Feed ‘Em to the Lions!


Are Christians persecuted in American culture? Two sociologists say yes. Elite attitudes, David Williamson and George Yancey say, are dominated by a vicious self-righteous “Christianophobia.”

In the pages of the Christian Post, Yancey lays out the argument of his recent book, So Many Christians, So Few Lions. There are plenty of Christians around, they say. But among certain influential elites, they noticed “unnecessary vitriol and fears” about evangelical Protestantism.

Do YOU feel persecuted?

Do YOU feel persecuted?

The problem, Yancey explained, is that this particular form of bigotry does not see itself as bigotry. Anti-Christian elites tend to see themselves as anti-bigots, fighting the forces of religious obscurantism. As Yancey put it, Christianophobes think

Christians are ignorant, intolerant and stupid individuals who are unable to think for themselves. The general image they have of Christians is that they are a backward, non-critical thinking, child-like people who do not like science and want to interfere with the lives of everyone else.

But even worse, they see ordinary Christians as having been manipulated by evil Christian leaders and will vote in whatever way those leaders want. They believe that those leaders are trying to set up a theocracy to force everybody to accept their Christian beliefs. So, for some with Christianophobia, this is a struggle for our society and our ability to move toward a progressive society. Christians are often seen as the great evil force that blocks our society from achieving this progressive paradise.

The authors note that there is also a good deal of bigotry toward atheists. It is the elite status of the anti-Christian bigots, they say, that makes it so troublesome. It is difficult to get elected to public office as an atheist, they note, because so many average voters dislike atheism. On the other hand, Christianophobia might cause Christians to have a harder time winning scholarships and admission to elite universities, where Christianophobes dominate.

Even for non-evangelicals like me, it is easy to see some intuitive truth in these claims. At a big public university like mine, it might be difficult for conservative evangelicals to avoid certain dismissive attitudes among their professors or colleagues.

Poll data also suggests some truth to these anti-Christian claims. Consider the results of a 1993 Gallup poll, for instance, in which 45% of respondents admitted they had a “mostly unfavorable” or “very unfavorable” view of “religious fundamentalists.”  Or a similar Gallup finding from 1989, in which 30% of Americans admitted they would not like to have “religious fundamentalists” as neighbors.

Such poll results, one might object, do not fairly specify the meaning of “fundamentalist.”  The folks answering such questions might have objected to living next door to Osama bin Laden as much as they did to Jerry Falwell.  The 1993 poll, for instance, found that only 25% of respondents had a “mostly unfavorable” or “very unfavorable” view of “born-again Christians” in general.  And in the 1989 poll, even 24% of the respondents who identified themselves as “evangelical” said they would not want to live next door to a “religious fundamentalist.”

Consider also, the work of prominent sociologist D. Michael Lindsay. In his 2007 book Faith in the Halls of Power, Lindsay interviewed hundreds of Christians in influential positions. If these religious folks are our leaders, we might ask, where is the Christianophobia Yancey and Williamson warn against?

Leave a comment


  1. Donna

     /  February 9, 2015

    I thought he was talking about hostility and vitriol, not persecution.

  2. Kelvin

     /  May 14, 2015

    Your complaint about the meaning of the poll result regarding “fundamentalists” is anachronistic. In 1993, not to mention 1989, no one knew who Osama bin Laden was. Islamic fundamentalism was essentially unknown to the general population; “fundamentalism” was applied solely to the Christian variety (which is, of course, where the term originated, with the publication of “The Fundamentals” in 1909).

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