October 24, 2020

Redefining “Persecution”

Good words from Rachel Held Evans on the myth that Christians are being persecuted today in the United States:

martyr2There are indeed Christians being persecuted around the world. There are Christians who break the law by gathering together for church, Christians whose family members have been executed for their beliefs, Christians who have been imprisoned for following Jesus, Christians who live in poverty and fear as a result of their faithfulness.

That’s persecution.

Being wished “happy holidays” instead of “merry Christmas” is not persecution. Being prohibited from persecuting others (by forcing Jewish kids to pray Christian prayers in a public school, for example) is not persecution. Not getting your way in every area of civic life is not persecution.

And I’m pretty sure that when the apostle Peter wrote his letter to the persecuted Church of Asia Minor, encouraging his fellow Christians to be brave in the face of oppression by the Roman government, he was not referring to Christians getting snubbed at Domitian’s inauguration ceremony.

We dishonor the memory of the millions of Christians who have suffered very real persecution through the centuries when we confuse a lack of privileged status with persecution.  As Robert Cargill has noted: “There is a difference between persecution and the loss of privileged status. Just because you didn’t get what you want doesn’t mean that you are persecuted. It means you can’t have everything.”



  1. Amen!

  2. Marcus Johnson says

    I, too, say “Amen.”

    Hmm, how long is it going to take for someone to complain about this post? The clock is ticking…

    • I agree with RHE’s editorial as well. Your comment, however, seems to be a preventive strike against dissenting opinions. I don’t understand.

    • Christiane says

      I agree with this post. What is meant to sound like righteousness comes off as ‘whining’ and is not being received by the general public as something honoring the real martyrs of the Church at all.
      Here is one site that offers a different viewpoint. Note the many comments filled with umbrage and righteous anger.


    • Marcus Johnson says

      It is absolutely not intended to be preventive. I absolutely expect to see, and welcome, dissent on this issue. I’m just wondering how long it’s going to take, specifically for someone to feel as though this statement from Evans invalidates what they perceive as “persecution.”

    • I’ll take your bait Marcus. I am a sucker for anyone who says “I dare you.” So here goes…

      RHE is right so far as her examples go (Louie Giglio and the like) but she seems unaware that there is real persecution gaining steam in this country. Right now it mainly takes the form of financial persecution against Christian businesses. Examples include what is presently going on with companies like Hobby Lobby on the one hand and sole proprietorships being sued for things like “sexual orientation discrimination” on the other. For a businesses owner this is a real form of persecution, though I admit it doesn’t rise to the level of the physical harm that many face in other parts of the world. So there it is. Let the flaming begin.

      • So, TPD, every time a law is passed with which Christians disagree, such as those regarding what health care will provide or sexual discrimination, that means Christians are being persecuted?

        What if I don’t agree with my tax dollars going to fund what I consider unjust wars. Am I being persecuted?

        What if I don’t think our government should provide social security to senior citizens and make all citizens pay for it because the church should take care of its own? Am I being persecuted?

        What if our church doesn’t think we should be mandated to make our building handicapped accessible. Are we being persecuted?

        Come on, we live in a diverse, secular society. Every single one of us has to pay a price to support things with which our faith or convictions disagree. That’s not “real persecution” and persecution is not “gaining steam.”

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Don’t you know that “PERSECUTION!” means “We’re not being allowed to persecute everybody else”? (What do you think all the Dominionists would do to everyone else once they “Took Back America” and “Built a Christian Nation”? Especially since they’ve developed quite a Grievance Culture over the years they were on the outs.)

          And constantly screaming “PERSECUTION!” whenever we can’t get our own way?
          1) How does that differ from a kid having a hissy-fit because some adult said “No”?
          2) Ever heard of The Boy Who Cried Wolf?

        • Would you agree persecution can take the form of neutral laws passed because they primarily place burdens on unpopular groups? For example, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blaine_Amendment
          I don’t think it’s a stretch to call that persecution, and the same thing is increasingly going on now, and it is gaining steam.

          When you have a country fairly evenly divided between pro-life and pro-choice, and a the country’s largest religious group believes contraception to be a sin, wouldn’t basic charity favor making exceptions for those churches and people? Instead, the administration pushed the boundary to the maximum it could constitutionally get away with, requiring even religious charities to pay for abortifacients and contraceptives those institutions believe are sinful.

          Setting the strawmen aside, this is of course different then paying taxes or just disagreeing with a law. It’s a law that imposes on a the largest churches in the country and hundreds of thousands of business owners a mandate to sin or be penalized. Churches don’t have the option not to do charity and business owners need to earn a living.

          Whether you agree with the underlying policy or not, it used to be uncontroversial to include broad religious exceptions to accommodate religious beliefs and conscience. Now, that charity is gone.

          There is certainly some of this on the right, for example the zoning issues that come up with mosques sometimes, and they are also rightly denounced for not accommodating others’ religious beliefs.

          This isn’t a matter of religion, but of good policy. Do we accommodate minority or unpopular religious beliefs or not? Liberal mainline Christians seem to favor running roughshod over the beliefs of their conservative brothers and trivializing those beliefs.

          • And regarding the Blaine Amendments, to understand why they were persecutorial at the time, school attendance was often required and the public schools were protestant and extraordinarily anti-Catholic. The amendments were promoted out of anti-Catholic sentiment, not by enlightened views of church-state distinction.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Public schools at the time of the Blaine Amendment were VERY much in line with the Ideal of Christian America — lessons were the Three R’s, Prayer in Schools, Textbooks with Bible examples. All very much like Christian schools and homeschool curricula today.

            Except they were still fighting the Reformation Wars against Mystery Babylon Revealed and its Antichrist Romish Dictator in the Vatican.

