Want to End Christian Privilege? Reject the 'Fake Christian' Narrative

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Whenever a Christian does something bad or says something objectionable, what happens? You guessed it! Other Christians line up to claim that the offender is not a "real Christian." This phenomenon is nothing new. We've observed it more times than we can count. But this is no mere annoyance. The assumption that "Christian = good" is a core part of Christian privilege.

As annoying as some atheists find this, it is not difficult to understand why Christians would do it. Creating distance between themselves and bad behavior is appealing. It also helps to maintain the privilege they enjoy. The real puzzle is why so many atheists, humanists, and freethinkers take part.

I see it every day on Twitter. A prominent Christian says something hateful, and atheists do Christians' work for them. They fire off accusations of "so-called Christian" or "fake Christian" without thinking. They claim that the Christian was hypocritical. Have we still not realized that saying something hateful is consistent with Christianity?

Do atheists agree that Christian morality is superior to all other forms? Do atheists think that Christians are morally superior to everyone else, including them? If not, why do we continue to strengthen this harmful narrative? How is someone's bad behavior inconsistent with their religious faith? It isn't. Don't atheists know that by now?

Some bad acts committed in the name of religion might be perversions of the religion. We can leave the door open to this possibility, even while acknowledging how rare it is. Most of the time, the bad act is consistent with a religious tradition. If the offender tells us about their religious motivation, why not listen?

Christianity has a long history of violent atrocities. How surprised should we be that it is still used to justify violence? A Christian who supports violence is no less of a Christian. To suggest otherwise reveals a surprising ignorance of history. To some degree, Christians are what Christians do.

Consider what many fundamentalist Christians believe about LGBTQ persons today. Have you listened to what they have to say? Do you think anti-LGBTQ hate speech is inconsistent with their Christianity? If so, you haven't been paying attention. It is a core feature of their form of Christianity.

I can already hear the objections. The moderate Christians will claim that the fundamentalists are not Christian. But this is the same thing the fundamentalists say about the moderates. What reason do we have to think either side is correct? Christians need to sort this out for themselves.

My suggestion for the non-believers is a simple one. Stop contributing to Christian privilege. When you learn of a Christian doing or saying something objectionable, take it for what it is. A person who identifies as Christian did or said something awful. If that reflects poorly on Christianity, so be it. That doesn't mean all Christians are bad people. It means this Christian is a bad person and a Christian.

If other Christians want to disown the person, let them. But do consider the possibility that what they did or said is consistent with what they believe. Consider the possibility that it is consistent with what many other Christians believe.

Many former Christians know how hard it can be to escape from our early indoctrination. This continued buy-in to Christian moral superiority can be one we miss. Given the high cost we pay for Christian privilege, it is an important one to overcome. We should reject the "fake Christian" narrative.

"Christian" is not a synonym for "good," and we should not pretend otherwise. Many Christians do bad things. Many Christians say hateful things. This does not make them any less Christian.


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