Monday, February 14, 2000

Week of 02/14/2000

The Persecution Game
- by David Matthews 2

Two boys were brought home by the police for breaking a neighbor’s window. Their father apologized to the officer and said he would take care of all the damages. With the officer gone, he turned his attention to the boys.

"Okay, I want to know who broke the window," he said sternly.

The gruff boy turned towards his brother, a rather mousy-looking lad, and said "Mickey! He’s to blame! It’s all his fault!"

"No, it’s Timmy!" Mickey replied in a whiny voice. "He’s the one who broke the window!"

The father turned towards Timmy. "Is that true?"

"Yeah, but it’s all Mickey’s fault!"

The father started with disbelief. "And why is it his fault if you’re the one who broke the window?"

"Because I threw a rock at him!"

"So WHY is he to blame for breaking the neighbor’s window?" the father asked incredulously.

With a straight face, Timmy replied "Because he ducked!"

Once upon a time, bullies were unapologetic to their situation. They were thugs, and they never tried to rationalize their behavior. They simply did what they have always done, preyed on anyone who wouldn’t fight back. The only way you could deal with it was to either fight back or to simply put up with the abuse.

But today, things have changed. Bullies are no longer seen as predators, but rather as victims of yet another group of bullies. We’re told we shouldn’t blame them for being who they are, that they’re just acting out their own victimization.

One such group of bullies who are playing the "poor victim" game are the religious crusaders. Specifically, Christian crusaders.

Now once upon a time, Christians really were the persecuted ones. They used to be a source of sick entertainment for the Roman Empire. Those were the days when Centurions were Centurions, and Christians were lion food.

But then something strange happened. In the course of a few centuries, Christianity went from being the scorn of government to being the power in government. And where Christians used to be humble people simply wanting to spread their message, they quickly became prideful people on a quest to convert everyone.

And because pride is one of the seven deadly sins, it was quite often the catalyst that turned humble believers into zealous persecutors and crusaders.

Now let’s fast-forward a few centuries. There is no doubt that Christianity has entrenched itself in Western government. And there is also no doubt that the pride that has infested that once-humble belief has not been abated in those centuries either.

But now there is a mechanism in place to try to keep that Christian pride in check when it comes to government. That mechanism is the non-establishment clause in the First Amendment to the US Constitution which states that while government cannot prohibit the freedom of religion, they also cannot favor (or "establish") one religion over another.

Of course, those full of religious pride refuse to acknowledge that little fact. They take the "non-establishment" clause to mean simply prohibiting a public "recognition" of one religious sect over another. So for many years, those religious crusaders have used government to do what the Constitution so prohibited them from, establish the doctrines of their religion without specifically mentioning that religion. They mandated that all public schools and school events have prayer sessions. They put the Ten Commandments in every public building, and put statues and other symbols of their dominant religion on public property. They manipulated Congress to add the motto "In God We Trust" on US currency, and to include the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance in the 1950’s. These were supposedly designed to counter the "God-less" Soviet Union, which is ironic since the Pledge of Allegiance was originally written by a self-professed Christian communist.

However, in recent decades, that dominance was questioned, and the US Supreme Court wisely agreed that some of the efforts by the religious crusaders DID in fact violate the non-establishment clause of the US Constitution. And that reality has restored some of the humility back into those with religious pride. Some, but not much.

So the religious thugs have come up with a new tactic to maintain their dominance. They have once again proclaimed themselves as the "persecuted" people.

They claim "persecution" when they cannot have mandatory prayer sessions in public schools. They claim "persecution" when they cannot put the Ten Commandments in every courthouse, meeting hall, and classroom, unless it is only in context with other historical documents such as the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, and the Magna Cater. They claim "persecution" if they cannot have special Bible studies on public school grounds, using taxpayer funds, and to the exclusion of any other religious studies.

In short, they claim "persecution" whenever they are not allowed to have their way. Much like little Timmy blaming his brother for ducking, the theocrats in America claim to be persecuted simply because they are not being allowed to pound in their doctrines through government.

Let’s get brutally honest here… this is a pathetic excuse by the religious wrong and a travesty on those who are genuinely and legitimately persecuted for their religious beliefs.

Ask Nicholas Beckner who the real persecuted people are. When several students, parents, and government officials knowingly and willingly violated the First Amendment and put in a prayer session in his high school graduation ceremony, he walked out in protest, only to be forcefully barred by the police from returning to his own graduation.

Ask Ryan Green who the real persecuted people are. He was forced by teachers to hide his Star of David necklace - the symbol of his Jewish faith - because school officials "claimed" it was a gang symbol. This same school, however, had no problems with students wearing crucifix necklaces.

Ask Crystal Seifferly who the real persecuted people are. Like Ryan Green, she was also barred from wearing a symbol of her religion. But in her case, the religion is Wicca. She was barred from wearing her pentagram necklace because school officials deem that to be a "cult" and not a "legitimate" religion.

These young people were legitimately persecuted for their beliefs. And who where they persecuted by? The same group of self-righteous Christian theocrats who claim to be "persecuted" themselves.

What is embarrassing is that when those self-righteous Christians wrongfully proclaim themselves to be persecuted, they do so in mockery of their own history. They do so at the mockery of Saint Peter, who was crucified upside-down for his beliefs; and at the mockery of Joan of Arc, who was burned at the stake for believing to follow the word of God; and to all of the other martyrs who choose to give up their lives rather than give up their beliefs. Compared to what these folks went through, today’s Christians are complaining about nothing more than a theological hangnail.

It makes you wonder sometimes how these people can sleep at night.

Look, the freedom to believe in God as you see fit is one of the key elements in the First Amendment, and one that I myself would defend just as fervently as the freedom of speech and the freedom of association. But when there is a clear history of one dominant religion - such as Christianity - pushing itself into all aspects of government, one has to be skeptical of their claims of "persecution".

I would only hope that the day never comes when they themselves will know what true persecution is like.

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