Tuesday, November 14, 2006

On religious persecution

Come and see the violence inherent in the system! Help, help, I'm being repressed!

Okay, so even though we're barely past Halloween, persecution complexes know no calendar, and folks are already getting their Pampers in a bunch over the words "Merry Christmas." As our men and women in uniform fight and die overseas to bring peace and democracy to two countries where women are forced to cover themselves from head to toe, girls aren't allowed to go to school, and people are blowing other people up not even because of their religion, but because of a sect of their religion, Christian volunteer martyrs in the US show solidarity with their despised Muslamofascist brethren by boldly and unashamedly wishing people Merry Christmas! (Gasp! Where are my pearls? Oh, there they are!)

Yes, once again, it's "onward, Christian soldiers," marching as to Best Buy, armed with their "Just Say Merry Christmas" jelly bracelets that unarguably answer the question, "What Cheap-Ass Piece of Rubber Crap Would Jesus Buy?" Because remember: It's not enough for you to practice your faith. Everyone else has to practice your faith, too, so if the greeter at Wal-Mart wishes you happy holidays, you're being oppressed.

Speaking of oppression, how 'bout it? Much chatter for the past few years has centered around the influence of the Christian religious, particularly evangelicals, in American government; they're either a crucial and growing segment of the electorate, or they're "nuts," "ridiculous," and "out-of-control," or they're shifting left, or they're not really shifting at all. For a country founded on freedom of religion; settled by a people trying to escape religious persecution; fathered by a bunch of guys who were mostly deists (including the guy who wrote the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom); and that protects an individual's right to practice their religion more fully than just about any other country in the world; the US, it seems, is full of the whiniest little titty-babies imaginable when it comes to their right to cram their religion down other people's throats.

And that's what it comes down to, in the end. In the past five years or so, or as I like to call them, "The Great Endarkenment," the vast majority of "religious persecution" against Christians has consisted of the state not insisting that everyone be Christian. A Christian kid will be told not to witness at show-and-tell, or a Christian mom will be told not to bake Bible verses into the cupcakes for her kid's second-grade class, or a Christian organization won't be allowed to hang the Ten Commandments in the courthouse, or the school system will identify the Christmas holiday as "Winter Break," or a middle school will throw a "holiday party" for its students, or somebody's water bill will come with "Season's Greetings!" stamped cheerfully across the bottom, and some Christian will throw a very public nuclear shit fit. "They're taking Jesus out of the schools!" they moan. "There is no freedom of religion! They won't allow me to practice my faith!" Because, as Chapter 5 in the Book of Matthew states, "How blessed are they who set up a lighted, animatronic creche with authentic animal sound effects on the front lawn of city hall, for all others shall suffer eternal damnation."

Christians, and I say this is an observant Catholic, love persecution. They love it. They worship a guy who did good deeds and was rewarded by getting stripped, beaten, nailed to a cross, fed vinegar, stabbed, and featured in a Mel Gibson snuff flick. The Bible tells them that they will be hated because of Jesus' name, and they. Can't. Wait. And if no one is going to persecute them on their own, they're going to go out and find it. They're going to stand on a street corner and condemn everyone to hell, and then when someone points out how obnoxious they are? Jackpot. "You hate me because of Jesus!" No, asshat, they hate you because you're an asshat.

So here's my question, and this is where you come in: To what extent is Christian persecution still a problem? And I'm talking about real persecution here, not "the state won't endorse my religion and make everyone else practice it, too" faux-persecution. Not "I'm free to put my religious displays on private property, but I want to put them on public property" faux-persecution. Not "that store owner, in the interest of catering to his multicultural clientele, made a business decision to wish me 'happy holidays'" faux-persecution. The real thing.

We live in a country where you can build a church anywhere that's zoned for churches, you can pray wherever and whenever you want (provided that you do so in a way that doesn't disturb people or obstruct traffic), build a compound where only other members of your faith can live, start a school just for your religion, use that school to teach the precepts of your religion as fact, wear funky clothes that your religion tells you to wear, read books and listen to music and watch movies that cater specifically to members of your faith, purchase those items at stores that deal in nothing but items specific to your faith, and eat or not eat just about any plant or nonhuman animal according to your religious precepts. What the hell does a person of faith have to do to get a beat-down for Jesus?

Have you (or someone you know) ever been persecuted for your religion? I want to hear from everyone of every faith, and I want details. Who was doing the persecuting? Was it a representative of the state or a private citizen? What was it that you wanted to do (or not do)? What actions did you take as a result of it? I'm not saying it never happens. In fact, I'm very interested to hear about situations where it truly does happen, because those situations have been entirely overshadowed by seven-year-olds who aren't allowed to read aloud from Leviticus during First Grade Story Time.

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