            The Catholic parochial school system was born at that time — a school in every parish — to give Catholic kids an education AWAY from the hostile public school system of the time. It wouldn’t be out of line to describe the way Romish Papists(TM) were treated by the Protestant Christian majority as Persecution.

            Because as I’ve seen in various fandoms, when a group/tribe is the majority they often have this urge to throw their weight around against the Other.

        • CM – I’m not talking about where tax dollars go. I’m talking about a privately held company (not publicly traded) being forced by law to spend money on something that they believe is sinful before God and harmful to humans. Big difference there. I’m also referencing a NM wedding photographer who lost a lawsuit and had to pay a settlement to a homosexual couple because she dared to polity turned down the opportunity to photograph their wedding. I am talking about business people being forced to do what they believe sinful or pay a financial penalty.

          I think that if the government came to you and demanded that as a chaplain you perform an action you believe to be sinful or pay a fine, you just may see that as persecution. But maybe I’m wrong.

          • Would it matter if it was a mixed-race couple instead of gays? Maybe it goes against some people’s beliefs to hire blacks.

          • Gail – My response to Tim vanHaitsma below would apply here as well.

        • Mike, please give me article and section in the Constitution (you know, that’s the document that Barrack apparently doesn’t know exists) that allows the govt to tell private businesses what they must do. Clearly the govt has no right to force people to do things that violate their religious beliefs. If you don’t understand that religious freedom (one of the founding principles of this country) is being pushed aside in favor of a totalitarian state forcing people to do this and that, then you haven’t been paying attention.

      • David Cornwell says

        I can reply, but I don’t mean it to be a flame war.

        Hobby Lobby has chosen another encounter with the law also. This one over something in Obama Care (the morning after pill maybe.) It’s their right to oppose it as a citizen if they don’t agree with the law of the land. They can respond with however their Christian conscience is directing. This has happened in the past in regard to other laws. Christians, who have pacifist beliefs have refused to pay a share of income tax, or maybe all of it. But it was not persecution because the law was enforced against them. There are other historical instances also.

        And someone suing them isn’t persecution. It means that someone is seeking redress through the law. Hobby Lobby may win, they may lose. Personally I hate lawsuits as a way of settling disputes. But our legal framework allows it.

        Sometimes a sole proprietorship is used as an excuse for attempting to order someone else’s life or morals. That’s where the dispute comes in.

        I don’t dare you to reply! But you can– or not.

        • David – Please see my response to CM above. And I know you would never engage in a flame war 🙂 You seem much too nice a gentleman.

          • David Cornwell says

            TPD, thanks, but I probably could be lured into one! I have a tendency to over-argue a point sometimes.

      • Tim vanHaitsma says

        Is it persecution, if a Jewish landlord refuses to rent to anyone that will eat pork in the apartment?

        • Tim – As a libertarian my views here may run counter to most people. How I would answer your question would depend on the legal structure of the entity that owns the property.

          -If the property is owned by the government they should rent to anyone with no discrimination because a government represents all its citizens.
          -If the property is held by a publicly traded company they should rent to anyone with no discrimination since they have opened their company to public investors.
          -However if the property is owned by a privately held company or sole proprietorship, the religious convictions of the owner(s) should be honored.

          I would no begrudge a Jewish landlord the right to refuse me rental because I refused to honor his religion on his property.

    • Marcus Johnson says

      Two hours, ten minutes.

      RHE did not assert that persecution is not in existence anywhere. Her article was a targeted look at Giglio’s withdrawal from the inauguration. Personally, even as someone who supports LGBT inclusion, I have serious problems with someone digging into the video archives of what someone said twenty years ago, and using that one video to discredit him or label him as a homophobe. I thought that was a very petty and pathetic tactic, especially against someone who actually has not made a clear statement on homosexuality; instead, he has worked tirelessly to combat human trafficking. What happened to Giglio’s reputation was dirty, sneaky, underhanded…

      But not persecution. Besides, Giglio has not made any statements regarding homosexuality since 1990. What crystal ball did someone look into, to determine that he still holds the same beliefs? That doesn’t mean what happened to Giglio was fair; just that we cannot label every instance of unfairness as persecution. That is a very loaded term, and we need to be a little more careful of where we drop it.

      As far as the “Christian” businesses to which you refer, some of those instances are legitimate cases of unfair treatment. Still, if we are going to call a lawsuit “persecution,” we’re going to run into a problem really quick. Suing someone, even for silly reasons, is as much a legal right as claiming to be treated unfairly. Besides, that knife cuts both ways. Eastern Michigan University, for example, just settled a case in which a student in a counselor education program sued the university, claiming that her religious convictions targeted her for persecution because she refused to be affirming with clients who identified as LGBT. According to your example, this is the flip side of the Hobby Lobby lawsuit. Still, I would hesitate from calling this “persecution.” However, if we call the Hobby Lobby lawsuit “persecution,” I’m assuming that EMU fits that profile as well.

      Overall, though, this is a bit of a digression from anything discussed in the RHE article. This had a specific context and subject; perhaps we should wait until she published an article about Hobby Lobby, then comment on THAT article?

      • Marcus – Read RHE’s article again. In her point number 4 she moves away from the Giglio situation and makes a general statement that persecution is not taking place in the US in general. As far as the Giglio situation I already stated that I agree it isn’t persecution.

        • You’re right, it’s not persecution, but of course, it’s the height of intolerance. Oh, the irony.

      • Marcus Johnson says

        That’s not what I read in her article. She didn’t state that persecution is not happening in the US (that would be a claim of negation, like “there is no God,” something which no one could actually prove). However, she did state that the phenomena which mainstream Evangelicals deem “persecution” are not persecution. Taxes, lawsuits, and laws designed to ensure that one person does not have an unfair advantage over another are not inherently persecution.

