It’s been 26 years since anthropologist Susan Harding published a widely-cited study on how fundamentalist Christians were viewed as a “repugnant cultural ‘other’” by the liberal intelligentsia. Perhaps most telling was Harding’s assertion that her academic audience would go so far as to make “moves that would at least assure us that fundamentalists are ‘less oppressed’ than other ‘others,’ and at best expose them as imposters are not really oppressed at all.”
Move forward a quarter century and you can more or less go through Harding’s paper and just use white-out where she says “fundamentalist.” Christian beliefs of any sort — except for the most watered-down pablum of mega-churchianity feel-good pastors like Joel Osteen and Carl Lentz — are openly belittled in public. Not only that, such belittling is considered acceptable — even, in fact, as a desirable kind of corrective.
Nowhere can this be seen with such clarity as with the recent social media kerfuffle over a so-called “gaytivity” scene — a nativity scene that replaces the Virgin Mary with another Joseph.
The scene was originally posted by Cameron Esposito, an LGBT comedian who also has a podcast. The internet quickly noticed what was missing.
Our neighbors’ two Joseph nativity is up & I’m beaming 🎄👬 pic.twitter.com/7OKbFLU7v1
— Cameron Esposito (@cameronesposito) November 24, 2017
Perhaps unsurprisingly, there were plenty of liberals cheering a fundamental alteration of a central part of the biblical account of Jesus’ birth.
@Mother_Bread omfg we need to do this instead of stealing a baby jesus this year
— Marina (@MarninaThings) November 25, 2017
man the birth of jesus was DEFINITELY a miracle now
— Merry Magdalene Visaggio (@MagsVisaggs) November 25, 2017
THE RAINBOW OUTFIT ON BABY JESUS! 😍
— QUEEN ROWDY (@semiotic_pirate) November 26, 2017
And then, of course, there were those who were (quite rightly) put off.
Honestly wondering why it’s acceptable, as you see it, to make a mockery of something others believe in? I’m sure others mock you for your beliefs and maybe far worse, but I have to think you don’t desire it. Is it that you don’t feel respected therefore you won’t show respect?
— Greg Tonkinson, DMin (@gregtonkinson) November 28, 2017
Exactly! Respect is earned, not required. This is disrespectful.
— Tory Almond (@toryalmond) November 29, 2017
God will not be mocked. These guys can live the life they choose, but to ridicule the faith of so many people is beyond disgusting.
— Eleanor Lee (@lee_lee59) November 27, 2017
A woman is the spiritual mother of 2+ billion Christians worldwide, but now you want to take this away as well? Why do you hate women? #patriarchy
— Jeff Castro (@jeffcaster907) November 28, 2017
I’m a strong defenders of the lgbtq community but I can’t see how this is anything but mockery of Christians.
— AlbeertaStan (@AlbeertaStan) November 27, 2017
Why is it ok for you to disrespect somebody’s religion but not others?
— Black Conservative (@AAconservative) November 28, 2017
In the Islamic faith, you aren’t allowed to depict Muhammad, something many of our readers are no doubt aware of. Let’s throw that overboard for a second, however: we shall pretend that the the prophet, may peace be upon him, could be depicted in human form. Meanwhile, for our hypothetical, we won’t change any other characteristics of modern Islam.
Someone, somewhere, decides to put up a Ramadan scene showing Muhammad and his spouses in their front yard — only, instead of depicting this thirteen wives, we go with his thirteen husbands, all as an expression of gay pride.
Within hours of the tableaux hitting social media, the neighborhood would have to be cordoned off, no doubt because members of the religion of peace would be out in force. Stories about the person who put it up — no doubt already characterized as an Islamophobe — would be all over cable news. Linda Sarsour would make a number of appearances on CNN talking about how American society has marginalized and bullied those of the Muslim faith. The spectacle would no doubt be blamed for some attack, somewhere (much like poorly-made YouTube videos often are).
We would be lucky if there weren’t an attempt on the life of the person who put the display up or those in the community.
Behind all of this manufactured outrage would be a legitimate grievance: Flippantly treating someone’s religion as if it were a bad gay joke because “lol those people are so uptight LGBT pride!” isn’t really all that funny. It also doesn’t really make a political statement. What it does is point and laugh at religious belief because apparently it’s just a larf if you aren’t among the believers.
The story of Christmas involves the birth of the man we believe, as Christians, is our Savior. It happened through the immaculate conception of Mary, whose betrothed — Joseph — had to be convinced of this very unusual fact by an angel. Trees, presents and interminable music aside, this birth represents the second holiest day on the Christian calendar. And, for whatever God thinks about same-sex relationships, it did not involve Jesus and Marty.
I’m not saying that this individual’s free speech ought to be abrogated, nor am I implying that any of above reactions would be called for if undertaken by offended Christians. What I am pointing out, for what feels like the thousandth time, is the double standard that Christianity meets with in the United States. It’s now socially sanctioned to make Christ and his followers figures of fun, so long as you don’t apply that logic to any other religious group.
Even as a Christian, I don’t harbor any animosity toward the individual who did this, or toward those who celebrated it. These are people who have learned long ago that Christians are a “repugnant social ‘other’” that it’s perfectly it’s OK to villainize. They’ve all been taught that we’re old-fashioned bigots with an old-fashioned faith.
That’s why so many people who are so easily triggered by a panoply of microaggressions find this to be such a scream. It’s not that they don’t think it was offensive. They were simply unaware that lampooning legitimately held, peaceful Christian beliefs could ever be considered offensive.
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