Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Persecutor Envy

Some time ago I did a blog post on a Munchhausen syndrome type malady that plagues many Western Christians called "Persecution Envy".  Persecution Envy causes the sufferer to live with the deep need to feel persecuted at all times, causing them to go to ridiculous lengths to find ways to make themselves feel as such.  These ways tend to be so inanely pathetic that it's hard to believe they actually take themselves seriously but since these people are usually folks who have never known actual persecution in any form I guess it could be possible that they just don't really understand the term "persecution".

There is however another strain of envy, spreading amongst Christians* in the West that is related but significantly different namely "Persecutor Envy".  Persecutor Envy causes the sufferer to live with a deep seated jealousy of all religions that stifle criticism and satire through violence and terror, most notably Islam.  In fact, one would be perfectly correct in calling this condition "Fatwa Envy" or "Jihad Envy" I think.  It almost  always tends to manifest as passive aggressive statements on how no one who makes a joke or criticism regarding Christianity would dare make the same comment about Islam.  It will usually also be pointed out that this only happens because Christians (unlike the heathen) are sweet, gentle souls whose longsuffering nature allows them to silently** bear these vicious verbal assaults with grace and humility.  Despite that, I have to say it is rather difficult to listen to these statements and not get the feeling that they wish people would fear them the way they fear reprisals by radical Islam.  Whenever they wax on about how Muslims can do and say whatever they like while everyone gets to make fun of Christians without reprisal it's hard not to feel that they are dreaming of how wonderful the world would be if they could fire up the Inquisition again!

Now much like Persecution Envy, I'm not sure that Persecutor Envy can be cured but I nevertheless prescribe a healthy dose of truth.

Firstly, anyone who claims that the critics of Christianity are loathe to similarly criticize Islam is talking out of their ass.  I'm sorry, there is no diplomatic way to put it, a claim like that is absolute bovine excrement*** and only demonstrates one thing - that the person making this claim didn't even spend 5 seconds of fact checking before pulling this winner straight from their nether region.  Any critic of religion in general and Christianity in particular I can think of - from Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens to Myers, Brayton and Thunderf00t - have all spent plenty of time criticizing Islam.  Anyone who claims differently just never bothered to look.  If there is a difference in the amount of criticism leveled at Christianity compared to that leveled at Islam and other faiths then the reason is simply geographical.  Someone who lives in a majority Christian country would be dealing with Christianity for the majority of their time, I don't know why it should even be necessary to point that out.

To be fair, Persecutor Envy usually just responds to criticism in the form of "OK sure what we did was bad but did you see what that Muslim guy did?  It was super terrible!  Why don't you criticize him instead?".  What really gets the condition to flare up in full blown "Oh if only we could still burn people at the stake!" mode are jokes at the expense of Christians. I have a theory that your sense of humour is inversely proportional to how much of a fundamentalist you are. 

Just recently the Saturday Night Live cast did a sketch about Jesus visiting Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos and Pat Robertson did not care for it at all (for your convenience, you can check out both clips here).  Not only did he see this sketch as an example of bigotry against Christians, he also took a moment to reminisce on how high the death toll would be if SNL produced such a sketch featuring Mohammed.  What Pastor Pat and others like him do not grasp however is that "fear of bombing" isn't really the reason why comedians don't have much Islamic material.  Actually it's far more pragmatic than that.

It's simple really, if you don't understand something then jokes about it won't be funny to you.  I didn't find that Tebow sketch terribly funny because I don't follow American Football and I had to look up who Tim Tebow is.  Rule of thumb, the more reading you have to do to understand a joke the less you will laugh at it!  But don't take my word for it, here, listen to an actual comedian:

Get it?  We have fun with the things we are familiar with.  That's why I, having grown up a fundamentalist Christian, find blogs like Stuff Christian Culture Likes and Scotteriology really funny - they are written by fellow recovering fundamentalists talking about this particular Evangelical sub-culture I know all too well.  If I grew up Buddhist, I don't think I would find jokes about terrible Contemporary Christian Music acts all that funny.  We can hardly joke about things we know nothing about now can we?  Also, I think there is an unwritten rule that you don't joke about those outside your own group.  A poor person can tell jokes about being poor and it's funny - a rich person telling jokes about poor people just comes across as cruel.  Telling (and laughing at) cruel jokes about other groups you don't know or understand lessens you as a person.  Most people understand that.

