Privilege and Persecution

Can you stand one more rumination triggered by the marriage license controversy in Kentucky?

Usually, when Americans talk about inequality, we’re talking about economic disparities; over the past several years, such conversations have tended to focus on the troubling and growing gap between the “one-percenters” and everyone else. But every once in a while, we need to remind ourselves and our fellow Americans that there are other kinds of inequality—sometimes affecting economic opportunity, sometimes not—that can also be deeply corrosive of public life and civility.

The obvious example, of course, is racism, which has become more visible due to some white folk’s seething resentment over Obama’s election. But racism isn’t the only manifestation of tribalism and legal disadvantage that the Fourteenth Amendment was intended to address.

The past few weeks, we’ve seen a flare-up of America’s long-simmering “culture war,” thanks to Kim Davis, the Kentucky County Clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and defied several court orders demanding that she follow the law.

Her legal position is untenable, even ludicrous. (She has a constitutional right to religious liberty but no right to hold a government position and no right to use that position to deny equal rights to others.) But her defiance has once again exposed a persistent belief on the part of many Americans that this is a “Christian Nation,” and that any denial of Christian privilege is tantamount to persecution.

Indeed, in a particularly offensive assertion of that perspective, Davis’ lawyer characterized her five days in jail for contempt of court as “just like what happened” to Jews in Nazi Germany.

Several Republican candidates for President have rushed to defend Davis and “religious liberty.” An increasingly unhinged Mike Huckabee has warned of the imminent “criminalization” of Christianity; rhetoric from Cruz, Trump, Jindal and others has been equally intemperate. Anyone listening to them would conclude that secularists control America and are oppressing the few remaining Christians.

Sane people, on the other hand, observe that over seventy percent of Americans identify as Christian, that every President the country has ever elected has been Christian, and that Christians—at least white ones—are privileged by the culture to an extent that few of them recognize or admit. Christians routinely get time off work to celebrate religious holidays, Christian music and television programs with Christian themes fill the airways, and multiple stores carry items Christians need in order to celebrate religious holidays. Unlike Muslims, Jews and others, Christians aren’t pressured to celebrate holidays that conflict with their religious values. The (extensive) list goes on.

The erosion of privilege can trigger unpleasant responses from those who feel entitled to deference. Some men react badly as women make inroads into what was once a “man’s world.” Efforts to ameliorate structural racism engender hostility and resentment. We probably shouldn’t be surprised to see the same reaction from those who have uncritically accepted Christian privilege as their due, and who consider any diminution of their exalted social status an unwarranted affront.

How did Orwell put it in Animal Farm? Everyone is equal, but some are more equal than others.

And some want to keep it that way.


  1. Sheila, your ability to call people out on their outrageous behavior is truly a gift.

    The entitled mindset of so many who “claim” to be Christian is appalling. For this reason I no longer attend church services because I do not want to be around such judgemental people that criticize others while failing to look into the mirror to recognize their own sinful ways. I do not want to be associated in any way with such people that “claim” to be Christian. They are so so so misguided and ignorant.

    I especially appreciate these comments in today’s blog:
    The erosion of privilege can trigger unpleasant responses from those who feel entitled to deference. Some men react badly as women make inroads into what was once a “man’s world.”

    The people that are losing their power to control others are screaming as loudly as they can because they cannot stand the thought of not being able to control others or possibly losing their privileged status in this country. The current religious fanatics are actually causing themselves to lose power rapidly because sane people are taking note of the insanity of these fanatics and are realizing just how crazy they truly are.

    As for Kim Davis, I am disgusted at how much she has gotten away with. No one should be able to refuse to obey the laws – especially a person that works for the government. Unfortunately for the rest of us, these idiots are unable to recognize that they are demanding that everyone bow down to their “Sharia Laws”.

  2. Yesterday I mentioned brand marketing which is at the root of all of this evil. These controversies are manufactured and distributed by the Republican Party for the sole purpose of pandering to people who are essentially un American. In fact more un American than the immigrants who are the source of more of their brand marketing.

    When I was growing up party brand marketing was in play but it tended to take the high road. Remember JFK’s stirring speeches?

    The GOP has had to take the low road because that’s the one they’re on. They have no accomplishments to bring forth, only their attempts to drag the country down to third word status. So they can only appeal to the crowd who can be convinced that that mission is good.

    It really is a pathetic plan and the whole world knows it but still the Americans who can’t live without the privileges that they feel entitled to get reeled in with every trumped up (pun intended) controversy.

    Rewarding such political behavior would doom us. It must be stopped as the future of democracy demands it.

