Saturday, October 4, 2014

When Poor Oppressed Christians Get Elected

The scariest thing about Poor Oppressed Christians is that some of them manage to get elected to public office. Last week Charles Perry, a recently elected state senator from West Texas, gave an inaugural speech that compared the (non-existent) Christian oppression in America with the Holocaust. Because, apparently, someone saying "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" is the moral equivalent of an execution.

In his inaugural speech, Perry said a recent trip to a concentration camp in Germany made him draw a comparison between what he believes are efforts by the government to pass laws against religion and the killing of Jews during the Holocaust.

“There were 10,000 people that were paraded into a medical office [at the concentration camp in Germany] under the guise of a physical. As they stood with their back against the wall, they were executed with a bullet through the throat. Before they left, 10,000 people met their fate that way,” Perry said.

“Is it not the same than when our government continues to perpetuate laws that lead citizens away from God? The only difference is that the fraud of the Germans was more immediate and whereas the fraud of today’s government will not be exposed until the final days and will have eternal-lasting effects.”

The answer to that question is a loud and resounding "No." A law that says you can't bash gay people, for example, is pretty much the exact opposite. Likewise, Christian political supremacy would imply discrimination against Jews, just like the antisemitism that fed the Holocaust. I seriously want to know why anyone thinks it's a good idea to have someone whose thinking is this muddled in public office. Where do they find these jackasses?

Most of the Poor Oppressed Christians are Protestant, and Protestant theology is generally either Lutheran or Calvinist. In both cases there's absolutely nothing that implies the laws of the state in which you live have anything to do with salvation. In Calvinism, God offer salvation to the elect, and in Lutheranism God bestows grace upon the faithful. In either case, the mere existence of a law can in no way save or damn you, or as far as I can tell even influence your chances.

Renaissance Hermeticism was considered a heresy was that it taught that individuals, though their own actions - performing spiritual practices - could make them more favorable in the eyes of God. This was seen as impinging on God's prerogative to choose those offered salvation. By that logic, it's even more heretical to believe that some law passed in the jurisdiction in which you happen to live determines whether or not you will be saved. And that's even before you get to the question of free will.

The ramifications here are simply bizarre, and fly in the face of the history of Christianity. Christianity itself was illegal under the Romans until Constantine's conversion. Does that mean none of the Christian martyrs were saved? No, according to every form of the tradition throughout history they most certainly were. And they faced real, legitimate state oppression. What about Muslim states where Christianity is illegal? Are Christians in those nations simply damned?

What's going on here is in fact much simpler. Perry wants an excuse to do what he wants, which is to give his religion special rights and privileges and take them away from everyone else. That's a clear violation of the Constitution and is a fundamental violation of the American principle of religious freedom. Beyond that, is there anything more heretical than cynically exploiting Christianity for your own personal benefit?

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