American Christians’ persecution mentality… and the sober reality.
There’s a 2006 Sprint commercial pertinent to this discussion. I attached the video… which has been on YouTube a while, so let’s see how long it continues to stick around. The dialogue:
Stickin’ it to the Man.
- Assistant. “Is that your new Sprint phone?”
- Boss. “Uh-huh. With Sprint’s new Fair and Flexible plans, no one can tell me what to do. I can talk when, and how I want. It’s my little way of… sticking it to the Man.”
- Assistant. “But… you… are the Man.”
- Boss. “I know.”
- Assistant. “So you’re sticking it to yourself.”
- Boss. “…Maybe.”
Sprint’s sales pitch follows.
What makes this commercial funny is the idea someone in the ruling class, underneath all his success, still has a little bit of rebellion in him, getting satisfaction from the idea of resisting someone who’s got one over him.
What also makes it funny is it’s self-delusion. In fact he’s resisting no one. Sprint wants people to have their phone and data plan. They invented the packages and sell them to anyone, whether the Man or not. Hence the ad. This guy can imagine he’s sticking it to the Man all he likes, but nobody’s harmed by the fact he can spend all day on the phone. Well, depending on what he does on that phone.
By “the Man” we usually mean someone in the ruling class who can actually get consequential stuff done, even change things for the better… but doesn’t, ’cause the status quo profits him. For that matter, the Man created the status quo to profit himself, and won’t change it until he sees profit in another direction. If fighting pollution suddenly became super profitable, we’d see a whole lot of people miraculously come to believe in climate change. (The downside is the common misbelief that when something is profitable, it’s probably a scam; it’s a view which keeps the gears of conspiracy theorists spinning.)
Here’s the issue. If this dude is the Man, but he imagines someone else is the Man, you do realize he’s not utilizing any of his power to improve anything. He figures that’s someone else’s job.
It’s a common problem we have in the United States. Because we’re a democracy, we imagine everyone’s equal. And yeah, as far as votes are concerned, we are. But as far as power’s concerned, we’re not even slightly equal. Some of us wield a great deal of power: Authority, wealth, charisma, public influence, political capital. Others wield little to none. As Stan Lee famously put it, with great power comes great responsibility. Or as Christ Jesus put it, “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.”
But those who can make positive changes, who are best equipped to do and fix and improve things, don’t. Not ’cause they really can’t, or don’t care: It’s because they believe it’s not their duty. They don’t have the power. They aren’t the Man. Someone else is.
And there’s a popular mindset among Christians where not only are we not the Man, but the Man’s busy crapping all over us. The Man took prayer out of the public schools and replaced it with secular humanism. The Man took all the shout-outs to God out of the sports pages, so now we can’t tell who any of the Christian athletes are unless they blatantly kneel in the end zone (contrary to Jesus’s instructions). The Man’s trying to get religion banned from government, the workplace, and the public square; trying to get anti-Christian laws passed; trying to redirect this nation away from following God (as if it ever did follow God). We’re an oppressed minority, even though polls regularly state four out of five Americans consider ourselves some form of Christian.
Christians find it so much more satisfying, so much more fun, to imagine ourselves fighting the Man. Or the devil, or the antichrist, or whatever we imagine the Man consists of. But in so doing, we’re not being the salt and the light of the world. We’re so busy trying to stick it to the Man, we don’t realize we frequently are the Man.
So we’re sticking it to ourselves.
The head. Not the tail.
Most of the Prophets—the Old Testament books either written by or about God’s prophets—are about how God, in his great displeasure over an unjust, corrupt, spiritually apathetic Jerusalem or Samaria, was about to permit their enemies to overrun them.
The Hebrews figured they were prosperous, fairly secure, and were worshiping God enthusiastically. They had nice shiny temples with plenty of singing and sacrifices. What more could God want? But their personal piety wasn’t getting beyond the threshold of their houses and worship centers. God had had enough.
Most Christians in the United States don’t bother to read the Prophets. Well, other than the occasional prophecy which supposedly predicts Messiah or the End Times. We’re far too busy reading the fun parts of the bible. Thus we never notice how many parallels there are between the ancient Hebrews and present-day American Christians. We never notice how God’s messages through his Prophets might be applicable to a cycle that’s once again repeating itself.
Like the fella in the old Sprint commercial, we Christians don’t care to acknowledge our actual position in American society, or even the world. That we wield way more political influence than Christians in other nations. That we control way more wealth than Christians of other nations. That we have vast religious freedoms: I can go to anyone in America (door to door, if I wish) and share Jesus with ’em, with no fear of prison, no fear of getting murdered for my beliefs… and in my personal experience, a two-thirds chance the person behind the door is already Christian.
We Christians are the Man. But we’d rather think we’re not… ’cause we like being the underdog, ’cause we like to pretend we’re sticking it to the Man.
What invariably happens, as a result of “sticking it to the Man,” is we Christians look like jerks. Raging, angry jerks. Ask any pagan. (When I invite Christians to do this, half the time they respond something in the form of, “Ugh; I don’t care what pagans have to say”—which rapidly proves my point.) Whenever we Christians get to complaining about how America is so irreligious, or how secularism and non-Christians are ruining this country, the pagans don’t feel safe anymore. And why should they? We Christians have a horrific track record when it comes to pagans. We’ve been profoundly awful to them in the past. Some of us are still quite awful to them in the present: Bullying, ostracizing, belittling, slandering, cursing. There’s little but law stopping many of us from doing much, much worse.
The harsh truth is it’s not the pagans ruining this country. Like the Prophets pointed out time and again: It’s always the folks who claim we follow God, but don’t really. We focus on our own lives and comforts and rights and pleasures. Our neighbors? The poor? They can go to hell.
Eighty percent of us claim to be Christian, yet the United States has the problems we do? We can’t blame pagans for that. They don’t have anywhere near our numbers. Or power. Or influence. We are the Man. It’s our fault.
Oppressed minority, my pasty white arse.