Having read White Fragility, I was intrigued when a friend asked me if there might be such a thing as Christian fragility. I think he was onto something. To see how this might work, it needs to be understood that white fragility is the intense fear of having whiteness problematized. We have been raised, conditioned, to think of it as the default form of humanity. All others are “minorities”—aberrations, as it were. Because of that “Caucasians” are reluctant to discuss race. What my friend was suggesting, I think, is that there might be such a thing as Christian fragility as well. Long considering itself the default true religion, Christianity has falsely convinced millions of Americans that this country was founded as an explicitly Christian one. Many are surprised to learn Islam was here very early, largely because of African slaves. And what of the indigenous religion of American Indians?
The idea of America as the ideal Christian nation is so deeply rooted that it’s something we bristle at talking about. Think about it: educational institutions of the secular stripe don’t like to admit that many of them were founded as seminaries. When I was growing up the two forbidden topics of conversation were politics and religion. It seems that fragility may be a useful explanation. Many academics refer to our culture as “post-Christian.” They haven’t gotten out much. Our culture is thoroughly suffused in Christianity. It’s the air we breathe. It’s the basis for many of our laws. Much of science training (as I’ve argued before) is based on Christian assumptions. Because Christianity shares so much background with Judaism clearly the picture is more complex than this, but the point I’m trying to make stands: we feel very uncomfortable when that implicit Christian identity is challenged, no matter how secular we are in reality.
Prior to Trump fear of “godless Russians” or “godless Communists” ran deep. Ironically, evangelical Trump supporters now look to Putin’s Russia as a kind of model for political leadership. We’re flailing about in Christian waters, baptizing the worst of human behaviors because we can’t bear to discuss whether something beyond Christianity might be worth considering. I can’t claim to have absorbed the concept of white fragility fully, but I think the basic idea is sound. American culture is extremely reticent to open discussions that suggest white, and Christian, aren’t defaults. That people come in all kinds of shades of pink, tan, brown, red, yellow, and black are just as American. That Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, and any number of other religions belong in a melting pot. Christian fragility might well explain why this is so.