Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Feeding the Myth of Christian Oppression

The United States is a majority Christian nation, with members of the religion's various denominations making up nearly 80% of the American population. Nonetheless, in many conservative Christian communities the idea that Christians are somehow "oppressed" refuses to die. It has been pointed out many times that often what these groups consider "oppression" in fact consists of a refusal to grant Christians special privileges, or the idea that Christians (and only Christians) should somehow be able to air views that some find offensive and still remain free from criticism. However, this recent story shows that there may be more to it than that. An Assemblies of God group in Pennsylvania is accused of staging mock kidnappings and interrogations of students, ostensibly to prepare them for what they might encounter during missionary work in other countries.

Lanza said there were about 17 students at the meeting and the mock kidnappers covered the students' heads, put them in a van and interrogated them. Neither the students nor their parents were told about the raid beforehand, he said, though it was discussed with the parents of one youth who might have health issues.

TV station WHTM interviewed the girl who complained. "They pulled my chair out from underneath me, and then they told me to get on the ground," she told the station. "I had my hands behind my back. They said, 'Just do as I say, and you won't be hurt.'"

The girl said the teens were taken to the pastor's house, where it appeared he was being assaulted. Eventually, she said, the adults in charge revealed it was a staged event. "They heard me crying," the girl said. "Why not right then and there tell us it was a joke, when you see me crying?"

While none of the students involved were injured, it doesn't take a psychologist to work out the ramifications of subjecting them to such an experience. It clearly implants the idea that it could indeed happen to Christians right here in America, even though as far as I know no similar case has ever been reported. If these students go on to believe that "Christian oppression" is a real thing, can you really blame them? The scary thing is wondering how many people have been exposed to this sort of treatment. Unfortunately, it could be a big enough group to keep this particular myth going for decades.

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