The Problem With Eye-Opening

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 15.678% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

Jay Lake wrote a pretty good essay on the bullshit myth of Christianity being persecuted in America, but what I found troubling was when he said this:

“To my Christian friends: if you want to be taken seriously by people outside your own faith narrative….”

The problem is that for most Christians, you can stop right there.
As Jay notes, 89.3% of the members of Congress are Christian, as is roughly 75% of the country.* Which means that for Christians to be successful, all they have to do is appeal to other Christians.*
When you’re a majority culture, reality ceases to be a necessary function.  In fact, past a certain point it becomes a hindrance, because once you start preaching the stuff they don’t believe to be true, you lose their votes.  So being taken seriously by people outside means that you often lose the inside.
So Jay’s assertion that the Christians would want to be taken seriously by outsiders is, on some levels for many Christians, wrong.  Being taken seriously by outsiders means battling your own people, losing friends, losing popularity, losing votes.  It’s a real hardship, having that kind of fight.  Those who do it are noble, fighting the good fight, working towards real and wondrous change… but let us never forget that to a large extent, not buying into the narrative when you’re inside the majority group turns out to be a net negative.
Which is why I don’t like majority cultures – be they white, heterosexual, or able-bodied.  After a while, every majority culture starts to create these mythologies which explains why they got to this privileged status, and those myths are always this bullshit combination of “We worked harder than everyone else” and “We had more inherent smarts and/or morality!”  Neither of which is really true.**
The reason you’re seeing such a crazed Republican primary season is because the majority Christian culture (or, at least, the fundamentalist culture that drives the Republicans) has taught themselves all these crazy lies that no longer jine up with reality.  They really can’t manage the country because they’re no longer effectively interacting with it – they’re interacting with the Obama-is-a-Muslim-socialist and Christianity-is-dying myths that they tell each other to keep each other motivated. ***
They talk to each other.  And they don’t have to talk to anyone else.  The hard mathematics tells you that from an electoral perspective, it’s better to sway 50% of the 75% Christian vote than it is to get 100% of the 8.9% Jewish vote.  Which sucks.  And it’s why majority culture often winds up becoming so blinkered.
How do you fight majority culture?  That’s a whole other essay right there, and one that I am perhaps not qualified to write.  But when discussing the need for Christians to “open up their eyes,” you gotta remember that when you’re inside the bubble, there’s a hard-edged pressure to keep your eyes closed…. Or to find a new set of friends.
* – Note that I self-identify as Christian, though I don’t follow the Church’s teachings, which I suppose makes me a very bad Christian.
** – Yes, hard work counts for a lot.  So does luck and background.  As humans, we want to naturally dismiss all the scary bits that are out of our control, like luck and family and genetics, to focus on the things we can control.  This is often good, but becomes bad when you start thinking that everyone who didn’t make it failed just because they weren’t as hard-working as you.  Sometimes, people work even harder and fail because of reasons that they had no control over.
*** – It’s not that minority cultures are any less susceptible to this kind of “We’re awesome because we’re awesome” groupthink – hoo boy, they are – but in being forced to deal with the majority culture, these self-serving narratives tend to get squeezed out more effectively.  If not totally.


  1. Richard Baldwin
    Mar 14, 2012

    While something like 75% of the country self-describes as Christian, there are a great many issues over which they don’t agree with each other–otherwise abortion, for instance, wouldn’t be such a contentious subject. As well, a sizable minority of self-described Christians could be best described as not religious–so uninterested in religion that they only care what label is used to describe their (lack of) religious beliefs in so far as they want to avoid persecution.
    The grave problem with religion as a political force is that both religion and politics generally reward extremists over moderates. Extremists are usually fanatics, and while fanatics suffer for a lack of reasonable ideas they compensate with obsession and stamina. Long term, ill-used of stamina will wear down any amount of good ideas, good sense or good intentions–especially when reasonable people without firm convictions make the reasonable but unfortunate decision to leave politics well enough alone.

  2. SapioSlut
    Mar 14, 2012

    So why the big palaver over Israel? Last I checked it was not exactly a Christian country…

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