The Watchtower of Destruction: The Ferrett's Journal - The Problem With Eye-Opening
March 14th, 2012
09:57 am

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The Problem With Eye-Opening

Jay Lake wrote a pretty good essay on the bullshit myth of Christianity being persecuted in America, but what I found troubling was when he said this:

“To my Christian friends: if you want to be taken seriously by people outside your own faith narrative….”

The problem is that for most Christians, you can stop right there.

As Jay notes, 89.3% of the members of Congress are Christian, as is roughly 75% of the country.* Which means that for Christians to be successful, all they have to do is appeal to other Christians.*

When you’re a majority culture, reality ceases to be a necessary function.  In fact, past a certain point it becomes a hindrance, because once you start preaching the stuff they don’t believe to be true, you lose their votes.  So being taken seriously by people outside means that you often lose the inside.

So Jay’s assertion that the Christians would want to be taken seriously by outsiders is, on some levels for many Christians, wrong.  Being taken seriously by outsiders means battling your own people, losing friends, losing popularity, losing votes.  It’s a real hardship, having that kind of fight.  Those who do it are noble, fighting the good fight, working towards real and wondrous change… but let us never forget that to a large extent, not buying into the narrative when you’re inside the majority group turns out to be a net negative.

Which is why I don’t like majority cultures – be they white, heterosexual, or able-bodied.  After a while, every majority culture starts to create these mythologies which explains why they got to this privileged status, and those myths are always this bullshit combination of “We worked harder than everyone else” and “We had more inherent smarts and/or morality!”  Neither of which is really true.**

The reason you’re seeing such a crazed Republican primary season is because the majority Christian culture (or, at least, the fundamentalist culture that drives the Republicans) has taught themselves all these crazy lies that no longer jine up with reality.  They really can’t manage the country because they’re no longer effectively interacting with it – they’re interacting with the Obama-is-a-Muslim-socialist and Christianity-is-dying myths that they tell each other to keep each other motivated. ***

They talk to each other.  And they don’t have to talk to anyone else.  The hard mathematics tells you that from an electoral perspective, it’s better to sway 50% of the 75% Christian vote than it is to get 100% of the 8.9% Jewish vote.  Which sucks.  And it’s why majority culture often winds up becoming so blinkered.

How do you fight majority culture?  That’s a whole other essay right there, and one that I am perhaps not qualified to write.  But when discussing the need for Christians to “open up their eyes,” you gotta remember that when you’re inside the bubble, there’s a hard-edged pressure to keep your eyes closed…. Or to find a new set of friends.

* – Note that I self-identify as Christian, though I don’t follow the Church’s teachings, which I suppose makes me a very bad Christian.

** – Yes, hard work counts for a lot.  So does luck and background.  As humans, we want to naturally dismiss all the scary bits that are out of our control, like luck and family and genetics, to focus on the things we can control.  This is often good, but becomes bad when you start thinking that everyone who didn’t make it failed just because they weren’t as hard-working as you.  Sometimes, people work even harder and fail because of reasons that they had no control over.

*** – It’s not that minority cultures are any less susceptible to this kind of “We’re awesome because we’re awesome” groupthink – hoo boy, they are – but in being forced to deal with the majority culture, these self-serving narratives tend to get squeezed out more effectively.  If not totally.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/198292.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

(91 shouts of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

Comments
 
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From:sestree
Date:March 14th, 2012 02:53 pm (UTC)
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HA - I don't fit into any organized religion due to my tolerance for other faiths and the fact that I believe we create God in our image - what we want/need he/she to be or NOT be.

One of my Pagan friends calls me a Free Range Christian.

You are right though. There is a saying (not exact - can't remember)

Don't step on my Gods and I won't step on yours.

That is how the [extreme] fundamentalists are reacting - like the world is stepping on their God. Unfortunately, since a majority of organized Christian religion is based on fear then it works - and works well.

