This week I received a funding solicitation email from a conservative Christian organization with the following justification for their plea for support:
... The church is being marginalized by a culture that is increasingly accepting homosexuality and same-sex marriage...
While I don't want to deny that groups such as this are feeling marginalized, I argue that what is being experienced is not marginalization, but the repercussions of new reality of their influence and dominance on larger cultural conversations and direction setting. Society is no longer willing to sit idly by and allow the conservative Christian view to be the unquestioned social moral compass and other people of faith are no longer willing to abdicate the Christian voice to this particular narrative.
This is not marginalization, it's called accountability.
Change is hard for anyone, so in some ways I do feel for folks who are experiencing change that feels so much out of their control. That said, it is one thing to have compassion and understanding for a person as they feel the decline in their sphere of influence and hold on to power, but is quite another thing to respond to that feeling in a way that validates the realities of the power and influence that still remains. After all, as you can see from the map, more and more states are banning same-sex marriage, so to cry marginalization rings a bit hollow.
Sociologists and pundits could argue the meaning of marginalization, but when I think about marginalized people, I think of those who are kept in a cycle of poverty because of predatory financial practices, those who have poor educational opportunities because of the state of public education, anyone for whom their civil rights are determined by a majority vote and so on and so on. When I think of marginalization, I do not think of religious communities who are simply having their religious views challenged, are no longer able to dictate moral social norms and are just plain loosing influence.
Now if, as a country, we vote to pass a Constitutional Amendment banning preachers like Pastoral Charles Worley, it might feel great, but this would be one step towards marginalizing conservative Christians. Thankfully, we live in a country where people can speak their mind, no matter how distasteful and dangerous I may find it. They must deal with the consequences of their words, but they can still say them. Ban the ability for a preacher to speak his/her your mind in a house of worship that and then maybe, just maybe, the marginalization banner can be raised.
Call it "losing influence," call it a "soul-losing moral defeat," but don't call it "marginalization."