On Christian Stereotypes: A (scattered) Response

Siggy wrote a thing from an atheist perspective on some stuff I’ve said about Christian reactions to the way we’re stereotyped, and that’s cool and good and I was going to leave it alone, but it’s prompted a few tangential thoughts.

…the first of which was in response to the first line of the post:

As we all know, atheists often get criticized and stereotyped as angry and militant.

I looked at this and thought, hey!  That goes for Christians too, actually.

…which may well be because may of us are angry and/or militant, arguably at a greater rate than atheists are.  So calling it a “stereotype,” in our case, feels a bit off because of that.

Still, it’s something I took notice of because that’s another huge influence that shapes how we conduct ourselves.  I don’t talk about this much since, y’know, who cares, but the way I see it, the perception of Christians somewhat takes the form of a binary:

On the one hand, you have the mean, stubborn Christian who is on a mission to evangelize and will stop at nothing to bully anyone and everyone into conversion, often ignoring (inter)personal boundaries in the process.  Cruel, manipulative, and holier-than-thou, this is the Christian who believes the end justifies the means, weaponizing Christianity as a justification to attack others and feel superior.  The modern Claude Frollo, if you will.

On the other hand, you have the sweet, simpering, naive Christian who couldn’t pour water out of a boot with instructions written on the heel.  Easy to fool and too nice for their own good, this Christian is more docile than a lamb, and they cling to Christianity as a comfort blanket whenever they can’t handle reality.

And if there’s a third category, it’s a weird combination of both.

Whenever I present myself as or reveal being Christian, I feel like I have to navigate those potential readings of myself, and while there’s sure to be pendulum swings based on time and place, most of my particular Church experience has been composed of Christians who seemed the most averse to the former archetype, focused on distancing themselves from it by emphasizing a load of liberal openness.

I want no part of that, and I don’t to swing too far in the other direction either, but it doesn’t seem like there’s any place to situate myself outside a relationship between those two.  Not in terms of shorthand and archetypes, anyway.  Christianity is deception, Christianity is exploitation, and if you’re involved then you’re either the exploiter or the exploited and which one are you?

Ugh.

I’m thinking this framework comes from the fact that pop culture needs Conflict to tell stories, and for some types of stories you need an Oppressive Societal Structure, but pop culture is, by nature, too cowardly to engage with the reality of that mess head-on and so sometimes (sometimes) the Church and Church-coded folk can make an easy cop-out stand in, characterizing them as Uptight and Wrong, naturally without getting into the relevant issues involved.  See, for instance, Happy Feet.  I’m still bitter about Happy Feet.

Anyway, onto the second thing.

One possible view is that Christians think sex is too special.  Having sex with just anyone subtracts from its specialness.

…Yes.  About that.

I’ve been meaning to share something that happened in class the other day.  It was in a discussion about Viagra commercials; we were doing some basic rhetorical analysis on a handful of clips, mostly talking about how they were heteronormative and awkward, and right before the end of class, this kid next to me — someone I’ve talked to a few times, and I like her — made a comment about how the rhetoric of the ad made sex seem… mechanical, animalistic, words like that, and took away from the specialness of it.

I’m not really sure what she was getting at (and there wasn’t time to ask), but she said it with conviction.  And as she was speaking, I turned and looked at the ring on her finger and the big, conspicuous, stylized cross on it.

…Which is all just to say, it’s kind of obvious why sex-positive feminists who say “sex isn’t bad, it’s good!” haven’t made more headway, if you ask me.

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