Why the world is so angry with Christians

Why the world is so angry with Christians March 4, 2013


It’s ludicrous, really, the way some Believers carry on in this nation about being persecuted. You know the type. They can be heard most often on talk radio or some cable television channel whining about how their religious freedoms are being infringed upon.They yammer incessantly about their First Amendment Rights and how the world is going to hell in a hand basket.

Given the way Congress has been misbehaving lately, it probably is.

Let me just say this about Congress before I move on: You employed them. You. Me. We employ Congress. We can fire them if we so choose. We can boss them if we decide to. We can and should tell them exactly what it is that we expect of them.

Why, then, does everybody and her live-in act so damn helpless when it comes to Congress?

It’s like Miz O always says: Don’t give away your power.

I am so weary of hearing people, yes, even you, my beloved NPR hosts, yattering about how little Congress is doing and how badly they are doing what little they are doing.

The question isn’t what is Congress going to do about all our problems. The question is what are we going to do about it? We are the boss people here. Why then aren’t we doing something more than taking to the airwaves and complaining?

We are only powerless to do something because we choose to be powerless. Because we like the former King Edward have abdicated our right to rule, to have voice, for a mistress of our choosing: Facebook, television, Twitter, video-poker and/or porn.

We are so confused about our First Amendment Rights. Seems we have mistaken the right to petition for redress of grievances as the right to bitch and moan.

It isn’t the same thing people.

As written, the First Amendment requires action on our part.  As lived out currently, it is regarded as permission to whine about the inaction of others.

It is this misuse and abuse of the First Amendment that has me all fired up.

Rachel Held Evans sent me a link to a blog post she wrote: How [Not To] Respond to Abuse Allegations: Christians and Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM). 

In it Rachel (rightly) takes Tim Challies to task for making allowances for SGM to abuse the First Amendment in his post Thinking Biblically About Sovereign Grace Ministries.

As the Huffington Post reported SGM is trying to skirt around ongoing allegations of child abuse by invoking their First Amendment Rights. It’s a misuse of power and a misunderstanding of the First Amendment.

Challies called for Believers to be slow to judge the allegations of abuse.  Evans did an excellent job in her blog post of highlighting why Challies was wrong in his approach, so I won’t belabor the wrong-headedness of  all that.

While there will always be ongoing debates about the freedoms ensured by the First Amendment,  freedom of religious practice and belief does not allow for harm to the life and liberty of others. Invoking the First Amendment does not mean a person can get away with human sacrifice as an acceptable religious practice. Similarly, any church practices that would not sufficiently protect children from sex abuse is certainly not protected from civil court scrutiny by the First Amendment.

Those who complain about being persecuted in this world for being Christian often fail to realize that the problem isn’t their faith.

It’s that they aren’t behaving Christian enough.

The world isn’t angry with Christians for believing in God. They are angry because so many Christians act like the Devil all day long.

How much more ungodly can a church body get than to try and invoke the First Amendment to avoid litigation over allegations of child abuse by its members?


Karen Spears Zacharias is author of A Silence of Mockingbirds, the true crime story behind Karly’s Law. She teaches First Amendment Rights at Central Washington University.

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  • Of course there is discrimination against Christians in America. Just because we aren’t being thrown to the lions doesn’t mean that some institutions aren’t being unfair to Christians. One example I can think of off the top of my head is the number of colleges which are telling Christian groups that they must be open to allowing non-Christians in leadership positions. http://www.intervarsity.org/news/campus-faith-%E2%80%93-civil-rights-issue But there are other examples I could think of.

    Karen, just yesterday, I got onto my son for some misbehavior. He immediately pointed out to me that his brother had also misbehaved. I told him that what someone else did wrong isn’t the issue right now, and that he needs to focus on what his own behavior looks like. You are right that Christians often don’t act like we should, but that is a separate issue from whether or not we are being discriminated against. It’s certainly not an excuse for such discrimination.

