The mental gymnastics of the Christian persecution complex

On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the U.S. ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry nationwide — a major victory in the war against dogma, as I write about in my article "Love wins battle, war against dogma continues" (July 5, 2015). However, the cultural war is far from over. Right-wing theists such as Kim Davis — as well as an apologist I encountered — still claim their religious freedom should allow them to oppress others.

As I am sure most people know by now, the Kentucky clerk Kim Davis refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and this resulted in her being jailed for contempt of court. She, of course, claimed she was acting under "God's authority," and plenty of right-wing Christians rushed to her aid. The Hillary email scandal, conservative Christians will not forget, because that is important to their agenda, but one of their own breaking the law in order to persecute innocent people is something they support.

In "Love wins battle, war against dogma continues", I discuss the arguments many theists use against same-sex marriage. The long and short of it is that all arguments against same-sex marriage are little more than an appeal to tradition, an appeal to a higher power, or both — logical fallacies. Sometimes, conservative theists also try to be smart by arguing same-sex marriage is wrong because same-sex couples cannot have children; if they actually believed that, however, they would be equally upset by different-sex couples with no children, and they would push for mandatory checkups in which all married couples must prove they have or are planning to conceive children. But whatever. Religion and logic never did get along very well.

I continued writing about these ignorant appeals to tradition and a higher power as well as the dehumanizing concepts of sin, holiness, and purity in several articles: "Tradition, sides, and dogma" (July 13, 2015), "The epitome of dogma" (July 14, 2015), "Destructive dogma" (July 30, 2015), and "The dehumanizing nature of holiness and purity" (August 2, 2015). If you wish to read rebuttals of ignorant arguments against same-sex marriage, those articles are the way to go. This article, on the other hand, will deal with the persecution complex so many conservative Christians have; they believe that they are the ones who are treated unfairly, even when they are the ones who oppress others. As the title of this article suggests, this involves mental gymnastics, so here are the mental gymnastics of the Christian persecution complex.

The Christian persecution complex in America has existed for quite some time, but it received a new surge of energy when same-sex marriage was legalized in all fifty states of America. That is because, according to conservative Christians, there is a "war on Christianity" and disallowing them their freedom to persecute is to persecute them. Bryan Fischer tweeted after same-sex marriage was made the law of the land that "from a moral standpoint, 6/26 is now our 9/11." Ray Comfort recently went as far as to say that natural disasters and disease are God's punishments for, among other things, homosexuality (I comment on this in "Destructive dogma"). These sentiments are frighteningly common (but leftist Christians do not have to feel pointed out for something they have not done).

One of the latest protests from the religious right is Kim Davis's refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Like many conservative theists, she places God's law above secular law and she glorifies God's law, even though it is oppressive. She has been brainwashed into believing God's law is what is good and right no matter what it says and despite all logic. Then, with the power with which she has been bestowed by the government, she pushes her oppressive religion on others, in this case same-sex couples. Kim Davis epitomizes the violation of the separation of church and state by the religious right.

"No one's being jailed for practicing her religion. Someone's being jailed for using the government to force others to practice her religion," Rachel Held Evans tweeted. Occupy Democrats shared this status on their Facebook page, and I shared their post on mine. This got me the attention of the Kim Davis apologist Chapin (last name), who commented on my repost of Occupy Democrats' repost of Rachel Held Evans's original tweet. Chapin wrote that Evans's tweet is "a nice fallacy" and that Kim Davis was made to bend to "the will of fashionable opinion." She wrote that "the court's decision made no room for Christians." She further claimed that those who oppose Kim Davis "scream separation of church and state" and yet we cannot stay out of the church. So there is a lot to comment on here.

A good place to start is to simply say that the comment is complete and utter bullshit, and it does nothing to invalidate what Rachel Held Evans said. All Chapin did was to ramble, after all, and her claiming it was a fallacy that Davis was jailed for using the government to force others to practice her religion is easily contradicted by the fact that Davis used her position as a county clerk to force her religious beliefs on others. Per definition, she violated the principle of the separation of church and state. Kim Davis's supporters use some pretty amazing mental gymnastics to make her a martyr for their cause and to feed into their persecution complex.

Chapin claimed Davis's being jailed was "the will of fashionable opinion." She means equality is not the greater good (even though it logically is), but rather that it is an oppressive opinion, "political correctness gone haywire." Now, I am by no means a politically correct person, but conservatives use "political correctness" as a rebuttal for everything with which they do not agree, even if it does not have anything to do with political correctness. Mental gymnastics are used to label whatever disagrees with the narrow, conservative view as "political correctness" so that it can be written off as something one must not even consider. It is intellectually dishonest, which does not surprise me, coming from the religious right.

