Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian Asks Are White Evangelical Christians in the United States Facing Persecution?

This is an op-ed in The Washington Post that asks the question. Are white evangelical Christians facing persecution in the United States? No they are not according to Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian. This article explains the reasons why white evangelical Christians are not, and how they need to come back to reality. 

“Change is inevitable.” 

Benjamin Disraeli 

“When the music changes, so does the dance.”

Hausa tribe of West Africa (on appropriateness)

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

Romans 1:20 ESV

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Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian wrote a fascinating op-ed in The Washington Post last December. I have been wanting to get this out as I want to do a long post and look at the following question. Are evangelical Christians being persecuted in the United States? Is their religious liberty being threatened? That said I don’t want to have two big articles back to back and then be repetitive. So I thought I would get this up as a stand alone article. Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian writes quite a bit about the Chinese government and counterintelligence issues in the United States. So she has a unique perspective on authoritarianism. She writes for Foreign Policy frequently as well as the Atlantic, New York Times, and Washington Post. Bethany’s article is called, “No, Christians do not face looming persecution in America.” 


One word explains why a record number of white evangelical Christians threw their support behind a lewd, religiously illiterate presidential candidate last year. The same word also explains why 65 percent of white evangelicals in Alabama have supported accused child molester Roy Moore in his campaign for the Senate.

That word is not “abortion.” It’s not “homosexuality.” It’s not even “racism.”

The word is “persecution.” According to a survey by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), a majority of white evangelicals believe that Christians face discrimination in the United States and are more likely to say that Christians, rather than Muslims, experience discrimination.

Evangelicals supported first Donald Trump and then Moore because they view both as protectors.

Persecution refers to systematic religious discrimination and marginalization. It is the opposite of power. A weak group can be persecuted, but a powerful group cannot.

Are Christians a weak and marginalized group?

Here are the facts. Christians are vastly over-represented in national politics, not underrepresented. While roughly 70 percent of the U.S. population identifies as Christian, 91 percent of Congress identifies as such — a percentage that has remained roughly the same since the 1960s. The proportion of Christians in many state legislatures is even higher. Every member of the Supreme Court appears to be religiously affiliated (though not all of them are Christian), and no atheist has ever sat on that court. That over-representation means that either Christians have superior access to the mechanisms of electioneering or that being Christian is such a boon to candidacy that most people claim to be Christian regardless of their personal beliefs. Either of these possibilities fully precludes the possibility that Christians as a group experience formal marginalization or informal scorn that bars them from the halls of power. The opposite is true.

Meanwhile, atheists and the religiously unaffiliated — the supposed perpetrators of anti-Christian persecution — are vastly underrepresented in government. In fact, there is only one religiously unaffiliated member of Congress, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.). There are no open atheists.

If someone writes a book claiming that global warming is a hoax, we ask, “What is your evidence?” We do not pat them on their heads, express appreciation for how genuine their feelings are, and leave it at that.

But when someone published a book claiming that American Christians face looming persecution and even extinction, as influential Christian columnist Rod Dreher did in his bestseller “The Benedict Option” this year, journalists did not ask, “What is your evidence?” It doesn’t seem that anyone has interviewed sociologists and political scientists, or even quoted basic statistics, to see whether this claim squared with reality.

New York Times columnist David Brooks’s main criticism of the book was that Dreher “answers secular purism with religious purism” — not that the fundamental claim of his book was wildly inaccurate. A nearly 8,000-word New Yorker profile plumbed the depths of Dreher’s personality and family life without ever addressing whether his book had any basis in reality. A recent Washington Post article referred to Christians as “beleaguered.”

Why are we reluctant to challenge such claims? It’s the result of a tacit social contract, an uneasy truce after the 20th-century wars over science and the role of religion in the public sphere. According to this social contract, institutions outside the religious sphere will not use scientific methods to criticize religious beliefs, so long as those beliefs are not combined with sweeping political claims that extend far beyond the walls of the church.

The reluctance to fact-check Dreher, or any other Christian claiming persecution, is the social contract at work. We journalists inherently understand that we must suspend our usual judgment when writing about religion.

But evangelical Christians have long chafed at the strictures of that social contract. Now, with the election of Trump and the rise of Moore, they are in open rebellion against it. They want their beliefs to extend outside the walls of their churches and into bakeries, businesses, doctor’s offices, public bathrooms, Congress, the court system and the presidency — and they don’t want these actions to be subjected to legal and social scrutiny. They take such scrutiny, and any resulting opposition, as persecution. It’s a powerful rallying cry that has now swelled into a force capable of rewriting laws and oppressing the truly vulnerable.

When Christians make factually untrue claims that then go on to influence elections, law-making and eventually the lives of people outside the walls of the church, that social contract has been violated.

That means that journalists and public intellectuals can no longer give a pass to Christians who claim persecution. We must fight falsehoods with the full force of our professional training — logic, facts and research. This does not mean attacking Christian religious beliefs themselves, but rather, challenging inaccurate assertions about the state of the world we all share.

How will we know when American Christians are genuinely under threat? When they start changing their names from the obviously biblical “Andrew” and “Mary” to the more secular “William” or “Jennifer” in order to avoid hiring discrimination. When Christians in Congress hide their faith and instead loudly claim to be atheists. When Christians are regularly blocked from buying homes or renting apartments in the good parts of town. When the president of the United States calls for Christians to be banned from the country. Then we can start taking claims of religious discrimination at face value.

But until such times, American Christians who say they are being persecuted are simply, fortunately wrong.

It’s okay. You can say it. In fact, you must.

 

4 thoughts on “Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian Asks Are White Evangelical Christians in the United States Facing Persecution?

  1. 2 words…Joy whatsherface from The View, and from most of mainstream media, and the trolls on the blogs…yes…every single day we face persecution. Now we got Islam which wants to kill us, and has killed us, but we get persecuted for being Islamophobic, too. We can’t seem to win for losing here.

    How long will it still be legal for us to be Christians?

    Ed Chapman

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    • I’m sorry, I just don’t see this in the stark terms of “persecution.”

      So some media talking heads and personalities speak critically of some views and actions by particular subsets of Christians (and not usually framed as criticism of Christianity in general, in most instances). That is persecution?? When the same particular subset of Christians being spoken of critically has at its disposal multiple television networks and media outlets through which they can regularly and freely rail right back against their cultural/political opponents to their heart’s content? And the right-wing trolls the progressive blogs/media just the same as the progressive trolls the right-wing blogs/media. Where is the “persecution” in this scenario? I just don’t see it.

      And yes, radical Islamists pose a real and significant threat, no argument about that. But that threat is not a threat unique to Christians or Americans, and in fact we are largely sheltered and protected from the effects of that threat in America. That is a threat throughout the entire world to Christians, and to other religions, and to secularists, and to modernists, and even to moderate Muslims.

      The irritations or inconveniences Christians in this country label as “persecution” is a virtual insult to those people around the world who are facing real persecution. It’s like a well-fed person complaining about the portions or flavor of their meal in front of starving people.

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  2. WonderingEagle
    Keep on pushing thought and the critical evaluation of what we believe and why we believe it.

    The Christan standard in the US is (unfortunately) more shaped by the maintenance of power and the projection of fear than a deep interrogation of the Biblical record in context or the wholistic truths it speak to.

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  3. Pingback: The Youth Group of Hydesville Community Church in Hydesville, California Shows God’s Not Dead 2. A Frank Discussion on White Evangelicals Warped View of Persecution | Wondering Eagle

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