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In defense of my people - Input Junkie
September 14th, 2010
10:25 am

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In defense of my people
In a generally excellent post about why Christians in the US should stop complaining about being persecuted in the US the following brought me up short:
Parents of minority religions school their children in silence so the children won't be taunted and harassed and teased and beaten by not only Christian children but by Christian adults, and pushed to the point of suicide. That's privilege, not persecution.

You see, I was born in 1953. I'm Jewish, which is generally considered a minority religion. I grew up in two suburbs of Wilmington, Delaware. One of them, I was told, had only recently started selling houses to Jews, and there was another suburb my parents didn't look at because it didn't sell to Jews.

I wasn't "schooled to silence" by my parents. I didn't hide my religion. We didn't change our name.

I wasn't a socially ept child, and I was in my 30's before I more or less calmed down about my height-- I'd been teased about it so much.

However-- you know how much I was harassed for being Jewish? I was called a dirty Jew. Once. I still remember the kid's name, but it was nothing like the campaign of terror described in the quoted paragraph. My mother, who was bullied by Irish kids in Philadelphia for being Jewish (probably in the 30s), never mentioned being attacked by adults.

There weren't campaigns for religious tolerance, and I don't know how Pagan or Muslim kids would have been treated-- but the lack of overt anti-Semitism seems to have been effortless.

I can't find the link, but Jo Walton asked how Jews would refer to Passover to non-Jews. My immediate thought was "Passover"-- I wouldn't expect them to understand "Pesach", and I wouldn't see any reason to hide that it was a Jewish holiday. The idea of needing to hide it made me feel queasy-- I'd never had to live that way.

None of this is to deny that there are members of minority religions, including Judaism, who are persecuted in the US-- but to talk about such treatment as though it's pervasive is just false. I don't know what would be a good way to talk about it which both gives adequate emotional weight to how bad it is when it's bad while also saying that it's not a universal experience, but I think it's a project worth working on.

This is probably a reasonable place to ask-- there are places where Christians really are persecuted for their religion, but I don't hear a big noise about it from American Christians. Am I just not listening in the right places? Or are there other reasons?

Link thanks to dcseain. Is there a way to mention lj users in a dreamwidth post so that the lj icon shows up at both lj and dw?

This entry was posted at http://nancylebov.dreamwidth.org/434187.html. Comments are welcome here or there. comment count unavailable comments so far on that entry.

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From:rm
Date:September 14th, 2010 03:02 pm (UTC)
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I'm sorry. I'm deleting my comment because I'm worried it's derailing. I'll read the discussion with interest.

Edited at 2010-09-14 03:08 pm (UTC)
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From:nancylebov
Date:September 14th, 2010 03:20 pm (UTC)
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I'm interested in what you want to say on the subject. Please email?
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From:sartorias
Date:September 14th, 2010 03:06 pm (UTC)
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Everybody's experience is going to be different, so I think it's dangerous to generalize, or to employ the word persecute. But I do know Christians who have experienced derision and contempt and the comfortable assumption that the group all shares the joke when a pejorative is spoken, within fannish circles. I know one Christian who ended up leaving Wiscon because the anti-Christian rhetoric, slangs, and jokes were so pervasive, and the context (she felt) was that every right-minded person felt so.

On the other hand, a lot of Christians who experience these things within their particular social contexts also feel that other groups have had it so much worse and for so much longer, they should suck it up (or are told to suck it up and see what it feels like) so they go silent.

I've talked about this within the safety net of Quakers and Christians and syncretists and secular humanists who don't have an axe to grind, and pretty much all agree that there is a slow but definite backlash going on due to the very things you mentioned. Maybe the pendulum has to swing back and forth a few times before it can center? I sure hope so.
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From:nancylebov
Date:September 14th, 2010 03:47 pm (UTC)
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In re pervasive anti-Christian sentiment in fandom: I almost included something about that in the post, but didn't quite. Thanks for bringing it up.

It may be relevant that there isn't even a word for prejudice against Christians.
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From:selenite
Date:September 14th, 2010 03:17 pm (UTC)
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there are places where Christians really are persecuted for their religion, but I don't hear a big noise about it from American Christians. Am I just not listening in the right places?

If you read the National Review blogs and similar conservative discussions you'll see a fair number of comments about persecution of Christians in Egypt and Pakistan. Plus gripes about the burning of Bibles not getting much publicity even when the US Army does it.
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From:vvalkyri
Date:September 14th, 2010 03:28 pm (UTC)
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I just read your linked article and it was about disposing of unrequested bibles translated into Pashto and Dari. Given that few of the American troops in Afghanistan are likely to be using Pashto or Dari bibles for their own daily use, removing the possibility that proselitization tools should get out into the populace doesn't exactly seem anti-Christian*.

Was that the article you intended to link to?

I doubt that the army will be called anti-Christian any time soon, really.

Here, US Soldiers Punished for not Attending Christian Concert.



*of the US Army, who have agreed not to support proseletization, given that if they want any cooperation from the local leaders they would do well to not take on that particular issue.
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From:vvalkyri
Date:September 14th, 2010 03:38 pm (UTC)
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None of this is to deny that there are members of minority religions, including Judaism, who are persecuted in the US-- but to talk about such treatment as though it's pervasive is just false. I don't know what would be a good way to talk about it which both gives adequate emotional weight to how bad it is when it's bad while also saying that it's not a universal experience, but I think it's a project worth working on.

I grew up in the MD suburbs of DC, where the rest of the school thanked us Jews for getting them the high holydays off. But we still also had Christmas concerts with a token dreidel song. Of course part of that is that there's not exactly a great Hannukah choral tradition.

