Why do liberals valiantly charge forth on the topic of race, but not religion? Why do we hold our own, and everyone else’s, feet to the fire when it comes to race, but not religion? And what’s this got to do with sex, anyhow?
Much of the media coverage around the spa shootings in Atlanta, Georgia earlier this month focused on racism and anti-Asian sentiment. But there were some other conversations going on in the background about religion that seem much more relevant, and these were largely overshadowed.
The event was not, after all, a hate crime toward Asian-Americans. In fact, none of the information we have about the perpetrator points to issues of race at all, other than the ethnicity of the victims. Rather, everything we know about the shooter’s motives indicates quite clearly that it was a crime bred of the hatred of sex fostered by religious guilt and shame. The man, from an Evangelical Christian background, described himself as a sex addict and suffered from guilt and despair around temptation and overwhelming angst about possibly “falling out of God’s grace.” This is what evidently drove him to kill the objects of his temptation, not the fact that the women providing the services at the “spa” happened to be Asian.
So why did discussions of race take center stage?
For one, it’s opportunism. The emotional charge around such a tragedy makes it a prime time to put an exclamation point on the racial problem and heighten awareness while everyone is paying attention. (While “anti-Asianism” is a real problem these days thanks to Covid, it’s just not really apropos to this particular situation, which wouldn’t bother me so much if it weren’t upstaging the other real, more pertinent, problem on our hands: the psychological trauma around sexuality caused by religion.)
Another reason for public discussions to focus on race is that it’s a popular topic these days. It’s in vogue. We can sound enlightened and demonstrate our progressive woke-ness by tossing around words like “privilege” and “fragility” with the appropriate levels of self-reflection and high-mindedness. Plus you can get in on all the #hashtags and drive up your ratings.
Why Does Religion get Special Treatment?
Raising consciousness is great until it becomes something we just sport like the latest politically correct fashion. And religion is a thorny one that doesn’t fit as nicely with the liberal, progressive identity. So why exactly doesn’t it fit? I think the reason liberals don’t take on religion and really go after its problematic aspects is twofold:
Privilege: One reason is that many of us are religious ourselves, and many of us who aren’t are just not sure (agnostic), so we’ll tend to hedge our bets or zip our lips about it. It’s an existential issue of the highest caliber. We’re talking about the meaning of life here! So it’s understandable that we’d be a little stand-offish about making grand statements that contradict the purported “authorities” on the matter. It’s also reasonable that we’d try to protect everyone else’s pursuit of meaning at this level.
Nevertheless, this kind of reticence is what allows the problems imbedded in religion to keep growing unchecked, with no-one being held accountable. Rather than owning up to their responsibility in shaping the motives for mass murder, even the churches got to chime in on the racial discussions and denounce the evil deeds with an air of self-righteousness. That’s a costly copout.
To what degree is this unfolding at our own expense, and society at large? At what point do we draw the line around religion’s privilege? It’s worth spending some real quality time working diligently to get some clarity on this one.
Fragility: The other reason we don’t like going after religion is that it doesn’t jive well with the “tolerance” attitude we cherish. “Celebrating diversity” is the chant, and religion, in its multi-colored suits, is a perfect fit for that category. So, instead, religion is taken on by progressives mostly by way of giving it more privilege, and more fragility, through celebrating diversity and chafing around all “discriminatory” content. When the topic of religion comes up we all put on our rosy glasses that tone down the trouble spots that are otherwise glaring back at us. Taking on thorny issues means talking about disgruntling things. It means discomfort. It means friction and chafing.
I know that tolerance is often (though clearly not always) an earnest, heartfelt sentiment and social value. But it also has to be examined (a very positive form of discrimination) in terms of the real damage religion causes to society around sex.