        I should add, that we seem to rise up in anger over perceived persecution against our Christian beliefs and values. I’d be a little more sympathetic to the concerns of mainstream Evangelicals if they were willing to let a group of Muslims build a mosque without chasing them out of town.

        • In her 4th point RHE wrote:
          “Being wished ‘happy holidays’ instead of ‘merry Christmas’ is not persecution. Being prohibited from persecuting others (by forcing Jewish kids to pray Christian prayers in a public school, for example) is not persecution. Not getting your way in every area of civic life is not persecution.”

          She has moved away from exclusively talking about the Giglio situation and applied her point in a general manner.

          You wrote:
          “I’d be a little more sympathetic to the concerns of mainstream Evangelicals if they were willing to let a group of Muslims build a mosque without chasing them out of town.”

          So you will be less sympathetic to a Christian in NM losing their livelihood due to their beliefs because some NYers don’t want a mosque built?

  3. Marcus Johnson says

    Evans’ complete article is actually very interesting and balanced. Her position on Giglio’s withdrawal from the inauguration has some strong words for everyone about how we should interpret his decision to withdraw.

  4. Amen! And absolutely.

    I’m saddened to hear the “persecution” card played in conjunction with everything from Merry Christmas to the health care law. Please.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Some corollaries to the Persecution Card:

      1) There is also a meme to romanticize the Persecuted Church among Evangelicals. (As long as the REAL persecution is going on Over There and not Here.) We saw this during the Cold War with the Suffering Church Behind the Iron Curtain, how Holy and Godly they would be unlike Us Fat Spoiled Rotten Brat Americans. (Much like editorials in Guns & Ammo and Soldier of Fortune of the time except with a Christian angle.)

      2) Don’t you think the RL Suffering Church would gladly take the Persecution complained about by American Evangelicals? As Michael Spencer said once about the Coming Great Tribulation meme among American Evangelicals, most Christians in the Third World would answer “What do you mean, COMING?”

      3) Remember the boy who cried Wolf? When American Evangelicals are pointing fingers and screaming “PERSECUTION!” at “Happy Holidays” and Obamacare, how would they describe it if the government and society DID turn murderously hostile to them? Ripping off the title of a Fifties Christploitation movie, “If footmen tire you, what will horsemen do?”

  5. David Cornwell says

    Recently I was in a minor telephone argument with someone over this issue. Since the election they have been finding various issues over which to claim “persecution.” I attempted to explain that in a democracy one simply gets outvoted at times. Deal with it. Christians have seldom been persecuted in the United States. Have American Christians engaged in persecution against someone else? Not sure about that one.

  6. Christiane says

    A theory (I hope I’m wrong):

    is this ‘whining’ a way of rousing ‘the troops’ to continue the Culture Wars and involve politics? If it is, then I question the sincerity of any media that stirs the pot . . . particularly if that media has in the past tried to muster Christians for some political agenda which garners profits for corporations.

  7. not_my_usual_handle says

    A thought exercise:


    Since President Romney dis-invited poet laureate Richard Blanco upon discovering he was gay and gay advocates have complained I have appreciated Rachel Held Evans advice that gay people should take a chill pill:

    “There are indeed Gays being persecuted around the world. There are Gays who break the law because of their lifestyle, Gays who have been executed, Gays who have been imprisoned.

    That’s persecution.

    Not getting your way in every area of civic life is not persecution.”

    Hear hear! Stop complaining gay people! That isn’t real persecution and you’re blowing things all out of proportion. Just be glad nobody’s killing you or putting you in jail!


    Right? Everybody here would appreciate such a sentiment?

    Look – I think I get it. Lots of people here live in a Christian bubble. You’re surrounded by fat, rich, privileged Christians complaining about a war on Christmas and “teh gay agenda”. Evangelicals drive me crazy too – I’m not so much post-evangelical as never-evangelical. But not everybody is like you.

    I live outside the bubble. I’m posting under a different handle than my usual occasional comment because I work in the tech industry in SF. I’m not “out” as a historically orthodox Christian to many of my friends there because we couldn’t be friends if I was. I wouldn’t write on my personal blog about gay issues – I literally could lose my job for simply saying that I believe homosexuality is is morally wrong from a Christian viewpoint. My company wouldn’t be wrong to fire me – it would make good business sense. Nor are my 1st amendment rights imperiled – the government isn’t telling me I can’t say something. But you’ll excuse me if I still feel a certain sense of oppression none the less – I watched tech luminaries like Brendan Eich (creator of Javascript, Netscape founder, etc) survive attempted purges when it came out that he had donated money to California’s Prop 8 campaign and the few outspoken Christians in tech circles that I know are constantly smeared as homophobes and bigots for very constrained, personal moral opinions.

    Smirk all you like at the naive Christians who complain about persecution in America where we’ve got it so good. And honestly I think RHE’s article isn’t that bad – it’s looking at things factually and dispassionately. But if putting the shoe on the other foot makes you feel uncomfortable – if you can’t imagine saying “nobody’s denying you your first amendment rights but actions have consequences…” to a gay person – maybe you ought to consider what the right response and tone should be. Perhaps you (and RHE) could imaginatively extend your sympathies to Christians who are constrained by the surrounding culture, who do experience real consequences simply for being Christian, and consider how your scorn resonates with your brothers and sisters in Christ whose circumstances or beliefs are a little different than your own.

    • MelissatheRagamuffin says

      There is currently a petition on the White House’s website asking for the Catholic Church to be declared a hate group.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      I live outside the bubble. I’m posting under a different handle than my usual occasional comment because I work in the tech industry in SF. I’m not “out” as a historically orthodox Christian to many of my friends there because we couldn’t be friends if I was. I wouldn’t write on my personal blog about gay issues – I literally could lose my job for simply saying that I believe homosexuality is is morally wrong from a Christian viewpoint.

