This list of 2008’s Top 10 Christian Bashers from the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission is, to be frank, ridiculous on its face. The vast majority of my brain looks at stuff like this, sighs and moves on, because…what can I say? Most of it is all too predictable, though a little discouraging.
The part of my brain that won’t move on from this particular article, however, is the one that was stopped short by countdown items number 3 and 2. Back-to-back, we’re told that Barack Obama’s declaration of his Christian faith is an act of “defamation” while it was Sarah Palin’s mere self-identification “as Christian” that led to her being heinously attacked. The leap in logic is immediately apparent – we’re expected to accept that Christians are being persecuted by the left simply for stating that they are Christian while simultaneously getting outraged about the overwhelming support and electoral victory garnered by a man who dares to call himself a Christian.
For the most part, this is still depressingly predictable. I find it a little odd, however, that despite the placement of these two items next to each other, the authors seem to have missed the connection between them. I do recognize that without this “oversight”, a great deal of the persecution complex becomes untenable, so I guess I just expected some more significant rhetorical tricks to attempt to cover up the parallel. The thing about the Christian faith is that self-identification is (debatably, I know) among the most important markers of who is and who is not in the group. I’m no scholar of world religions, but what understanding I do have of others suggests that the importance placed on declaration of beliefs is significantly stronger in Christianity (anyone who is a scholar of comparative religions – or really, anyone more familiar with the topic than little ol’ me – can feel free to correct me here, or help me to modify this position). Certain kinds of behaviours matter, of course, and there’s the idea that genuine commitment to Christ will lead towards a specific path – though which specific path varies with sect, with cultural context, with C/church and even with individual practitioner. Even if some (on both the left and the right) wish to place specific limitations, using whatever historical and biblical criteria they deem most relevant, on who is entitled to self-identify as “Christian” without reproach, the point remains that, anthropologically speaking, a person pretty much “becomes” a Christian by publicly declaring themselves Christian (usually through an act of baptism).
I’ve been hesitant to confess that I’ve actually been struggling with that self-identification for quite some time now, and while I hate to admit it, this kind of bullshit article really doesn’t help. I don’t think it’s my own beliefs that have been shifting so much as my understanding of the implications of the words and labels, especially as the readings I’m doing in my academic life continue to point out ever-more-intensely horrifying layers of those implications. Some of this line of thinking takes me in a more personal direction that I’m up for going in this particular post, but in addition to being stupidly busy, I suspect that this struggle might be keeping me from blogging more than I’d like. There’s a weird dynamic of self-identification connected to blogs, which lend themselves so well to categorization and Ven diagrams of collaboration and contact, but less well to shifting positions and permeable labels.
I don’t have a point of closure for this highly meandering post, except to say that it’s kind of a way of dipping my toe into some personal waters in that oh-so-strangely intimate-yet-distant venue of the blogosphere.