    • There is also discrimination against women, the elderly, the young, the educated, the uneducated, the fat, the tall, the short, the smart, vegans, meat-eaters, etc.

      But then again, I was talking about persecution, not discrimination.

      Way to twist the semantics around, bro.

      • Not twisting anything. Discrimination is the first step toward persecution. I’m not whining, of course. Jesus promised that such things will be part of the deal for most Christians. Most non-Osteen believers should get this, and not whine about it. But I’m don’t willing to deny that it’s going on.

        • You have taken a very important topic — that of churches (ie Christians) abusing the Bill of Rights to avoid litigation over a history of sex abuse charges — and reduced it to an argument about so-called “discrimination” at Christian colleges. Really? You have provided a perfect example of the sort of reductionist mentality that enables Christians in America to cry persecution when they don’t have a clue.

          • I wasn’t arguing that the church in that awful case is abusing their First Amendment rights to get out of trouble. They need to be prosecuted.
            I was responding to what I perceived to be your assertions that (a) Christians complain about persecution, but it really isn’t happening; and (b) the culture has become critical of Christians because of the behavior of many of them (us).
            To me, what that one church did, and their efforts to not be held accountable, is a different issue. Perhaps you are the one who is mixing up several unrelated topics here. If the only focus of your blog post would have been about Sovereign Grace, I wouldn’t have disagreed with you. But go back and look at your title. And your opening paragraphs. That led me to think you were focusing on the items I mentioned in my comments. Now it appears that your main concern was the SGM story. Sorry I said anything.

          • JW: The airwaves are filled with Christians misusing the word persecution. There is no persecution in this country against Christians. We give this culture plenty of reason to be critical of us. Especially when we hide behind the First Amendment instead of calling upon our churches to be as transparent as possible. And it isn’t one church. If only…

          • LorenHaas

            So, maybe take Jesus seriously and take the log out of our own eye?

          • Or at least be transparent and admit there is a log in our eye and a sex abuser in our midst.

          • Kenneth

            The persecution narrative of Christians in this country is a cynical ploy to build tribal allegiance, stoke fear and raise cash. Christians are not being persecuted here. They are simply getting their way less than 100% of the time, which was what they were long used to. That has changed both because our country is more diverse and because our legal system is increasingly recognizing our nation’s commitment to treat all religions equally before the law.

            Christians are finding that they no longer are a fourth branch of government with veto power over all aspects of law and culture. They are nothing more (or less) than equal citizens with one vote apiece. That’s a big step down, and it no doubt feels like persecution, but it’s not. Like the rest of us, you win some and lose some issues in the court of public opinion and the courts of law, but you have recourse at every step of the way. People who can call the Christian experience in modern America “persecution” have never seen the real deal.

            To the original point of the post, it should be obvious that neither the framers nor any court has ever envisioned criminal predation of children or obstruction of justice as First Amendment protected expression. This argument should be summarily dismissed and ANY church, religious or secular organization complicit in abuse on an ongoing basis should be prosecuted under federal organized crime statutes.

          • Gee, thanks. I hadn’t realized I was being cynical, or just trying to get my way 100% of the time when I felt there was no good reason to force Christian organizations to be open to non-Christian leaders. I didn’t realize I was somehow trying to raise cash by pointing it out. Thanks for setting me straight.
            By the way, I have said repeatedly that I know that this isn’t the same as persecution, not on the same level as what’s going on in China, or being fed to the lions. I have repeatedly said this is the first step toward worse things. Those who continue to respond to me by making the ridiculously obvious point that it isn’t persecution because it could be a lot worse are either (a) unable to read; or (b) intentionally dishonest by arguing with a distorted version of what I have been saying.
            Ken, your last paragraph is right-on, though. I am not in any way defending the church’s use of the “our rights are being violated” defense of their refusal to cooperate with authorities.

          • Kenneth

            Any setback to any group in the public policy COULD be a first step toward genocide. That doesn’t mean there’s a plausible basis to predict such an outcome. Many in the Christian blogosphere and political arena are not saying their travails could be a first step. They speak of it as inevitable foregone fact and peddle a truly paranoid and xenophobic vision to their followers.

