Degrees of Christian Persecution: Where Does America Fit?

Pope Francis does not, as the Catholic-bashing media likes to claim repetitively, “inherit a Church that is in disarray.” He does not, as they also like to say, “inherit a Church that people are abandoning.”

What he does inherit is a Church that is being subjected to historic levels of persecution all around the world. He inherits a Church that is the object of media vilification (of which these claims are a part) almost universal persecution that ranges from social hazing in the West to martyrdom of huge numbers of people in other parts of the world.

I’ve said a number of times that persecution is on a continuum. It never starts out with beheadings, Sunday worshippers burnt alive and mass migrations of displaced persons. It begins with verbal insults, moves on to a culture of verbal hazing and hate speech from the media fed by a militant, organized and ruthless group of propagandists. This leads to legal and economic discrimination. Only after enough slander, hate speech and propaganda have circulated to poison the public mind and a legal structure to allow it are in place, can a society move to overt physical brutality toward a group of people.

Take a look at the simple chart below and determine where you think your nation is on it. I think America today is in the process of moving from level one (which has become ubiquitous in our society) to level two. Other parts of the world are already deep int0 level three.

What do you think?


  • Bill S

    As anti-Catholic as I (admittedly) am at a personal level, particularly as it pertains to morality, I know how much trouble the world would be in if the Catholic Church were not shepherding over a billion people and helping more. I’m against doing anything harmful to the Church even while encouraging resistance to its infringing on personal freedoms. I think people have a right to strongly disagree with and ignore its teachings but not to do anything to bring about its demise. Since it seems to thrive on martyrdom and persecution, it will survive anyway. But it is wrong to be the cause of that martyrdom and persecution.

    • SteveP

      “. . . infringing on personal freedoms . . “ Huh? Man has always had freedom to do as he wills. You are confusing freedom with lack of consequences: contemporary man wants to eat without the consequences of obesity or clogged arteries; to achieve climax with whomever he desires free from fear of pregnancy or disease; to fill his eyes and ears with the triviality known as “entertainment” without subsequent cognitive dissipation.
      You rail against the Church as she tells you two things you do not want to hear: exercising the appetites always has consequence and, most importantly, Man is more than his senses.

  • Theodore Seeber

    I would say atheists like our friend Bill are on the far left of that scale. Truly the far left. They don’t understand that it is very much an overnight thing to change that.

    Unfortunately, the politicians that they, and the more irrational fundamentalists, support are in the middle of that scale. Don’t think for a second that just because a politician claims to be pro-life, he isn’t after your pocketbook to an extent that would make material charity extremely hard, and the corporal works of mercy nearly impossible. Which feeds right back into the genocide that those who believe in “personal freedom” end up arguing for- it is extremely hard for a poor woman whose sperm donor has left town to justify bringing a child into this world when there is no charity to support her.

    I do suspect, given the utter lack of respect for the sanctity of life shown by pro-choicers, that we are moving rightward on that scale as well, with it now being merely “inappropriate” to suggest that the President has the right to target groups of pro-life protesters with drones, as opposed to “unthinkable”.

  • Theodore Seeber

    And I should add, just to be balanced, that with the ways cities keep passing laws making it illegal to give a homeless person a sandwich, the other side is none to friendly to charity either. They prefer to kill the poor rather than feed them.

  • Bill S

    “I do suspect, given the utter lack of respect for the sanctity of life shown by pro-choicers, that we are moving rightward on that scale as well, with it now being merely “inappropriate” to suggest that the President has the right to target groups of pro-life protesters with drones, as opposed to “unthinkable”.”

    Ted, what are you talking about? Is this your contribution to a thread about Church persecution?

  • Dale

    Clearly, there are countries in the world where violent persecution of Christians is occurring. For context, however, it is probably worth remembering that violent persecution of other faiths is occurring as well. The same could be said regarding legal persecution.

    As for the United States, I don’t think we really score on the persecution scale. Sure, there is an antipathy to Christianity in some quarters, but I don’t think that extends to an antipathy towards Christians as individuals. Nor do I think that such antipathy is organized in any significant manner (other than, perhaps, among evangelical atheists.)

    In the US, a large part of the hostility to Christianity is due to its sizable cultural and political influence. Although Christianity, during the past 50 years, has lost its hegemonic level of power, it continues to exercise a great deal pressure on our society. I think much of the antipathy is rooted in personal hurts, but some of it is due to a lingering sense that Christianity has an outsized role in America. The continuing efforts to secure special privileges for Christianity, and the bewailing of the loss of those special privileges, helps to fuel the ongoing resentment.

    I don’t think we are being persecuted in the US, and I am very uncomfortable with comparing the US situation to the very real persecution which is happening overseas. I think such comparisons cheapen the real suffering and diverts our attention from helping put a stop to it.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Try being a public Christian for a while Dale. You’ll soon realize that slander, hazing, hectoring, shunning, mocking and social isolation, hate speech against Christians are all being aimed against Christians in our country today. These things are not only at work, but they are allowed and supported. A Christian who tries to defend themselves or their faith can be assured of more of the same. It takes guts not to back down and go silent about their faith. I would guess this is much worse on most of our college campuses.

