We Christians, in America, like to talk about how we are persecuted. We see conspiracies to curtail our freedoms, silence our pulpits, and marginalize our beliefs. We talk, at length, about the good ol’ days (i.e. the 1950’s) when prayer was in the school and God was in the courtroom. We don’t like where our country is headed and don’t like the vocal voices speaking out against traditional morality and family values.
Christian Persecution in America – Yes
Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor at University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan, recently wrote a post for the Gospel Coalition – “Are Christians in America Persecuted?“. His short answer: “Yes, all the time.” Of course his longer answer is more nuanced – but his answer remains.
Here is the long form of his answer:
I … understand why many conservative Christians are reticent to use the p-word to describe our troubles. We think of persecution as church bombings and physical violence—the sort of stuff our brothers and sisters in North Africa and the Middle East and in parts of Asia face every day. We understand, rightly, that getting a forced hiatus from Duck Dynasty is not exactly suffering on the same scale. If persecution means “there’s a decent chance this year that someone will try to kill me or a family member for being Christians” then no, we are not persecuted in this country.
But is that what the Bible means by “persecution”? Like most Greek words, the word translated “persecution” in our English Bibles (dioko) has a wide semantic range. According to the standard lexicon for the New Testament (BDAG), dioko can mean “to harass someone, esp. because of beliefs, persecute.”
But there is reason to think dioko is not limited to these extreme acts of oppression. In Matthew 5:10, Jesus promises that those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake will be blessed. Then in v. 11 he further explains what this persecution is like: “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.”
So what? What’s the big deal in proving that “technically” Christians are being persecuted in this country? Is this about feeling sorry for ourselves and finding more ammunition to blame the media for our troubles? Not at all. We should not think more highly of our suffering than it deserves.
But neither should we make it out to be something less than it is.
I highly recommend you read the rest of the article. It is well written and short – so it is easy to take in.
Christian Persecution in America – No
Here is my two cents on it: I think we have become too sensitized to how secular society treats us. We have, in our country, the right to speak up and have our voice be heard. This means that our opinions will be judged by the populous. This, however, is the right of everyone. So I can speak up for traditional morality. It is my right. But as soon as I speak my mind, 10 other people can and will weigh in – both for and against. And those 11+ positions can and will be judged by those listening.
So what does it mean if our worldview is loosing favor? Is is a grand cabal to curtail Godly influence? Or have we lost touch in how to communicate to this generation. I say both.
Here is why:
One: We all know the Ephesians passage that tells us that we “war not against flesh and blood.” So the spiritual power that war against us do plot, scheme, and exploit.
Two: But so many time the wounds are of our own making. We tout morality and end up being blind guides, caught in the sins we deplore. We preach grace and practice hate. We lie, we covet, we steal. We are so far removed from a Christ disciplined life that the man-on-the-street could nary pick us out of Christian line up if their life depended on it.
Finally, why should we act surprised if people mock our ideas? All ideas are mocked. Why should stare slack-jawed when we are ridiculed? Everyone from presidents to prime ministers are ridiculed. In the public arena, weaknesses are exploited and called out. It is the way that ideas are advanced or challenged. It is a messy system. It can be ugly. But every worldview is put up to this kind of scrutiny. Why should we be any different.
That being said, that does not mean that we are not in a conflict. We are. If we mean to advance Christ’s good news, we will meet with difficulty. Our adversary is cunning. There is, however, more in his bag of tricks than persecution. Discord, disunity, selfishness, and self-kingdom building all make our message sound shrill and like clanging symbols. I will end with the words of Paul:
“Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven–if there was anything to forgive–I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.”
I Cor. 2:10-11 (italics mine)