(originally posted in 2012–a rerun seems appropriate under current circumstances)
I am continually amazed by the level of fear, contempt, and anger that many educated/urban/upper-middle-class people demonstrate toward Christians and rural people (especially southerners.) This complex of negative emotions often greatly exceeds anything that these same people feel toward radical Islamists or dangerous rogue-state governments. I’m not a Christian myself, or really a religious person at all, but I’d think that one would be a lot more worried about people who want to cut your head off, blow you up, or at a bare minimum shut down your freedom of speech than about people who want to talk to you about Jesus (or Nascar!)
It seems that there are quite a few people who vote Democratic, even when their domestic and foreign-policy views are not closely aligned with those of the Democratic Party, because they view the Republican Party and its candidates as being dominated by Christians and “rednecks.”
What is the origin of this anti-Christian anti-“redneck” feeling? Some have suggested that it’s a matter of oikophobia…the aversion to the familiar, or “”the repudiation of inheritance and home,” as philosopher Roger Scruton uses the term. I think this is doubtless true in some cases: the kid who grew up in a rural Christian home and wants to make a clean break with his family heritage, or the individual who grew up in an oppressively-conformist Bible Belt community. But I think such cases represent a relatively small part of the category of people I’m talking about here. A fervently anti-Christian, anti-Southern individual who grew up in New York or Boston or San Francisco is unlikely to be motivated by oikophobia–indeed, far from being excessively familiar, Christians and Southern people are likely as exotic to him as the most remote tribes of New Guinea.
Equally exotic, but much safer to sneer at…and here, I think, we have the explanation for much though not all of the anti-Christian anti-Southern bigotry: It is a safe outlet for the unfortunately-common human tendency to look down on members of an out group. Safer socially than bigotry against Black people or gays or those New Guinea tribesmen; much less likely to earn you the disapproval of authority figures in school or work or of your neighbors. Safer physically than saying anything negative about Muslims, as you’re much less likely to face violent retaliation.
Some other factors which I think motivate some people toward the anti-Christian anti-Southern mindset…One is the fear that Christians, especially Southern Christians, are anti-science, and that Republican electoral victories will reduce Federal support for science or even lead to restrictions on scientific research. And indeed, some conservatives/Republicans have been known to make some pretty strange statements, such as Representative Paul Broun’s recent assertion that “All that stuff I was taught about evolution, embryology, the Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell.” But in realistic terms, there is far more threat to U.S. science from “animal rights” terrorists–the vast majority of whom are politically on the Left–than from anti-evolutionists. Also, there are certainly significant pressures on allowable and non-allowable topics for university research emanating from the “politically correct” Left. And numerous followers of “progressivism” are believers in various forms of mysticism, such as magical crystals and a conscious Gaia, which are at least as inconsistent with pure scientific materialism as are the Biblical miracles. At the level of practical technology, the irrational hostility toward nuclear power, genetically-modified crops, etc comes almost entirely from the Left.
Another factor is sex. Many seem to fear that conservatives/Republicans are anti-sex “Puritans,” and will force women into metaphorical (or maybe not so metaphorical!) chastity belts. Democratic Party operatives have done their best to conflate opposition to forcing institutions to pay for birth control with opposition to birth control itself. In reality, of course, no serious Republican national-level politician is remotely proposing the banning of birth control, or for that matter the banning of homosexuality. And, speaking of “Puritanism,” we should also note that the anti-male hostility emanating from certain radical feminists, who are almost entirely creatures of the Left, has done much to poison the relationship between the sexes, especially on college campuses.
Yet another factor involved in fear/hostility toward Christians is historical: it is indeed true that Christianity has often been used as an excuse for religious persecutions. Mary Antin, a Jewish immigrant who came to the U.S. from Russia in the early 1900s, wrote that pogroms in her home country had sometimes been led by priests carrying crucifixes, and it took her several years to get past an instinctual aversive reaction when passing by a Christian church. (She later became acquainted with several American priests and came to respect them for the work they were doing among the poor.) And, of course, the Holocaust was perpetrated largely by people who represented themselves as Protestants or Catholics. But in today’s world, hostility toward Israel…which more than occasionally shades off into outright anti-Semitism…is mainly generated by the “progressive” Left. Surely one is far more likely to encounter anti-Semitism among the members of the church that Barack Obama attended for 20 years than among the members of your typical Southern Baptist church or Catholic parish.
It’s important to understand history, but it’s also very dangerous to identify one’s friends and enemies based entirely on historical considerations while ignoring current realities. I read somewhere of a remote town in Russia where, at the time of the German invasion in 1941, the local Jews looked forward to the coming of the German troops. The town had been occupied during the earlier war, and the German officers of that time–only 20 years earlier–had been considerably less thuggish and anti-Semitic than the homegrown Czarist local officials. The town’s Jews, largely cut off from news of the outside world, did not realize that “German soldier” meant something different in 1941 than it had in 1914. Analogously, “Democratic politician” means something very different in 2012 than it did in 1960.
The primary factor behind anti-Christian/anti-“redneck” feelings is, almost certainly, the fact that these groups offer a convenient target for in-group solidarity and feelings of superiority at the expense of the “other.” To the extent that people not motivated by this factor are considering a vote for Barack Obama and/or other “progressive” Democratic candidates based on concerns about Christians and “rednecks,” they are prioritizing fears which are largely imaginary over dangers which are all too real.
The anti-Christian, anti-“redneck” phobias have been key contributors to the spread of the “progressive” ideology that threatens virtually all aspects of American life, from freedom of speech to national security to economic well-being.