There’s a stink in the air, the putrid smell of Christian elitism framed as “religious freedom.”
The Christian right in America has been successfully bullying non-religious and religious minorities for centuries. From the colonization of this country to the civil rights and the ERA, Christians (particularly white Christians) have attempted to keep power by using cherry-picked verses of sacred text to cry foul on their neighbors and friends.
Prop 8 was the latest in a series of organized movements with a goal to shape legislation that limits citizens’ rights, all in the name of God and family. While 8 has been repealed and SCOTUS has ruled in favor of justice and equality, there is still a zeal around marriage equality. The World Congress of Families (which has been named a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center) is scheduled to hold a conference in Salt Lake City Utah this week. I am disappointed that leaders of my church would associate with political lobbyists who aim to serve a very select constituent.
Several thoughts flooded my mind as I read about the upcoming conference; the first was about prop 8. One of the many unfortunate outcomes of prop 8 is how the Black church in America was used as scapegoat. There is a specific type of family that prop 8 serves to “protect” and it certainly isn’t the black family. Campaign organizers sold their agenda to many local congregations and they were gaining momentum. It took major black religious leaders (Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, etc.) to turn things around across the nation.
Top community leaders including the NAACP saw how the black church was being used to serve in a Christian elitist white-supremacist agenda.
I see The World Congress of Families in a similar light. They are willing to use anyone with a platform for their purpose. I believe the LDS church (my church) is being caught in that crossfire. I know that Mormons have done deplorable things in order to gain entrance into the Christian elite in America. I think we believe naively that we have arrived, but the truth is that we will always be an outsider–the “red headed step child” (who grew up to be wealthy) that will never full be accepted. Many Christians believe that we are a cult!
We are being used to support a cause that likely has no intention of protecting us. Because Mormons have a history of being persecuted, we have a bit of a complex. Trauma of sorts. So when it seems that our freedom or rights are being attacked, we can be highly reactive.
In recent years there have been numerous public statements and lessons over the pulpit about religious freedom and defending the faith. Just this past week in Sunday School, our lesson was on defending our religion. My jaw was on the ground much of the hour due to the incredibly obnoxious and counterproductive comments I heard. It was clear that my peers truly believe we are in a War, and must battle at all costs to “protect” our freedom.
- Just because someone disagrees with you does not mean they are attacking you.
- Just because someone would like to receive the same protection under the law does not mean they are attacking you.
- Just because someone wants to protect and preserve their “non-traditional” family does not mean they are attacking you.
I have found that being religious has the potential to secure more rights than people who are non-religious. Let’s say, for instance, that I prefer not to work on Sunday on the religious ground that it is a holy day, and my coworker wants Sunday off to golf. Take a guess at who will get the day off.
The way religious freedom is being framed today serves White Christians. White Christians aim to protect their position of power. A position which was gained through the theft of land and genocide of Native Americans and built on the backs of millions of kidnapped Africans. This is far from preserving freedom for all. Until I get a day off for Eid or Chanukah or Niche’s birthday, we haven’t even begun to consider freedom for all.
Mica McGriggs is a doctoral candidate, womanist, activist, Mormon, scholar, therapist, seeker of truth, light, and fun!
This article was adapted with permission from her post on Huffington Post Religion Blog.