Righting America

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The Persecution of White Evangelicals | Righting America

by William Trollinger

White evangelical Christians endure more discrimination in America than do Muslims.

Who says so? White evangelical Christians.

According to a new Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) poll, 57% of white evangelical Protestants believe that discrimination against themselves is high, while 44% believe the same about Muslims. White evangelicals were the only religious group to claim that they endure more discrimination than Muslims. White mainline Protestants, white Catholics, and other Americans say – by more than a 2 to 1 margin – that they believe that Muslims experience more discrimination than they do.

White evangelicals claim that they experience more discrimination than do Muslims “despite the fact,” as Rokia Hassanien of Americans United for Separation of Church and State has noted, “that Muslims [who are less than 1% of the population] are victims of 22 percent of religiously motivated hate crimes in the U.S.” White evangelicals make this claim despite the fact that the candidate they voted for by a 81-19% margin now sits in the White House. White evangelicals make this claim despite the fact, as we noted here a few weeks ago, we now have an administration filled with conservative evangelicals (and creationists). And let’s not even mention the administration’s obsession with imposing a Muslim travel ban.

The claim that white evangelicals endure more discrimination than do Muslims seems, at best, preposterous. But the lament that “we are being persecuted” has been a central feature of the Christian Right playbook for decades.

Take, for example, Answers in Genesis (AiG) CEO Ken Ham. As we document in Righting America, Ham and AiG repeatedly make the case that in America “true Christians are the downtrodden and the persecuted, true Christians are portrayed [by the larger culture] as the enemy, true Christians are seen as ‘fair game’ for ‘brazen’ attacks that ‘are vicious, slanderous, and full of lies and hatred’” (162-163). Here is Ham himself from his book The Lie: Evolution/Millions of Years:

Christian absolutes – those truths and standards of Scripture that cannot be altered – are becoming less and less tolerated in society . . . Eventually this must result in the outlawing of Christianity – a possibility that seems more and more real with legislation that not only restricts Christian activities even in America but that also lays a foundation for Christians to be viewed as criminals because of the ways hate crimes legislation and other laws can ultimately be used (33).

In short, as Ken Ham and his colleagues see it, not only are white evangelical Christians being persecuted in the United States, but they face the very real prospect that Christianity will soon be made illegal. When that dreadful day comes, being Christian in America will be a criminal act, being Christian in America will mean serious jail time, being Christian could even mean state-sponsored execution.

But more on this in the next post.