  3. Claims of persecution almost always seem to center around religion; primarily the countless versions of Christianity in this country alone. I find the different views of Christianity interesting to learn about; years ago I briefly met with Mormon missionaries to learn more about their beliefs and later agreed to Bible study with a Jehovah Witness simply to learn. That last one didn’t last long before it ended when I stated I was not afraid of death; she packed up her Bible and pamphlets and fled my home. At that time it was their belief that only 144,000 would make it into heaven, that is no longer their belief. I had thought for a few years she was my friend. The Mormon missionaries did become friends, visited often to drink my Pepsi Colas and argue about the acceptable caffeine content of their Pepsi vs. the unacceptable caffeine in my coffee…all in good humor. Their view on that subject has changed.

    My Buddhist friend, I’m sorry to say, refuses to allow me to “disturb his inner peace” by trying to explain that the sources of his political activism today began with Goldsmith who ” once treated him fairly long ago”. All I know about the Jewish religion I have gleaned from Leon Uris books through the years. The little I know about Muslims is the recent escalating battle by those who believe all Muslims are extremists and terrorists. This I do not accept; they are as different from true Muslim religion as Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints is from recognized Latter Day Saints (Mormons) version of Christianity. The FLDS and Muslim extremists and terrorists are dangerous to the life and freedom of thousands of others and need to be stopped – legally.

    Pence and Davis are not in that latter category; they are elected officials who place themselves above the law and force their pseudo Christian beliefs on others, relying on the 1st Amendment to support their views. I remember the rallying cry that no Catholic would ever be elected president when John F. Kennedy campaigned for and won the presidency. That worked out well for this country till his assassination and America did not become an annex to the Vatican. He never used or claimed his religion as reason or authority to act as president of this country.

    Sheila referred to the “culture war” due to the Kim Davis fiasco in Kentucky; notice that “cult” is the basis for the word “culture” and consider her Apostolic rebirth four years ago. Her “sins” have been forgiven, she has been elected to a place of power which she chose to extend and abuse to include other employees in her county office, ordering them to break the federal and state laws she chooses to break in the name of her God.

    Religion has always been and will continue to be a “bone of contention” between people of all countries; it should be a source of peace and not the continuing cause of wars and source of wealth. Today we commemorate the 14th anniversary of 9/11; an overt religious attack on this country by extremists and terrorists hoping to be the onset of another Holocaust. Those who consider this an attack by Muslims cannot differentiate between factions professing to be Muslims and the true Muslim religion. It is a religion and a culture we do not understand; it is the basis (along with money to be made from war with Iran) of those who oppose the Iran negotiations and the deal agreed upon by major powers of the world…NOT President Obama alone. It is a form of religious persecution that can and will lead us into another declared war in the middle east if the 1% and the GOP have their way. This in-fighting and shutting down the United States government at this time could give anti-American foreign nations the foothold they need to “celebrate” 9/11 by repeating the original. All in the name of God, Jehovah, Allah, with more devastating results than we remember today.

    In the words of Rodney King, “Can’t we all just get along?”

  4. The more that I’ve seen of the rest of the world the stronger is my belief that we’re not so much different. Any of us.

    The vast majority are merely trying to survive, minimizing risks, and raising families. They just need peace around them.

    Over course that idyllic picture is in every land coarsened by extremism. The few who can’t find peace because they find ___________ impossibly threatening. Usually what makes __________ so threatening is that they came from far away.

    Someday if humanity survives long enough the differences that are artifacts of evolution and migration will be no more. One race, religion, language, the community of mankind.

    It’s been a long time coming.

  5. Pete,

    You’re so right again. It’s all about brand marketing. These sociopaths who are destroying America in the name of Jesus have gone from Moral Majority, then to Christian Coalition, and now to the Tea Party.

    As Walter Cronkite clearly explained as a spokesperson for the Interfaith Alliance many years ago: “It’s White Supremacy masked in Christianity.”

    It’s as clear as the light of day.

  6. Do you imagine what must be going on in the minds of the analysts in the intelligence agencies in China and Russia as they watch this insanity taking over America? They’re not blind.

    I have six active websites, none of which are fully operative. They are averaging now about 20 visitors a day. My sites are monitored. About 40% of the visitors have constantly come from Beijing. They continue to visit. Do you wonder why? I do.

  7. Started a little bit before that, Marv.

    Try going back to the DeMolay & Templar, right through the KKK and the Birch Society There is nothing new under the sun.

  8. How many remember Stevens proclaiming from the courthouse steps, ” I am the law in Indiana!” Tell me now; just when did that change?

