Nov 22, 2013

The Vocal (Christian) Minority

By Felicia Woodard

We all say the same thing. Not all Christians are alike. Not all religious people are alike. I believe it and I know it. There are wonderful people in my life that prescribe to various religions and they are kind and selfless - warm, giving, individuals, as well as progressive thinkers. Yet, why is it that rhetoric such as those in the image to the left are so prevalent when defining Christians and Christianity today?
I believe that it’s because the vocal minority has been allowed to speak for the group. What is the vocal minority? I define it as the small sect within any group, not just a religious one, that is vocal, prominent, and consistent about what they stand for no matter how indifferent. This group typically doesn’t share the same views as those of the majority, but because they are consistent and loud, they are able to misrepresent the rest.
So the question today is not “Why are there so many vocal extremists?” but instead “where is the majority to speak against these actions?” 
From people of various faiths or of no faith, I have learned that one of the issues many have with Christians (at least within the West) is the perceived lack of concern for society.  Christians are oftentimes viewed as narrow-minded and unconcerned with issues of social-justice.  For example, those that are in poverty and in a lower class system, leading to systematic trends like abortion, teen pregnancy, and drug abuse may be hesitant about a church’s willingness to accept them or help them.  We often see Christians speak out against homosexuality or Planned Parenthood giving abortions, yet poverty, police brutality, sexual assault, domestic violence, racism, and natural disaster response, are not hot topics to rally around.  Note that I'm not stating that churches don't care about these things; they are simply not “hot topics” for the people or the media.
Granted, there are countless church and faith-based groups that do humanitarian & social work.  I have personal experience with ministries that help rehab drug addictions and give to those in need.  My ability to go to Haiti after their natural disaster was ministry based.  Yet, the media loves to show negative and sensational things because it gets spins and ratings.  News media helps to perpetuate stereotypes of various communities, including the religious. 
Yet, even though I personally know individuals and churches that are concerned with social justice, I believe that we should still have some accountability. Why? Because the silence of the majority makes it seem as though hateful behavior is condoned.  When a small group filled with hate and ignorance is allowed to speak for the majority without accountability, the positive work of the larger group is then overshadowed.  That vocal minority becomes the representation for the whole group.
The 1st Amendment - Right to Free Speech - should be respected for all, but energy can still be used to openly disapprove of hateful rhetoric, whether it is as a collective, or in our individual lives.  In laymen’s terms, a church may donate money for the Houston homeless; however, when a Pastor discriminates someone and does not allow them to work at his church, this should make the news. All Christians should rise up and speak out against him.  As Desmond Tutu once said, “…hate has no place in God’s house.”
When issues of hate are ignored, neglected, & never addressed, they fan a fire that can destroy us all. “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy…was not the strident clamor of the bad people but the appalling silence of the good people.” Martin Luther King Jr.

Felicia Woodard is a professional dancer from Houston, currently  pursuing an M.A. in Cross Cultural Studies at University of Houston Clear Lake. The views expressed in this post are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of Interfaith Houston.

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