I am a devout Christian. While some would point to my sexuality to dispute this fact, that changes nothing. I pray every day, I read the Bible, I attend church virtually if I’m not up for in-person attendance, and I never, ever take off my cross necklace. Of course, none of the above makes me a perfect Christian or even an advocate for Christians everywhere, but they do give me enough understanding to write: Stop electing a Christian community ASUC senator. If the Christian community actually followed the Christian value of service, for Acts 20:35 reads, “remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive,’ ” they’d learn to step back and stop electing their own candidate who will just take space from communities that need the visibility and authority of an ASUC senate office. It’s time to “give” your seat.
To begin, I would like to clarify the difference between a senator who is Christian and a Christian community senator. Christians can be represented in the ASUC without bloc voting their own “community” candidate into office — they can continue to come in during public comment, and Unity in Christ can continue their campus programming. I am an example of a senator who is Christian. While the values I’ve gained from scripture and sermons inform my advocacy, they are not the end-all, be-all. My work is continuously accountable to the communities and organizations that supported my candidacy and is informed by insights from the general student body.
The Christian community ASUC senator, especially in terms of their voting pattern, relies solely on their religious beliefs. The current senator endorsed by the Christian community, who recently won her re-election campaign, recently posted a campaign graphic with a section reading “will vote according to the Word.” With the establishment of separation between church and state, religious representatives in politics serve to protect the rights of religious minorities. Faith should play only a minimal role in government, especially in public schools. Senators endorsed by the Middle Eastern Muslim Sikh and South Asian Coalition or the Jewish community are integral to ensuring religious minorities are accommodated and protected by the university.
The Christian community, however, is far, far from the minority: Christians are not marginalized, they’re mainstream. According to the Pew Research Center, 70.6% of Americans identify as Christian. Almost every single president of the United States has sworn on a Bible during their Oath of Office — former president Barack Obama used two at the same time. Because of the way the electoral college is set up, Evangelicals are one of the most influential voting blocs in the U.S. Christians don’t need more representation. Furthermore, Christians are not actively persecuted by any institution in the Western world.
But most crucially, research shows Christians are not actively persecuted in this country. Since hate crimes are a good indicator of social and political acceptance, comparing the levels of hate crimes against a particular group or identity is a reasonable analysis to compare the relative levels of social and political acceptance. Before I go into some statistics, I want to state: Of course, one hate crime is too many hate crimes. Yet employing an #AllLivesMatter stance when it comes to targeted killings only waters down impactful measures to address the growing number of hate crimes in this country.
According to the FBI, in 2018, 59.6% of hate crime victims were targeted because of the offender’s bias against race, ethnicity or ancestry, and 18.7% of hate crime victims were targeted because of the offender’s bias against religion. Within the category of religion, 56.9% were victims of an anti-Jewish bias (920 individuals), and 14.6% were victims of anti-Islamic bias (236 individuals). In comparison, 38 individuals were victims of hate crimes because of their Protestant Christian identity. Even with the large bias in reporting, a bias that affects Muslims in particular, hate crimes against Protestant Christians is relatively low in comparison to others. Additional hate crimes were committed against other Christians, like Catholics, but their social acceptance is categorized differently than Protestant Christians. I decided to focus on the amount of hate crimes against Protestant Christians because campus organizations as well as the Christian community ASUC senators are predominantly Protestant Christian.
On the topic of hate crimes, a growing number of extremist Christians keep using a faith of love to target, isolate and slaughter populations deemed inadequate or intolerable. Extremist groups like the Ku Klux Klan, Soldiers of Odin, Phineas Priesthood, Holy Warriors and others continue to use Christian scripture as fuel for their anti-Black, Islamophobic, anti-Semitic, homophobic, transphobic and/or nativist agendas. There’s an entire theology, “Christian Identity,” dedicated to militantly advancing racism, white supremacy and anti-Semitism. Christians who impose their belief system on the public and representative bodies must address the growing radicalism of their own faith before spreading the Gospel, since the danger of advancing harmfully radical beliefs is much too high.
And now to a common feud we see in the senate chambers: the conservative Christians versus the LGBTQ+ community. Christian community ASUC senators continuously seek to undermine the advocacy of the LGBTQ+ community, from a highly publicized homophobic/transphobic statement to the fight over a resolution condemning a bigoted contract with an health care organization that has long limited services available to LGBTQ+ individuals. These senators are undercutting the impactful work of actually marginalized communities. One would think that their selective outrage was based on resolutions condemning Christianity and not resolutions affirming the existence of transgender individuals, but I can’t recall a recent anti-Christian resolution. Some Christians claim that UC Berkeley has anti-Christian sentiment; to that, I reply that disagreement is not the same as marginalization. Marginalization involves targeted attacks and institutional neglect — the gays clapping back at you is not marginalization, especially when the entire academic calendar is built around Christian holidays.
In summary, the Christian community doesn’t need a seat at the ASUC table because there is nothing lacking in the privileges Christians enjoy in this university and in this world. I will support a Christian community senate candidate who runs on addressing and dismantling the harmful actions and views of UC Berkeley’s Christian community — but until then, I pray, for the love of God, that we stop electing a Christian community ASUC senator.
Romario is an ASUC senator studying rhetoric and political science.