population is Christian. Who is doing this “oppression”? Or maybe the proper question is: what definition of “oppression” are Christians using?
Here’s a video discussing how some Christians have appropriated the terms of real oppression to paint people who disagree with their viewpoints as Oppressors.
If you feel self-punishing enough to visit the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission’s website, you will find a treasure trove of attempts at painting Christians as an oppressed minority. In order to do this, the CADC is not above painting Christians who don’t buy this paradigm as “not really Christian.”
What’s missing from this website is any proof that Christians are oppressed for being Christian. No vandalism, assault or murder*. No discrimination in housing, employment, access to financial services, health disparities, incarceration disparities, or religious-profiling. No attempts to erase Christian culture, to prevent Christians from worshiping, to prevent them from wearing religious articles of clothing, or to prevent Christians from speaking about Christianity.
In fact, Christianity is the only religion to have a federally-recognized holiday: Christmas. 43 of our last 44 presidents have been Christian (arguably, Lincoln was not). The majority of the federal and state Senates and Houses are Christian. It appears instead that Christianity is a favored religion, with a privileged status in North America, and that it enjoys many benefits not accorded to other religions due to this status and its large number of adherents.
So who is perpetrating this alleged oppression, and what real forms does it take?
I propose that for the most part, it does not exist. I also propose that those Christians who disingenuously allege oppression (there are many Christians who do not) find it within themselves to admit their Christian privilege. This would entail coming to terms with their favored status and working in solidarity with other, less favored religions to end Christian oppression against them and win real equality for all those who wish to practice religion, and for those who do not.
There is also a new term out there: Christianist. I am not sure how I feel about this term, but I do find the idea behind it useful. Obviously, it is modeled on “Islamist” which seems to refer to Muslims whose beliefs are so extreme that they wish to oppress or actually harm non-believers. This extreme element can conceivably be found in any religion. But we can be sure that it is found in Christianity as well as Islam. As a queer person, I have heard plenty of Christians express the wish to oppress me, and even to do me harm. What word should we use for people who use their Christian identity as a means to attempt a religion-based oppression against those with different beliefs? Does Christianist work?
I want to close this ramble with the statement that I learned much of my passion for social justice from my Christian upbringing. I have gobs of Christian relatives and friends, and have spent time volunteering through Christian organizations. My post is not a hate letter to the Christian community. Rather, as a former member of that community, this post is an attempt to discuss one way that some Christians deny their privilege and use the language of oppression in an attempt to silence critics and provide cover for their own oppressive actions.
*There is vandalism mentioned, but it was against people who supported Prop 8, an attempt to legally take rights away from queer families. There is no evidence that vandalism occurred against anyone for their Christian identity, but rather against people who tried to take rights away from a marginalized community, whatever their religious beliefs.