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The evangelical struggle is real not real

September 26, 2014

This week, I read a new Pew study on religion and politics in America. I’m a wonky nerd, what can I say? There’s a lot of interesting stuff in the breakdown, but what struck me most was this little ditty:

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From the analysis:

Among religious groups, fully half of white evangelical Protestants (50%) say evangelical Christians face a lot of discrimination compared with 31% of the public overall saying this.

As a disabled woman and an evangelical, I have to say that the least persecuted I feel it’s as an evangelical.

I’m not saying there aren’t micro aggressions against evangelicals. For example, I hate it when people assume that as a person of faith, I am stupid or don’t like science because I am an evangelical. Science is amazing. Everyone knows that math is the Devil, not science.

And as people of faith, we frequently adopt attitudes toward one another based on the broader biases of the cultures in which we exist. I do this often, and I’m wrong when I do this: I’m not “one of those religious people.” My rep is tied to the evangelical rep. I don’t get to choose who comes to Jesus around here any more than any of you do. So I’ll call out my people in love when necessary, not to protect my reputation, but to help preserve my brother’s integrity and spur him on to doing good. But I have to guard my attitude lest I become a Pharisee on a speck-hunt.

Hear me: these microaggressions against evangelicals hurt, and many of them are judgmental in a way that assumes omniscience into the hearts, minds, and lives of other people. By all means, feel your feelings.

But the truth is, if I look at the intersections where I live, on the corner of these three elements (not the only elements) of my identity, persecution of my evangelicalism is the least of my troubles. And if I look at persecution this way, my own hurt feelings are relativized in a way that encourages me to care for others.

I’ve never been followed in a store because someone presumes evangelicals like me are criminals. That happens to people of color. Hell, if I wanted to, I could strap on loaded weapons and go grocery shopping undeterred.

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If I’m assaulted, no one’s going to question my story because I’m an evangelical. That happens to women. No one looks at me as a lazy drain on society because I’m an evangelical. That happens to disabled people and the poor. I’ve never seen an evangelical turned away from giving blood. That happens to gay men. I’ve never had people suggest I be sent to an internment camp because I’m an evangelical, and there have been evangelical terrorists. That happens to Muslims.

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Look, this world is hard on people generally. There’s not a society on earth that exists without pushing certain people to the margins and privileging others. I get that. And we should be working to change that.

But we aren’t as effective when we stand on a soapbox yelling, “I’ve been WRONGED!” while deeper, institutionalized, unchallenged injustices persist right in front of us. Christ told us we’d have trouble, and He told us to get involved with people in deeper water and keep them from drowning under oppression. Perhaps if we spend a little time outside our frightened, cloistered communities we’d have more perspective on this. It’s time to stop navel-gazing.

Oppression is real. But if you have the political, social, and economic power to push it back when it encroaches into your personal space, it’s probably not happening to you. At least not on the scale you perceive it to be.

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What I’m getting at is that nobody puts evangelicals in a corner except us. Corners are so safe and cozy. Let’s stop hugging the wall, friends. We can do this better and gain perspective when we mix it up with hurting people instead of hiding and girding our fences. A world of love, joy, pain, and work awaits us.

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