You could call it chutzpah, except they’d probably claim that word oppresses them: Conservative Christian film production companies are making not one, but two movies this year called Persecuted, to promote the myth that conservative Christians have reason to fear they are being oppressed by an evil, secularist government. At least one of them is set in the Soviet Union (clearly analogized to the modern United States), but the other is a stretch that puts even the goofiest science fiction to shame, featuring an imaginary American government that requires religious broadcasters to “present all religious points of view when presenting their own point of view.” ( There are over 4,000 religions, easily, in the world, to give you an idea of how little thought went into this script.)
It’s easy to laugh at how ridiculous these fantasies of persecution are, but what other choice do they have? Attempts to create real-life examples of anti-Christian or anti-conservative oppression are, if anything, even more laughable than the lurid attempts to come up with hypotheticals. Indeed, looking over conservative complaints about persecution, either against Christians or just against conservatives, one gets the distinct impression that what oppresses them the most is other people having basic human rights or just doing their own thing without asking conservative permission.
Here are some examples of who or what the right is claiming is oppressing them these days.
1) Gay people who want to give you their money. The past month or so saw a surge in bills racing through Republican-controlled state legislatures that would dramatically expand the protections for businesses to discriminate based on sexual orientation, by basically making illegal for people to sue. Conservatives defended these laws by invoking images of bakers and wedding photographers being forced, over their religious objections, to provide services for same-sex weddings, but the truth is that the laws were broad enough that they would have permitted things like refusing hotel accommodations or restaurant service to people perceived as LGBT.
The accidental reminders of the days of Jim Crow was enough to kill off this round of legislation, but all that did was kick off a round of whining about conservatives being so oppressed. Ross Douthat of the New York Times went into full-on whining mode. He denied he was calling it “persecution,” but that was the basic gist of his argument: Being able to berate and humiliate gay customers who try to give you their money is nothing more than “protections for dissent.” “If your only goal is ensuring that support for traditional marriage diminishes as rapidly as possible, applying constant pressure to religious individuals and institutions will probably do the job,” leaving no doubt that he believes religious liberty is about more than being able to believe what you want and speak your mind, but also about depriving other people the basic right to equal treatment on a case-by-case basis.
2) Johnny Weir’s clothes. Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski made a splash as ice-skating commentators at the Sochi Olympics because of their insight and talent, but their often-coordinated and daring outfits also garnered a ton of positive press. Except, of course, in the right-wing media, where Weir’s willingness to wear bold, fun clothes aggravated Quin Hillyer of the National Review. Feeling oppressed by Weir’s preference for statement jewelry and vintage blazers, Hillyer whined, “The problem is not that he’s homosexual; it’s that he advertises his sexuality to the extent that it makes him (his choice of makeup, jewelry, and extravagant dresses or furs) more of a story than the athletes he is supposed to cover.” As if figure skating is a sartorially somber event with nary a sequin or bright color to be seen. Hillyer also felt oppressed by Michael Sam and Jason Collins being open about their sexuality, as if no straight athlete in history ever dared bring a girlfriend or wife around, much less ogle a cheerleader.
3) Paperwork. Christian conservatives have graduated past arguing that they are oppressed by women using their own insurance to buy contraception and have moved into saying that they’re oppressed by signing paperwork attesting that they feel oppressed by said women. The federal government allows some religiously affiliated organizations to get out of offering health insurance that covers contraception, but they do have to sign a piece of paper granting them that exemption. Some organizations have filed suit, saying the mere fact of the paperwork offends them, because it would allow their employees to get contraception coverage elsewhere. At this point, it’s becoming hard for the right to deny that they seem to think employers have some kind of ownership over their employee’s private sexual choices, and that any tactic, even throwing a fit over signing a piece of paper, is acceptable to keep that ownership. If only we could all argue that simply signing paperwork was some kind of horrible violation of our human rights.
4) Hipsters who think they are so cool. Greg Gutfeld is a “libertarian” and doesn’t hold himself out as a member of the Christian right. But he’s happy to pander to right-wing persecution fantasies anyway, with his new book Not Cool: The Hipster Elite and Their War on You. How are hipsters oppressing conservatives? Apparently, those meanie hipsters are being cool at conservatives and oppressing them by making them feel like they’re maybe not as cool. You may think your Fluevogs and vinyl copy of Chromeo’s new record are just things you like, but apparently, your mere permission of these items persecutes conservatives who prefer to wear Crocs and listen to bro country. Cool people are, according to Gutfeld, destroying America “from within,” because “each day they pass judgment on those who don’t worship at the altar of their coolness.” That, or they aren’t even bothering to spare a thought for their less cool conservative brethren, but ignoring them is probably a form of persecution, too.
5) People who do what you asked them to do. Conservatives are forever on about how President Obama and liberals in general are supposedly failing young men of color by not lecturing them enough about family values and the value of hard work and taking responsibility. Then President Obama started a new initiative called My Brother’s Keeper that is meant to address many of the ways young men of color are lagging behind. For better or worse, President Obama focused on that conservative hobbyhorse of the importance of fathers when he introduced the initiative, saying, “We know boys who grow up without a father are more likely to be poor and as a black student you are less likely to read as proficient in the fourth grade.” You’d think conservatives would be ecstatic that Obama overlooked some of the complexities and implied, probably incorrectly, that there’s a causal relationship, but no. Obama taking them at their word and doing what they asked is the new form of persecution.
Jennier Rubin of the Washington Post exemplified the whininess, arguing that the program, which is an alliance between non-profits and business instead of some kind of specific government program, is racist because it focuses on young men of color. After setting up the argument that young white men are being persecuted because they don’t get to be included in a group that has higher arrest rates and lower employment rates, she then complained that the program “uses victimhood as a political weapon.” Victimhood only counts, apparently, if it’s wholly imagined.
As Alex Ruthrauff at Wonkette pointed out just last year, this same Jennifer Rubin was complaining that the Obama administration was not talking about “kids who grow up without fathers” because he’s too busy talking about “slavery or Jim Crow or whatever.” Now that he’s doing what she asked, she’s screaming bloody murder. It turns out that the best way to persecute conservatives is to do exactly what they ask of you.