Every Monday in Citizenship Confusion, Alan Noble discusses how we confuse our heavenly citizenship with citizenship to the state, culture, and the world.
A few months ago, I had the pleasure of hearing James Davison Hunter speak on his book, To Change the World, (read our review here). One of the most insightful comments that he made was that the American Church sees itself as a victim, as the persecuted minority, when, in fact, Christianity is one of the most influential forces in our country.
We like to tell ourselves stories about how the government tries to silence us, how the media mocks us, how public schools lie about us, how Muslims want to kill us, and how liberals want to outlaw us. But, in reality, we have incredible influence and absurd freedoms (“we” can picket a solider’s funeral with signs that call his death God’s judgment for America’s Fags).
Take for example two recent incidents of “persecution” (my word) experienced by Ray Comfort and the people behind the 180 Movie.
First, in November, Ray Comfort sent out a press release (and a tweet) which claimed that three billboard companies had refused to advertise the 180 Movie, yet “These are the same companies that advertise atheists’ mockery of God and the Bible, promote strip clubs and porn conventions.”
At least one person I know who shared this story online suggested that the companies were attempting to stifle Comfort’s “free speech.” But, actually this is far from a violation of free speech. These companies exercised their rights to not support someone else’s speech.
Second, Ray Comfort blogged about a short video Richard Dawkins posted, “mocking the spelling ability” of Comfort. The entire exchange is petty and tiresome, but what I think is worth noting is how Comfort and many other Christians promoted this exchange (read his tweet) as an example of how Christians are victims of mockery.
In both of these cases, Comfort and his followers actively publicized their victimhood. The “story” in each case was how Christians were “persecuted.” Perhaps they saw this “persecution” as a way to gain more press, but whatever their motive, I do not think it is our calling to emphatically spread stories of our victimhood in order to gain support.
In Luke chapter 23, as Jesus Christ hangs on a cross, bearing the sins of the world, He petitions the Father saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” In the midst of the greatest injustice in the world, the One who has the true right to call Himself a Victim uses some of His precious remaining breath to care for the suffering of the unrighteous.
This is not Comfort’s problem; this is the Church’s problem. We all do it. Instead of focusing on our “suffering” when people make fun of our poor spelling, or when a company doesn’t want to promote our values, our when a business tells their employees to say “Happy Holidays” instead of Merry Christmas, or when our Facebook friends block us for talking about Jesus, or when the President fails to mention God in a Thanksgiving announcement, let’s praise God for our blessings and let’s care for the persecution of others.
We received the following email from Comfort through the social media director at Living Waters:
Someone kindly sent me your December 5th article.
I want you to know that I agree with you regarding the billboard company having their own rights.
Forgive me if what I said came across as some sort of persecution complex.
Best wishes to you and your family.
I’m grateful for the email and hope that this can be an encouragement for all of us (because this victim complex is quite common in the church) to reconsider the way we think of persecution and victimhood.