  9. Earl; I Googled the name “Stevens” and the quote “I am the law in Indiana” – it brought up D.C. Stephenson, grand dragon of the KKK who lived here in Irvington. He was sort of a Donald Trump-type character; fully engrossed in himself and believing he was “the law in Indiana” and that no one would go against his great, all-encompassing power (it WAS nation-wide). The KKK of course is possibly best known for claiming Christian values; burning crosses to call the attention of the Lord to their deep faith and all they do to cleanse the earth of the anti-Christ and his followers.

    It was “one of his own minions” who brought Stephenson and the KKK down after he beat, raped and caused the death of a young woman. Documents he had ordered destroyed had been carefully stored away by one who waited for the opening to bring the downfall…to save his own ass from his part in the KKK. Trump has made another disparaging sexual comment about his own daughter, is married to his 3rd, much younger wife and somewhere among his minions there probably lurks more than one waiting their chance to bring him down – and/or claim some of those billions Trump brags about having.

    As for Kim Davis; she stood on the steps of the Rowan County Kentucky Courthouse and virtually declared, “I am the law in Kentucky!” Claiming this power is her God-given right. We shall see, we shall see; she also has minions who could be waiting their chance to bring her to her knees – not in a prayerful position but to rid Rowan County Kentucky of that family curse now in it’s 38th year.

  10. Of course it is easy to see Christian privilege at work in events such as the Kim Davis affair in Kentucky. That, like the anti-gay marriage debacle here in Indiana can be opposed once they are brought to light and good people take action. Not so easy to effectively oppose, much less see, the subtle forms of Christian privilege that are woven into our daily lives. Of note is the Blue Book Christian phone book. This little gem offers the names of “Christian” businesses and professionals so that you can be sure to spend your dollars with only like minded people. I’ve seen this offered to customers in many stores in the Greenwood area. How do you get people to see the divisiveness of this sort of thing? The un -Christian attitude behind this? In particular, how do you even converse with such believers when they become more and more isolated from society, drawn inward into sub-groups that shun outsiders and reinforce each others narrow, biblical view of the world?

  11. Jesus flat out told them they would be persecuted for following him. They should expect and embrace it as a gift from god. You know, if this were actually persecution.

  12. In order to fully understand American politics, I would recommend “On Bullshit” by Harry G. Frankfurt, Princeton University Press, Princeton and Oxford, 2005.

    We should have this book as required reading in American schools starting around the 7th grade. Then, maybe, we would have at least a possibility of surviving as a Republic.

  13. Theresa,

    In the 70’s and 80’s it was called the Christian Yellow Pages. A significant part of my law practice in the Dallas area was representing Christians who were taken in and defrauded by the use of “Christian.”

    Probably, the most important case I had as an attorney was when Southern Methodist University fell for a similar type of “Christian” scam. Let me tell you, it can be very expensive when a university is financially taken in by a scam, religious or otherwise.

  14. Thanks for adding this info, Marv. Again, I ask, “How do good people oppose this kind of thing?”

  15. Incredible post. As a Chriatian I am disgusted at the way we use our religious beliefs to bully others. Yes we bully other minority groups. As you mentioned, racism plays a huge factor in our society, but of course we like disregard that notion as well. I enjoyed your blog post, I am looking forward for future post.

  16. Kim Davis and Mike Huckabee, are simply making a political statement out of her refusal to do her job. Sadly there is a percentage of Americans who are willing to ignore the facts and accept it at face value. Maybe Kim will get invited to the Republican debate; they have done worse.

  17. While I’m very much in agreement with everything posted here I also feel the need for a caveat. There’s nothing wrong with Christianity or Islam or the white race or the black race or men or women or gays or transgenders. But in all groups there are the good ones and bad ones, the moderates and extremists.

    Let’s make sure that as we problem solve we focus of the extremists and not the focus of their extremeness. Let’s not become them.

  18. I think what Marv said at 9:07am is very insightful. The effectiveness of all of this brand marketing is being noted around the world. They wonder about the possibility of a nuclear armed Donald Trump as we wonder about the danger of a nuclear armed Iran or even Israel.

    They see our entertainment posed as news and ask themselves “what is wrong with them?” Are they really that tribal and extreme? Does “1984” really begin in America?

  19. I didn’t post this but on another page I visit this was said:

    RW Jesus Freaks adhere to a melding of evangelical Christianity and the economic philosophy of Ayn Rand.

    The two are inherently incompatable for anyone who does not engage in Orwellian double-think.

