People like me are the most discriminated against says everybody

One of the first posts I published on this blog looked at the purported rise of Christianophobia in the UK. Polls of churchgoers indicate that 74% of them believe that Christians are the most discriminated against faithgroup in the UK. Yet the evidence for this is utterly negligible. For example, while there are an unfortunately large number of hate crimes that target Muslims and Jews, those against Christians are rarer and by and large perpetrated by other Christians.

A similar phenomenon is the so-called Men’s Rights movement with its strange lack of perspective. For example, they argue that the problem with rape prosecutions is that there are too many of them.

These movements were called to mind last week when I read an article in The Atlantic on how different groups in American society perceive discrimination. Essentially, every group think they are more discriminated than the general population does. Blacks, Evangelicals, Hispanics and Catholics all think they are the most discriminated against.

The author’s conclusion is “that our personal experiences have a huge effect on how we perceive discrimination. On the flip side, very few of us have the same kind of window into the daily lives of people who aren’t like us.”

I take away from this – a point I’ve made before – that our personal experience is a poor guide to broader social phenomenon. We need the social sciences because we can’t just intuit our way to a proper understanding of social problems because our intuition has developed only in our very small part of society. As implausible as it might seem the path to greater empathy is often going to be through polls, data, structured interviews and the like.

A Church bleating about “Christianophobia” – Screwtape’s Dream

Courtesy of Anglican Memes and Humour

Courtesy of Anglican Memes and Humour

In the CS Lewis’ Screwtape Letter, a senior demon writes to his junior that:

Any small coterie bound together by some interest that other men dislike tends to develop inside itself a hothouse mutual admiration and toward the outer world a great deal of pride and hatred.

Even when the little group exists originally for the enemies own purposes this remains true.  We want the church to be small not only that fewer men may know the enemy but also that acquire the uneasy intensity and defensive self-righteousness of a secret society or clique.

The church itself is of course heavily defended and we have never yet quite succeeded in giving her all the characteristics of a faction.

This now seems prophetic. Screwtape would be delighted to see the Christians who’ve become convinced they are victims of Christianophobia.

In one of the first posts on this blog I discussed how a majority of Christians believed themselves to belong to the most discriminated against community in Britain, even though statistics on hate crimes indicated otherwise.

We saw this week a particularly striking example. Premier Radio, a Christian broadcaster, was challenging a ban on airing an advert that read:

Surveys have shown that over 60% of active Christians consider that Christians are being increasingly marginalised in the workplace. We are concerned to get the most accurate data to inform the public debate. We will then use this data to help make a fairer society. Please visit and report your experiences.

Various lower courts had ruled this fell foul of the ban on political adverts on TV and Radio. Premier appealed claiming that the purpose of the advert was to not to promote a political objective but gather information. The Court of Appeal rejected this because there was an implicit political message within the advert. At no point was it suggested that a non-Christian group in an analogous position would have been treated differently. In fact, the case law on this point was developed in a case involving an animal rights group. However, in their press release relating to the judgement they still labelled this “an attack on freedom of speech for Christians.”

This is just the latest example of how the court cases tangled in the controversy over Christianophobia don’t bear out the idea that the law discriminates against Christians.

What we are hearing in the cry against imagined ‘Christianophobia’ is not a horror of discrimination but a demand for it. It assumes that Christian’s beliefs are legal ‘trump cards.’ So that rather than balancing their rights with other considerations, they should be preeminent. This reached its bizarre apogee with a former Archbishop of Canterbury – albeit George Careydemanding special courts to deal with religiously sensitive cases.

Why I found this dispiriting – and guess Screwtape would be delighted – is that this is not what the Church should be about. Surely its a distraction from its proper role of proclaiming the gospel and fighting for justice. It also seems that demanding special favours for its members will sap its moral authority.