To hear Mike Pence tell it, poor Christian Americans are a persecuted minority. Let that sink in for a while.
The idea that a person of a religion with which more than 70 percent of Americans identify could believe the delusional idea that they are a minority is stunning.
More stunning is that 24.5 percent of Christian Americans identify as evangelical protestants, by far the largest group within the Christian category, according to the Pew Research Center for Religion and Public Life.
That would be the group that includes Mike Pence.
So, I think it’s time to give Mike Pence a little lesson in being an oppressed minority — not that he will read this or would understand it if he did read it.
I can speak from a few minority standpoints. While my experience is by no means representative or typical of everyone, it does represent my experience.
I was raised in the Jewish faith. My father was a Reform Jew, and my mother converted after they were married. Prior to that she was mostly Methodist.
Growing up, I found that every morning in my school, the prayer that was broadcast over the PA system each morning was Christian. (I’m really old, and we had school prayer back then.) The prayer usually ended with the words, “in Jesus name, amen.”
For a Jew, this was problematic since the whole Jesus thing was a bit of a sticking point, and since I never repeated those words, my classmates often asked me why.
After explaining for the hundredth time, I went to our principal, who I knew well in elementary school, and asked if I could give the prayer one morning. She was glad to let me do it, and I ended my prayer with a short passage spoken in Hebrew. I then spent the rest of the week justifying having spoken that “furrin” language in my prayer.
By the time I hit college — I attended Baylor University — my constant declarations that I really didn’t want to be “witnessed to” again fell on deaf ears. The theology students made me their class project and were intent on converting “the campus Jew.”. Add to that the fact that I came out during that time, and my life was a constant barrage of taunts, insults and sincere attempts to cure me with Jesus.
The constant scrutiny over my religion and my sexuality led me to fall away from religion completely, and I moved back to Dallas to attend a community college.
I also started going out to gay clubs, and though I did find lots of other LGBT folk to associate with, I also found the police visiting the clubs on a regular basis.
It was illegal to dance with someone of the same sex, so the clubs had special lights they would turn on to alert guests when police were present. We would quickly grab the closest person of the opposite sex and continue dancing. Occasionally, the vice squad would raid a club, and all the patrons would be harassed with ID checks and checks to make sure we weren’t wearing articles of clothing of the “wrong” sex.
Luckily, this practice had mostly stopped by the late 1970s as the Dallas LGBT community got more politically active. I was a part of that activism and remember well during our early gay Pride events being harassed by spectators lining the street as well as by organized protests from groups like the Campus Crusade for Christ and Christ for the Nations Institute. These junior evangelists regularly occupied the corner of The Crossroads handing out their comic book tracts detailing how we would all burn in a fiery hell if we didn’t repent.
It amazes me still that I one day found Cathedral of Hope and a message of true Christian compassion and love — but that is a different story.
My point is this: for a white, cisgender, rich, straight, evangelical to pretend that he is somehow “oppressed” is beyond laughable. The fact that so many of his followers believe that lie is equally disturbing.
My suspicion is that it stems from their realization that the world is not completely homogenous. Their eyes are being slowly opened to the reality of the world as it is and that not everyone believes or behaves like them.
When you have lived in the bubble of white, cisgender, straight Christian privilege, and you start to see the real world outside with all the wonderful diversity that exists, it’s a bit scary.
Well, I say buckle up buttercup, because it’s the big, scary world the rest of us have been living in all along, and although we all insulate ourselves in some ways, we cannot live in the bubble forever.
Besides, if you are really Christians, shouldn’t you follow the lead of Jesus and spend most of your time with outcasts, tax collectors and ne’er-do-wells, the very marginalized people you seem to fear?
Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a board member of the Woodhull Freedom Alliance. His blog is at DungeonDiary.blogspot.com