Monday, January 11, 2021

Paranoia, Another Thought

There is a difference between being part of the majority culture, with no obvious oppressions coming your way, and part of any minority culture, where the sense of people being against you has some basis in reality.  I was in a conversation about an evangelical couple who have been in a bunker mentality for many years, resentful of an unsympathetic surrounding culture and very quick to interpret actions as intentionally undermining their faith and culture and making it harder to practice. That they add to this by their personalities is obvious, as not all evangelicals have this impression and act like this. Still, I have some sympathy. I worked in an entire culture that was generally disapproving of evangelical Christians. I was one of the few evangelicals working there, and because we always had enough work to do that long conversations about beliefs were uncommon, people usually defaulted to the belief that I was politically liberal and not religious, because that's what most people in the building, especially social workers, were.

I was thus somewhat in disguise, and people would say things unguarded, thinking there was no one but their own present. I got to hear many express anything from mild disapproval to complete disdain for Christians. There were even those who would say such things even suspecting/knowing that I was such a one, though not many, even over a forty year career. Yet I would at times be in daily contact with one or more coworkers who had issues and felt obliged to be insulting. Additionally, and worse, when one of those were present it was much more likely to walk into a conversation and have to pretend I had not heard the last statement being made by others talking with them, occasionally a person who I had thought a friend.  It doesn't take many statements from a person - like maybe only one - before you think you are on The Other Side from them.  It doesn't take too many overheard conversations before you think "There are a lot of people against me here."

I will not be discussing what my responses were over the years, other than to note that they varied according to situation and severity. I was mindful of people I had known who had it much worse - Romanian Baptists, for example - yet kept a loving attitude, and when I was younger and a better Christian I tried to emulate them.

There are plenty of other categories under which people can have this experience. There has been a lot of political pushback from groups who experienced it so consistently that they believed it affected their hiring, promotion, and general work environment. Those we are very familiar with, and their stories are often in the news. But the human need to create in-groups and out-groups means that it is likely to show up anywhere. 

Now to the new thought: paranoias often take the form of believing there is a small group which is pulling the strings and spoiling it all. Taken in the context of having many against you, it might actually be a hopeful attitude to believe that it is only a few spoiling things, and if they could be prevented the rest of the population might not be so against you. Because I have known enough people who express ugly stereotypes about my groups and am quite certain that they do not actually know many of us, I have believed something like this about media influence.  "The media" is a large category, not one we could think of as a small coterie like an Illuminati or New World Order, yet it is still only a few percent of us, and I have often thought that if they did not create and perpetuate inaccuracies, there would be a lot less rancor in the society at large. Then also, there are smaller groups in media which are more influential, which does often draw the greatest ire.

I recall Al Gore asking Tony Campolo about evangelicals decades ago "Why do they hate us?" Campolo, who shared his politics, of course went into an analysis that laid most of the blame at the feet of the evangelicals, and he came back to Christians with that conversation as an accusation. Yet I knew the answer without drawing breath: "Because you hate us. We didn't start the fire." (I have written in the past my evidence for who started the fire, founded on the biographical fact that I used to live among them and help start the fire.) That the powerful people would be so suspicious and accusing of the less-powerful who don't like them has a chilling quality to it.

The alternative to believing that it is the hidden few who are against you might be to believe - rightly or wrongly - that it is the many who hate you.  That's a heavy burden to carry.


Thos. said...

"If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you."

I've known for a long time that it's not a "hidden few" that are against us. At times, I'll try to convince myself to believe that it's not as bad as all that. But of course, it IS that bad.

james said...

Presumably those in power who are trying to wield it are sensitive to opposition--no matter how small the group may be.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Yes, if power is your measuring stick you are going to be always watching your back

Grim said...

My Turkish friends explain it this way: political Islam presents very differently when it is the minority than when it is in the majority. In the minority it is clear about injustice and meekly asks for rights. In the majority it exerts its own view of justice and issues few or no rights.

I’m not sure Evangelism does it better, having grown up in Georgia with the Baptists ascendant.

Christopher B said...

james, According to some things Steve Hayward is hearing, you might be right.

It maybe the lack of police presence on Wednesday last was a tacit admission by the opposition that they recognized Trump rallies have only resulted in sporadic violence to date, and it represents a significant change that this one did.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Yes, we all behave differently when we have the whip hand, it seems

Texan99 said...

It's a mistake to underestimate the world's fear of how Christians behave when they have the whip hand. Only recently have many of us in the West had to worry about how Muslims or atheists behave in power, but we've all been brought up on centuries of stories about the Inquisition, the Thirty Years' War, Oliver Cromwell, the Salem witch trials, and the Scopes Monkey Trial. In the last century, an alternative narrative has developed with the Cultural Revolution, the Killing Fields, the KGB, the Taliban, and ISIS, but all that horror happened in other places, while many Americans still hate and fear the Church Lady who scolded them in their childhoods.

ErisGuy said...

On fearing the church lady: I wonder how many years, then, until the British fear the Moslem slavers who prostitute their daughters?