Cognitive dissonance and the religious siege mentality

Wood, a Christian from Wales, asks, why does The Religious Right in the US squeal so loudly about being persecuted when in reality they are “completely in bed with the most powerful government on Earth, ” have serious financial resources, and control media conglomerates?

And yet, this voice continually reminds everyone how it’s actually on the margins. It claims that it’s a beleaguered minority, a faithful remnant beset on all sides by the hostile forces of the world.

Tell you what, lads — go hang out with some Christians in Myanmar, or Bhutan, or Armenia, or Saudi Arabia, or Palestine, or North Korea and then tell me you’re being persecuted.

The crux of the problem is, he continues, that Christianity was meant to be an outsider religion, for the underdog and the weak.

If we’re not poor and marginalised, what are we doing wrong? Do we go out of our way to become marginalised? Do we do something radical and give all our stuff away and live in a community like that one in Sheffield? Do we give it all up and risk our lives — perhaps even losing them — ministering to people far away who do not know us or care for us?

Maybe we do. Maybe Christendom is so bankrupt that it’s our only alternative.


  1. Christendom is far from bankrupt. Check out the Mennonite theologian John Howard Yoder’s book “The Politics of Jesus,” which suggests a teaching that may sound familiar to progressive activists.

    Since it entered the mainstream (about 1700 years ago) Christianity has struggled with the divergence between its serious followers (in those days, the Desert Fathers & Mothers) and the householders who want an easier path. How else can one explain Christianity’s journey, in a single generation under Constantine, from avoiding military service even when the penalty was death, to embracing military service as a Christian necessity?

    The problem is, perhaps, that there is more than one “Christianity”– one seeks power and another avoids it. IMO, power and the teachings of Jesus are mutually exclusive.

  2. I agree – Christianity and power are mutually exclusive. By “Christendom”, by the way, I mean the concept of Christian governance and culture, incidentally, which is of course all about the marriage of Christianity and power.

  3. That’s an interesting use of the word “Christendom.” I’ll have to reflect on that a while. There’s certainly a problem with names here: I hesitate to call myself Christian because that moniker so often represents the opposite of what I believe.

    Perhaps the original descriptor, Nazoreans (as used in the Gospels, not the later divergent sect), is more appropriate. Fr. Virgilio Elizondo argues that to be a Nazorean is to be an outcast from mainstream society, as Jesus was.

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