A few days ago I noticed a few of my more conservative friends posting links to this story on Facebook and Twitter. Initially, I paid it little mind. Then, when I noticed it making it’s merry way around the blogosphere and the various news feeds, inciting outrage along the way, I decided to give it a second read. What, I wondered, was it that I missed the first time around, and why all the protest?
“…working student orientation fair for incoming freshmen … supervisor told her to remove the two-inch-long cross necklace … chancellor had a policy against wearing religious items … make incoming students feel unwelcome … as a Christian woman it is my prerogative to display my faith any way I like … so upset she left her student worker job early … state employees may wear crosses while they are performing their duties as long as the wearing does not interfere with the employees’ duties … are trying to contact Jarvis so they can apologize … Our faith was attacked … We need to band together as Christians and fight back…”
Okay, yeah, I think I’ve got it now.
A Christian was treated like everyone else and her reaction was to find a lawyer.
So, did I miss anything?
Now to be fair, I’d like to start out by saying that I do not agree with the stated policy (whether it was an official school policy or a personal guideline of the faculty supervisor) of hiding or removing religious symbols.
That being said, I think the reactions, on the part of Ms. Jarvis and many of the others involved are over-the-top, to say the least. In the first place, where is the evidence that only Christians were asked to remove their symbols of faith? Certainly, none of the stories I have read on this incident, betray a specifically anti-Christian bias. So by what standard then, is this to be considered ‘Unequal Treatment’?
Of course, in the age of the internet, we don’t need actual facts to know that there was discrimination. If you have any questions on that score, you need only look through the comments section of that same linked commentary. There you will see all manner of warrantless condemnation and hate directed at peoples and belief-systems that were not even involved in this incident.
All of which brings me to the question that I really want to ask today:
Can the Christians live, as the rest of us do, in a world that is not shaped and molded to satisfy their particular wants and expectations?
Just a couple months ago, I wrote here about how many of my fellow Pagans (and others) choose to hide the symbols of their faith from view rather than face condemnation (or worse) from friends, family and workplace supervisors. In the same post, I noted how the Wiccans, and more lately, the Asatru have finally won the right to have the symbols of their faith placed on the headstones of their fallen service members. Where then is all the outrage for the many thousands who face the same discrimination that Ms. Jarvis felt – every single day?!
“Christianity is being attacked,” Jarvis says.
Really? Because, I’ve got to tell you, most of us non-Christians just take that sort of casual discrimination for granted. When I hear statements like this, it becomes painfully obvious how little you understand the sheer depth of Christian Privilege in this country.
I am forced to wonder, Audrey, how you will react, when and if you ever feel the sting of true equality.
Yet, it is not as if I do not understand the reaction.
After all, when Christianity rose up and vanquished the ancient religion of Rome, it was not what anyone could describe as a friendly exchange of power. Given the fact that they have only their own example to go by, is it any wonder that, when things do not go their way, the Christians always seem to smell persecution and bloodshed in the wind?
The world is changing, and it may be that, in time, as the west becomes more secular in it’s outlook, the Christian will not be held up above the Pagan, the Buddhist, the Jew or the Atheist.
I understand that this potential loss of status and the corresponding reassurance that Christianity is right and everyone else is wrong, must be terrifying to those unaccustomed to such feelings.
Am I painting with too broad a brush here?
Then allow me to add some detail.
Christianity does not comprise a singular monoculture and I know many moderate Christians who are friendly to our cause and do not condone the reactionary fears of their more fervent co-religionists.
Still, I am forced to wonder, if push should come to shove, will they be true to the words of their Christ and stand with us against imposed tyranny? Or will they instead remain silent as their brethren seek to tear down that which we are trying, in fits and starts, to build for ourselves and the generations to follow.
It will take many voices from people of many beliefs to calm the rising tide of hate.
In the meantime, someone should explain to Audrey Jarvis, and to those like her, that her faith is neither contained in her cross pendant, nor is it to be found in the weeping of a spoiled child who shirks her responsibilities and goes running home to mommy and daddy when things don’t go her way.
If Ms. Jarvis is looking for an outward expression of her faith, she would do better to comport herself with humility and honor. If she so needs for others to see her faith, she could choose to display it through her kindness, her generosity of spirit, and her willingness to share the fruits of her own advantage with those less fortunate.
Faith is not something that can be taken away, but is all too easily surrendered by those who choose instead to grasp and claw at some imagined worldly privilege or superiority of the spirit.
And for our own part, for those of us who believe in different gods and creeds, we must stop hiding in the shadows. If we are to have any chance of quieting the fears of the dwindling majority, it is vital that they see us, not as some nebulous “other”, but as their co-workers and neighbors, their classmates, friends and family. We must show them, through the example of our own lives, that true faith will flourish without any of the special privileges or advantages that they have grown to expect.
Our experience will be the answer to the question they have not yet begun to ask.
It has to be. History reminds of the consequences, should we give in to fear.