Conservative Christians Aren't Bogeymen

A diverse group of young adults at church.

As I get older, I find I have less and less patience for willful ignorance, especially when it manifests itself in ways that lead to broad and false generalizations about, and against, the supposed motives, beliefs, or proclivities of others.

So when I see the headline here at PJM Faith that “Three in ten secularists fear conservative Christians are a threat to their physical safety,” I have zero empathy for those three in ten who believe such an idiotic – yes, idiotic – thing.

The reason these fearful secularists do not even merit the respect inherent in empathy, or even mild sympathy, is that their ignorance is either willful or wildly negligent. Their fears are so obviously wrong, and so easily made to look foolish, that it is indeed a mark against their character that they hold such beliefs.

Granted, fear of the unknown is an emotion that stems not from rational analysis, but from something atavistic in the human psyche. Fear is primal, and thus in many situations is excusable even if mistaken.

Yet – and this is important – primal fears that can be excused in an immediate moment of conflict or apparent crisis can and should, upon reflection, be jettisoned rather easily if the fear is based on obvious falsehoods. If you’re afraid that a thrown foam ball will hurt you like a thrown baseball will, for example, your fear should go away as soon as the foam ball hits you.

We have a special responsibility to assess and manage our own fears if they lead us to think the worst about, and thus leave us open to acting in detrimental ways towards, other individuals or groups. To persist in holding fears about others even if the fears are demonstrably and laughably false is to commit gross negligence or worse.

All of which leads us back to this survey showing that a third of secularists are literally, physically afraid of conservative Christians. What this is, is the persistence of ignorance and bigotry despite a complete and utter lack of reason for them – indeed, in the face of copious evidence that the very opposite of such fear is actually warranted.

Evangelical Christians are by far the most generous of all Americans in terms of charitable giving or volunteer work. Far more of them donate, and they donate far larger percentages of their income – regardless of income levels. They even tip servers more generously than non-evangelicals.

And people in conservative states give more than people in liberal states, while the Philanthropy Roundtable reports that “people who volunteer at secular organizations are a bit undergiving.”

Charity, of course, doesn’t necessarily preclude violence, but it isn’t likely that the same people moved to generosity will be serious physical threats to others.