      I spent 20 years in-country in SoCal Furry Fandom. Due to a perfect storm of dominant personalities “acting out” in its formative years, Furry Fandom here has always been gay-heavy. As a straight Furry, I can confirm that when gays are a majority or dominate the equation, they are just as capable of throwing their weight around against a straight minority as straights are of throwing their weight around against a gay minority. When somebody’s on top, there is always the temptation to throw their weight around. Especially if it makes you feel Righteous to do so.

    • If you lost your job for saying you thought something was a sin, you would have a fairly clear cut law suit. Religions are a protected class in most legislation of that kind. You know what ISNT a protected class? Homosexuality. In quite a few states, it is perfectly legal for an employer to fire an employee if they find out the employee is gay. It is also legal to refuse to rent property to someone if they are gay.

      • Richard Hershberger says

        I also wonder about the premise. About fifteen years ago I ran in a very gay-friendly social set. (I find it faintly disturbing that no guy has hit on me in over a decade: I seem to be losing it!) I also was a member of an extremely conservative church: more conservative than whatever past trend Evangelicals take as the baseline of “conservative”. My friends considered it an odd quirk of mine. I imagine if I took it upon myself to go about condemning homosexuality, they would have found such obnoxious behavior unacceptably tiresome, but there are endless ways to make oneself unacceptably tiresome, if one chooses to go do so.

        • not_my_usual_handle says

          I’m fine with being hit on. I also grew up in a considerably more conservative church than most evangelical churches. I assure you however – stridency is not one of my flaws and yes in the circles I inhabit simply to be known to support civil unions for gay couples rather than full marriage is seen as a denial of civil rights that places you on par with the KKK and other retrograde bigots.

          Again – google Brendan Eich or Gervase Markham – both are prominent Mozillan’s (the group that makes the Firefox browser) and quite opposite in their approaches. Brendan does not comment at all on social issues that I’m aware of and it was only because of campaign disclosure laws that it was discovered that he had donated money to a traditional marriage proposition here in California. Gervase Markham, on the other hand, writes a blog called “Hackers for Christ” and talks about faith and technology but is not a hater or anti-gay, supports civil unions, etc. Both are subject to constant name calling and have been the causes for calls to boycott Mozilla and the subject of campaigns aimed at driving them out so that Mozilla doesn’t “support hate”.

          I suppose it is possible that the atmosphere here in San Francisco will not eventually pervade all of the country – or all the urban parts of it anyways. But I’m not optimistic…

    • hello not_my_usual_handle – I understand where you are coming from because I am in almost the same situation for the same reasons. I hope you have some Christian friends either where you work or in your church where you discuss these things and be real and open because feeling spiritually isolated really, really sucks and can be a really nasty discouragement.

  8. Can’t say Amen! loud enough. I wish this was preached from every pulpit along with a call to repentance for all the complaining and whining about not getting what they want that american evangelicals have engaged in for so long…it’s really sickening sometimes…

  9. The power to tax (and fine) is the power to destroy. Here in Lancaster county a Mennonite run company is under threat of heavy and business destroying federal fines if it continues to refuse to provide its employees with access to health insurance that provides free contraceptives, as per the HHS mandate. There is a court case pending now. Oppression? The proof is in the pudding.

    • I’ve not heard a good explanation as to what the real difference is between having an employee who uses his or her salary to pay for contraceptive versus paying for a health plan that pays for contraception. To me, it seems like a distinction without a difference.

      Ultimately, I see these types of fights as leading to something more like a single-payer, nationalized health insurance system. I’ve always thought the notion that health insurance was tied to employment was rather silly anyway. I’m actually pretty conservative politically, but I don’t see our current insurance system as being all that great. In reality, the average hospital already receives 60% of its revenue from the federal government already. I heard that stat a conference I was at recently, and I was kind of blown away by it.

      • Let’s see: “I’ve not heard a good explanation as to what the real difference is between having an employee who uses his or her salary to pay for pornography versus having an employer contract a service that provides pornography without any out of pocket payment by the employee.” Now, that’s absurd.

        • +1

        • Marcus Johnson says

          Yes, it is absurd. Pornography, unlike health care, is available for free.

          • I keep forgetting about the internet. So please substitute the word “alcohol” for “pornography;” same point. Or is that free over the internet, too? I’m such a Luddite.

        • The employer is already a step removed from the purchase of the contraception, though. The fact of the matter is that by simply being part a group insurance plan at all, employers are likely already subsidizing the purchase of birth control by people who aren’t part of their specific group already. Large insurance companies have all sorts of clients and they have all sorts of plans.

          All I’m saying is that once an employer decides to offer an insurance plan, what specific things are covered by that insurance plan is kind of a moot point.

          I just think that in the long run, the argument for employers not wanting to have to pay for plans that include things they don’t agree is simply going to push towards a more nationalized system. So it could be a matter of winning the battle but losing the war.

    • Would you feel the same if this was a business run by a religious group that did not believe in blood transfusions and so refused to provide health coverage for that? Or thought transplants of any kind were an abomination to God and refused to provide health coverage for even a corneal transplant?

      As I understand it, the healthcare mandate exempts religious institutions whose sole purpose is to promote religion (such as your local church). However, Hobby Lobby and this Mennonite run company, while run by Christians and undoubtedly giving charitable donations to various causes, exist for commercial purposes mainly to make a profit. In my mind, a big difference.

      • Well, up until the beginning of this year, employers were not obligated to provide any kind of health care benefits for their employees, so the blood transfusion question leads to this answer: no one should be forced to purchase any product or service that conflicts with their religious values. And no, it’s not the same as the government using tax dollars to undertake projects that one might disagree with.
        When the government can simply annex the purchasing power of private individuals in the name of implementing government projects, a dangerous precedent has been set. They used to call it national socialism.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          When the government can simply annex the purchasing power of private individuals in the name of implementing government projects, a dangerous precedent has been set. They used to call it national socialism.

