Tuesday, October 06, 2009

What matters is he gets to play the Christian Persecution card

An amusing tale from the world of sports, which I generally regard with absolute indifference. Oakland Raiders cornerback Chris Johnson intercepts a pass in the end zone, celebrates by dropping to his knees and flamboyantly thanking God*, and is promptly penalized. ""I'm just getting on my knees giving my respect to God. I don't see how that's a personal foul or anything like that," he complains. But it appears that religion is not the culprit after all here. It would seem the NFL passed a rule three years ago prohibiting showy end-zone celebrations on general principles. Now the writer of the linked article makes the point that, religion notwithstanding, the problem here is that it's a stupid rule in the first place, and one that the NFL doesn't bother to enforce consistently. But even that misses the point. Christians will run with anything that lets them play the persecuted minority. You can bet that Kirk and Ray and all the fundagelicals who enjoy whipping up fear in the flock by whining about how Christianity is being "criminalized" in America will soon be adding "And the liberals won't even let football players praise Jebus in the end zone!" to their repertoire of repression. Yawn.

* The spectacle of sports stars constantly thanking God for their victories, as if the creator of the universe wouldn't have anything better to do, reminds me of the joke where the coach is talking to his team before the big game, and he warns them, "This is going to be a tough one, boys. God is on their side!"


  1. "This is why I watch hockey."
    - Shilling Cadena

  2. I like to watch The Factor for laughs when The Daily Show is dull or on reruns, but I'll just avoid Fox News altogether until this dies down. If I hear one of those people describe themselves as "persecuted" one more time...

  3. I think this is an interesting story and mostly fair enough - the NFL does have that rule (yes, not well enforced, and probably a bit stupid anyway), the penalty was fine. It's a definite point of importance that this was treated as a celebration penalty in the game in the first place, rather than accepted because it was religious, or presented as such.

    But I'm concerned by the note of bigotry that I see creeping into the post here, with a line like "Christians will run with anything that lets them play the persecuted minority." Seriously? You're generalising about how all Christians think and act? Doesn't this sound akin to any negatively stereotyping racist attack on some Other?

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Pippin...are you new to this blog?

  6. Did you really just use the "R" word? Godwin's Law to apply in 3... 2...

    It's a common observation, both on the ACA shows and in other atheist media, that prominent Culture Warriors for teh Jeebus cry persecution at every opportunity. As such, I expect that Martin assumed that we read that as "obnoxious Christian community leaders and talking heads..." as opposed to "ALL Christians."

    It seemed pretty clear to me, but then again, I wasn't looking for an excuse to see persecution where none existed.


  7. Jennifer: I'm new-ish. I'm generally interested in religious 'stuff', so wanted to see what people were writing. I figured the atheist side would be more oriented toward the philosophical side of things I find most intriguing. That's often been true, though not always.

    Arnold: Godwin's law traditionally applies to people comparing someone to Hitler, or some idea to Nazism. That's not something I did. I asked a question about the dangers of stereotyping and, now, about language use (below). Nor did I make any statement about seeing persecution in that situation or in the blog post (whether it exists or not).

    With respect to the idea that we should read Martin's use of the word 'Christians' to refer to 'obnoxious Christian community leaders and talking heads'... uh, don't you see a problem with that? 'Christians' refers to a large body of people who hold a particular religious view/faith. If you want to refer to an obnoxious subgroup (I do not deny their existence one bit), then be specific. Otherwise you're inviting misinterpretation at best, and at worst are using exactly the same stereotypical and hyperbolic rhetorical tactics of the obnoxious subgroups yourself.

  8. Notice he mentions Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron, as well as saying fundagelicals (made up word but you know)...that's CLEARLY making a distinction at what type of "Christians" he's talking about.

  9. Shea: Well, quite possibly, but I'm not debating what was meant by the use of 'Christians', I'm pointing out that the use of language implies gross generalisation (intentional or not). Further, I don't see how conflating Kirk Cameron etc with the term 'Christians' is helpful here. If anything, it makes things worse because, following as they do directly after the generalisation, those names are essentially being indicated as emblematic of said 'Christians'.