I heard someone yesterday equate equal rights for all consenting human adults to marry as that he could go kidnap a child from preschool and marry it along with his dog and the stray cat outside. When I told him ummmm NO - Consenting Adults who can legally enter into contracts - he started with accusing ME of being biased and judgmental and no better than he .....

Fear. That is what is driving this mess right now.

edited for clarity and not to look like I'm bashing anyone

Edited at 2012-03-14 02:55 pm (UTC)
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From:peristaltor
Date:March 14th, 2012 09:08 pm (UTC)
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I'd say your observation was close. Fundies are reacting to the slogan:

My God Can Beat Up Your God.
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From:jarodrussell
Date:March 14th, 2012 02:56 pm (UTC)
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Being taken seriously by outsiders means battling your own people, losing friends, losing popularity, losing votes.

Being taken seriously by outsiders can also mean denying parts of your own faith, which can sometimes mean losing part of yourself.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:March 14th, 2012 03:13 pm (UTC)
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Being taken seriously by outsiders can also mean denying parts of your own faith, which can sometimes mean losing part of yourself.

I'm not buying that - if one's faith is strong enough, it's possible to engage, politely, with other people who don't share your faith, and be taken seriously by them, without denying any part of your faith, except for that part which commands people to try and get more converts, above all else.
From:anonymousalex
Date:March 14th, 2012 04:23 pm (UTC)
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1) Jews are 8.9% of the electorate? Wow, I thought it was much less than that.

2) There is a more personal aspect to this statement, "To my Christian friends . . . ." If the speaker is a non-Christian, that reduces to "here's what you need to do if you want to be taken seriously by ME." Or, perhaps more aggressively, "if you don't do this, why shouldn't I just write you off?"

-Alex


Edited at 2012-03-14 04:23 pm (UTC)
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From:tigrkittn
Date:March 14th, 2012 05:17 pm (UTC)
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1) Jews are 8.9% of the electorate? Wow, I thought it was much less than that.

I thought it was more.
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From:juglore
Date:March 14th, 2012 05:03 pm (UTC)
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As a Christian, part of the problem is unfixable. One of the important teachings of Christianity is not speaking out in public against your fellow Christians. Which means all an objector can do is schism off and claim that they are not like us. Which wont help us with anyone outside the faith that doesn't care what brand Christian you are.

My church is generally appalled by what the right wing are doing but does the rest of society care? And should they care since as Christians all we can do about it is vote our conscience?
From:anonymousalex
Date:March 14th, 2012 05:15 pm (UTC)
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I wasn't aware that this was a Christian teaching. That's a difficult restriction to find yourself in. I mean, it seems to me that one reason people outside the faith "don't care what brand Christian you are" is precisely because the sects don't differentiate themselves to outsiders. If nobody is saying otherwise, why shouldn't an outsider presume that the person speaking is speaking for all of you?

-Alex
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From:tigrkittn
Date:March 14th, 2012 05:15 pm (UTC)
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Except I know LOT of christians who are horrified and appalled by what the radical right is doing in their name. Even if they don't need to appeal to non-christians, statistically speaking (though wouldn't that be the christian thing to do??), it might behoove them not to alienate so many of their own.
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From:finding_helena
Date:March 14th, 2012 05:32 pm (UTC)
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The crazed "right" "Christians" don't think that the rest of us even count as Christians, so they're not alienating "their own".
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From:misterflames
Date:March 14th, 2012 05:49 pm (UTC)

"The Church"

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When I read your first footnote, "...though I don't follow the Church's teachings," my first thought was "Which one?"

A century ago, your average Christian in the United States would have called Roman Catholics* "Papists", and Mormons worse things. Which ought to get you scratching your head at Santorum** and Romney, no?

* - Roman Catholic being the Church for me, having been baptized under that faith. Not sure I agree with the front office, but the priests in this area seem cool, back when I was talking with them in the hospital during my surgeries. I'm more a "recovering" Roman Catholic, honestly...