  20. I’m glad Pete said something. I’ve was off having lunch at the Senior Citizen Center. “Where the price is definitely right.” I would have likewise responded.

    I have to admit, it’s always have been hard to understand where I’m coming from. It’s called the CENTER. It’s the spot where the poet Yeats was worried about losing.

    I want to make it clear about my attitude on Christianity. I believe the most important issuein America is how Christianity reacts to the times we are all in. In Germany under Hitler, 60% of the Christian Churches voted to be Nazified.

    My longtime companion and partner Barbara, who passed away 6 years ago, received her Masters from Union Theological Seminary in New York. The last time I looked, Bill Moyers was one of their Trustees. It’s where Dietrich Bonhoeffer studied before he decided to return to Germany. Also for the record, the Highlander Folk School, where most of the civil rights leaders got their start, was founded by a Union graduate. The last time I was in New York, I stayed on campus for over a week. Their library is one of the best resources in the world on Bonhoeffer.

    Personally, for many years, I represented the Presbyterian Children’s Home and Service agency for the State of Texas.

    I’m from a mixed religious background. Fairly evenly divided. Definitely, enough Jewish to have marched me into Auschwitz. My best friend growing up was a Christian and my first love was a Christian.

    On the other hand, at Penn I was in a Jewish fraternity. Almost all of my fraternity brothers became Republicans. Consequently, I’ve only attended one reunion in all these years. The only time in Aspen, I seemed to have made most everyone very uneasy.

    No one seems to want to join me in the CENTER. It is very lonely there. However, I did find one person, Barbara. We both agreed that was a miracle.

  21. @Theresa: Maybe Christian businesses need to be identified in the Blue Book because otherwise nobody would recognize them as Christians. There is a lesson in there somewhere.

  22. Marv, you’re on a roll today.

    I posted this on Facebook:

    Consider a nuclear armed Donald Trump. Would the rest of the world sanction us into disarming him?

  23. Theresa,

    In answer to your question: “How do good people oppose this kind of thing?”

    You start with a “democracy free space” like this blog. Which I am positive is unequalled anywhere in America. Sheila has the missing ingredient: IMPECCABLE INTEGRITY. Although we have never spoken, it is very obvious.

    I’ve personally tested Morris Dees who speaks for the Southern Poverty Law Center on systemic racism, Chip Berlet who speaks for Political Research Associates on systemic racism, Chris Hedges on racism, and Diane Rehm on censorship.

    They all failed the test of integrity. They don’t disclose what should be disclosed in their position of trust. They mislead their followers by not doing so. They do great harm in the long run. They prevent the vital political equilibrium that democracy in America needs. I’ll be more than happy to give firsthand examples.

  24. Pete,

    Before we discuss Donald Trump and a nuclear weapon, how about your idea of President Barack Obama’s likeness on Mount Rushmore? I checked it out on the internet. There seems to be space to the left of Abraham Lincoln.

    Let’s don’t forget, President Obama has previously won the Nobel Peace Prize. Even though it was sort of preemptive, I believe he now deserves it because of his courage in negotiating a nuclear freese treaty with Iran. And maybe much more like his likeness on Mount Rushmore. But, that will be up to the People to decide.

    Our pro-democracy side needs a good strategic marketing move. I believe I still own the URL I’ll donate that.

    I think your idea is just the kind of the “out of the box” marketing campaign we need. It’s just the right vehicle to explain the potential disastrous effects of the continuation of our SUICIDAL policies in the Middle East which President Obama has had the courage in attempting to change.

    We need to knock Donald Trump off his Trojan Horse before it’s too late. What do you think?

  25. I checked it out. I still own http://www.StrategicMarketing

    What Sheila’s blog allows, among other things, is state of the art mindsharing. There’s a new book that came about a month ago called MINDSHARING: The Art of CROWDSOURCING Everything by Lior Zoref.

    According to the publishers: “Mindsharing is being applied to decisions as minor as how to design a business card and as major as buying a house. Whether you need to make better financial choices, find the love of your life, or transform your career, Zoref will show you how to harness the collective intelligence of a broad and diverse crowd.

    If the old saying is true that two brains are better than one, get ready to benefit from the power of fifty, five hundred, or five thousand brains.”

    All I can say is that I have really benefited from the mindsharing that’s available on Sheila’s blog.

  26. daleb,
    what do you mean “they could have done worse?” Why don’t you people just leave Palin alone?

  27. Marv; I try to rid my mind of the current idiocy in politics at the end of the day, then find myself in bed with Archie Bunker and the Meathead carrying on what I left on the news and internet.

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