    Again, I'm not taking any issue with what was or wasn't intended, but I don't think that a statement like "Christians will run with anything that lets them play the persecuted minority" should go unexamined or criticised.

  10. Huh? Sports? *eyes glaze over*

    Someone better say something about Batman, zombies or Dune and wake me back up....

  11. @Sparrowhawk

    "The sleeper must awaken." You're welcome.

    And now onto more important issues...
    You know what, even if Martin didn't make that distinction it's still true. In the same way that saying Muslims hate women is true. It may not be true of all Muslims, but it is true of their religion, whether they themselves personally carry such a banner. Persecution is a core principle of Christianity. The New Testament is laden with nonsense setting up any followers later to feel as if they are somehow persecuted even when they run the country. It is not an unfair stereotype to say "Christians have a persecution complex." Christianity, by it's very nature, creates a persecution complex, except in the rare liberal Christian readings of the Bible that don't even pay attention to half of the stuff in there. So no, I'm going to say I categorically reject your statement that Martin was somehow being bigoted and assert that what he said is exactly accurate.

  12. Archaneus: Well, I don't think I've accused Martin of being bigoted, in fact. All I've suggested is that the language in this post is too sweeping in its generalisation about a great number of (very different) people. I'm happy if it comes down to a mere semantic issue, as others here have suggested.

    You, on the other hand, want to go in another direction. Muslims hate women. Christians have a persecution complex. Are you seriously defending these kinds of statements? I understand what you're saying to some extent: there are elements in these religions, particularly in their religious texts, which promote values you (and I) are not comfortable with. But this is radically different to claiming that Muslims (all of them, including the women) hate women, or that Christians (all of them) have a persecution complex.

    Let's clarify some terms. Muslims (and Christians) are people who believe in a particular religion (in their various ways). Islam (and Christianity) are religions which (among other things) make various claims about the nature of existence, the role of women, and so forth. Religions are a matter of interpretation and are interpreted in an astounding number of ways, as you yourself point to in talking about "rare liberal Christian readings" of the bible. At present, I would suggest you're making the probable mistake of claiming that the Bible and the Qu'ran have only one possible interpretation and that you know what it is. This is a form of fundamentalism: you're not prepared to acknowledge the variation and range of interpretation and belief.

    As a suggestion, why don't you think about Christians you know or have met. Are you prepared to claim that they all have a persecution complex? What about Muslims you know or have met? Do they all hate women? If so, so be it, but I know plenty of Christians without such a complex, and plenty of Muslims who definitely don't hate women.

  13. Once again, you are parsing terms and being overly specific in your language. Reading comprehension should have informed you that I was saying the religions themselves foster such attitudes and as such the majority of believers in such religions have these attitudes. And yes, almost all Christians I have ever met, interacted with in any way, or heard about in news stories, ect. display a persecution complex. Sometimes it's subtle and sometimes it's more obvious but it is there because the religion itself creates it. The same is true of Muslims treatment of women. The fact is that generalizations are not always wrong.

  14. You know, I don't think he should have been penalized. I think most people recognize it as a goffy thing to do. The only folks that would be impressed with a show like that are the fundies and jesusbots.

    Let him have to freedom to perform goofy religious displays, says I.

  15. I probably took it too much for granted that my mentioning of Ray and Kirk and their ilk would have made it clear I was referring to their brand of fundamentalist lunacy when I referred to "Christians" entertaining persecution complexes. But evidently it wasn't that clear to all. Lest it remain unclear to Pippin, that was who I meant.

    Still, I am seeing signs that the kind of paranoia practiced routinely by the far right fringe is bleeding over into more mainstream Christian thinking. Books like David Limbaugh's Persecution and Bill Donahue's Secular Sabotage all sound the drumbeat that the eebul librul atheists are out ta getcha! And this stuff (which includes the repetitive fearmongering insanity of websites like Christian Worldview Network and WorldNetDaily) is finding a sympathetic audience among more and more people.

  16. I believe that the rule actually is/was valid as it was inacted to prevent a trend of 5 minute + dances that cropped up in the 70s or some shut. I know nothing of the american's foot fetish ball though.