** - Amusement that Chrome considers "Santorum" a misspelling, but is fine with Romney and Obama.

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From:sestree
Date:March 14th, 2012 06:31 pm (UTC)

Re: "The Church"

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A century ago, your average Christian in the United States would have called Roman Catholics* "Papists", and Mormons worse things.

Heck 50 years ago (JFK).

Being raised in an area of the country that tends to be a bit absurd, I was SHOCKED at how many people identified themselves as devout Christians and were supporting Santorum. I seem to remember being taught that Mormons were no better than cultists.

Of course my church's affiliation was well known for not liking anyone but themselves (and we weren't real sure about ourselves either truth be told).

ETA - NO I don't agree with what I was taught in Sunday School. I don't judge others' choices in faith or lack thereof.

Edited at 2012-03-14 06:32 pm (UTC)
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From:dornbeast
Date:March 14th, 2012 07:13 pm (UTC)
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"Note that I self-identify as Christian, though I don’t follow the Church’s teachings..."

From what I can see, I'm not sure that being Christian and following the Church's teachings is something that can be done without carefully ignoring a few conflicts.

On the other hand, I'm an agnostic, so I'm not sure my opinion is worth half a penny in this regard.
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From:theferrett
Date:March 15th, 2012 12:41 am (UTC)
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You have to ignore some conflicts no matter what you do. The Bible's such a tangled mess of conflicting messages that there's no way to follow it all.
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From:amysun
Date:March 14th, 2012 07:17 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for writing this, Ferrett. Some of the points you raise are very similar to the ones I was discussing with my husband last night. I was pointing out both the small world, sheltered view points that are at play here (various myths and world views) and that one would have a lot to lose by throwing such myths away, if that's the world one lives in. Doesn't make the crazy easier to stomach, perhaps, but at least it helps me understand what's going on.
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From:theferrett
Date:March 15th, 2012 12:41 am (UTC)
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Yup. Understanding is not excusing.
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From:liadan_m
Date:March 14th, 2012 07:57 pm (UTC)
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That line feels *exactly* like an attack to me. And as someone who tries to have her eyes open about what other faith traditions want/need from the world, and as someone who chose Christianity, it's somewhat easier to do that, knowing an outside perspective.

Moderate to liberal Christians have a problem, in that we're being attacked as "evil right-wing non-thinking evangelical drones" from one side and "evil liberal secular humanist not-really-christian" from the other side. I saw a poll from Pew not too long ago (but long enough ago I can't find it easily) that a majority of Christians identify with liberal to moderate beliefs and politics, and/or are members of liberal to moderate denominations. It's kind of like the Silent Majority of Muslims that we hear about so often - they don't agree with the extremists, but because they're not the loud mouths and don't give the sound bites that the people with the most extreme views proclaim regularly, they aren't heard. Moderate to liberal christians have the same problem. Both groups have the prescriptions to admonish your brothers and sisters privately first, in-community second, and only then may you speak out publicly. It doesn't work with modern media cycles.
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From:theferrett
Date:March 15th, 2012 12:42 am (UTC)
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Both groups have the prescriptions to admonish your brothers and sisters privately first, in-community second, and only then may you speak out publicly. It doesn't work with modern media cycles.

Yup.
From:noumignon
Date:March 14th, 2012 09:23 pm (UTC)
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While lots of people self-identify as Christian, for voting purposes you need to count ones who actually vote Christian. One study restricted it to people who attend church, which works out to around 50% and falling. The interesting thing about that is that it actually isn't worth targeting Christians when they are 75% of voters, because you can just target the median voter and get a lot of them anyway. It's when they hit 50% that you can go full-tilt religious and gain the entire group as a bloc.

Do you go to church?
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From:theferrett
Date:March 15th, 2012 12:43 am (UTC)
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I do not.
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From:merle_
Date:March 14th, 2012 11:01 pm (UTC)
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So Jay’s assertion that the Christians would want to be taken seriously by outsiders is, on some levels for many Christians, wrong.