            The instance you mention of Christian groups and non-Christian members bears examination, as it is at the heart of the issue. Nobody is making these student groups accept anybody. What they’re doing is saying that public dollars cannot be used to fund exclusive clubs or to fund sectarian religious activities. The ancient Christians understood that they needed to not rely on Caesar’s dime to do their ministry.

          • stardreamer42

            Every time someone like you takes to the Internet, or the airwaves, to complain of how viciously Christians in America are being persecuted, they disprove their own point, Q.E.D. If you look at life in this country as if it were a video game, Christians are playing on the “Easy” setting.

          • I didn’t say anything was vicious. You lose credibility when you have to twist my words to argue with me.

          • Those “Christian organizations” you’re so worried about are recipients of school funding paid out of the activity fees paid by ALL the students of those schools. That is why they are required to comply with the schools’ anti-discrimination policies. If they would forgo school funding, they could discriminate as they wished. The “persecution” you’re so worried about that you fear is the first step to some awful … something or other is entirely the result of the belief of the groups in question that they are entitled to money provided by the entire student body while free of the obligation to open their membership to the entire student body.

          • I never said I was worried. Putting words in my mouth makes your entire comment lose credibility.
            Secondly, it isn’t just about funds; it’s about being a bona fide, recognized campus organization, That is, if they refused funds from the school, they still wouldn’t be allowed to meet on school grounds.

            This is about common sense. Nobody should tell a Christian organization they cannot limit their leaders to only Christians. And for the record, nobody with any sense would tell a women’s organization they must allow men to lead. Nor should a school dictate that an organization which is formed to further the interests of any ethnic be required to open leadership positions to people not of that ethnic group. This is about common sense.

          • I never said I was worried. Putting words in my mouth makes your entire comment lose credibility.
            Secondly, it isn’t just about funds; it’s about being a bona fide, recognized campus organization, That is, if they refused funds from the school, they still wouldn’t be allowed to meet on school grounds.

            This is about common sense. Nobody should tell a Christian organization they cannot limit their leaders to only Christians. And for the record, nobody with any sense would tell a women’s organization they must allow men to lead. Nor should a school dictate that an organization which is formed to further the interests of any ethnic be required to open leadership positions to people not of that ethnic group. This is common sense.

    • Oh man, you and 89% of the US population must feel so oppressed by the discrimination you feel towards Christianity.

      • That sentence doesn’t even make sense.

        • His point is that 89% of the American people self-identify as Christian, so to the extent that there is any institutional discrimination against Christians, it is actually discrimination by Christians against other Christians.

    • R.C.

      Yes, there’s discrimination; and yes, it may lead at some point to persecution, but for the moment, things are pretty easy, all things considered.

      The worst that’s happening now in the U.S. is the HHS Mandate which requires employers compensate their employees partly by subsidizing contraceptives, abortifacient drugs, voluntary sterilizations, and the like.

      Kudos to Hobby Lobby and others for standing up against it. It really would be pretty bad: A sort of religious test, not for public office, but for business ownership: Serious Christians Need Not Apply. Relegating serious Christians to never owning a business with more than X number of employees unless they’re willing to renounce Christ by cooperating in moral evil in order to hire employee X+1 is, yes, pretty bad. It’s drifting into persecution territory.

      But it hasn’t happened yet; if the courts rule justly it never will; and if you think not being allowed to own/operate businesses, charities, schools, hospitals, and the like is “persecution,” just try moving to Egypt and living with the Copts!

      • The fact that it’s already worse somewhere else doesn’t mean I can’t raise concerns about it here.

      • Lectorel

        And apparently women who need birth control need not apply for employment, in your view.

        If an employer provides health insurance as part of their benefits package, than that employer needs to provide health insurance. If you believe an employee has the right to spend their paycheck in any (legal) way they please, and their employer cannot forbid them from spending it in certain ways, than you have no ethical justification for saying that an employer may forbid an employee to use their health insurance in certain ways.

