A couple of further thought in response to Rob Vischer, with whom I am greatly enjoying an exchange concerning perceptions of discrimination against Christians.
First, Rob writes that Christians are “lead[ing] the charge” against Muslims in some communities, citing conservative Christian support for so-called anti-Sharia laws and for the denial of zoning permits for the construction of mosques. I wonder if this is true. No doubt some conservative Christians do support these policies. But some say that those leading the charge today against immigrants, and those most hostile toward Muslims (and African Americans, and others, too), from the right tend to be non-Christians, not Christians. Rob suggests that the failure of some conservative Christians to advocate against, e.g., anti-Sharia laws might “smooth the way for the demonization of conservative Christians.” Perhaps that is true, but the point assumes that politics rewards a kind of principled, rational consistency (I have disagreed with Tom Berg in a similar way before, regarding his view that politics rewards reciprocality and consistency). Conservative Christians, the argument seems to say, are likelier to be rewarded with non-demonization if they support the non-demonization of another group. But it seems to me that the real reasons for Christian demonization are located in very different places than these, and that the question of whether Christians will or will not be demonized as a political and/or cultural matter depends on much more powerful political and cultural forces. To name two: the cultural desires and aspirations of the secular left and of religiously disengaged conservatism.
Second, Rob says that Christians should be “specific and restrained” in pointing out discrimination against Christians. The reason is that “our too-easy embrace of that narrative [of discrimination and/or persecution]…can limit its power when we need it most.” I don’t think I agree with this point, but whether I could agree with it or not would depend upon facts I don’t presently possess. The point being pressed by Rob could be called “the boy who cried wolf” hypothesis–the more frequently Christians point out episodes of discrimination and/or persecution against themselves, the more likely they are to be labeled “whiners” or some similarly dismissive appellation by their cultural and political opponents, and the less likely they will be to succeed when they invoke the charge of discrimination and/or persecution when it “really” happens. But why should one think that invoking discrimination is like this? To the contrary, why should one not think that the more one invokes the discrimination/persecution charge, the more powerful it becomes. And the less frequently one invokes it, the less plausible it seems (as, indeed, it seemed very implausible to the Washington State Supreme Court in the example Rob cites, notwithstanding what are to me the entirely persuasive arguments that Rob himself makes). You could call it the muscle hypothesis–the more you exercise, the stronger you get. There are many other examples of the power that the charge of discrimination can generate on behalf of a cause as a legal and political matter. Indeed, constitutional law (among other areas) is absolutely stuffed to the gills with them. If the objective is legal or political success, I’m not sure that I would accept the boy who cried wolf hypothesis as just self-evidently true, at least not without further evidence that this is, in fact, the likely outcome of “too many” claims of discrimination/persecution. In this instance, less may not be more. More may be more.
One thought on “The Boy Who Cried Wolf Hypothesis (Further Thoughts in Response to Rob)”
Rob suggests that the failure of some conservative Christians to advocate against, e.g., anti-Sharia laws might “smooth the way for the demonization of conservative Christians.”
Language is so important here. Are we (Christians) anti-Sharia? Since Sharia extends far beyond the home or faith, it is not analogous to say, the Ten Commandments or various religious restrictions for the faithful. Jews do not demand the absence of pork in my diet, and neither Christians nor Jews try to insist that others stop coveting. (Coveting as a mental/emotional state, not actual theft.)
Additionally, any code which limits the rights of women, or non-Muslims is not American.
Shariah as practiced by many Muslims demands acquiescence by non-believers. Why else do we see Western diplomats (Mrs. Clinton and her daughter as well) with their heads covered? Christianity is being eliminated from the Holy Land, as some are having their heads chopped off, and not by Amish.
As far as the treatment of Christianity in the U.S. and other Western nations, there is a new tone to the public discourse: Christians are being assured they have “freedom to worship…” as if that is the only element in religious life. I demand and will defend down to the last pixel my right to take my faith into the public square — not to demand others follow my faith — but to inform my decisions in public life.
Will my daughters or granddaughters be forced into burkas? Over my dead keyboard.