I continue to hear repeatedly by many Christians that they feel their faith is being persecuted. Now, let me state, the definition of persecution does not include a limitation on the relative size of a group that is being persecuted. Persecution is defined simply as “the systematic mistreatment of an individual or group by another individual or group.”
Sadly, however, there is another dimension to this. Persecution requires that the individuals or groups that are doing the persecuting have power and authority to do so.
I’m going to focus here in America, in regards to this subject. Why? Because, I’m sorry to those reading this who are non-Christian, the reality is that there is active governmental persecution of Christians in some of the other countries of the world. It’s not universal, but it is happening. Admittedly, Christianity is still considered the largest grouping of faith in the world, as it is still 31.4% of the world population (the next largest group is Muslims, at 29.7%), only a minority in the Middle East and in Asia.
However, in America, Christianity is the religion of the majority. According to Pew Research’s most recent survey Christianity, while it’s popularity is declining, still makes up 70.6% of the US population.
The sad part about it is that persecution is considered a blessing by many Christians. They consider those who “die for the faith” (i.e. martyrs) to be particularly special to God. This, unfortunately, is the same kind of thought that many radical Muslims have, that those who “die for the faith” rise to the right hand of Allah. So, persecution – for many Christians, particularly those of a fanatic bent – is an experience to be actively searched out.
“But….but…you just admitted Christians are persecuted!”
Why, yes, I did. In OTHER countries – particularly in the Middle East – there IS persecution. But in the U.S., there are far more Christians in roles of power and authority that can END the persecutions that occasionally happen.
But, what many Christians are considering “persecution” are not actual cases of persecution. In fact, it is often times when they are called on their actual religious persecution of others, that they cry persecution the most.
Let’s list a few of these, shall we?
- “Happy Holidays” vs. “Merry Christmas”The reality of this situation is thatthere are a number of other holidays for other faiths that happen during the month of December. In Wicca, there’s Yule (Winter Solstice). For Buddhists, December 8 is a holy day. Judaism has Hanukkah. Kwanzaa happens for those of African descent. And there arenumerous secular holidays also in December.Many retail stores are aware that not all of their customers are Christian. The larger national chains (and some international ones) are moving toward saying “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas” to simply be more inclusive to their customers.For me, as a non-Christian, it doesn’t bother me much. But I know people for whom it is an issue, some of them are Jewish, some are of other faiths. My reaction to it is that if someone wishes me a “Merry Christmas,” I respond with the same. If they say “Happy Holidays,” again, I respond with the same.Historically (and I was actually taught this in parochial school) Christ’s birth did not happen in the winter. There are a number of differing theories about when exactly He was born, and why 12/25 was chosen to be His birth date.It’s NOT an active attempt to mistreat Christians.
- Decisions to place a memorial of the 10 Commandments on governmental properties
If you read the diaries, correspondence, and other historical documentsrelating to the Founders of our country, you will find many references to why they wished to separate Church and State. Jefferson speaks on it specifically, Madison speaks on it. A majority of the Founders speak on it.History also supports it strongly. Why? Because many of the Founders came from Britain. If you look at the history of Britain, many of their worst civil wars raged over the “state religion.” Henry VIII was just one in a great line of royals (both preceding him and coming after him) who whipsawed the country back and forth between Catholicism and Protestantism. Both sides executed “heretics,” the Catholics by burning, and the Protestants by other forms of execution.The “Age of Enlightenment” coming as it did on the heels of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, brought in a concept that was a huge struggle for the English. The great Civil War between the “roundheads” and the “royalists” (ending with Oliver Cromwell in power, only to have the monarchy reestablished in 1660). After the exhaustion of a population being torn apart in such religious wars, is it any surprise that our Founding Fathers were sick of the whole thing?Not every Christian supports placing any Christian memorial or statuary on or in governmental spaces. But, when they do, they see governmental refusal to do so as a direct form of Christian persecution. It is not. Our founders wanted to END the constant battle between Christian sects for supremacy, not even caring about non-Christians. At this point, we also have centuries of legal precedent supporting the need to keep Church and State separate.The stated reasoning for many who want their Christian faith inscribed in our governmental spaces is that “we are a country based on God.” Except, we aren’t. What they are calling for is a religious theocracy, no different than the institution of Sharia law in Muslim countries. Again, in order to do this, we would need to choose a specific form of Christianity to make the state religion. And given that the largest group of Christians in this country are of the Evangelical variety (fundamentalists, uber-conservatives, and a few liberals) do we really want that group to be “in charge?” Given some of the choices they’ve made in the past few decades, quite frankly I’m fairly sure that the prisons would fill beyond bursting with “heretic” prisoners. And since many of that kind of Christian are for the death penalty, I don’t know about you, but I can see heresy become a reason for a death penalty quite easily.
I’m not just talking about us non-Christians here. Many of the evangelical groups I am aware of do not classify Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, sometimes even Catholics and the like as actual “Christians.” And worse, even some of the groups they do classify as “Christian” would be considered heretics just as much as the rest of us.
The list, sadly, could go on.
I don’t want to think of many of my fellow countrymen wanting to kill all of us who do not believe as they do. I don’t want to think that anyone “different” is so hated that they would believe killing them would be a mercy. But I have to face the fact that it is indeed happening.
I was always taught – and I grew up in one of those Evangelical sects – that the “true” Christian lived a life of love. That compassion and service to others was not an option, but was a base expectation of being a Christian. That sin need not be accepted, but those who sin must be treated with compassion and love.
Sadly, I don’t see that in the greater population of Christians anymore. I see faces made ugly by rage and hate. I see churches proudly displaying their hatred against those they feel are sinning. I see compassion being limited to “only those like us.” Worse, limiting it to “only those like us who PROVE they are worthy.” I see worship of those who have gained wealth and power, and an encouragement of those individuals to gather more wealth and power.
I no longer see the healthy “fruits” in many churches and in many Christians. I see rot and decay instead. And their own Bible states:
The reality is, people, many Christians no longer actually live by their faith. And far too many of them live by the “appearance” of faith. As long as OTHER people see them as “good Christians” it doesn’t matter if they lie, deceive or any other sin – because they say the right things and do the right things when people are watching.
I’ve repeatedly said that I use my parents and my sister as my measuring tool for Christianity. And while I see some individuals who measure up to that mark, I see far too many who do not. And my parents and sister do not consider themselves to be ‘model Christians.’ They only see themselves as “believers of Christ” doing their best to live by the Bible. They see their failures to live up to Christ’s example, and fear they can never approach even a thousandth (0.001%) as much of that example. I don’t expect perfection of anyone. But, I do expect – regardless of religion – that a person live the life they profess. If they profess Christianity, they had better show it in their lives. If they profess Wiccanism, again, they had better show it.
I fear for this country because we’ve decided ruling by fear is the best of all choices.