Those on the Religious Right claim that Trump is a Christian president who cares about Christian values.
Those on the Religious Right also claim that Trump is going to protect Christians from being persecuted for practicing their faith.
But those who are on the front lines of being the hands and feet of Jesus know differently– Trump’s Amerika knows nothing of Christian values, nor is he a president committed to protecting the free exercise of Christian principles.
I’ve often and very publicly criticized the “Conservative Christian persecution complex” that we see perpetuated by the Religious Right– it’s an absolute joke, and everyone knows it. When the government tells you, “I’m sorry, but your business isn’t allowed to discriminate- if someone has the money to buy a cake, you should be fair and sell it to everyone.” you’re not being persecuted– you’re just being told to stop doing the persecuting.
While the Christian persecution complex has been harmful for the Church in that it’s made us look petty, whiny, and overall made the Gospel unattractive by how we live, the biggest tragedy of it all is that it’s caused us to completely miss the actual persecution of Christians in Trump’s America.
No, there is not systematic persecution of Christians in America– America is a country that’s nearly 80% Christian, and overwhelmingly governed by Christians at every level of government.
But yes, some Christians in America are being persecuted for practicing their faith– because if obeying what Jesus commanded gets you arrested and thrown in jail, I don’t know what other word to call it.
I suppose the tragic irony of the Religious Right selling their soul in exchange for a promise to not have to sell any more gay wedding cakes, is the reality that they’ve not just ushered in actual Christian persecution, but have turned the most basic things someone would learn in a Jesus 101 class into a criminal act.
Case in point: one need not even be a Christian to recognize one of the most well-known statements Jesus made to his followers:
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me…”
In fact, when Jesus makes this statement in Matthew 25 he’s not issuing some suggestion on what his followers should do– he’s actually warning people that divine judgement awaits those who refuse to give food to the hungry, water to the thirsty, clothes to the naked, and shelter for the stranger.
This is basic Christian stuff– but obeying Jesus and practicing your Christian faith in this basic area will land you in jail with a felony charge in Trump’s America.
Just ask Scott Warren. He’s a volunteer for a humanitarian aid organization called No More Deaths, a ministry founded by a coalition of community and faith leaders that is committed to faith-based principles of immigration reform.
Those community and faith leaders have found themselves deeply concerned with how many people die from lack of water while wandering the desert in an attempt to cross into the United States from Mexico. In an effort to care for the stranger in their midst, as Jesus commanded, they’re known to leave random jugs of water in the desert, along with other basic supplies that some immigrants may need to survive in that hostile environment. And in cases where they encounter an immigrant who is hungry, thirsty, and in need of shelter– they’ve been known to provide it, just as Jesus said to.
But following Jesus is a criminal act in Trump’s America. Warren was arrested and thrown in jail last week for giving immigrants water, food, and clean clothes. And he isn’t alone– nine members of the faith-based group have been arrested and charged with federal crimes recently by the Trump administration, mainly for leaving jugs of water in the desert in hopes of saving a human life.
So, I take back what I’ve said in the past regarding anti-Christian persecution in America.
Christians are being persecuted.
They are being thrown into jail for practicing the basic tenets of the Christian faith.
But it has nothing to do with wedding cakes, and everything to do with giving water to those who are thirsty, food to those who are hungry, and clothes to those who are naked.
And until you, my random Christian brother or sister somewhere on the internet, stand up in defense of those jailed by the Trump administration for following Jesus 101 type stuff– for literally giving water to people who would die without it– I’m not interested in hearing about how “oppressed” those cake shop owners are, or anything else you have to say about the persecution of Christians in America.
Dr. Benjamin L. Corey is a public theologian and cultural anthropologist who is a two-time graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary with graduate degrees in the fields of Theology and International Culture, and holds a doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary. He is also the author of the new book, Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, which is available wherever good books are sold. www.Unafraid-book.com.