September 19, 2007

Persecution Delusion

I ran across this article while searching for a daily Jesus. The apparitions seem to have gone quiet for the moment, but this is almost as good.

It seems that some of the Christian citizens of Oak Ridge and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee are mad as hell and they're not going to take it anymore. You see, the fact that comedienne Kathy Griffin's remarks about Jesus having nothing to do with her winning an Emmy award being edited out of the broadcast of the awards show just wasn't enough. They could still read about them in newspapers and on the Internet, and that's still too much for them. They want people who criticize, or even question, their religion silenced utterly. In their minds, statements of disbelief and ridicule are persecution!

Miracle protests Jesus statements
By: Donna Smith

The cast, crew and management of a Christian-based theater in Pigeon Forge — owned by a former Oak Ridger and his business partner — are launching a campaign to fight what they consider to be some in Hollywood’s mockery of Jesus Christ and Christians...

And they’re asking one million like-minded people to join the campaign.

“As Christians we need to say enough is enough and take a stand,” said Leslie Rule Thomas, vice president for Fee/Headrick Family Entertainment Group...

Last week, comedienne Kathy Griffin won an Emmy for her television show, “My Life on the D-List.” Accepting her award, Griffin, who on her Bravo network show touts that she’ll do anything for publicity, said, “A lot of people come up here and thank Jesus for this award. I want you to know that no one had less to do with this award than Jesus. S**k it, Jesus. This award is my god now."

Emmy Awards show viewers never heard Griffin’s full statement, which was edited for television. But many have heard and read her comments in media reports...

Characterizing the reason for their response, Thomas said, “America has gotten too complacent. We have to stand up and do something. We have to take some action.”

In an attempt to quickly reach as many Americans as possible, she said, they decided to purchase a full-page advertisement in USA Today, a national newspaper, and explain their opposition to attacks on Jesus Christ and Christians.

The cost: approximately $90,000, according to Thomas. It was paid for by the company, she said, because company officials thought the issue was important...

When one million signatures are collected, she said, they’ll have a press conference. She said they plan to tell journalists although they might not consider the issue newsworthy “but here’s a million people who are willing to stand with us and say that it’s not acceptable to persecute Christianity anymore. We’re here to take a stand, we love our lord and it’s not OK...”

“We are not here to say she (Griffin) does not have the right to free speech, obviously she does,” she said. “But we would like people to be a little more aware that it’s not OK to slander someone else’s faith..."
Let's set a couple of things straight for starters.

You can't slander a religion. You can ridicule it, you can question it, but you can only slander entities like individuals and corporations. In fact, by the loose definition of "slander" that's being used here, Christians slander other people's faiths all the time. I don't notice these same people standing up for Muslims when large numbers of Christians call Mohamed a pedophile or Muslims by a variety of names too offensive to use here. I don't see them objecting to the practice of sending missionaries to countries not already dominated by Christianity in order to convert non-Christians to Christianity, implicit in which is the assertion that whatever religion the potential converts already follow is inferior to Christianity. This isn't about protecting religion, it's about silencing critics of one religion. The assertion that it's "not OK to slander someone else's faith" is absolute double-talk bordering on the Orwellian.

Moreover, Christianity is absolutely not being persecuted in the USA, and nothing that Kathy Griffin or anyone else has done amounts to "persecution." Persecuted people can't buy full-page, $90,000 ads in major media outlets promoting their viewpoint. Show me a persecuted group and I'll show you a bunch of people who lack representation in their government, which certainly isn't the case in this country. In fact, Christian faith has become such a litmus test for public office in much of the United States that candidates are expected to espouse the religion as part of their campaigns. John McCain's statement that his most important qualification for office is that he is himself Christian provides a very good example of this. Was he hauled off to a labor camp for making this statement? Of course not! This is nothing like what happens to persecuted people.

The very fact that E! felt it necessary to edit out Griffin's comments from their broadcast demonstrates powerfully that this persecution exists solely in the wannabe-martyr minds of the fanatical demographic. If Christians were being persecuted, even just by Hollywood, why would an entertainment corporation have edited out the remarks? If the majority of their viewers weren't even going to be offended by the statement, let alone agree with it, they would have broadcast them.

Even this capitulation isn't enough for the fundies, however. No, they object not only to the remarks but to even discussion about them. They want them disappeared; they will brook neither criticism nor ridicule. The only proper things to do in their minds is to either support their religion or to be absolutely silent. I find it nearly cute, and manifestly stupid, that these people can claim that they aren't out to curtail freedom of speech while launching an effort to ban remarks critical of Christianity or Christians from the media that are not arguments for Christians actually being persecuted. I would not be in favor of such remarks myself and, despite disagreeing as strongly as I do with the incoherent nonsense that fundies spew, I would be in vocal opposition to any act that would deprive them of their rights. I believe whole-heartedly in the right to be ignorant and to believe in fairy tales if that's what one wants to do, while I oppose such things forming the basis of public policy and law. Pointing out the beliefs as nonsense, though, doesn't mean that I think even the most irritatingly silly fundamentalist should be thrown into prison or lose their homes for holding the beliefs themselves. I don't see anything in Griffin's statement that seems to advocate such things, nor do I see such sentiments in the remarks of anyone else who pokes fun at Bronze Age belief systems that survive into the present day.

This entire dodge about persecution is nothing more than a cover for a desire to precisely impose a limit on free speech that amounts to giving societal, and probably legal, weight to the notion of blasphemy. That's all there is to it. Given their way, people like these from Pigeon Forge, Tennessee would prevent the press from reporting on anything that made fun of their ideology or called articles of faith into question.

Frankly, all I can say to that is, "Suck it, churchie." If you honestly think that you're being persecuted in America because people can get up in public — on TV, in newspapers, or on the Internet — and say that what you believe in is a load of codswallop, you really don't know what persecution is. If you want to see persecution, look at what happened to Turkish Armenians in the early part of the 20th century, or Jews and Romanies and others in 1930's Germany, or even to Christians in 3rd century CE Rome. That's what persecution looks like. These things had nothing to do with pointing out the shortcomings of any given religion and the people who have suffered under real persecution haven't had recourse to public fora to make statements on their own behalf, and going door-to-door or otherwise gathering signatures in protest of their condition was absolutely out of the question.

First clue: members of persecuted groups don't sign up to identify themselves to those who are persecuting them. How many Christians do you think marched up to Nero's palace, signature-covered scroll in hand, demanding that he stop throwing them to the lions? No, what they did was go underground. The very fact that one can launch a campaign like this without fear of punishment, let alone that nearly everyone who runs this country is expected to be in agreement with him/her, instantly demonstrates that there's nothing even remotely like persecution going on here. It's just more nonsense from a group of people who are dead set on making nonsense a way of life in the first place. American Christians are a persecuted group every bit as much as Saudi Muslims are a persecuted group.

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