    Christians by definition, Pippin, are hyper sensative to 'persecution'. It's because most have the very strong teaching of the world being sinful and hating/opposing goodness in people. The persecution varries from just a kid thinking that the bullies target them because of their goodness to...whatever the frak Glen Beck is ranting about this week.

    I'm personally annoyed again how Christians want to display their faith EVERYWHERE and then get annoyed when people basically remind them "time and place".

    And to Sparrow Hawk

    "I WILL kill him! I WILL!"

  17. Martin: Hey, thanks for the clarification on that. As I said, I'm newish to these blogs, so I don't necessarily make the apparently accepted connection between 'Christians' and odd people like Kirk Cameron, even when mentioned in the same sentence. To me, the use of language and terms is very important in these situations and I think it's key not to imply generalisations for fear of making an already fraught situation with (some) religious people and (some) non-religious people worse. As you can see from the comments, some of your readers here do buy into exactly those generalisations quite literally.

    Archaneus and Arnold: I think we're just going to have to agree to disagree at this point. You seem to hold very strong beliefs about the nature of all Christians and all Muslims as well as their religions. I personally find such a view incredibly misguided and akin to the views held by people like, well, Kirk Cameron (the Banana is evidence of God and that's that, no discussion, no doubt). To my mind, there are many kinds of Christians and Muslims, some are extraordinarily good people, some are extraordinarily not. And most of them are just your run-of-the-mill, standard-issue... people.

  18. Pip, you seem to be digging the hole deeper. Who would ever claim that all christians do anything? There is no need to put that particular disclaimer on every single statement every time. It was beyond obvious what was meant and you are simply getting your feathers ruffled in attempt similar to the "no true scotsman" defense (Since we've already skirted "Goodwin's Law", which I felt was an apt reference).

  19. rrpostal: Who would ever claim that all Christians do anything? I give you Archaneus and Ing in their previous comments, so I hardly think you can discredit my concerns on the 'it's obvious that's not what was meant' front - clearly that's not been the case here.

    I did plow in a little hard in my initial comment, which I regret on re-reading it, but I certainly don't retract the overall position: that the use of language is important in these situations and ought not be taken for granted. Again, given the responses by both Archaneus and Ing, for instance, how could I be sure that Martin didn't share their point of view, simply by reading the post and its statement about Christians?

    Finally, don't you think it's a little perverse to bring up the "No True Scotsman" fallacy with respect to my discussion here, given it's a very close fit to the problem I'm arguing against: the redefinition of "Christians" to mean "right-wing, fundamentalists like Kirk Cameron" (or something similar) and then proceeding with an argument from there? Claims like "it was obvious what was meant" don't really fly here, since it wasn't obviously to me, and even it were obvious, I don't think it's appropriate to paint all Christians, even in a rhetorical flourish, with the Kirk Cameron brush.

    I don't think it's important to be precise in all our utterances, but I do think it's important when the subject matter is a sensitive one such as this, and when the writer is specifically in the business of writing about it.

  20. Well, old Pastor Tom over at the Hard Truth blog didn't waste anytime seizing on it so I'd say these guys pretty much called it.

  21. I get fed up with people who claim they are persecuted. They should go read about Richard Wurmbrand or any of the other preachers who were jailed and tortured for preaching in the Communist Soviet Union . (Wurmbrand's tales of the brutality inflicted on him by those godless guards and how they justified it is particularly chilling). Thst's what it is like when you are really persecuted by atheists.
    They should go to "Voice of the martyrs" and see all the Christians killed in religious conflicts in Asia and the Middle East by other religions . That's real persecution.

  22. I actually agree compleatly with FF.

  23. I'll add though, or they could just be gay here in America.

  24. This issue is much like the issue of religious symbols on public property. So many Christians want to have the freedom and authority to display their message anywhere, at any time, to anybody, and they see this as a privilege. When someone stands up to them and says, no, that is not appropriate here, they see it as persecution. I think it's fair to characterize a large swath of Christians as guilty of this since I hear it so often from so many people.


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