The Persecuted Hegemon

by Caleb Reading


Since it’s Sunday morning and all, here’s a great post by Christian editor/writer Fred Clark:

What I find most striking in this ad [The Gathering Storm], though, is how explicitly it demonstrates the phenomenon of what we’ve referred to here as the persecuted hegemon.

It’s not unusual to encounter American evangelicals who simultaneously hold two contradictory beliefs about their faith and its relationship to the larger American culture.

[…] Yet while these folks may be two-faced, in a way, they’re not duplicitous — they really, sincerely believe both things. They believe that their sect has — and ought to have — hegemony in their culture. And they believe that they are “persecuted.”

The scare quotes there are necessary, since this use of the term persecution wouldn’t be recognizable to first-century Christians, or to 17th-century Anabaptists, or contemporary Chinese Christians or Falun Gong adherents or Tibetan Buddhists. But set that aside.

I suspect that American evangelicals’ persecution complex is an inevitable side effect of sectarian hegemony. Once you believe that your faith requires cultural dominance, and that it deserves it, then any threat to that dominance — even just the unwelcome reminder of the existence of alternative points of view — is perceived as a threat, as a kind of persecution. Thus, for example, Hannukah is perceived as a threat to, and an attack on, Christmas.

The persecuted hegemon is thus an oxymoronic creature driven by an oxymoronic principle: non-reciprocal justice. For these folks, turnabout is never fair play, turnabout is merely backwards. Thus when others respond to them in kind, or even simply remind them of the Golden Rule, they take offense, as though this constitutes an injustice toward them.

[…] This points to the key confusion of the persecuted hegemons. They are unable to distinguish between challenges to their hegemony — to their privilege — and threats to their faith itself.

[…] The script for this ad purportedly has no grievance with others living however they want to live — but only insofar as their freedom doesn’t impinge upon our right to live in a world where we never have to see them, or to acknowledge their existence. That “takes away” our freedom to live as privileged hegemons. And since we can no longer distinguish between our faith itself and the privileged status of that faith, we perceive this as religious persecution — as an injustice against us.

Your freedom threatens my freedom to live in a world in which people like you are not free to do the sorts of things you might do with your freedom. “And I am afraid.” [Emphasis mine.]

The whole post is that good.  Check it out.