        I doubt you actually believe that an employer may dictate benefits based on religion. Otherwise, you’d have to argue that an employer should be able to refuse to provide for blood transfusions, surgeries that remove bodily tissue, treatments that derive from animal testing or animal products, non-homopathic medicine, any form of drug, treatment for mental illness, dialysis… I can go on all day about medical treatments that certain religions and philosophies can or might forbid.

        That’s not even getting into the extremely cynical manipulation that a ‘conscious clause’ exemption could result in. Say I’m your employer. I decide that based on what my religion has taught me, providing health care to christians is a moral obscenity, so I only want to provide health insurance to my non-christian employees. Based on your claims, you should support that. After all, saying I can’t refuse Christians health insurance is a religious test for business ownership: Serious practitioners of my religion need not apply.

        So it comes to this: Either you have not thought through the implications of your position, you think having power over someone means you can and should force them to behave as you desire, or you believe Christians should be given the special privilege to coerce the behavior of those they employ. If it’s the second, or third, you really should consider your (lack of) ethics, and how out of joint they are with the principles of empathy, compassion, and fairness.

    • jcon526

      James Williams , I was initially troubled about what happened with Intervarsity, but I don’t believe it’s as cut and dry as what’s being reported.

      I can stand some correction on this, but I believe every club at the college must abide by the non-discrimination clause (including muslim clubs, LGBT clubs, etc.), which states that *every* college club/organization (that receives money from the college and the freedom to use its space) must not discriminate by gender, race, orientation, or religion as far as potential elected leaders. (Orgs like Fraternities/sororities are under different rules.)

      Because it’s a religious organization, it is troublesome to allow leaders who are not the same religion.

      However, I believe many have pointed out that while *anyone* can show up to Intervarsity meetings, any club can set up by-laws on electing leaders (i.e. 75% attendance for at least a year, participation in outreach events, etc.); they just can’t specify that they be Christians. But even if an “outsider” were to fulfill all specifications, they’d still have to be voted in.

      Granted, there’s no guarantee that one person still wouldn’t cause a fuss if they weren’t voted in, so I understand the frustration. However, Christians can “infiltrate” other clubs just as easily.

      And at the end of the day, maybe Intervarsity *should* go off-campus, since the issue is about recognition by the college, with its free money and activity space. But I don’t know if this example of persecution would be valid.

      • It’s part of a mindset, though. It’s one thing after another. You can change the culture, and the minds of the majority, by doing things like this over and over. Mark my words: discrimination against Christians is going to lead to persecution in a few years.

        • jcon526

          The thing is, I don’t disagree with you that small measures and changes in society’s mindset like this *could* lead to persecution against Christians.

          However, I believe our witness would be stronger if we recognized the difference between the violation of civil liberties and the mere loss of privileges, and the fact that we’ve been bending the rules regarding religion and government for decades.

          Now, Paul used the fact that he was a Roman citizen to justify himself after he was beaten and imprisoned. He call them out for violating their own rules.

          However, what I see Christians doing is railing against the loss of privileges. Like I mentioned earlier, a lot of times Christians have been bending the rules in America: endorsing a political candidate from the pulpit (technically illegal), allowing religious imagery in public buildings, blurring the line between religion and legislation, promoting wars based on religious cheerleading etc. The world recognizes it, and we’re being called out for it. We have “privileges”; we’ve been the teacher’s pet (albeit not in the media, except overtly and aggrandized in Fox News); we’ve abused our privileges and violated our own supposed moral code. When we’re taken to task, we rail against it as if we’re losing civil rights.

          Even the Word says there’s no honor in being persecuted for being lawbreaker … and I believe our privileges have made us “protest too much”, damaging our own credibility. If we’re supposed to be known for our love, why are we wasting our time raging in the political sphere over issues that are largely minor or too complex to be black and white?

