Christian privilege, the white evangelical persecution complex, & the Ground Zero Cross: a guest post

This post was originally submitted at the Political Jesus Tumblr, here’s a link if you would like to submit a post or a topic suggestion: PoliSyFyJesus Suggestion Box on Tumblr

“Harry Samuels is a student at UNC Asheville majoring in Environmental Management & Policy. He’s also very much obsessed with this Jesus guy – his politics, religious sensibilities, and the implications his teachings have for existential reality. Having been born in sunny Charleston , SC and raised in verdant Richmond, VA, he has spent his life in the American South- where many less-than-flattering portrayals and ideas of Jesus seem to prevail. Still, though, he has managed to “hold on to what is good” and seeks to explore , find, and maximize the intersection that lies between following Christ, sustainability of this gem of a planet, and environmental ethics.”

why the Ground Zero cross fiasco has nothing to do with “defending” the cross


Recently, as I was idly scrolling along my newsfeed on Facebook, I happen to come across an image that, initially, struck me as prudent and ought to warrant a genuine concern from anyone who is a true follower of Christ. However, after the initial shock and some more thought, I realized that this graphic annoyed me more than anything precisely because it was shared by a friend of mine that I’m sure felt that she was being particularly prudent or watchful in posting it – like she was “warning her brothers and sisters in Christ” of the threat imminent to Christians in America. I am also sure that she and many others shared this image with the same rationale. What is this image you ask? –

As the title of this post might suggest, I am annoyed and frustrated by this image for a number of reasons.

I. This image and the rhetoric employed in the text seems to be one that further perpetuates what has come to be known as the white evangelical persecution complex. Being a white Christian (male…especially if you’re deemed attractive) is perhaps the most ideal set of non-monetary descriptors a citizen of the U.S. can enjoy. This is not to say that all in this category have an easy life or are not disadvantaged in some way, but I will say that very little of the difficulty one with such characteristics in American society would face would be because of these descriptors. Christians( of all races) enjoy the privilege of having their sacred holidays be national holidays in addition to being able to re-locate to virtually anywhere in the country and have the luxury of being able to find a place of worship. As Mr. Fred Clark of the Slacktivist blog brilliantly states in his post on the very same issue,”this is delusional, and the delusion is doubly cruel. It is cruel, foremost, to the people who are actually marginalized and disenfranchised — who are being denied full and equal participation in society because they do not conform to the majority beliefs.” In fact, this brilliant post is far more in-depth on this issue than I intend be and for this reason, I’ll place the link to the post here along with a recommendation that you read it: Do white evangelicals have a delusional persecution complex?: Barna says yes and provides quantifiable proof at Slacktivist

II. Not only is the idea behind this “crusade for the cross” delusional, politically, but it’s theologically problematic. To defend the Ground Zero Cross under the moniker of being a “follower of Christ” , one is presented with the quintessential questions of “ …So what exactly would taking this cross down do to my faith? What would this do to my ability to follow Christ, the one true, risen Son of God who came to redeem the world with His love? What does the Ground Zero Cross have to do with God’s mission in the world?” I would beg to argue that the answer to all of three of these questions is a resounding ZILCH/NADA/NOTHING! For one thing, I can’t help but think about how majority of the time , these “warriors for Christ” aren’t even thinking about the Ground Zero Cross – which , in itself, shows how little this really means to their faith, despite the almost awkward sense of urgency this image conveys. Secondly, when you’re fighting harder for a crafted, symbolic , traditional representation of Christianity harder then you’re fighting for the lowly, the forgotten, the marginalized…ya know, those who are ACTUALLY being persecuted by the systematic and institutionalized injustices of laws and philosophies of the majority and those in power, that registers to me as a bit more as idol worship. This image perpetuates a mentality that has been used against the Christian faith by many (and rightfully so) – the notion that Christianity is an “us against them” sort of faith. With love being the greatest commandment of Christ, I find it a better “defense of the cross” to sympathize with the fact many of the lives lost in the 9/11 tragedy may have been atheists or relatives, friends, or loved-ones of atheists. Perhaps instead of seeing this cross as some sort of representation of Christ on earth that’s actually accommodating the brokenness, these atheists see it as recognizing the timeless tradition of Christianity in America as somehow being the most accurate portrayal of the hurt that they feel/felt that tragic day. Maybe if more of these “Christians” spent time trying to represent the Christ alive in them and that lives among the body of Christians, they’d realize the futility and absurdity in their vain effort to defend this idol of religious traditionalism. Therefore, in my estimation, to defend the atheists and share their burdens would be the best “defense of the cross”.

1 Corinthians 6:19 – “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own”

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