One of my biggest pet peeves in this world, is when folks in my tribe play the “persecution” card.
On one hand, we can’t help it– we’ve been programmed to label any negative experience related to our faith in the category of “persecution”. However, we should know better– and should know that this is actually hurting the Christian reputation in America.
I remember being well primed to interpret any negative push-back I might receive for “witnessing”, as we were warned about the coming persecution during campfire services at Christian summer camp. I still remember sitting around a campfire in Schroon Lake, New York and hearing: “Don’t worry– when you get back home you won’t have to leave your unsaved friends. When you get home, they’re going to leave you.”
In fact, I remember “Blessed are you when you are persecuted” to be one of the first verses a camp counselor had me memorize.
Ugh. In American Christianity we love persecution.
Like a Rorshach test, we are able to see it anywhere we look.
We are so culturally programmed that there “will be persecution” that we develop a persecution complex which causes us to look at any given ink blot and see an intriguing case of anti-Christian discrimination.
What is most sad to me, is that this is hurting the message of Jesus– a beautiful message that I want everyone to hear and experience. However, because of our persecution complex we are often seen as cry-babies– who are constantly crying “Wolf!” no less. As a result, a lot of people are turned off to Christian culture, and by default turned off to actually wrestling with the message of Jesus.
Yet, have no fear– I am here to help. Today, I’m going to give you a quick and easy walk through of some real scenarios that will help you gauge whether or not you are actually being persecuted for your Christian beliefs.
- In Odisha, India, some villages have banned Christians from buying or selling in their local markets as well as banning them from getting drinking water from the local well (forcing them to drink non-potable water from the river). When the Christians have rebuffed this prohibition and used the common well anyway, they have been chased down by angry mobs and severely beaten. If this is happening to you– if your neighbors are telling you that you can’t shop at Target because you are a Christian and that you can’t draw your water from the town’s aquifer because of your faith (and beat you mercilessly when you take a sip), there is a good chance that you are experiencing legitimate Christian persecution.
- If your co-workers leave the break room when they see you coming, no longer invite you to happy hour, and generally walk in the opposite direction when they see you coming due to the fact they are tired of you forcefully trying to convert them in every conversation… you are not experiencing anti-Christian persecution. Instead, you are simply being persecuted for being annoying. Don’t like it? Good news– the persecution for being annoying will stop as soon as you decide to no longer be annoying.
- If you are a member of the Christian clergy and find yourself kidnapped, beheaded, and the next day find a video of your beheading posted on YouTube, I think you have a legitimate case of anti-Christian persecution. In fact, unless you signed a model release before your execution, you should be able to get YouTube to take the video down.
- If you are a non-commissioned officer in the Army and find yourself receiving a reprimand because your non-stop, anti-gay statements are making your co-workers utterly miserable, you are not experiencing anti-Christian persecution. Instead, you are being persecuted for updating your Facebook status with: “Lordy, Lordy, it’s faggot Tuesday. The lefty loons and Obamabots are out in full force” (As in the recent case of Master Sergeant Nathan Sommers). When you post nasty, offensive status updates, persecution is a natural byproduct.
- If you are holding a quiet prayer meeting when police decide to raid your home, confiscate your books, and throw you in prison for being a Christian (as happened in Iran to Robert Asserian), you might have a pretty convincing case of anti-Christian persecution. If they keep arresting you over and over, and beat you senseless each time, the case becomes more and more convincing that you are in fact, the victim of persecution.
- If you are facing a massive fine and a lawsuit because you didn’t want a lesbian couple to buy flowers from your shop to have at their wedding, you aren’t facing anti-Christian persecution. You are simply being persecuted for illegal discrimination, and for being a hypocrite. You do know, that at most weddings there’s a couple of drunk people, and that the Bible is quite clear that’s wrong, correct? You must also be aware, that sometimes Christians marry non-Christians (forbidden in scripture), and that some couples (SPOILER ALERT!) have had sex before marriage, which is also condemned in scripture, correct? So, if you have decided that you’re not going to sell flowers to gay people, but that you’ll still allow your flowers to be purchased for events that will include drunkenness and heterosexual fornication, you my friend, are a hypocrite. What you’re experiencing isn’t so much persecution, as it is justice.
I think the reason why the American Christian persecution complex troubles me so much is because there is plenty of real persecution going on in the world. Yet, when we take negative push-back we receive as a result of our own arrogance, insensitivity, and hostility– and call that persecution– we cheapen and detract from the real examples of religious persecution in the world.
When Christians who are being thrown in prison or beheaded are overshadowed by stories of American Christians who get in hot water because their public business discriminates, or because they’ve made their co-workers miserable, we become guilty of self-centered arrogance.
Being persecuted for our faith is different than being persecuted because we’re acting like jerks.
If you are a Christian in America and frequently feel persecuted, please do us both a favor and examine your own behavior and communication style. Are you accosting people with your views? Are you treating friends and co-workers like objects to be converted instead of people to love? If so, you’re doing it wrong– and you are experiencing justified push-back, NOT persecution.
And, even if you do face some legitimate persecution, just remember– as long as you still have your head on your shoulders, it’s not as bad as what others face.