Having spent half of my life in the Bible Belt, I agree with your statement.

What I disagree with is the idea that there is one definition of being Christian. I grew up with Lutherans and Baptists and Methodists who would sneer at the beliefs of the others -- and they are simply part of the Protestant sect of Christianity.

Although I do not mean this to indicate that America is only populated by Christians, saying you are a Christian is like saying you are an American. I live in a very urban area of California. Visiting rural Mississippi is like visiting a foreign country, where they appear to be using words you might understand but it makes no sense. For me there is no unified Christianity.
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From:theferrett
Date:March 15th, 2012 12:43 am (UTC)
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This is very very true, but I really didn't feel like getting into all of that. I was taking too much damn time this morning writing this essay as it is.
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From:mariadkins
Date:March 14th, 2012 11:23 pm (UTC)
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+1
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From:akirlu
Date:March 14th, 2012 11:41 pm (UTC)
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Without delving into the rest, a brief review of first order logic: any clause that begins with the word "if" is emphatically NOT, by itself, an assertion. It's the condition of a conditional assertion, but a conditional assertion only exists once you also have a "then" clause. "If P, then Q" is an assertion. "If P" by itself is not. Jay isn't asserting that Christians would want to be taken seriously by outsiders. He's saying that in cases where they do, they should do as he suggests.
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From:theferrett
Date:March 15th, 2012 12:45 am (UTC)
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And if that sentence was all to Jay's essay, or in fact Jay's whole blogging ouevre, I might agree. As it stands, this is a firm example of why strict logical thinking hardly ever applies to debate.
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From:welfy
Date:March 15th, 2012 02:34 am (UTC)
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Interesting comments and post. I consider myself a Christian, though I don't go to church very much and I'm also polyamorous (which in the majority of Christian circles is considered "sick" and "deviant"). I often don't feel like a part of that "majority culture" and can't relate to most of it.
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From:lots42
Date:March 15th, 2012 11:36 am (UTC)
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Hell, even when I went to church, nobody could agree on what a Christian was.

Oddly, nobody can seem to agree to what kind of church I actually went to.
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From:lots42
Date:March 15th, 2012 11:35 am (UTC)
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Hahahahaha no. Christians in-fight like shit.
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From:wdomburg
Date:March 15th, 2012 04:13 pm (UTC)
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* – Note that I self-identify as Christian, though I don’t follow the Church’s teachings, which I suppose makes me a very bad Christian.

Which "the Church" are you talking about? One of the factors that makes this a far more nuanced topic is that there is no single church accepted by all Christians, and the one representing the plurality (the Catholic Church) is explicitly rejected by the remainder. There is no homogenous "majority Christian culture" to drive anything; just an array of smaller Christian cultures with varying levels of cohesion and significant differences in their beliefs and their political agenda. (This isn't to say evangelicals aren't a particularly important voting block, but it's worth noting that the Republican nomination has been effectively winnowed to a Mormon and two Catholics.)

There is also a significant difference between identification with and adherence to a religious tradition. While the majority of people call themselves Christian (or Catholic or Mormon or Baptist or whatever), almost half are not actively practicing a faith, and most of them diverge with traditional Christian teaching on a wide array of topics (including extramarital sex, homosexuality, marriage, divorce, etc). And it is hard to say that those who express views that are adherent with traditional teaching are not often maligned; see, for example, Carrie Prejean.

If you interpret the phrase "war on Christianity" to mean fighting against traditional teachings on morality (and particularly sexual morality), I would find it far more credible to hear someone argue the war is just than to claim it doesn't exist.
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From:mysticjuicer
Date:March 15th, 2012 04:25 pm (UTC)
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If you interpret the phrase "war on Christianity" to mean fighting against traditional teachings on morality (and particularly sexual morality), I would find it far more credible to hear someone argue the war is just than to claim it doesn't exist.

*high fives*
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