Why Do the Fundamentalists Love Tracey Ullman Now?

Next to saddle-wearing dinosaurs, nothing gets under arch-creationist Ken Ham’s skin like the idea of anti-Christian persecution. So I guess it’s no surprise that he has eagerly embraced Tracey Ullman’s latest character. I’m not sure I understand what Ullman is doing, comedically speaking, but she has certainly picked up on one of the notions closest to the hearts of fundamentalist Protestants.

In this bit from her BBC sketch show, Ullman portrays an evangelical Christian character, Patricia Hughes. In this sketch, Dr. Hughes has totally nailed a job interview until she lets it slip that she is a Christian. The reaction is swift and sure. Hughes is suddenly seen as a “nutter” and hustled out of the room.

The radical wing of conservative evangelicals loves it. As Ken Ham crowed about the comedy sketch,

surprisingly accurate & also a reminder of what’s coming to the USA as free exercise of Christianity is already being persecuted with increasing intolerance of Christians.

Of course, Ken Ham’s persecution complex is nothing new. For generations, as I describe in my recent book about conservative-evangelical higher education, evangelical intellectuals and academics fretted that they had been unfairly shut out of mainstream academic life.

Bergman the criterion

Is Tracey Ullman joining the creationist team?

In high-profile creationist cases, too, evangelical academics have yelped about their persecution for decades. [Check out our longer ILYBYGTH treatment of the issue here.] In a 1984 book, for example, Jerry Bergman complained about his treatment at Bowling Green State University. As he warned,

As the dominant, ‘official orthodoxy’ in our public schools is evolution, those who oppose it will experience the persecution common to the minority in a dissonant religious environment. . . . Several universities state it was their ‘right’ to protect students from creationists and, in one case, from ‘fundamentalist Christians.’ . . . . This is all plainly illegal, but it is extremely difficult to bring redress against these common, gross injustices.  This is due to the verbal ‘smoke-screen’ thrown up around the issue.  But, a similar case might be if a black were fired on the suspicion that he had ‘talked to students about being black,’ or a woman being fired for having ‘talked to students about women’s issues.’

With this long history of persecution anxiety, it is no surprise that radical creationists like Ken Ham would embrace Ullman’s new persecuted-Christian character. I can’t tell quite what Ullman’s joke is—she doesn’t strike me as a Kirk Cameron type, but these sketches certainly don’t seem to be snarky toward evangelicals. Instead, they portray Ullman’s evangelical character as sympathetic and reasonable, faced with petty bigotry from secular types.

Am I missing something obvious? Is there maybe some British part of Ullman’s comedy that I’m missing? Or is she really taking the side of conservative evangelicals?