        • jcon526

          Additionally, I would argue that a lot of things have promoted a backlash against Christianity, and haven’t *just* started.

          I would argue that the world wars severely damaged our idealism, and the massive scale of deaths made us question our viability as a nation as well as our belief system. I mean how could a Christian nation win the war yet lose so many people? Isn’t God on our side?

          Also, while one can argue that many scientists throughout history were Christians or at least believe in God, they usually butted heads with the Church proper when they made discoveries that went against traditional ideas about how the universe worked.

          This is not to mention that the Church has used its power for political power and to mask their own indiscretions, across multiple nations. While many Christians pushed back against slavery and racism, the Church in general was in favor of them and even justified treating human beings like animals. Meanwhile, the Church is against homosexuality, but we’ve rebuffed young people when they are bullied and suicidal while we’ve rallied vigorously for the unborn. We’re supposed to help the poor, but we’ve muddied this calling by edifying the rich as job-creators and the poor as lazy slackers, and have been comfortable with these characterizations as long as we can enjoy our suburban houses and picket-fence livelihood. How can we profess love yet ignore the vulnerable? How can we be so overtly hypocritical?

          Granted, Christians are human and we make mistakes. But when we’re in positions of power, influence, or privilege, we should recognize it and not ignore it, and hold ourselves to a higher standard. Otherwise, we will be labeled rightfully as the Pharisees that we are.

        • stardreamer42

          Why yes, it is part of a mindset. If Christians aren’t allowed to ignore the law in one area, soon people will be thinking they can’t do so in other areas either… like child abuse. So at the end of the day, what you’re really complaining about is that Christian special privilege isn’t working the way it used to any more.

    • Erik Wise

      Would you like some more whine with your cheese, James?

  • Matt Thornton

    I wonder how much the sense of persecution is based on the withering role of the organized Christian church in American public life. Any institution that remembers a greater glory than it sees going forward will have some tendency to persecution complex, I’d assume. I see two big drivers – globalization of experience/communication combined with atomization of denomination/message.

    On globalization: The demographics are solidly against the church as an institution of power in public society. There is simply not enough consensus about spiritual matters for such a simple model to maintain the power it has traditionally held. When the society was more (locally) homogeneous and insular, the church could be an effective communication and teaching tool, and wield considerable social influence as a result. As we move from a broadcast to a peer-to-peer world, the Church hasn’t kept up. It can no longer just define the “other” 3/4 of the world’s population as somehow wrong or misguided and leave it at that. Those folks are now ‘here’ is a much more tangible way, and any successful post-empire Christianity is going to have to come to terms with that fact.

    Even without the geo-demographic overlay, there is the issue of splintering denominations. Much of the influence of the Christian church in the US has been a function of it’s consistency. Rewind 50 years, and there were many fewer denominations that competed for a given butt on a given Sunday morning. I’m not suggesting that Christians were any less hetrogeneous, just that the ability to connect with (and get to) a church other than the one in my neighborhood was much more limited, and so the overlap of church and other civic life seemed more natural.

    With these two deep trends – increasingly tangible presence of the ‘other’ combined with the reduced reliance on local, default religion – the Church continues to see decreasing returns on it’s long-term strategy of message discipline. To those listening, it just sounds like any other institution struggling to keep up with social change. To those speaking, though, I have to assume it feels like rejection and persecution.

    You get to choose what you say. You don’t get to choose how it’s heard, and you certainly don’t get to choose how others react to what you say.

    • You don’t have to go further than your own neighborhood to see these things of which you speak. It isn’t just a problem for the church, however. Civic organizations of all manner are facing some of the same things. And, of course, we could turn to the GOP and look at how they cry persecution when their diminishing role in politics and in the lives of Americans is a result of their own doing — they choose to be irrelevant to the community-at-large. Of course, I would throw into the analysis the affect of marketing upon the Body. We have a herd mentality. That mentality had been honed by the market. Churches hire consultants to teach them how to build their brand. How to appear relevant. How to attract “the right people” so they “grow.” So the church around the corner is abandoned for the church across town that has the kick-ass worship team and celebrity pastor. A church where nobody knows your name.