          Godwin’s Law now in effect.

          • “Godwin’s Law itself can be abused as a distraction, diversion or even censorship, fallaciously miscasting an opponent’s argument as hyperbole when the comparisons made by the argument are actually appropriate…” Wikipedia

      • As long as America has the broken system where healthcare coverage is connected to employment, you will have this sort of horrible situation.

  10. Many of the examples given here definitely ring of treatment that doesn’t sound fair or equitable, maybe we can even call them persecution. But I am more and more wondering where and why this constant cry of persecution.

    We know that in the NT there are statements that we will be persecuted for our beliefs. Or, more honestly, the intended audience of the letter would be persecuted for their beliefs; which we (rightly?) take to be a message to all christians today and in the past. For many there is a desire to have every scripture speak to them personally or to their specific group, gotta find some persecution to prove scriptures true.

    At this time we mostly have a case of wanting ‘persecution’ for our beliefs. Seems when we really look at what the NT says about christians is that they should stand out by their lifestyle which reveals their beliefs, salt and light. Somewhere in their hearts and minds most american christians know that they don’t stand out from anyone else in the neighborhood. So we create a way to standout, be a little different; usually in ways that make little difference to us personally by grandstanding. Too often I think our ‘salt and light’ is a case of finding a wound, shining our ‘light’ on the wound and finish by rubbing our ‘salt’ into the wound.

  11. It’s not surprising that Christians or professing Christians in America today don’t see threats of persecution on the horizon. As we become more like the culture around us, how on earth could we possibly recognize it when we are simply no different.

    Now. Let me ask you a question: Exactly at what point would you even consider that Christians were ever being persecuted? When exactly would that line be crossed for you (if ever)?

    • Hal, not a single thing cited in these comments has hindered our ability to meet and worship and publicly proclaim the Gospel, nor is that anywhere on the horizon. It seems to me we’ve got a bunch of people who are dedicated to constantly taking the temperature of the water we’re in, and every time it rises a degree or two they sound the alarms that we are frogs about to be boiled and don’t recognize it. However, their mouths remain closed whenever the temperature drops back down.

      And look at us here tonight. Here we are, in a public open forum that anyone can read, complaining about how we’re being “persecuted.” I once heard Richard Wurmbrand publicly and roundly rebuke a crowd of Christians for complaining like we are here. Christians in many places around the world would welcome with great relief the kind of “persecution” we privileged American Christians enjoy.

      I just can’t believe the amount of time we, the richest, most pampered and privileged Christians in history, spend lamenting how bad the world is treating us. It’s absolutely ridiculous and we should repent and immediately go out and find someone less fortunate that we might serve.

      • I’ve read all the comments so far and I don’t see anyone “complaining” about how we’re being persecuted. I do read a lot of comments discussing if we are being persecuted or not. Also, I think Hal’s question is “At what point do we call it persecution?” That is a good question.

        • I think I gave my answer in my response. What do you think?

          • Reading your posts, your answer confuses me for the following reasons:

            – You said persecution entails hindering our ability to meet and worship and publicly proclaim the Gospel.
            – You say this doesn’t exist in the US.
            – I have read you multiple times advocating for Luther’s Doctrine of Vocation.
            – There are Christian business people who are having their livelihood stripped by the courts because they are trying to operate based on their Christian beliefs.

            Are you saying that the threat of fines and legal action is not a hindrance to proclamation via our vocation??? I want to reiterate what I have written other places on this page; I know that persecution is very mild here in the US compared to other places. And I agreed with RHE’s article right up until her 4th point where she tried to make the leap from the Giglio situation to persecution in general.

            • “There are Christian business people who are having their livelihood stripped by the courts because they are trying to operate based on their Christian beliefs.”

              My point would be that there are people of many different beliefs and convictions that could say the same thing. It is the inevitable result of living in a diverse secular society. Of course, in specific local settings you can find people who will express anti-Christian sentiments, and if they have access to power may use that against believers. Thus it has always been. What I disagree with is the underlying assumptions that undergird much Christian whining about persecution — that there is a systematic effort on the part of “the government” or others in power to “persecute” Christians.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            “Proclamation via our vocation” or “Screaming Turn-or-Burn In-Your-Face”? Because after being on the receiving end of the latter, you WILL interpret any attempt at the former as the latter.

        • Here is a suggestion for when it might be persecution:

          When it is legal for someone to fire you because you are a Christian.
          When being a Christian means you cannot marry the person you love.
          When being a Christian means that you are considered unfit to raise children.
          When being a Christian means that major political figures think you should be put in prison.

          • Excellent list.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            When being a Christian means it is not only legal but encouraged to kill you. Throw you into a ladle at the steel mill to enhance the carbon content of the batch or put you up the chimneys. Kill Them All. KILL. THEM. ALL.

          • Insert gay for Christian. That’s where I thought you were going with this.

      • Speaking up and advocating for our own values is the way liberal democracy works, Chaplain Mike, and the way it prevents things from getting as bad as they can get when no one is willing, or able, to speak. And please don’t tell me tyranny could never happen here: every civilized society is just a crisis-and-a-half away from tyranny; to think otherwise in the teeth of the historical evidence is sheer hubris.

        • I went back and read the comments. No one is whining or lamenting. Some of us are just disagreeing with you, mostly in reasonable and nuanced, though sometimes strongly worded, ways. We do have many liberties in this country, and we should be grateful for that. But that doesn’t mean we should just shut up and sit down. Would you prefer that we wait until there are jackboots at the front door before we speak up?

