What My Latest Research on Christianophobia Means
We have to think creatively about how we can economically flourish in a post-Christian society.
Often when I write on Christianophobia, I point out that the people who display this type of bigotry are more likely to be white, male, educated and wealthy than others. Your average Christianophobic is socially more powerful than your average homophobe, racist or sexist bigot. Without dismissing the damage that those who hate LGBT, racial minorities or women can do, those who hate Christians have a position in society from which small numbers of people can do disproportionate damage.
Recent research of mine has brought this issue into sharper focus. According to my work, it wasn’t always the case that those with Christianophobia were markedly wealthy. But the group with this sort of bigotry has become wealthier than average over the past decade or so.
The increase many are feeling in anti-Christian bigotry isn’t the result of more people hating them. It’s the effect of having more powerful people hating them, and wielding that power against them.
Income is one of several well-studied predictors of anti-Christian animosity. Other such predictors include education, political progressiveness, being non-religious, white and male. The influence of income at this point is less than these other factors, but still high enough to matter even after those other variables are statistically accounted for. Other things being equal, higher income is related to less emotional warmth towards conservative Christians. The effect appears to stand alone, to some degree at least. It can’t entirely be explained by income’s correlation with education, race, or any other of these factors.
One reason I study Christianophobia in the United States is that hardly any other scholar does so. I remain convinced that if we do not understand this type of religious bias, we will not fully understand what is happening in our society. To this extent, my latest findings also provide insight into the current culture wars.
Many believers have complained about the increase of anti-Christian bias in our society. The fact is, in my research I’ve found no evidence that it has been increasing in raw numbers. But I have found a shift in its locus, moving toward increasing social power among those who hate conservative Christians. While being white, male and highly educated puts one in an excellent position to have social power, having wealth really increases the damage one can do to others. So the increase many are feeling in anti-Christian bigotry isn’t the result of more people hating them. It’s the effect of having more powerful people hating them, and wielding that power against them.
Look at the recent boycotts aimed at states that want to protect religious freedom. These boycotts have been engineered by the heads of powerful institutions such as the NFL, Disney, Angie’s List and so on: economic powerhouses who have shown their ability to force the government to limit its protection of Christians. It may make it seem like this represents more anti-Christian animosity, but what’s really going on is that those with animosity have more power to harm.
This means there has been a sea change in this cultural struggle. Powerful economic interests have swung their weight behind anti-Christian tides. There was a time when one could argue that business, especially big business, was supportive toward Christians. Now big business seems more bent on harming Christian efforts than supporting them. My latest research reinforces that argument.
This leads to a very important implication: Big business is not the friend of Christians. With notable exceptions, of course, the wealthy do not support conservative Christians.
Some people like to paint the current cultural struggle as one of powerful Christians versus victimized others. As it concern economic power, this is the opposite of the truth. Today Christians working to retain a public voice do so at an economic disadvantage. I see no reason to expect this disadvantage to disappear in the near future.
Strategically, then, trying to use financial resources to overcome Christianophobia is doomed to fail. It’s aiming straight at their point of greatest strength.
But this does not mean that Christians should simply give up doing what we can do. We can build up economic enterprises within our own communities. As much as possible, we can cut back our reliance on powerful economic institutions. We can try to stop supporting their political interests and look more towards local, and smaller businesses whenever possible. After all, why give more money to those who want to use their financial resources to harm you?
We have to think creatively about how we can economically flourish in a post-Christian society. We’ve just entered into this new territory, and I have no idea what may come of this creative thinking. Yet I hope that by recognizing these new economic realities, we’ll be motivated to kick off a discussion on new directions we can take.
And realistically it isn’t such new territory after all.
Throughout world history it’s been fairly common for Christians to be the economic out group. Many Christians of color have learned how to live in a society where there are power economic groups who oppose them. As we enter into conversations on how to strengthen our communities and our economic institutions, we would do well to consider the resourcefulness of those groups. There’s a lot we could learn from them.