But then I went to school in Ohio, where my college choir was also the church choir, and it was really weird to be sitting in front of a whole congregation, the only person not reciting the Lutheran Creed. This was also the first experience I had of bunches of folk proseletizing at me.

But no, I wasn't slammed, that I remember, for being a Jew.

The pagans at my second college? The Korean Christian Fellowship 'joined' them one Sabbat to join hands in a circle around them and pray for them.

My first gov't contractor job? Bibles and crosses everywhere in the main office. I did not advertise my lack of belonging.



But yes. I think the bit you quoted to is much more associated with a neopagan experience than the modern Jewish experience, at least that of the East Coast. Echoing rm, things were far more overt not all that long before - my father's college and law school both maintained quotas limiting how many Jews, and most law firms in the early 60s were closed to him.
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From:chomiji
Date:September 14th, 2010 04:12 pm (UTC)
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>>I grew up in the MD suburbs of DC<

Me too - my experiences match yours.

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From:asakiyume
Date:September 14th, 2010 04:22 pm (UTC)
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It's my impression that a lot of negativity is channeled into so-called humor these days--but humor that gets extremely caustic and derisive. I haven't seen adults mocking or persecuting children, though--in fact, the only time I've seen grown-ups expressing hate toward children has been in footage related to school integration :-(
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From:freyas_fire
Date:September 14th, 2010 05:17 pm (UTC)
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Not sure if this really fits into the discussion, but the one place where Christians were persecuted for their religion was Ireland - by other Christians. The Catholics and Protestants have been at each others throats for centuries, and the things they've done to each other, and their children, is pretty damn horrible. A good portion of that was political as well as religious, though.
Here's Wikipedia's take on it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Troubles

Found this as well, which lists current conflicts around the globe: http://www.religioustolerance.org/curr_war.htm
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From:thnidu
Date:September 15th, 2010 12:51 am (UTC)
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Surely you mean either just "one place" or "the one English-speaking place".
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From:mneme
Date:September 14th, 2010 06:39 pm (UTC)
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I grew up in NYC, so my experience isn't demonstrative, but no, I didn't experience significant antisemitism growing up.
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From:heron61
Date:September 14th, 2010 08:43 pm (UTC)
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What I think you are seeing is regional differences. When I was growing up in the suburbs of DC, my Jewish friends described experiences similar to yours. Meanwhile, a good friend of mine was growing up Jewish in Lincoln Nebraska, and talking about seeing swastikas spray painted on high school walls, kids in junior high school kids making Nazi armbands for fun, and generally experiencing truly horrid treatment.

This is probably a reasonable place to ask-- there are places where Christians really are persecuted for their religion, but I don't hear a big noise about it from American Christians. Am I just not listening in the right places?

I think that a lot of this is the fact that most strongly Christian Americans don't care or know much about other nations. However, I have run into comments about oppression of Christians in Muslim nations, much like I used to see comments about oppression of Christians in the USSR 20+ years ago - in general it just seems to be part of the "great enemy of Christianity" idea that seems to popular among such people.
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From:redaxe
Date:September 14th, 2010 11:11 pm (UTC)
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First, as a datum, I grew up in a heavily Jewish suburb on Long Island, so experienced relatively little religious persecution (being the class geek earned me most of my derision).

Second, from what I've seen, there's been some amount of maturation (emotional as well as physical) in fandom. There used to be a strongly anti-Christian sentiment at cons. Now, there's an understanding that not all Christians are automatically the rabid right-wing narrowminded fundamentalist sort that is the negative stereotype.

In fact, over the past several years, that's happened online, as well, with the introduction of at least two terms ("Christianist" and "Levitican" -- the latter of which is IIRC by John Scalzi) intended to separate that stereotype from more understanding Christians. I know I find it helpful to have a shorthand of that sort, especially when speaking to my friends who understand that I don't mean all Christians when I use them.
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From:captain_button
Date:September 15th, 2010 12:45 am (UTC)
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I'm going to "me 2" redaxe here, although mine wasn't a heavily Jewish suburb. I can't say I've ever gotten any kind of flak or abuse personally for my religion/ethnicity.

I also agree about fandom in general, although I've been out it for the last decade.

I do recall one case in a fandom-related group where one Christian woman was eventually semi-formally asked to leave and not come back over religion. She would freak out and go on a tirade over things like the Hitchhiker's guide mention of the "Where God Went Wrong" fictional books. I agreed with the action at the time, although now I'm feeling a bit guilty about that.
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From:gildedacorn
Date:September 15th, 2010 01:23 am (UTC)
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> but on the East Coast it seems to have diminished a whole lot (over the last twenty years (suddenly I feel old)).

Yes and no. It's diminished a whole lot in the SCA, but in science fiction fandom it's still alive and kicking.

>My response to it was to quietly make myself more visible, so that folks might remember to target their comments more specifically to relevant subsets of Christianity, and remember that someone they like and respect is a Christian (and on occasion verbally complain about stereotypes). Even when people were doing this around me, they were usually quick to add a "well, not you" or an "okay, not all Christians" (with the unspoken, "but still most," after that) ... though there was one friend who was so invested in her idea that "Christians are annoying and small-minded" that she could only decide I must not be a "real Christian", rather than accepting the notion that there could be a non-obnoxious Christian. *sigh*
>

*nods and sighs*

And, as someone elsewhere has pointed out, it's considered socially acceptable and funny, in fandom, to make rude remarks about Christians, whereas about any other group it would be objected to.
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From:nancylebov
Date:September 15th, 2010 11:03 am (UTC)
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Nitpick: I don't think there's ever just one prejudice left. Depending where you hang out in fandom you can find groups where it goes without saying (except that it keeps being said) that [liberalism|conservativism|libertarianism] is so obviously wrong that holding those beliefs constitutes a character flaw.
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