          • No, Robert, but I’ve been hearing this stuff since the early 1970’s, and have not been convinced in any way whatsoever that we are moving in the direction of jackboots. It got old for me a long time ago. One of the biggest prompts to leave evangelicalism for the wilderness.

            I’ve served on short-term trips in a state in India where a man and his sons were burned alive in a car for showing Christ’s love to lepers. A friend who went with us and went back later to serve as a nurse was detained and questioned by the police. When we had public meetings, we had to be careful about how it was all set up and presented, and there were places we could not hold public meetings because it was not allowed.

            I’m overwhelmed by the freedom we have here in the U.S. and yet how much whining I hear Christians doing publicly and in churches. In most cases I can honestly say what they are discussing is a loss of privileged status, not persecution. They have the idea we are a Christian nation and Protestant Christians in particular ought to be in charge and never questioned. Because we’re right.

            The culture warriors on both left and right have a vested interest in keeping us fired up.

          • I understand what you’re saying, and I think I mostly agree. I don’t really worry about persecution of Christianity in North America too much because I frankly don’t believe Christianity has much of a future here; it will likely perish from lack of interest rather than any government persecution. But then, if demographics continue the way they are now, North America, and Europe, will diminish greatly in global influence and prestige along with North Atlantic Christianity. Euro/American hegemony is on the wane; the Global South is the future. The center of Christianity has already moved south, and is thriving even in places where government oppression of Christians makes the episodic persecutions of the late Roman Empire in the first centuries C.E. look like amateur night.
            Sorry about the jackboots comment. I was being needlessly inflammatory, although I do have a healthy American distrust of too much government.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Would you prefer that we wait until there are jackboots at the front door before we speak up?

            And there are factions of Evangelicalism (like the Dominionists and Reconstructionists) who very much want to be the ones wearing the jackboots. (Including 200-year breeding programs to Outbreed/Outnumber the Heathen.)

          • HUG,
            How do you know I’m not referring to them?

        • Marcus Johnson says

          I think we’re getting to the heart of the problem: Christians are trained to be so skittish and defensive about our faith that we forget that it’s not supposed to be protected, but shared. Seriously, Jesus said, “Can any one of you, by worrying, add a single hour to your life?” (the entire section of Matthew 6:25-34 needs to be read and re-read by a couple folks here, as well as most people who think they are following Christ).

          We are supposed to be afraid that the government is coming after our churches, our guns, our money, and on and on, when all of these things are just things. The gifts that God gave us can’t be taken away, and the mission that God gave the church cannot be hindered. Maybe it’s just because I’ve been to Iraq and back, but I am still amazed at the petty things that get us unnerved.

          And the slippery slope thing–the whole “we are really only a hair’s breadth away from tyranny and anarchy” would be hilarious if it wasn’t so sad.

          • Marcus,
            Aside from any current debate about topical issues, I wonder: do you really believe that tyranny is impossible here? I tend to think that real and protracted widespread economic hardship in a nation so accustomed to material prosperity could easily result in a willingness among Americans to surrender important liberties for the sake of “security.” I think that many of the liberties we take for granted could easily evaporate in the cauldron of real and ongoing deprivation. We’ve seen quite a bit of this in economically deprived urban areas in the U.S. for quite some time; some of it spread into significant portions of suburbia in the recent big recession. Now we have a popular culture that accepts and even glorifies something as onerous as “enhanced interrogation techniques” (torture) in popular film, and governments both Democratic and Republican that readily use extra-judicial assassinations (drone attacks) to advance military/political goals right out in the open for everybody and God to see. Are these not ominous indicators for those who value openness and liberty? Don’t you see it?

          • Marcus Johnson says

            I believe that tyranny is possible. I also believe that it is possible for a tornado to wipe out the town where I live. That doesn’t mean that I see every overcast sky or gust of wind as an “ominous indicator” that a tornado is coming. I don’t alter my schedule because of these phenomena, and I definitely do not live in a contagious state of fear because of those phenomena.

            I see the same things that you are seeing, but I see them as tempests in teapots, small phenomena that are blown way out of proportion. I’m not which fairy tale reference is a better label–you’re either crying wolf, or you are claiming that the sky is falling–but I think you are exhibiting a borderline paranoia that is unproductive, unhealthy, and uncharacteristic of the peace by which Christ-followers should be identified.

          • Exhibiting borderline paranoia! Thank you, Dr. Johnson; I feel better already!

        • Robert F, it seems to me that your starting point in talking about tyranny is the perspective of a conservative American view of the US Constitution. If your starting point was the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, your conclusions as to what tyranny really is may be somewhat different. It appears that many conservative Americans would view the imposition of more vigorous gun-control laws in the US as constituting totally insufferable tyranny, and some would even go as far as to suggest that armed rebellion would be warranted. Many (if not most) Canadians would view such laws as simple common sense and laugh at a suggestion that they could in any way be construed as tyrannical. All this to say, without a common starting point and agreement on definitions, one man’s tyranny could be another man’s freedom.

          • Although I’m in favor of stronger gun-control laws, and do not consider myself conservative, I definitely do not use as a starting point the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document responsible to no responsible democratic process but the one that is rooted in the fictitious conceit that nations are equivalent to individual citizens.

          • This is a reply to Robert F’s comment at 9:53 pm.

            You are showing a strong cultural bias in your response. I know I have a cultural bias as well, but I (like most Canadians I would suggest) am willing to look beyond my borders and learn. The UN has much to be ashamed of, but I fail to see why that in any way negates the idea of universal human rights – however flawed the attempt to achieve that aim might be. Must everything be on American terms? I have concluded that armed guards in every school could be the right answer for the US. I would expect that this would lead all sober minded Americans to reflect deeply on how their nation got to this place and whether the “liberties and freedoms” that hold such an exalted place are everything they are cracked up to be. I wouldn’t trade my supposedly more tyrannical form of government for them (and I have spent several years in the US on military exchange assignments).

