Dear American Christians, check your privilege

The word “persecution” has been thrown around a lot lately, mostly as a hot political buzzword, but when it comes to persecution, Merriam-Webster explains it this way: “to harass or punish in a manner designed to injure, grieve or afflict.”

Many Christians seem to personally identify with this definition, and how can they not when reports on ISIS have saturated the media? Reports of isolated acts of violence such as the recent Oregon shooting have taken social media by storm, as well. As tragic as these events are, and as much prayer as they deserve, the majority of Christians in America have no room to identify with those who are genuinely persecuted, because persecution of Christians is simply not a problem in this nation. Alas, Christian Persecution Complex (CPC) persists.

Following the Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage over the summer, prominent evangelical leader Franklin Graham said in an exclusive interview with Fox News that the ruling was the beginning of what he predicted to be oppression of religious freedom in America.

“‘You better be ready and you better be prepared because it’s coming,’ Graham said just moments after the court handed down its ruling. ‘There will be persecution of Christians for our stand,’” Fox News reported.

And there you have it – the big ‘p’ word, which chronic CPC sufferers only cried louder when Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis refused to issue a marriage license to gay couples and was consequently jailed.

American Christians are missing the big picture, though, which is that they are the big picture. According to Pew Research Center, Christians account for about 70 percent of the U.S., the country with more Christians than any other country in the world. Because Christians form the religious majority of the U.S., Christians actually inherit a great deal of privilege, not persecution.
However, American culture is so engrained in Christian tradition that sometimes, privilege can be difficult to recognize at first.

Perhaps the most obvious way Christian privilege permeates American society is in our holidays. There is only one religious holiday that is federally recognized – Christmas – the day Christ was born. However, federal government offices, as well as many other businesses, close on Sundays – the day Christ resurrected. The American calendar caters to the Christian schedule in these ways.

Another perhaps less obvious example of Christian privilege in America is the openness in which one can display their Christian faith. This is not North Korea, where Christians are being executed for gathering in worship. In the U.S., one can publicly sport a cross necklace, Jesus bumper sticker or even a tattoo without fear of explaining their faith expression, much less losing their life.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for other faith expressions in the U.S. According to the Sikh Coalition, in the first month following 9/11 there were over 300 documented cases of violence and discrimination against Sikh Americans throughout the country. By 2008, the FBI had recorded over 9000 hate crimes against Sikhs.

Public faith expressions are only the tip of the iceberg of subtle Christian privilege. Privilege is found in details as small as Christians’ certainty that they will place their hand on their own religious text when swearing oath, or as large as the fact that politicians responsible for governing and legislation are most likely to be Christian, according to Pew Research Center.

Regardless of one’s personal view of separation of church and state, the reality is that American Christians are leading lives laden with privilege every day in this country. One only needs to recite the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance to remember that we are “one nation under God,” and as long as Christians remain the dominant religious group here, the nation will remain so.

CPC is rampant in America, and it’s genuinely embarrassing to the faith. Crying persecution in the U.S. is not only ludicrous and offensive to other countries where Christians are actually a persecuted minority, but it shows a deep ignorance of the everyday privilege that surrounds the American religious majority – and that privilege needs to be checked.

Taylor Provost, News Editor

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