So instead of wishing there was a way to make everyone who says things you don't like shut up forever, why not ask yourself why people are saying the things they do?  I know this isn't the easy way, Persecutor Envy will make you make that they're simply doing it because everyone is evil and controlled by Satan and therefore they hate you because you have the One True Faith.  Fight that impulse and try to see if there are other reasons.  Is that thing you're being criticized for maybe something you need to work on?  Perhaps you're being called an ignorant bigot because you're being ignorant and bigoted?  They could be wrong of course but what's the harm in reevaluating your position?  And those people laughing at you, any chance that maybe they're making fun of you because you're being ridiculous?  Look at that Tim Tebow sketch for instance.  Wouldn't you agree that believing in an all powerful Creator who cares so deeply about the outcome of a regional sporting event that He actually intervenes because of the prayers of one of the players is maybe an extremely ridiculous thing to believe?  Also, didn't Jesus have a lot to say about how He disapproved of public displays of piety?   Maybe no one is mocking Tim Tebow because he's a Christian, maybe they're mocking him because he didn't listen to Jesus!

Look, power is seductive.  Not the good kind or seductive either!  Historically the more power Christians have had to censor and control others, the worse it turned out for everyone.  So don't envy those who use their power to prevent others from laughing at them.  Take a moment and think about what that says about them.  Think about what that says about their beliefs.  Now think about what it says about you that you wish your world could look more like theirs. If you have to force people to respect you through fear and threat, can your beliefs even be considered remotely good?  Can you?  If people are laughing at you or critizising you because you are doing stupid things then you only have yourself to blame.  If they are mocking you for doing what is good, then they are the tools and they will be the ones who will end up looking stupid.  You don't have to take my advice, though it is in the Bible too:

"If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name."  1 Peter 4:14-16

*I'm focusing on the manifestation of this disease amongst the religious but a good case can be made that you will find this amongst the members of any group losing their grip on absolute power over society and culture.
**It's worth noting that when Christians in the West suffer in silence, they do so rather loudly.  There is after all no point in bearing hardship if no one is going to admire you for it!
***I'm trying to class up my blog a little. Is it working for you?


GumbyTheCat said...

Speaking as someone who IS familiar with American football, I found the SNL skit to be funny and spot-on. And SNL hasn't been good in years. "St. Tebow" is so obnoxious and cloying. He's Kirk Cameron in shoulder pads.

I really hate the implication that if you are really, really publicly pious and committed to Christ, you too can be successful in all you do and have millions in your bank account. Oh, and win football games, because as we know, Jesus works for some teams and against others. I woulda scored, but Jesus made me fumble on the two yard line!

The fact of the matter is, if Tebow had not been religious, he would still be the exact same sub-mediocre quarterback. The difference is that he wouldn't get 10% of the press ink he does now in this gawdsoaked country.

No one would pay the slightest bit of attention to the atheism of an openly and unabashedly atheist quarterback. They would simply discuss his talent or lack thereof. But because Tebow makes his faith so obnoxiously open, ignorant Christers associate every one of his victories with see what Jesus does for those who believe? Tebow does what a Christian is NOT supposed to do - pray loudly so that everyone around him notices - and the Christians just lap it up and say how wonderful and godly he is. Blecch.

I would LOVE to see an NFL quarterback with the attitude of a New Atheist come along about right now. That would be an interesting media story, especially if his team and Tebow's team played.

Eugene said...

Well it would probably do a lot to change the public perception of atheists, that's for sure.

Ideally though, I wish humanity would just stop caring so much about what celebrities think! Especially athletes! Being good at throwing a ball around shouldn't automatically make all your other opinions more weighty!