      • Matt Thornton

        And that church across town will be empty in turn as well. The market is a fickle mistress.
        I think people are a lot like crows – we’re attracted to the next shiny thing, and we’ll drop the food in our mouths to pick it up. Then we squawk about how hungry we are!
        I think your last sentence is key – it’s about how many and which people know our names. The whole point of community isn’t the size of the gathering, but the richness of the interaction. Wherever two or more of you …

        • I call that the mockingbird syndrome — always looking for the next shiny thing. And yes, wasn’t that what we all loved about Cheers? They knew our names. Or rather, we knew theirs.

  • jcon526

    I would argue that there are instances of anti-Christian bias in the media and in our society. However, I think in many cases, there is a certain Christian privilege that we have enjoyed for so long that when they are threatened, we cultivate an outrage with apocalyptic proportions over issues that are minor.

    For instance, we are aware that government cannot make an establishment of religion, but generally, we’ve been ok with public schools having pictures of Jesus, crosses hung up on the walls, the ten commandments etched into pillars outside, etc. We were fine with pastors endorsing political candidates, even though that’s technically illegal for church organizations.

    And we were ecstatic with presidents being overtly Christian (well, as long as they’re Republican). In a sense, the rules have been bent for Christians for quite some time.

    Granted, the world and its systems are NOT God’s kingdom; but, we gladly operated in that world and enjoyed its privileges. But our witness isn’t pure if we don’t recognize those privileges.

    • Excellent points. And yes, we are all for a blurring of the lines as long as that line is blurred in a fashion that we support. Chiefly a reflection of our own values. Could it be that Christians feel “entitled” to certain privileges?

  • midwestlady

    “It’s that they aren’t behaving Christian enough.”
    You are correct. The great majority of people aren’t Christian enough to draw persecution on the basis of their Christianity.

  • AFRoger

    Recently, I sat in the front row at a worship service where I was in an assisting role. The pastor’s message was exhorting the faithful to be evangelists for Christ because Christ gives us a center, a balance–and the world out there is out of balance and doesn’t know it. I kept asking myself whether we should be making judgmental statements about people we don’t know. Then, not 45 seconds later, I heard what I’ve heard and read many times: that people outside the church perceive Christians as judgmental. Gee, what did I just hear?
    In my denomination, we contract with the Mayo Clinic to provide a wellness program for church leaders. If X% of leaders participate, the denomination gets a break on group insurance rates. Mayo reports that pastors as a class are the unhealthiest people they work with. So who’s out of balance here? (Full disclosure, I am a non-salaried pastor in a hospitality ministry with homeless folks).
    Whether there is persecution or discrimination should occupy almost none of our time, receive little of our energy. The church is not Christ, and Christ is not the church. Years ago, a local pastor was active in the Civil Rights movement. One Sunday morning the doors to the church had been splattered with paint, threatening messages scrawled. He didn’t cry “Persecution!” He simply said, “At last we’re getting somewhere.” What the blazes do we expect?
    Whether the log in the eye or balance be our metaphor, Jesus’ admonition is the same: begin with ourselves before we go outside. The church that is truly Christ’s is the invisible one, the one that Christ cannot be unfaithful to. The visible church? Not so faithful. And part of that church will constantly need to die so that something new can live. Entirely too much attention is paid to teapot tempests while neighbors on our doorsteps are ignored. When everybody is fed, clothed, housed, employed and healed, maybe there would be time for this other junk.
    Question is not what the world thinks of Christians. It’s what we think of Christ and what that means for us each day.

    • How right you are, Roger. And I suspect if we were about the business of following up on that latter question, the former question would be put to rest.

  • Muffintop

    We don’t hire congress. Big money gives us two choices of who to hire. They both already represent their intrests. They are pre-vetted choices.