Religion

Quit Whining About Being Persecuted

If our faith – and the lifestyle it produces, and the public types of Christianity it produces – cannot attract people on its merits, we are in deep trouble. I do not want the government forcing people to pretend to respect my faith. I do not want to live by and subscribe to a faith that is so weak and without spiritual substance that we have to whine to the government to make people talk nice about us.

Jim Evans, a Baptist pastor in Alabama, seems to feel the same according to his article “Christians Are Not a Persecuted Minority,” published online at EthicsDaily.com:

Nothing has become more tiresome in recent years than the incessant claim by many conservative Christians that they are being persecuted. Every time a church/state issue comes to the fore, a gaggle of Christian activists show up preening in front of television cameras and whining about the war on Christianity ….

But is that really true? Is Christianity some persecuted minority that is under attack? With Christian leaders in high office everywhere, including the White House, is there any real danger that Christianity will somehow be erased from the American landscape?

Amen! It is SO whiney, and so obviously not true. The only way you can come to believe it is to listen to these right-wing whiners on a regular basis. Out there circulating among “real people� I find that, yes, a lot of them are worried about the whiney type of power-hungry Christianity. But apart from that many Americans have a pretty high respect for Christian morality and for Christian doctrine.

Christians are persecuted in every country and every generation, as are members of every other religion. But it is not a big problem in the United States.

There’s a very good test here, in fact. If you tend to believe all us US Christians are being persecuted, where do you usually hear that meme from? Seriously – where do you hear it from? You hear it from powerful religious right media personalities, I’ll bet, or maybe from their obedient servant Bill O’Reilly at Fox.

Here’s another very important point. It’s not persecution when our fellow-Americans try to honor the Founding Fathers’ wishes to protect us all from power-hungry religious leaders.

The U. S. Constitution expressly prohibits government from endorsing a particular religion. It was the founders’ intent to keep religion out of government. They had seen the effect of a close relationship between church and state in Europe and wanted no part of any religiously inspired conflict.

But that’s not persecution. In fact, Christianity has thrived in the freedom created by our legal system. That’s why in most neighborhoods in America there is a church on nearly every corner.

Then Evans leaves off preaching and gets to meddling. After all, who is really responsible for the credibility of Christian witness in this country?

Here’s a clue: Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34,35)

And if those churches [‘on nearly every corner’] are not a sufficient visible symbol of the viability of Christianity, then that’s what Christian leaders need to worry about. That’s not persecution, that’s neglect.

He means “neglect” as in “they are not persecuting us; they are IGNORING us!â€? &/or mocking our ineffectiveness at living what we preach.

He discusses the “Book of Daniel� TV program ruckus:

Why should Hollywood producers do public relations for the church? And why would we want them to?

Why do we think that make-believe Christians living happily in make-believe worlds can possibly make a difference in this very real world? Jesus said we would be known by our love, not by our Nielsen ratings.

And then the real clincher, based solidly in the life of Christ and in the theology of Incarnation and Atonement.

And while we are on the subject, did Jesus ever say anything about the powers that be in this world rolling out the red carpet for us? They didn’t do it for him, so why should his followers expect to be treated any better? In the world, Jesus said, but not of it.

Evans does acknowledge, in his last sentence, that there truly is a problem with how Christians are perceived in our culture.

Not that we don’t need to be concerned about the negative way Christians appear on television, but I don’t know how to make Pat Robertson stop.

4 Comments

  • You are right. There is too much whining about the alleged assault on Christianity from the far right. But, if one takes a closer look perhaps the goal of the far right becomes clear. If one makes a statement, even a false one, long enough it is going to be accepted as truth by most people. This is a time tested fact. George Bush has used the phrase “war on terror” so often that the mainstream media has forgotten that the phrase has replaced “invasion of Iraq”. Bush is on record stating that terrorism was not a problem under Saddam. How the situation has changed. Now his invasion of Iraq, widely seen as unprovoked and illegal, has gained legitimacy. A few well planted half-truths can do wonders. Christian leaders have much to gain by portraying themselves and their movement as imperiled and themselves as defenseless martyrs. There is so much money and political power at stake. Yet how many stories do we hear involving actual persecution in this country? The Christian right would have us believe that the order of a court to remove a monument to the Ten Commandents is an atheistic attack on their beliefs instead of the enforcement of centuries-old laws preserving the democratic separation of church and state..

  • You know I rarely agree with you. But if I set aside the “power-hungry” accusations, I agree with you here 100%.

    Christians have the right to call attention to situations that concern them, but we all need to keep perspective.

  • You are so right, Larry, you are so fully right, and yet, on the flat value of your words you may be twisted to have a meaningless and “dubiousâ€? message. You quoted:

    “Is Christianity some persecuted minority that is under attack? With Christian leaders in high office everywhere, including the White House, is there any real danger …â€?

    Of course there is SOME real danger; you repeatedly hinted at the risk yourself (last time in “Are We Making the American Church a Stench …â€?). Everyone knows – except those who construe their Christian faith in such a way as to be as far removed as possible from anything that inherent (“philosophicalâ€?) wisdom may teach us too –, everyone knows exactly what happens to people who ceaselessly cry wolf … (!)

    And those who do not understand this will neither be soothed by even our most ingenuous recognition of the Christianity of President Bush, for they smell at three miles’ distance that we cannot criticize him as we do without being inwardly at least in doubt on whether he actually is a follower of Christ. It cannot be helped: Whenever and wherever there are people arrogating themselves of “knowing anything else but Jesus Christ� (and him crucified; as St. Paul was “proud� of to content himself in 1.Cor. 2:2), there will be neither peace emanating from (earthly) Christianity, nor will there be much faith, hope and doing of good. Lord, have mercy on us in these days of “famine of hearing the word� (Amos 8:11) amidst all the brouhaha of reckless creeds and moral allegations. As to me, I feel on the brink of starving. For though I rather know that my Redeemer lives (Job 19:25), I know with tenfold certainty that nowhere is truly HIM where I will not be made acquaint with genuine meekness and suffering. And I know that I cannot produce nor endure such of myself.

    Oh, that there would be less lying in this world. Ane even more Oh: that nobody would be disposed to take my complaint as meaning (or intending to mean) I really cared for the lie, whereas I do only care for its effects. For with my own lying, – whose effects facilitate my JUDGING myself suffering, – I generally have an insanely halcyon co-existence. If you really want to know what I mean: ask the Lord, there is no other way. From me, you will only hear one more lie, for I am a sinner. And to say that with a calm voice, that very act is the worst of all sins.

    Beware, for I am one of those who say: “I know that my redeemer lives.� This saying is not at all the same as what it means to you if it’s true; it is only the Lord who can make thought and import flash up coinciding within your heart and mind for one short moment. But it’s also God who can make these instances become more and more frequent and meaningful to all those who earnestly long for experiencing Him.

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