      When you finish with that, take a look at the concerted efforts in the courts to suppress Christian thought, art and speech in the public arena.

      Then, look at things like the HHS Mandate which seeks to impose penalties and ruinous fines on those who practice their faith. This began as a direct attack on the Church itself, trying to force it to violate its own teachings or close its hospitals, schools, universities, and many charitable ministries. The president has altered this quite a bit, but not due to either pressure from a flaccid Congress or in response to the American people. He was forced to do so by the Courts who required him to honor his own promises. What that means is that they called him on a couple of his many lies.

      As to the persecution overseas, much of it is violent to the death. However, I’m not sure how that makes what it happening here right. That’s like justifying slapping your wife by pointing out that many women are raped and murdered.

      When you say that antipathy toward Christianity in general does not extend to Christians as individuals, you are dead, flat wrong. I am a testament to this from my own life and I can name many others.

      • abb3w

        I’d disagree with most of the assessments from your first three paragraphs. However, most especially I’d point out that for Christians to complain of “social isolation” seems completely farcical from the standpoint of those who don’t have roughly 75% of the country at least nominally sharing core religious beliefs.

        • Rebecca Hamilton

          I was referring to what happens in discreet groups, such as on college campuses, in schools, and other places where believers are deliberately isolated and shunned.

          • abb3w

            While “social isolation” seems to a poor term for it, yes, that happens. “Assortative ethnocentrism” might be more precise, but probably still not quite right. A whack at Google Scholar suggests “in-group assortative sociality” might be one of the terms in use.

            Contrariwise, it’s empirically also done by Christians to Muslims, Atheists, Wiccans, and other outliers; and the data suggests disproportionately often, here in the US. For those familiar with Altemeyer’s “The Authoritarians” research, I’ll note both high-RWA and high-SDO tend prejudiced against the dissident. However, the RWA metric correlates strongly to religiosity; atheists tend to be exceptionally low-RWA, and the strongly religious tend as outliers on high-RWA. (This does not necessarily hold internationally; notably, circa 1990 USSR, communists tended atheist and high-RWA.)

            Matthew 7:3-5 seems apropos.

  • Dale

    Rebecca, since I am a recent arrival to your blog, I am unfamiliar with the venom which has been directed towards you. But I do not doubt that, as a public figure, vicious words have been directed towards your person. I think the political discourse in our country has become needlessly coarse, with unkind and unwarranted personal remarks motivated solely by policy disagreements. I do not think such venom is directed only at Christians, and when it does occur reflects our current political temperament. Alas, it needs to change.

    As for the HHS mandate, I agree that Catholic hospitals, schools and charities, because they are based as a religious mission, should not be required to comply. However, I disagree that the requirement was intended as a direct attack on the Church. I think the motivation is based upon an evaluation that such institutions are not part of religious practice. I disagree with that assessment. The courts are precisely where such disagreements are sorted out.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      The courts already directed the Obama Administration to concede this point. That, essentially, was what the last round of “compromises” were about: The president was under court order to make them.

  • christian at heart

    Polls show that Christianity is the overwhelming religion in the US, with around 75% identifying themselves as Christian. Of those that claim a religious identity, 95% of them are Christian. It begs the question: how can one be socially shunned, mocked, and isolated as a Christian when 3 out of 4 people are Christian?
    Christianity has enjoyed special status since the nation was founded precisely because of this. More likely, the hectoring and negative comments that Christians perceive as “persecution” comes from those who support the constitutional ideal that the government does not favor one religion over another.

  • Bill S

    “Try being a public Christian for a while Dale. You’ll soon realize that slander, hazing, hectoring, shunning, mocking and social isolation, hate speech against Christians are all being aimed against Christians in our country today.”

    Much of which would immediately stop as soon Christians stopped trying to impose their morality on those who don’t want Christian morals imposed upon them.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      In other words, blame the victims of discrimination for the fact that they are discriminated against. Check the chart, Bill.

  • Bill S

    In other words, blame the victims of discrimination for the fact that they are discriminated against.”

    The persecution of Christians comes from their thinking that they know best how people should live and who the true God is. If they are right, then all of the persecution is unjustified. If they are wrong, some of the social and legal “persecution” is unavoidable.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      That’s not true Bill. The persecution of Christians comes from the same place that all persecution comes from — the mouth of hell.

  • Ty

    Interesting thoughts. I believe the general American public is apathetic to persecution of true followers of Jesus, largely because the media has painted any such people as “radical.” To those that deny persecution in public policy, remember that in the West, the educational sector is often the trendsetter of public policy, for better or worse. So the intolerance we see toward Christianity on public campuses across the states is, in all likelihood, a sign of things to come.

  • Lisa

    Though 75% of Americans say they are Christians, many of those do not actually have a faith in Christ and do not practice the faith outside of occasionally attending a church. Many do not accept the Bible as God’s infallible word and don’t allow Christ to lead their lives. In essence, about 9% possess a Biblical worldview.
    There is quite a bit of persecution in this country but it falls into the first level on that chart. Jesus said that whoever desires to live righteously WILL BE persecuted.(John 15:19-21) so it doesn’t surprise me but it is always unsettling. Keep the faith Rebecca!