Next, Chapin claimed the Supreme Court's decision in favor of same-sex marriage "made no room for Christians." I will just go ahead and say this is incorrect. First of all, Rachel Held Evans is a Christian and she does not have a problem with same-sex marriage; there are millions of Christians who are pro-LGBT, just like there are millions who are against it. The Abrahamic religions do, indeed, have a problem with homophobia, amongst many other issues, but homophobia is not a necessary part of being a Christian, as religions do evolve and must evolve with the societies around them. One compelling argument in favor of change, even for religions, which dogmatically adhere to tradition, is the simple fact that the holy books theists glorify are empirically untrustworthy. To believe the Bible is NOT the product of human beings is deluded, especially with all of its contradictions and petty and oppressive morality, not to mention all the research done about the Bible.

A while back (August 12, 2015), I tweeted a picture in which Richard Dawkins perfectly explains the Bible (and I was even retweeted by Dawkins himself). The quote goes like this: "To be fair, much of the Bible is not systematically evil but just plain weird, as you would expect of a chaotically cobbled-together anthology of disjointed documents, composed, revised, translated, distorted, and 'improved' by hundreds of anonymous authors, editors and copyists, unknown to us and mostly unknown to each other, spanning nine centuries." I also composed my own meme with a list of facts about the Bible (an updated version is included in this article); basically, the Bible is the product of human beings, not God, even if it were in the beginning, which I doubt. The Bible is empirically the product of human beings, not any god. 

Furthermore, Chapin is right, in a way, when she claims there is no room for "Christians" (or her definition of Christians); there is no room for homophobia, or bigotry, or oppression, period. One is free to believe whatever one wants, but that freedom to believe does not include the right to practice one's beliefs at the expense of others. One has the right to believe homosexuality is evil, but one does not have the right to oppress others with one's ignorant beliefs.

Even if one is one hundred percent correct that God exists and is a big homophobe, it does not give the right to oppress homosexuals. All it would mean is that God is a bigot. To claim anything is true and good just because a divine being thinks so is nothing but illogical. If God exists, which he does not, he does not have the right to be a dictator and to oppress, enslave, and murder. I invented a much better deity, called Bob the Almighty, who realizes it is unfair for him to decide how others should live their lives (see meme).

The last points I will make in this article are about the separation of church and state and how church and state should relate to each other. Chapin, who dogmatically supports Kim Davis, tried to paint supporters of the separation of church and state as hypocrites for getting involved in the church's business, which in this case is to use the government to push religion onto those who do not want it. That right there is the first point I will make about the separation of church and state (the point I already made): Kim Davis quite obviously used her role in the government to push her religious agenda, thus violating the separation of church and state; in her official capacity, she must be neutral, whatever her ridiculous beliefs may say.

The conversation with the Kim Davis apologist.

The second, and last, point relates to the relationship between church and state, the nature of church-state separation. To keep it simple, the separation of church and state means that religion stays out of the government and the government keeps out of religion; each of these aspects ensures freedom of religion, so that no peoples will be oppressed. However, reality is not quite that simple; church-state separation is primarily about religion being separate from the state, not the state keeping away from religion. After all, even with the freedom to believe anything and practice one's religion, there are laws one must obey: to actively discriminate against a group of people because of what they do in their free time with other consenting adults is not something that can be allowed; to ritually sacrifice virgins in a volcano cannot be done in the name of freedom of religion; there are exceptions in what freedom of religion allows, which is when religious practices are discriminatory and illegal, and this is when the state will not, and should not, stay out of the church. Separation of church and state does not mean the state must keep out of the church entirely; it means the church must be separate from the state, but still obey the law of the land.

And, of course, the Kim Davis apologist called me "hateful and bitter" and said she would pray for me "in the name of Jesus," because I confronted her about her ignorant bigotry. She also avoided the question, when I asked how she would feel if a religion other than hers were enforced in the way hers is. I guess any way one can pretend to claim the moral high ground and avoid facing the actual arguments with which one is faced is a good way, even if that means lying to oneself, looking down on others, and selectively avoiding the tough questions. Right-wing Christians, and right-wingers in general, suffer from a terrible persecution complex, and mental gymnastics help them justify it. (They would easily win the gold medal at the Olympics.) And yet, even with their feeling persecuted, conservatives cannot empathize with the people they actually do persecute. It is shameful.