Friday, April 24, 2009

Burkha Logic

Once again, Fred Clark of the Slacktivist blog has written a well-thought essay in response to the National Organization for Marriage's ad in which a handful of worried citizens wring their hands over same-sex marriage, and how it inhibits their freedoms. Critical response to the ad has been loud and furious, but Fred Clark has accurately summed up the dual positions of the ad's supporters, what he calls "the persecuted hegemon."

American evangelicals hold two mutually exclusive beliefs about their faith and its place in society. First, the United States is a Christian nation in which ninety-something percent of citizens believe in God. Therefore, Christianity should be upheld with the highest respect, and anyone who doesn't subscribe to Christianity should learn their place and be silent. Second, Christians are a persecuted minority in this wicked secular nation, and even checking off "I'm a Christian" on an anonymous survey is taking a bold stand for Christ.

They're not duplicitous in holding both beliefs, as Clark writes. They sincerely believe both--that they are both a righteous majority and the last of a faithful minority, which is why evangelicals expect--nay, demand--that store clerks greet them with "Merry Christmas" not some mamby-pamby "Happy Holidays," and anyone who does kowtow to the more-inclusive expressions are trying to "remove Christianity from the public square."

Clark wisely notes that today's evangelicals complaining of persecution would be laughed at by first-century Roman Christians, or seventeenth-century Anabaptists, or countless other groups of believers that truly were persecuted for their faith.

The persecuted hegemon phenomenon leads to the oxymoronic concept of non-reciprocal justice:
For these folks, turnabout is never fair play, turnabout is merely backwards. Thus when others respond to them in kind, or even simply remind them of the Golden Rule, they take offense, as though this constitutes an injustice toward them.

The idea is seen when fundamentalist Muslims require their women wear burkhas. It's not the free choice of a handful of faithful Muslim women, nor is the requirement restricted to one's own household, church, or sect. It's become a cultural standard enforced on all women--Allah forbid an upright Muslim man should have to go in public and see a non-Muslim, non-burkha-wearing woman's ankles.

That's why the NOM's ad is so silly, as Clark neatly summarizes:

Your freedom threatens my freedom to live in a world in which people like you are not free to do the sorts of things you might do with your freedom. "And I am afraid."

It must be noted that Clark is a Christian, and a rather clever one at that.

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