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When Religious Bigotry is Repackaged as #ChristianPrivilege

The latest Twitter campaign seeks to silence those who practice the faith—and it won't stop there.

The religious persecution that led America’s colonists to flee England for Holland more than 400 years ago remains alive and well, linguistically repackaged in blithely ironic claims of “Christian privilege.” 

The tactic isn’t new, but with the advent of social media, casting oneself as a victim, alleging unfair “privilege” on the part of an ideological foe, is disturbingly effective.

Persecutory efforts begin with words, but rarely end there. And leveraging the largest social platform in the world to suggest Christians are loathsome creatures bent on abusing others isn’t exactly subtle.

As Greek Orthodox Christian Elizabeth Economou astutely noted, those who “push #ChristianPrivilege conveniently and arrogantly ignore #Christian persecution throughout the ages.”

Christians are the most harassed religious group in the world—Muslims are second—as Pew’s research clearly demonstrates. And while the worst persecution takes place outside of America, if Playboy writer Chrissy Stroop has her way, social and governmental harassment of Christians could come here too.

Last month, Stroop launched a heated discussion on Twitter with a post urging readers to “#emptythepews” by sharing their personal experiences of “Christian privilege.”

The post links to an article in which Stroop lays out an argument that boils down to this: Christians who support President Trump and his policies are evil hypocrites complicit in, for starters, fascism, white supremacist atrocities, and the systematic sexual abuse of children.

The ensuing “conversation,” from which detractors—including at least two Christian conservative writers—were barred, devolved exactly as intended. It was rife with bigoted, hateful remarks excoriating the faithful.

Since then, the hashtag has popped up in a variety of tweets denigrating Christians. It’s even been suggested that Christians got off easy in the aftermath of the El Paso and Dayton shootings, which were perpetrated by “white males.”  

This raises a question: if #emptythepews was instead #emptythemosques, would there have resulted an equivalent heinous attack on Muslims? Or would the story have been the original poster’s gall at littering the public square with rancid religious bigotry?

Stroop has written extensively about her anti-Christian views in multiple publications over the years, including a collection of essays under the title Empty the Pews: Stories of Leaving the Church. On her website, the former academic details her decision to reject the tenets of Christianity as espoused by her family. She describes herself as an “ex-evangelical” who is “slightly famous for yelling at Christians on the internet.” 

Stroop, who has over 47,000 Twitter followers, is dead serious with her #EmptyThePews hashtag. For her, stripping America of the faith tradition of its forebears represents a universal good for which the country should strive. She claims the “vast majority of white American evangelical Protestants” are fundamentalists who present a “threat to democracy and human rights.”

Institutions that threaten democracy and human rights clearly deserve our scorn. Christianity, however, is not among them. Nor is conservatism, as Stroop suggests, nor classical liberalism, for that matter. Alleging such says far more about the individuals making the allegations than the institutions they attack. 

Stroop’s viral tweet and those that followed referenced articles she had recently penned castigating “fake Christians” in “Billy Graham’s America” who, empowered by the “theocratic norms” supposedly imposed by President Trump and Vice President Pence, are “directly responsible for the mistreatment of asylum-seekers, including children, in our U.S. concentration camps.”

Taking this tack, Stroop wrongly binds Christianity with conservatism—a clever though deeply flawed brief. The tactic is meant to back Christians into a corner by falsely claiming they cannot with integrity simultaneously live out their faith and support conservative policies in general or the current administration in particular. 

In 2016, writing as Christopher Stroop (Chrissy Stroop is a transgender woman), the author was sharply critical of Christian education. To her, it’s a well-oiled indoctrination machine cranking out brainwashed dolts who robotically undergird conservative social and political policy. In Christian higher education, she says, “Dissenting professors are being purged, non-conforming students are being intimidated, speech is chilled, and academic freedom is on life support.”

Sound familiar? It should. 

These are the same concerns conservatives level over the marked liberal bias rampant in American higher education. Examples abound of conservative students’ and professors’ speech being stifled on campuses. But of deeper concern than speech restrictions—and this is a point on which Stroop would likely agree—is the active circumscription of ideas that compete with those espoused by the majority. 

People of all faiths must start boldly calling this out. What begins as a creeping social acceptance of denigrating Christians inevitably expands to other religious groups and ultimately to religion in general.

Pilgrims who fled religious persecution had few other viable options. Fortunately, today’s American Christians have an array of political and social options at our disposal, and it’s time we used them. We should begin by recognizing persecutory efforts, however seemingly mild, and calling them out.

There is far too much at stake to quietly bow our heads and turn the other cheek.

Michele Blood is a freelance writer and contributor to LifeZette, the Daily Caller, and The Federalist. You can follow her on Twitter @bloodbrief