August 19, 2015

Are Christians More Moral Than Everyone Else?

Fran├žais : Dessins de Martin van Maele. Illust...
Dessins de Martin van Maele. Illustration de La Grande Danse macabre des vifs, 1905. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In the U.S., Christianity is frequently equated with morality. Christians are assumed to be more moral than the rest of us simply because of their Christianity. This assumed link between morality and Christianity is quite explicit for some people (e.g., the evangelical fundamentalists who derive so much joy from threatening others with their imagined hell). For many others, it is more implicit. That is, it is not something about which they regularly think but more of a background factor. Along with many other implicit beliefs, it forms what we might label as Christian privilege. This presumed link between Christianity and morality is undoubtedly the source of much bigotry aimed at non-Christians and secular persons.

One of the many ways to expose this link, which can be valuable in the cases where it is implicitly accepted without question, involves examining how members of the news media report on stories involving Christians committing criminal acts. Back in 2005, an intriguing headline came to my attention: La. Town Stunned by Church 'Child Sex Ring'. Since I live next to Louisiana, it had even more relevance than it might have otherwise, prompting a brief post at the time.

The story concerned allegations of Satanic ritual abuse by a Christian pastor, his wife, a sheriff's deputy, and several others. Child rape and murder, animal sacrifice, bestiality, pentagrams drawn in blood, and who knows what else were said to have been happening inside this small town church. How much of this really happened? Was this yet another example of Christian hysteria, or was there more to it? There was a confession, disturbing testimony, a guilty plea, and seven defendants were convicted of sexually abusing three children. And yet, it sounds like the prosecution focused on something far more ordinary than Satanic ritual abuse: the sexual abuse of children.

According to Steven Ward's 2014 post in The Daily Beast,
All these years later, it’s still unclear if the devil worshipping and occult details that were given to detectives ever actually happened. There was no physical evidence, such as the existence of pentagrams on the floor or buried remains of sacrificed animals, presented at Lamonica’s trial.
We may never know whether the Satanic elements alleged ever happened, and I'm not sure it matters to anyone besides the local Christians. The child sexual abuse for which the convictions were handed down seems more than bad enough.

In my 2005 post, I highlighted something a former sheriff's deputy said about his previous partner, one of the people about whom these awful allegations had been made.
"He seemed real Christian," Dapprich said. "He never cursed. When we went out to eat, he'd bow his head and say his prayers."
This is the sort of thing we see again and again in news reports of crimes committed by Christians. It does not seem to matter how many crimes are committed by Christians or how awful many of the crimes are; we hear this repeatedly. Being a Christian seems to have very little to do with one's propensity to commit crimes.

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