            I have rambled off topic, but at least some of the “persecution or tyranny” that many Americans fear could lead to improvements (if civil war didn’t break out first). As RHE has suggested, I think many AmericanbChristians do a disservice to themselves and those who have truly suffered when they compare the loss of privileged status with true persecution.

          • Warren,
            I do not view the U.S. Constitution as holy writ; however, it is a far superior document for the U.S. to any that the UN has devised, and I would vehemently resist any attempt to make it a document subject to an international constitution of any kind. It is the U.S. Constitution, a local document, meant for a specific nation and part of the organic history of U.S. polity; and I would never expect Canada or Afghanistan or any other nation to adopt it as their own. In the global versus local, when it comes to polity, the local is superior, because it would be impossible to make an international constitution responsive or answerable to the very real and legitimate needs of local populaces and exigencies.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        It seems to me we’ve got a bunch of people who are dedicated to constantly taking the temperature of the water we’re in, and every time it rises a degree or two they sound the alarms that we are frogs about to be boiled and don’t recognize it. However, their mouths remain closed whenever the temperature drops back down.

        Just like Global Warming Activists. (As in the True Believer types the cause seems to have attracted.)

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        I just can’t believe the amount of time we, the richest, most pampered and privileged Christians in history, spend lamenting how bad the world is treating us.

        It’s like that first of the Reality Shows on MTV, “Real World”. Its premise went like this: Select half a dozen teenage losers, stick them together all-expenses paid in a mansion neither they nor the viewers will ever be able to afford, send them around-the-world on all-expenses-paid trips to exotic locations (again, neither them or the viewers will ever be able to affotd), turn the cameras on them constantly so we all can listen to them constantly complain how much their “Life Sucks!”

  12. Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” It is interesting to me that “persecution” is definitely different than being “insulted”, but Christ Himself put them in the same sentence. Ifyou have ever been insulted or falsely accused publicly for your faith, you know what a difficult position this can be.

    That being said, RHE makes an excellent point and I am glad that you posted her comments. Evangelicals whine too much instead of taking advantage of the wonderful opportunities they have to proclaim Christ and serve their neighbors in this country. The transition to minority status in society has not been a graceful one.

    I think the thing that is sadly missing is the consideration that we are actually blessed when we are insulted. Maybe, in time, the Lord will teach us to return blessings for insults. I don’t think we are ready (or worthy) to suffer, and return blessings for imprisonment, beatings, and death at this point in time.

  13. Couldn’t agree more. Being tortured and thrown in prison for being a Christian, or losing ones job, or having it made almost impossible to get a job or having your children being prevented form getting an education for being a Christian is persecution. I have talked with Christians from communist countries who have experienced these things.

    A comment was made by someone with all the talk about the the commandments being removed from a court in the US. Someone had said: “These people who are complaining that the Ten Commandments are being removed from court, do all of them have them on their wall at home, and do all of them even know what the Ten Commandments are?”

  14. When the Salvation Army of yesteryear marched brass bands into entertainment districts to preach the Gospel, drunks would throw bricks and rocks and bottles at them. These days, if the Salvation Army would march brass bands into the same districts, drunks would throw bricks and rocks and bottles at them. So what’s the difference?

    The Salvation Army no longer marches brass bands into entertainment districts.

    In my city, a group of preachers would gather in the arts district and vocally preach the Gospel, including the denouncement of various sins, like homosexuality. City police tried to shut them down in order to avert violence. The preachers won an injunction against the police. But now when the preachers preach, they preach within eye- and earshot of the police.

    • Marcus Johnson says

      I wonder if those preachers put themselves in the shoes of the “sinners” they are trying to “save.” In my experience, street preachers are taught to be intrusive and condescending, and to consider that any rejection of their message should be interpreted as, “This person doesn’t accept the gospel,” rather than, “Yeah, I approached that person and came off as a bit of a jerk.”

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Fred Phelps would describe what he does as “vocally preaching the Gospel”, even to the point of “the denouncement of various sins, like Homosexuality”.

        1) At which point, Gospel becomes so broadly defined as to be meaningless.

        2) Notice the ONE sin Mr Poet describes as specifically being denounced. It’s not only the aforementioned Fred Phelps who has that particular tunnel vision.

        3) “And stop screaming. Nobody likes a religion with people screaming.” — Michael Spencer, Internet Monk

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        4) And upon rejection of their message, too many street preachers not only interpret it as “This person doesn’t accept the Gospel”/”Hardness of Heart”, they then shake the dust off their feet and go to the next Heathen. After all, they “preached the Gospel and the Heathen rejected it”; time to Witness to the next and Immanentize the Eschaton by “preaching the Gospel to all, after which will come The End”. (My writing partner has told me of Bible translation societies concentrating on backwoods Third World tribes and languages; their actual reason is a belief that once they have Presented the Gospel (and demanded the Yes/No Decision for Christ) to everyone in the world, then and only then can Christ return for The End.)

  15. Chaplain Mike, I wonder what you make of Matthew 5:10-12 and Luke 6:22-23. I’m quite willing to be persuaded otherwise, but the content of those verses seem to indicate that Louie Giglio (and other Christians) are suffering persecution, however minor it may be in comparison to others.

    What I mean is this. Matthew 5:10-12 (ESV I’m afraid) has Jesus saying:

    “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
    “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

    Here, in verse 11, Jesus includes having people “revile you” and “utter all kinds of evil against you falsely” on Jesus’ account in the same blessing as having people persecute you. And then in verse 12, all three of these descriptions in verse 11 (reviling, persecution and false evil speaking against you) seem to be gathered into the overarching term “persecution” when compared with the prophets. Taking this definition back to verse 10 then expands Jesus’ blessing from those persecuted specifically “on my account” to those persecuted “for righteousness’ sake”.

    So, here we have an example of persecution that can range from rumours spread about you at work for doing the right thing, to being maliciously gossipped about on the internet for following Christ, to the far more extreme examples also provided by the prophets including confiscated property, physical beatings and death.

    Then Luke 6:22-23 has Jesus say,

    “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.”

    Here again, in a passage with many parallels to the beatitudes of Matthew 5, there are descriptions of ill-treatment that deserve Jesus’ blessing, and they include: being hated, being excluded, being reviled, having your name spurned as evil. While the word “persecution” does not feature here, the reference to the prophets as paralleled in Matthew 5:12 strongly indicates that Jesus himself considers these things to be persecution.

    Are non-Christians also persecuted? Absolutely. By Christians? Yes. Are there examples of persecution of both Christians and non-Christians that far outweigh what is being discussed in the Louie Giglio situation? Absolutely. But none of that seems to negate the fact that Jesus seemed to consider something as small as a Christian being excluded because they stand for righteousness to be persecution despite how insulted a Christian who has suffered much worse may feel about that.

    What are your thoughts?

    • I would encourage you to read the rest of Rachel Held Evans’ article at her blog. Louie Giglio was not persecuted by the government, though his treatment by the LBGT community (whoever specifically that entails) certainly was unfair. And Rachel calls them out for it too.

      • Thanks for the encouragement to read the rest of the article (I have). I was responding more to your comments in which you’ve suggested that real persecution involves not being able to worship freely, being beaten or killed etc. You might be right that US christians are losing their privileged status – I live in a country where there is less privilege – and you might be right that Christians are whining over small potatoes, but as far as I read Jesus’ words, despite what Richard Wurmbrand would say, the unfair treatment of Giglio by LGBT people is persecution. Small potatoes persecution is still persecution. No scare quotes needed. I just think that nuance would make the discussion a better one.

  16. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    …he was not referring to Christians getting snubbed at Domitian’s inauguration ceremony.

    Domitian’s Inaguration Ceremony?

    You mean the weeks of Games in the Flavian Ampitheatre/Colosseum? Tens to hundreds of thousands of kills in the Arena for the entertainment of the People of Rome in celebration of Caesar Domitian proclaiming himself a Living God?

  17. Half a Church Historian says

    I agree that Christians in the modern West are not persecuted by the standard of the early Church or the Church in many other parts of the world (except, perhaps, for rare instances of anti-Christian hate crimes – those in the UK may remember a recent double murder which was reported to have been motivated by the perpetrator’s hatred for Christians). Silly as most claims of persecution are, however, they are not necessarily trivial; rather, I think they stem from powerful fear and confusion about the relationship between Christians and the world around them.

    I was recently asked to prepare notes on one of the early Christian apologists for a seminar I was attending. I chose Tertullian. As I read his apology I was surprised to find that his main concern was not the explication of Christian doctrine, though that was present. Instead, he mostly seemed to be interested in demonstrating that a Christian could be a loyal citizen of Rome. Essentially, he seemed to be responding to the question “Can a Christian take an active part in public life (and remain Christian)?” Tertullian’s answer to that question was an unequivocal ‘yes’. And he was proved right –in a way. Once Christianity was legal, as it was from the time of Constantine, Christians were able to make Christian participation in public life possible by, in effect, Christianizing the state. The rituals of the old Roman state religion were scaled back and ultimately abandoned, to be replaced by state involvement in Christian ritual. Eventually paganism was made illegal. From henceforth, to be a citizen would be to be a Christian.

    To an extent, I think we are now reaping the reward of those developments. The simple truth is, many modern Christians don’t know how to function in a Church that isn’t state ordained and state supported – which is a problem, because the assumption that ‘Christian’ and ‘citizen’ are synonyms is breaking down. At heart, I think the “culture war” is really about trying to retain that control of public space which was seized back in the fourth century. It isn’t going to work. But in the meantime, state participation in Christian ritual will remain comforting for many, and they are going to protest when it is taken away or, from their perspective, interfered with, even if it’s just a short benediction. I often wonder what would happen here in the UK if, for instance, Remembrance Sunday commemorations or the coronation of the monarch were made secular ceremonies.

    I’m a disestablishmentarian Anglican. Can you tell?

    • When the purity of the Kingdom of God was co-opted by the values of empire in the first centuries C.E., the gospel was diluted by pagan political values that continued to operate in potent form in the collusion of church and state; persecution of Christians stopped because Christians had made a compromise with non-Kingdom of God values. Now that the adulterating arrangement has ended, or is in its final death throes, the persecution has resumed in Europe, on a modest level for now, and the U.S. will follow in time, that is if there are any Christians left to persecute in either place in the next generation or so. Existing in the public square will demand that Christians perform actions in vocational and political life that conscientious Christians cannot perform. For instance, last year two English Roman Catholic midwives were job disciplined, with the approval of the courts, for refusing to assist in a hospital abortion when, under unusual circumstances, the hospital administrators deemed their help necessary. These types of incidents will continue and incrementally turn into outright persecution. This is the normal relationship of the Kingdom of God to earthly authorities.

    • HCH,
      I’m a dis-establishmentarian Anglican, too; a.k.a. an Episcopalian. And you didn’t mention how baptismal rolls were used for purposes of establishing citizenship in the Constantinian church/state arrangement, which is one of the reasons why both Roman Catholic and Protestant churches reacted so violently to the Anabaptist practice of credo-baptism: they wanted to keep the church/state arrangement the way it was, and the practice of credo-baptism was a threat to the arrangement.

      • Half a Church Historian says

        I didn’t mention the relationship between baptism and citizenship, though I think you are right about it. It’s easy to forget now that there was a time when English law insisted that all children must be baptized within seven days of birth and a record made in the relevant parish.